Game Review: “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order”

   In case you weren’t aware, I am not a fan of the Star Wars franchise. Truth is, I never really have been. In spite of my best efforts, it isn’t a series I am drawn to or engaged with, even if I have a respect for its contribution to film. Regardless, I was modestly excited for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, a single-player campaign set five years after the film Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (in other words, right about when Darth Vader was starting to run the show). The game was released on November 15, 2019 for Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One (I am playing on the PlayStation 4). The videogame received generally favorable reviews from critics and has sold more than eight million copes as of February 2020.

   I was excited for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order for a couple of different reasons. First and foremost is, even if the track record has been spotty at best, I want to enjoy Star Wars. It is why I bought Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and disliked it, or why I saw The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi in theaters, because I want to be a part of one of cinema’s most beloved phenomenons. I was also excited with the impression everyone seemed to have of the game – that it would be, for lack of a better description, the Star Wars version of Dark Souls. As someone who loves Dark Souls, as you can imagine, the concept was a match made in heaven, but what we received really wasn’t that (more on that later).

   Developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts, our game follows a young Jedi Padawan named Cal Kestis and his quest to complete his Jedi training and restore the dormant Jedi Order. The game sees you traverse numerous different planets, engaging with enemies and finding new comrades as you do so.

   The story is sentimental and filled with a lot of the classic tonal narrative strands that the series is known for – only difference is, I really enjoy them. This reminds me, in some ways, of the Ratchet & Clank movie / videogame scenario. How when they took the scenes from the Ratchet & Clank film and made them into cut scenes for the videogame, it worked a lot better because it wasn’t the sole attraction. The Ratchet & Clank game succeeded where the film failed because it was backed by the fun, charming game-play mechanics the series was known for. You felt more enthralled and the scenes didn’t have to shoulder all of the weight.

   The scenes in The Fallen Order don’t exactly reinvent the wheel of the Star Wars narrative, but they are allowed to breathe more than they could in their feature-length film. I felt genuinely invested in Cal’s plight and even the plights of the supporting cast. In-retrospect, a lot of Cal’s plight and, again, the supporting cast, were honestly just spins of familiar yarns already had by characters in the Star Wars franchise, only difference was how I actually was made to care about them.

   Although dubbed by many as a Dark Souls style Star Wars game, I don’t believe that applies to what we received with The Fallen Order. I can see some influences for certain (the “Bonfire” and Experience system, etc.), but they aren’t overt or egregious about it. In-fact, more than Dark Souls, I consider Jedi: The Fallen Order as a student of the action genre in-general. Some aspects had me thinking about the smooth fluidity of platform animation in Uncharted, sometimes it reminded me of Prince of Persia, and I think there is even a little Shadows of the Colossus buried in.

   All that matters though, in the end, is that it plays pretty fantastic, succeeding with deceptively intricate melee combat (easy to use, difficult to master) that is able to provide a challenge without alienating people the way Dark Souls might (again, I love Dark Souls). The Fallen Order falls at about just over above average difficulty, harder than, say, Tomb Raider, but not nearly as tasking as a Souls game (although there are occasional boss battles that may make you question otherwise).

   The worlds are beautiful and vibrant, with each having a fleshed out map to explore, filled with hidden goodies and mysteries to uncover for yourself. The puzzles are fun and aren’t overbearing and, once more, the platforming is great and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. The music and score captures a lot of Star Wars’ orchestral, fantastical sound. To me, it has never meant more at accomplishing a distinct and enthusiastic sound for its galaxy.

   The Fallen Order has a couple of hindrances that are worth acknowledging. Some are minor, like the map interface and way the levels overlap, making it unnecessarily bothersome to use for navigation. Or accidentally jumping down on a slippery platform without realizing it is a shortcut back down to much earlier in the level, without any way to recover (when you fall off purposely, you re-spawn back on the icy platform. There is no restart checkpoint. There is no fast-travel. You have to die in-order to return to your “Bonfire,” which means sacrificing any EXP you might have accrued).

   These are all small, however, and they don’t carry much weight on where I land with Star Wars Jedi: The Fallen Order. One that does, however, is the sheer amount of glitches and finicky hindrances that arise from it. When you miss a platform, you re-spawn where you were standing before you jumped, and that’s great. Sometimes, however, when you miss a platform, you fall into an eternal abyss and you never re-spawn, and you have to reboot the game allover again, and that’s not. Sometimes your character’s moves don’t land correctly and even when you can see yourself slashing into that person, it instead ignores it and you will see yourself wasting Force energy and leaving yourself open to attack. I know for me, personally, that led to some undue frustration during certain boss battles.

   I don’t think any of these problems are enough to derail Star Wars Jedi: The Fallen Order, per se, but they are notable, and, in-fact, very prevalent on occasion. It’s something you learn to live with while you play and that, in itself, means it is more than minor, however.

   Star Wars Jedi: The Fallen Order is a great game. I have always considered platforming games as my favorite genre, as well as action-adventure‘s with fluent fighting and an edge, and I think it does very well in both regards. I never thought I would say this, but I left The Fallen Order as a Star Wars fan after a lifetime otherwise, or, at the least, a fan of what developer Respawn Entertainment was able to bring to the surface in a new way I enjoyed more. It was fun, and after a six month dry spell away from gaming, I spent more than twenty hours on Star Wars Jedi: The Fallen Order and was left wanting more of it.

Rating: 4.2 out of 5.0