Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (2019) Gameplay Review

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is an action-adventure game developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts. Players control Jedi trainee Cal Kestis, in a story set in the Star Wars universe shortly after the film Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. It was announced during E3 2018, with a more detailed reveal during the Star Wars Celebration in April 2019. The game was released for Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on November 15, 2019, and received positive reviews.

Plot

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order takes place five years after Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and before Solo: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars Rebels, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. The game follows young Jedi Padawan Cal Kestis (Cameron Monaghan) who is being hunted by an Inquisitor, trained by Darth Vader (Scott Lawrence), known as the Second Sister (Elizabeth Grullon). Supporting characters include: Cal’s friend Prauf (JB Blanc), former Jedi Master Cere Junda (Debra Wilson), ship pilot Greez Dritus (Daniel Roebuck), Cal’s master Jaro Tapal (Travis Willingham), a droid named BD-1 (Ben Burtt), Jedi master Eno Cordova (Tony Amendola), Partisan leader Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), crime lord Sorc Tormo (Luke Cook), the Ninth Sister (Misty Lee), Nightsister Merrin (Tina Ivlev), former Jedi Taron Malicos (Liam McIntyre), and the Clone Troopers (Dee Bradley Baker).

Five years after the Great Jedi Purge, former Jedi Padawan Cal Kestis works in a junkyard on the planet Bracca scrapping ships from the Clone Wars, but is forced to use his Force powers to save his friend Prauf during an accident. Unbeknownst to them, the event was captured by a nearby Imperial Probe Droid which transmits the footage to the Galactic Empire, revealing Cal’s true identity to the Imperials. The Empire dispatches two inquisitors trained by Darth Vader, the Second Sister and the Ninth Sister, to take down Kestis. While being pursued by the Second Sister, who kills Prauf, Cal is rescued by Cere Junda and Greez Dritus, and flees Bracca aboard Greez’s ship, the Mantis. Cere tells him she is a former Jedi and knew Cal’s Jedi Master, Jaro Tapal.

Cere takes Cal to the planet Bogano where an ancient vault is located, and hopes that Cal can open it. On the way to the vault, Cal befriends a small droid named BD-1, which shows him a message from Cere’s former Master, Eno Cordova. Cordova’s message reveals that the vault was built by an ancient civilization called the Zeffo, and that he hid a Jedi holocron containing a list of the locations of Force-sensitive children inside; Cere believes this list could be the genesis of a restored Jedi Order that can topple the Empire. However, the only way to access it is to follow Cordova’s path and pass his tests. The only leads Cal has is the location of the Zeffo homeworld, and a tomb on the planet Dathomir. On Zeffo, they find a clue that the Zeffo had contact with Kashyyyk, meaning Cordova’s contact there, the Wookiee chieftain Tarfful, may have information about them.

On Kashyyyk, Cal teams up with Saw Gerrera and his Partisans to fight the Imperial occupation forces enslaving the native Wookiees. Unable to find Tarfful, Cal returns to Zeffo to investigate a tomb when he encounters the Second Sister again. The Second Sister reveals that she was Cere’s Padawan, Trilla Suduri, who was captured by the Empire when Cere betrayed her location under torture. She warns Cal that Cere will inevitably betray him before retreating. Cal learns that he needs to find a Zeffo Astrium to unlock the vault before he is knocked out and captured by a bounty hunter. When Cal wakes up, he is forced to fight in a gladiatorial arena at the whims of crime lord Sorc Tormo. He is rescued by Cere and Greez, and Greez apologizes since Sorc kidnapped Cal due to his gambling debts. They then receive a communication that Tarfful is willing to speak to Cal, and they return to Kashyyyk. Tarfful instructs Cal to seek answers on top of Kashyyyk’s Origin Tree. There, he finds another recording of Cordova telling him that an Astrium can be found on Dathomir, but is then attacked by the Ninth Sister. Cal defeats the Inquisitor and makes his way to Dathomir.

Upon landing, Cal’s progress is immediately impeded by Nightsister Merrin, who blames the Jedi for the massacre of her people during the Clone Wars (Season 4 Episode 19, “Massacre”), and does everything in her power to keep him away. After experiencing a flashback where he remembers Jaro sacrificing himself to protect him from the clone troopers during the Purge, Cal is attacked by Jaro’s spirit, resulting in his lightsaber being destroyed. Cal then encounters another former Jedi, Taron Malicos, who sought to learn the power of the Nightsisters and manipulated them against the Jedi. Malicos offers to teach Cal how to handle the dark power of Dathomir against Merrin’s wishes. Cal refuses and flees Dathomir when Merrin attacks. Cere admits that when she learned Trilla became an Inquisitor, she briefly fell to the dark side, which is why she had cut off her connection to the Force. They then travel to Ilum to find a kyber crystal to rebuild Cal’s lightsaber. Returning to Dathomir, Cal faces Jaro’s spirit again, defeating him by overcoming his feelings of guilt over his death. Malicos again attempts to tempt Cal to the dark side, and attacks when Cal refuses him. Merrin helps Cal defeat Malicos and he is able to convince her to join the Mantis crew.

The crew return to Bogano and Cal uses the Astrium to unlock the vault and reveal the holocron. Trilla manages to steal the holocron and escape. Cere reassumes her position as a Jedi Master and grants Cal the rank of Jedi Knight. They then assault the fortress serving as the Inquisitor headquarters, where Cal is able to defeat Trilla and recover the holocron. Cere attempts to make amends with Trilla, but Darth Vader suddenly appears and kills Trilla for her failure. Cal and Cere barely evade Vader and escape the fortress. With the holocron now in their possession, the crew wonders what they should do with it. Realizing that gathering the Force-sensitive children will only make it easier for the Empire to target them, Cal destroys the holocron, determining that their fates should be left up to the Force before asking where they should go next.

My Personal Thoughts

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the latest game in the canon, is one of the better offerings specifically because it tries to look beyond the trappings of Star Wars. It’s not just another Jedi power fantasy, although wielding the Force with skill and resolve will certainly make you feel powerful. Like the best Star Wars games, it’s one that adds to the ideas of the films and other material, exploring new corners of the galaxy while focusing on the core themes of the franchise: knowing yourself, fighting your own darkness, and braving adversity with the help of friends.

Friendship has always been one of the main drives of Star Wars, especially in the original film trilogy, and it’s the core of what makes Jedi: Fallen Order work in both story and gameplay. The primary relationship of the game is between Cal Kestis, a Jedi padawan in hiding in the aftermath of the Jedi Purge that took place in Revenge of the Sith, and BD-1, a droid entrusted with a secret mission by the Jedi Master that previously owned it. Once Cal and BD-1 meet, they become inseparable, working together as partners to solve puzzles in forgotten ruins, navigate alien environments, and beat back the Empire.

The pair work throughout the game to complete a scavenger hunt created by BD’s last companion, Master Cordova. Before he vanished, Cordova locked away a list of Force-sensitive children throughout the galaxy that could be used to resuscitate the destroyed Jedi Order and challenge the Empire. He left clues to how to retrieve that list hidden in BD, requiring Cal and the droid to travel to various worlds, following in Cordova’s footsteps to free up BD’s encrypted memories.

chrome 4/13/2019 , 9:07:40 PM Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order ? Official Reveal Trailer – YouTube – Google Chrome

Functionally, BD is Cal’s constant companion as he rides around on the Jedi’s back, and Cal regularly talks with the droid as they explore Fallen Order’s planets. BD also serves several support functions in gameplay. Most importantly, BD provides Cal with “stims” that allow him to heal himself in the middle of Fallen Order’s often-oppressive combat. He can also function as a zipline, unlock doors, and hack certain droid enemies to turn the tides of battle. BD is just enough a part of any given fight or puzzle that you’re always aware of his presence and his help, but it’s Cal’s constant interactions with the little droid that really build out their relationship.

You definitely need BD’s help and the upgrades you find for him throughout your journey, because Fallen Order can be punishing. It lifts a number of gameplay ideas directly from the Soulsborne genre; enemies are often tough-as-nails and can deal big damage if you’re complacent, whether they’re Imperial stormtroopers taking potshots or two-foot rats leaping out of burrows to snap at Cal’s throat. Fighting isn’t just about wailing on everyone with your lightsaber, but rather relies heavily on blocking and carefully timed parries if you mean to stay alive against even the most run-of-the-mill foes. You and your enemies also have a stamina meter to manage, which dictates how many blows you can defend against before you stagger, and adds a strategic element to duels. To win a battle, you need to whittle down an enemy’s stamina while blocking, parrying, and dodging to manage your own. Since every blow you sustain can be devastating, combat becomes an exciting, cerebral exercise in pretty much every case. You’ll spend a lot of time not only honing your parrying skills, but also making quick battlefield decisions about how you can isolate dangerous enemies or use your Force powers to even up the odds.

You can only heal from a limited number of stims or by resting at periodic meditation points, similar to Dark Souls’ bonfires, and using them respawns all the enemies in the area, which makes being a smart combatant even more critical. Killing enemies and finding collectibles nets you experience, which accumulates into Skill Points you can spend on new abilities for Cal. But dying costs all the experience you earned since your last Skill Point unless you can find and damage the enemy who bested you.

Though the elements of Fallen Order are Souls-like–it’s probably most closely comparable to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, in fact–on most difficulty settings, it’s far less brutal than From Software’s games. Fallen Order might be considered Soulsborne-lite, making use of the same elements but to a different effect. It’s tough, even occasionally frustrating, but not nearly so much as the games from which it draws its inspirations. That balance achieves something that feels essential to Fallen Order’s identity: It makes you a powerful Jedi Knight, without turning you into an unstoppable Force-wielding superhero. Ratcheting back on the Jedi powers (and forcing you to unlock them as you work through the story and deal with Cal’s past) helps Fallen Order’s take on the Star Wars universe feel grounded and believable–a place where people could actually live.

Your lack of overwhelming power also helps make the ever-looming Empire a frightening threat, even as individual soldiers comedically call out their own ineptitude in pretty much every battle. Cal spends the entire game hunted by the Inquisition, a subset of the Empire’s forces specifically tasked with exterminating Jedi. Because every fight is potentially deadly, running into the game’s specially trained Purge Troopers is always an event, and you’re forced not only test your lightsaber skills and timing, but to consider all the abilities at your disposal to make it out alive.

The rest of the game often has to do with clambering around the environment and solving puzzles, not unlike Tomb Raider, God of War, or Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Navigating the world is as much about using observation and problem-solving skills as your Force tools. Respawn’s Souls-inspired map design allows you to explore off the beaten path without ever really getting lost, and each planet is richly realized and fascinating to explore. The intricate pathways encourage you to wander off and visit each planet’s varied environments to see what you might uncover, and Fallen Order always make sure you’re rewarded with a bit of story, a cosmetic item, or even an optional miniboss fight.

When you’re between missions on planets, you’re spending time with Fallen Order’s two other major characters, Cere and Greez. They’re the pair who manage to save Cal in the early hours of the game when his Jedi nature is discovered by the Empire, and they put him on the quest to find the list of Force-sensitives before the Inquisitors can get their hands on it. Though the story is a little rough in the early going as Cal is thrown directly into the quest with little lead-up or explanation, Fallen Order’s story starts to excel around the halfway point as his relationships with BD, Cere, and Greez really start to develop. Once Fallen Order starts to invest in the interpersonal dynamics and deepening friendships of its cast, it really hits a stride–and its quest feels less like an elaborate series of tasks to fetch a MacGuffin, and more like an essential addition to the ongoing Star Wars saga.

It does take Fallen Order a while to get there, though. The first few planets are a bit on the dull side, rushing to get Cal on his quest through the galaxy without really establishing why you should really care. Until it starts to click later in the game as you unlock more Force powers, combat can be a hassle, especially at certain boss battles or chokepoints, when your last meditation point is some distance away and you have to navigate through the same chunks of the map over and over. And while parrying is an essential part of the game, at higher difficulties, the timing can feel finicky and unreliable.

The game also loves to throw handfuls of enemies at you all at once, which can be overwhelming, and combat against lower-tier enemies is built to lock you into finisher animations in a lot of cases. Instead of making you feel like a cool, well-trained warrior, these usually just leave you open to some Imperial dork wandering up with an electrobaton and clocking you in the head. It’s only after you get enough Force powers to effectively control the crowds that these moments become more exciting than irritating. But throughout the game, there are always times when an enemy you couldn’t see because of the game’s tight targeting lock system gets in a cheap hit, forcing you to replay a fair stretch of its large, interweaving maps.

But especially as it wears on, Fallen Order becomes perhaps the strongest conception of what playing as a Jedi Knight ought to really be like. It’s true that Fallen Order borrows liberally from other action games, but those elements work together with Respawn’s combat and environment design, and a story that finds humanity in the Force and in its characters, to hone in on what makes the world of Star Wars worthy of revisiting again and again. Even with some rough edges, Fallen Order represents one of the most compelling game additions to the Star Wars franchise in years.

I will rate this Game 8/10.

Developer(s)Respawn Entertainment
Publisher(s)Electronic Arts
Director(s)Stig Asmussen
Programmer(s)Jiesang Song
Artist(s)Ken FeldmanChris Sutton
Writer(s)Aaron ContrerasManny HagopianMatt MichnovetzMegan Fausti
Composer(s)Stephen BartonGordy Haab
EngineUnreal Engine 4
Platform(s)Microsoft WindowsPlayStation 4Xbox One
ReleaseNovember 15, 2019
Genre(s)Action-adventure
Mode(s)Single-player

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