Title: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Release Date: November 15, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
The Star Wars video game universe has had some good time and some bad times, but the dream of becoming a Jedi to take on the Empire is still alive and well. When it comes to Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the team captures what it’s like to grow into the role of Jedi Knight. They’ve stacked the odds against you on this journey, and those odds have a weight to them that made success uncertain. One thing is for sure; Respawn has delivered one of the best Star Wars adventures that I have ever experienced.
In a generation where multiplayer is the main selling point for games, the direction of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order had me surprised. A single-player campaign that focused on character growth and adventure in a galaxy far far away is not something that I’m used to seeing in this console generation. Players assume the role of Cal Kestis, a Jedi padawan, in hiding after the purge of the Jedi. In this time, the Empire is at large as they reign over the galaxy.
After an altercation, Cal is forced out of hiding and finds himself on a quest to recover a lost relic containing the identity of potential Jedi around the galaxy. He’s joined by a former Jedi Master named Cere Junda and the captain of the Mantis spacecraft named Greez Dritus. Although Cal is usually the one putting himself in danger throughout this quest, they each play a pivotal roll in the success of the mission. The most useful member of the group happens to be a small droid who goes by the named BD-1. Throughout the game, the skills this droid learns become essential to progressing the game’s narrative and survival in certain situations.
Cal is a complex character who struggles with his connection to the force. It’s through this that players evolve with Cal as he relearns his teachings and grows into a proper Jedi. His emotions drive him through the narrative as he puts his trust in the force and those around him.
At the start of your adventure, you’d be cautious when approaching enemies, and maybe even struggle with most encounters. But by the end of the journey, you might rush into a fight, force powers at your will, swinging your lightsaber like a true Jedi Master. It’s excellent game design, but also unique storytelling. Nothing is forced in this adventure, and everything is gained through hard work and skill. It’s this natural progression that makes each moment of gameplay feel like a reward to the player’s time.
Swinging a lightsaber is tied to one action button, but the developers have incorporated a measured approach to fights. Players must use block, parry, force abilities, powerful lightsaber attacks, and dodges to get through most encounters. I wouldn’t say the fights are straightforward; in some cases, I fell to the hands of grunt enemies. Dying removes experience earned and attaches it to the enemy who defeated you. If you attack that enemy, well, you get your knowledge back.
It’s a great mechanic to encourage you not to die and be aware of the game’s meditation save points. However, it’s always going to be frustrating to die at the end of a level and be sent to your last meditation point, which might be the beginning of the stage. Still, I loved the feature and thought it added a significant layer of strategy and difficulty to the game.
During Cal’s adventure, he’ll visit a few planets. Upon visiting, some routes will be locked and require Cal to have learned a specific ability. This Metroidvania approach to level design worked in the game’s favor as it piqued my interest in exploration. Each route I took led me to a new area, whether it progressed the story, held treasure, or contained a bit of lore; I was continually feeling rewarded for my time spent off the beaten path.
Environments also contain some light puzzles that can test your skills, but they are manageable. The more cryptic puzzles often hold rare items or bits of lore that piece together the narrative a bit more for those who want it.
Visiting planets is done by choosing them from the Mantas’s navigation. In some way, their isn’t much to do inside the Mantis, but I found that the best moments of the game took place in it. In a way, the ship is a part of the crew and serves as one of the best set pieces in the game.
It’s easy to see that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a beautiful game. The developers used their knowledge of platforming and action to craft some fantastic set pieces within the Star Wars universe. The levels seamlessly flow together and have memorable areas. The life and creativity that was brought to these planets made it fun to use your force powers and abilities to navigate through. You could just run through levels as quickly as possible, but slowing down and taking in the scenery is reward with some fantastic set pieces.
The downside of the beautiful graphics in the game is some of the animations appear a bit awkward at times. There were moments in a cutscene where the audio wouldn’t match up with the character’s mouths, or enemies wouldn’t load in a section until after I’ve entered. There are even some AI issues with enemies not really knowing what to do. It’s these moments that remind you that you are playing a video game and aren’t a Jedi.
Where Respawn got it right is found in the responsiveness of the controls in combat. Everything feels smooth, even though they use every button on the controller. Actions are met with beautiful animation, but fights don’t feel automated like in other action games. Every encounter requires the skills and knowledge of the Jedi abilities to get through, which gives them an almost cinematic effect.
Music is Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order presents a score that will rival many Star Wars soundtracks. Each event is matched with a fantastic display of orchestral goodness that brings the scenes alive. Traversing levels is made more entertaining as Cal and BD-1 banter back and forth and develop a bond. The deep level of sound and voiced audio work together to make this an amazing Star Wars adventure.
I was hesitant about a modern Star Wars game because I’ve been burned before, but Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the best single-player adventure that I have played in a very long time. The brilliant narrative that Respawn has created in the Star Wars universe is paired with excellent gameplay mechanics and level design. By the end of the journey, I truly felt like I experienced what becoming a Jedi Knight feels like, and that’s all I could have asked for in this experience.
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