Following Electronic Arts’ acquisition of Star Wars’ exclusive video game license from the Mouse House back in 2013, it’s safe to say that it’s been a pretty bumpy ride for gamers fond of that galaxy far, far away. Though Battlefront and Battlefront II sold decently, both ‘games as a service’-style titles were also met with their fair share of critical backlash due to a paltry offering of content, predatory loot box microtransactions and a buggy multiplayer experience.
Step in Respawn Entertainment’s recently released Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and we can all collectively thank the lords of Sith. Not only is this undoubtedly the Star Wars game that fans of the prodigious licence have been patiently waiting for, but it’s also one of the most consistently fun and slickly produced action titles of the year. Oh, and thankfully you don’t need to worry about any of the nonsense that plagued those aforementioned Star Wars titles, either. Phew!
Timeline and story-wise, Jedi: Fallen Order’s overarching plot slots in after the events of Revenge Of The Sith, and slightly before Solo: A Star Wars Story. You are Cal Kestis, a former Jedi Padawan who works his fingers to the bone as a scrap-rat in the backwater planet of Bracca. Following the execution of Order 66 — where all Jedi were exterminated on sight for being traitors to the Galactic Republic — Cal has had to keep his true identity secret as to avoid trouble with the nefarious Empire that has taken a firm grip of the entire galaxy.
Without spoiling the story too much, let’s just say Cal’s cover is blown early on in the adventure, and it’s up to you to journey across the galaxy in a bid to re-connect yourself with the force, while unravelling the mysteries that have been left by the fading remnants of the now-collapsed Jedi Order. Hot on your heels is the whole of the Imperial Empire spearheaded by a ruthless and deadly inquisitor – dubbed the Second Sister – who was trained by none other than the original big bad: Darth Vader. *Cue John William’s iconic Vader Theme*
Overall, the narrative is very strong and deftly written. Over time, you quickly build up a sympathetic bond with the everyman-like personality of the title’s central character, Cal, and soon develop empathy for his ongoing plight against the dark side.
Dialogue and voice-acting is uniformly excellent across the board and though your protagonist, Cal, errs a little on the bland side, the game is surprisingly loaded with dastardly villains and memorable characters. Case in point: your feisty companion droid, BD-1, is simply the cutest and most adorable thing ever. Like, seriously.
Onto the gameplay, then, and put simply: Jedi: Fallen Order is an absolute blast to play. Like a Frankenstein-esque droid pieced together from other components, Respawn Entertainment’s latest blends Uncharted-esque cinematic action and platforming with the moment-to-moment exploration and gameplay from the Soulsborne sub-genre. As a result, Jedi: Fallen Order certainly may not be winning any awards for innovation, but for what it lacks in distinctive creativity, it does make up for by being one of the most purely entertaining and satisfying gameplay experiences of the year.
Lightsaber combat is ripped straight outta FromSoftware’s fluid and methodical sword-swinging textbook, while checkpointing and healing mechanics are virtually identical, too. Parrying at the right time exposes enemies to devastating counter attacks, while reflecting incoming blaster bolts back into a stormtrooper’s head never gets old, and is just as satisfying as it sounds. Additionally, some of the slow-mo lightsaber finishers are visceral and jaw-dropping, and there’s an ample sprinkling of extra force abilities to help spice the action up as well.
While it’s trite to call the game a 3D Metroidvania, it’s hard to not at least namecheck the sub-genre, as Jedi: Fallen Order leans so heavily into it. The game drip-feeds players with new force abilities at a slow and steady clip that help unlock new areas that were previously inaccessible. Wall-running, force slow and force push are gifted to Cal early on and it’s nice when these new abilities not only make a meaningful impact on your potential exploration, but also have an influence on the moment-to-moment combat as well. Long story short, the core action combat is very well executed.
Environmental puzzles — a ’la Tomb Raider and Uncharted — help flesh out the gameplay experience, and these are, for the most part, very well designed and rewarding. Furthermore, skill trees add a little more depth and customisation to your playthrough, but feel a wee bit inconsequential. For example, there was a moment in my playthrough where I had unlocked five skill points but had nothing to spend them on as I’d already opened up the whole of the skill tree that was accessible to me. Essentially, I had to wait several more hours before I could spend them on anything. Sure, no biggie, but it was slightly bothersome all the same.
Frankly, a few more role-playing aspects — like some more meaningful armour that had a legit impact on your protection, and/or some more diverse, impactful upgrades for your weapons — would’ve been super welcome. That being said, I still had a great time with the game’s high octane action gameplay and appreciated the quieter, more serene moments of downtime that punctuated Jedi: Fallen Order.
From a presentation standpoint, everything looks, sounds and feels super authentic to Disney’s iconic sci-fi franchise. Respawn Entertainment should be proud of themselves! Wielding a lightsaber makes you feel like a badass, and the variety of contrasting environments and distinct planets are a joy to behold. Further, decent enemy diversity is noticeable, though I do wish there were more large-scale boss encounters.
Finally, my only minor niggles are performance-related. Load times between respawns can be a little on the lengthy side, and there can be the occasional framerate chug when the action gets too busy, or when you enter a new area. It’s not deal-breaking stuff by any means, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.
VERDICT: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is one of the most purely entertaining and slickly produced action experiences I’ve had all year. Though it’s not the most creative title out there, and despite some minor framerate issues, it’s an exciting and exhilarating cinematic action game that absolutely deserves your attention.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is out now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.