Star Wars fans know that when it comes to videogames, they have been hit or miss over the years. The pinnacle, at least for me, might have been the Knights of the old Republic role-playing games, and that was back in 2003. There were some other Star Wars games that were okay. Empire at War was a really nice real-time strategy game. And the Battlefront games were passible at least. I had some fun with them, but the single player parts of them were weak, and everything was marred by microtransactions.
It started to seem like there might not be another single player Star Wars title any time soon. Then, almost out of nowhere, we get STAR WARS Jedi: Fallen Order. Having been burned a bit by Star Wars games of the past, I began my time with Fallen Order with a little bit of trepidation.
But I really needed have. I was pretty much hooked right from the start. You begin your adventure in an Empire shipyard where they breakdown old star destroyers and other capital ships for scrap and spare parts. It’s a grimy, dangerous environment where there are clearly no safety regulations to protect workers. It also looks absolutely amazing. I actually couldn’t believe how fantastic the graphics looked even in the first area that Fallen Order was showing me. The soundtrack is also sufficient epic, and the voice acting is Hollywood level for just an amazing, film-like experience.
For this review, I was playing Jedi: Fallen Order on a gaming PC through Steam. The test system is configured for gaming and was able to run with all the settings cranked up to their Ultra settings. Nvidia even released a new driver update to optimize ray tracing for that extra bit of realistic oomph. If you have the hardware to run Fallen Order, then it will look absolutely ridiculous on your screen, at least as good as a Star Wars movie. I did get a chance to see the game running on a PlayStation 4 and an Xbox One X as well and it looked great there too, but the PC has got them all beat if the hardware is available. What you see in the trailers is pretty much what you get inside the game.
In addition to just looking gorgeous, there are tons of little details to enjoy. For example, in the first ship that you eventually end up traveling in, there is a breakfast bar complete with chocolate doughnuts, cereal dispensers and bowls of fruit. You don’t actually eat anything or need to, but its nice that things like that make the world seem pretty darn realistic. After all, even Jedi Knights need a healthy breakfast.
In Fallen Order you play Cal Kestis. He’s a padawan who survived the purge of the Jedi order and went into hiding. So you have rudimentary Jedi powers at the start of the game, but are not able to use them for fear of being outed and targeted for death by the Empire. You have been hiding for about four years when the game begins, but have to use your force powers to save your friend from dying in a construction accident. That brings the Empire inquisitors to the shipyard and triggers your first escape sequence.
Trying to escape the shipyards feels a lot like a scene from an Uncharted game at times, right down to a climbing for your life segment up a crashed train. You will also get to use your first Jedi powers when escaping, which is a way to slow down opponents. Thankfully, the linear running parts of the game are rare. This one is used as a tutorial to show how to combat both melee and ranged opponents using your lightsaber.
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If you are unfamiliar with how games like this work, Fallen Order does a good job of showing you the ropes during that first extended fight sequence.
Jedi Fallen Order is all about blocking in terms of combat. When storm troopers shoot their blasters, you need to block the bolts at the last second, which sends the bolt careening back at them for the kill. With melee opponents, you can use force powers on them, but for the most part the way to kill them is to block their attacks and then counterstrike for the kill. Sometimes the game will throw melee attackers at you while also having ranged enemies shoot from a distance. So you really have to pay attention to your timing. With bosses, mini-bosses and tougher enemies, you also need to sometimes dodge because many of them have unblockable attacks. They will flash red when they are about to perform an unblockable move, which tells you that it’s time to dodge instead of block.
The combat in the game is pretty advanced. One might make comparisons to either Dark Souls or something in that world like Bloodborne. A slightly more modern comparison might be Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. If you die in combat, all of your XP from your last save will be “stored” on the enemy who brought you down. You need to backtrack to them to get it back, just like in Souls. But here you only need to hit them once to regain everything, not kill them, which makes it a little more forgiving. However, the biggest difference with all of those other games and Jedi: Fallen Order is that with Jedi, you can adjust the difficulty bar quite a bit. Doing so changes the amount of time that you have to perform a perfect block. At the easiest level, it’s pretty forgiving. Combat in the game is still challenging, even on easy, but this makes the game accessible to more players. Almost everyone can probably get through the game in terms of difficulty.
While combat is a big part of the game, the majority of it is actually exploration. Kestis is able to visit several planets in his quest to try and revitalize the fallen Jedi Order. Each of those environments are unique, and all of them feature lots of hidden paths and secrets. They all also have an abundance of both horizontal and vertical space. So you wont just be walking around on one level. You might use a rocky surface to perform a wall run get across a seemingly impassable hallway from above, use a zip line to traverse a vast crevasse, climb down to a lower level to explore a network of dark tunnels or find a hidden suite of rooms behind a breakaway wall. The game rewards exploration well with plenty of Easter eggs in the form of new outfits, skins for your equipment and upgrades. It really makes careful exploration just as rewarding as winning fights.
The levels you visit (the planets) are pretty huge. And you wont be able to explore everything on your first trip. There will be inaccessible areas where you need a certain force power to access, or some object that you won’t find until later. So there is a good deal of backtracking in the game. There maps the game generates are very detailed, and include things like doors that you were unable to open previously. That’s really good because you don’t have to remember, for example, where the door was that you can now open with your new power. Just revisit the planet and check your map.
The characters in Fallen Order are likable. You will meet a gruff pilot and a fallen Jedi Knight as you travel, though your constant companion starting very early in the game is a cool little droid named BD-1. The droid is amazing and also quite fearless. He is small enough that he can ride on your back for most of the game. But he also provides quite a few useful tools. He can light your way with his flashlight eyes, act as a zipline rod and search through chests to find premium loot. Eventually you will be able to upgrade him so that he can pick locks, which is very helpful. And finally, he dispenses healing vials, so will keep you alive in a tough spot. Basically, he’s your most valuable companion by far and I challenge you not to fall in love with BD-1 as you play.
In terms of role-playing elements, you will be building out and learning new Jedi skills as you earn experience. You can also do things like improve your health pool or the number of healing vials that you can carry. There is a skill tree, and depending on how you like to play, going down certain branches first will give you quite an edge. The builds are diverse enough that everyone can get at least a little help in the game from their new abilities and powers.
Jedi: Fallen Order is an amazing single player experience, something that I thought might be dead. It’s a challenging but rewarding game that is full of Star Wars flavor. Fans of the genre have been waiting a long time for a new, single player Star Wars game. And although nothing was probably worth the painfully long wait, Jedi: Fallen Order is well beyond any expectations. The Force is strong with this one.
Developers: Respawn Entertainment
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Steam, Xbox One