Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order Hands-On Preview – Living Up To Expectations

Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order is without doubt one of the most highly anticipated (and important) Star Wars games that has ever released. Earlier this week, I got a significant amount of hands-on time with the game as well as the opportunity to sit down with Respawn Producer, Kasumi Shishido and Writer, Megan Fausti. 

I definitely came away with the sense that Jedi: Fallen Order is the Action/Adventure game that Star Wars fans and gamers alike have been waiting for. The depth in combat, customisation and gameplay mechanics that feel authentic to the Star Wars universe and naturally fit into the game are all great. The story also looks set to be great, with the taste that I got being enough to hook me in.

Jedi: Fallen Order takes place between the events of the animated series, Clone Wars and Rebels and before Episode 4: A New Hope. Kasumi spoke about why and how they went about creating the lead character, Cal Kestis. 

“We didn’t want to have a protagonist that read as a Skywalker. You can’t really be a Skywalker type in this era. So we wanted to explore what it was like to be someone who lived through a massacre coming into their own.” said Kasumi.

The game sets you up as not starting as a Jedi. You begin playing as someone who knows the ways of the force, but due to the events of Order 66, distance yourself from it.

“Your journey involves trying to restore the Order and finding your way as a Jedi again. You start as more of a Padawan – not really knowing much about the force and with the help of your companions, you learn different abilities and skills, same with lightsaber combat.” said Kasumi. 

The combat in Jedi Fallen Order is highly enjoyable and challenging and not a button bashing frenzy at all. In fact, I’d say it’s quite the opposite. Combat is highly strategic and it almost punishes you for even trying to go at it in a button bashing way. There were some concerns with how deep the combat would be, as gameplay trailers obviously make it look a little easy/shallow, but my experience differed greatly from this. 

Every enemy encounter had me thinking about my approach and made me think about prioritising which enemies to take down or distract first. The controls accessible during the sessions were: X for Quick Attack with your lightsaber, Y for Strong Attacks which preformed strong lightsaber attacks by channeling the force, A to Jump, LB to Block, RB to preform Force Slow (as seen in gameplay trailers), and RT to preform Force Push (which I unlocked later in the play through). Blocking and dodging attacks are crucial to landing hits at the right time and staying alive. Tapping Block at the right time would deflect laser fire back at enemies, whilst holding it would cause general deflection, however you have block stamina, so you can’t just stand there and continue blocking machine gunner fire or Stormtrooper melees.

The combat mechanics drives you to consistently analyse your enemies, time your hits right and play both offensively and defensively to take down your opponents in true Jedi fashion. In a nut shell, this is the first Star Wars game, where I actually didn’t feel like some OP lightsaber wielder slashing through waves of enemies, I felt like a true Jedi – thoughtful, purposeful and one with the force. This is important, as obviously as a Jedi, you should feel significantly powerful, but not to the point of being overpowered. 

One of the things that surprised me most is not only is the game Souls like in combat, there’s actually a mechanic that Souls fans will be familiar with. Meditation locations are where you bank your skill points. You can upgrade skills and rest to restore health and stim packs. However, you’ll be punished for making poor combat decisions, in a risk/reward scenario. If you die, you’ll lose all your gained XP and you’ll only get it back by damaging the enemy that killed you. So, finding meditation locations during exploration and before tackling harder enemies is crucial as to not risk losing everything you’ve earned to that point. Resting at meditation locations to restore health will also respawn enemies you’ve defeated. The three branches of the skill tree are Force, Lightsaber and Survival, which all have their specific uses throughout combat.

Exploration is an obvious key element to this game. The planet I played on (Zeffo) was huge. I played for about three hours  and by the end of the objective I was playing, I had only completed 30% of the map – and I explored a lot. There’s many places to explore on the map, but is also dependant on what skills you’ve unlocked. Once you’ve unlocked skills, you can go back and explore previously unreachable areas. This should hopefully had a bit of length to the gameplay and will force you to explore every nook and cranny of every map before your play through is complete. 

Another key aspect to gameplay is BD1. As your companion, friend and buddy (as well as the quirky droid personality Star Wars fans know and love), BD1 plays a big role in the game progression as Kasumi states:

“Traversal is a big part of this game and with upgrades he’ll (BD1) help you do so. Also other areas like healing, BD1 is the one that heals you with stim packs out of his head as well as there being certain points where he’ll guide you through exploration or things of interest.”

BD1 will also give you access to your Holomap which is your ultimate guide to the areas you’ve explored and are yet to explore. There are no prompts or objective markers on screen to direct you to your objective, so I found myself continually referring to the Holomap to see where I’d been and where I needed to go.

The game refrained from holding my hand too much. This added to the feeling of finding my own within the force and combat and discovering the planet and creating that challenging nature of the game. But the great news is that the difficulty is changeable right from the menu at any time. There were 4 difficulty modes I could see, with three stat bars changing (parry timing, incoming damage and enemy aggression):

  • Story Mode (PT: 100% | ID: est. 10% | EA: est. 10%)
  • Jedi Knight (PT: 75% | ID: 25% | EA: 30%)
  • Jedi Master (PT 50% | ID: 50% | EA: 50%)
  • Jedi Grand Master (PT: 10% | ID: 100% | EA: 100%)

During my play through I had the difficulty set to Jedi Knight, and I died a few times during combat, so for context I’d say Jedi Knight is around the intermediate level with Grand Master being your Super Hard.

There’s a lot of customisation in the game, especially with the lightsaber.

“There’s a lot that you can customise – most exciting part of it is the lightsaber customisation. There’s an experience at Disneyland that we took inspiration from where you can build and customise your own lightsaber and you can do that on a work bench in the game and you get to experience Cal how he starts as a ship yard worker with his handyman work. We wanted players to have the freedom to customise, things like their ponchos, base outfits so that you can be the Cal you really want to.” said Kasumi. 

From what I could see in the menu and via one of these work benches, there were 5 different areas of customisation in the play through – Cal’s Base Outfit, Cal’s Ponchos, BD1’s cosmetic look, the Mantis’s (your ship) cosmetic look and your lightsaber. The lightsaber customisation then broke down even further with the ability to change the colour of your saber, and then the styles of your emitter, switch, sleeve and material it was all made from – like Durasteel and Copper, two I had access to during the play through. Being able to customise your lightsaber to this extent was amazing and had me looking forward to finding a workbench whilst exploring or when I got back to the ship to try out the new parts I had found throughout the planet.

The next month can’t go by soon enough. My time with Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order has made me more excited for the game that even I anticipated. Respawn is one of the marquee studios at the moment and continue to keep nailing it out of the park. Everything from the graphics, to the story, to the combat to the customisation look to make this a Star Wars game that everyone can get excited about. Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order is shaping up to not be only the best Star Wars game that EA has created, but potentially one of the best Star Wars games that we’ve ever seen.