I’d forgive you for being cynical about whether or not EA could pull off a Star Wars game successfully again. The last two Battlefronts were games that I enjoyed. Still, even the single-player offering in Battlefront II felt like an afterthought more than anything else. Now, with EA committing to single-player and a different studio handling the license, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a step in a different direction. And, it’s absolutely stellar.
Set five years after Revenge of the Sith, Fallen Order follows the story of Cal Kestis, one of the last surviving Jedi following the execution of Order 66. Cal is living a quiet and covert life as a scrapper, but during a workplace emergency exposes himself as being a Jedi to his friends and, subsequently, the new Empire. Meeting a new group of friends, including a retired Jedi, Cal sets off on a quest to reunite and restore the Jedi order. The Empire isn’t too happy about that either, and dispatch one of the mysterious Inquisitors, the Second Sister, to hunt Cal and his allies across the galaxy.
As a Star Wars story, Jedi: Fallen Order plays it safe, but that’s not to say it has a few surprises as you progress through the story. The story sees Cal rubbing shoulders with some familiar faces and heading to familiar places as well as others created for the game too. The supporting cast is exceptionally well developed and easily the standouts (BD-1 is especially adorable). It’s a shame then that our protagonist Cal is so bland in the opening moments of the story. Though, his character does experience some significant development as the game nears its conclusion.
And while the story is better than expected, weaving itself seamlessly into the canon rather than clumsily retconning it, it’s the way that Jedi: Fallen Order plays that makes it special.
When I was younger, I used to adore the Jedi Knight games because of how much they made me feel like a Jedi when playing. Jedi: Fallen Order attempts in earnest to recreate everything about that mood and tone but uses today’s technology to bring that to life better than ever before. Through Cal’s journey, you’ll learn to harness your powers, liaise with the residents of distant worlds, build your lightsaber, and even fight an epic duel or two. Jedi: Fallen Order is a heady homage to the games we so fondly remember and one of the most authentic Star Wars experiences you can play.
Borrowing liberally from its contemporaries, Jedi: Fallen Order mixes open level design and elaborately choreographed set pieces to craft an experience that never outstays its welcome. Cal can travel between five planets as he gradually uncovers them throughout the story. Like the modern Tomb Raider games or even the recent God of War, Cal will have free roam of these densely populated planets before being siphoned off into more linear areas as well. When you’re not on the critical path, you’ll be indulging in your desire to explore the games inviting locales.
Borrowing from games like Metroid Prime and Tomb Raider, Cal can use his abilities to access new areas or must backtrack once he unlocks other abilities. It’s a tried and true format – and you’ll leave one planet for another without seeing everything on your first visit – but very few games get it as right as Fallen Order. Exploration often isn’t mandatory, but the rewards give you more incentive to explore the area outside of where the story takes you.
It’s hard to pretend, however, that there aren’t a few issues with the way the game handles backtracking. For one, the planets themselves are vast and often loop around themselves to offer shortcuts as you progress. But, unfortunately, the map system itself is somewhat convoluted and sometimes hard to read. Similarly, it can be a pain to backtrack as not only can you not fast travel between meditation points, sometimes it can be unclear as to which path must be taken. Often, I’d find myself knowing visually in my head where I’d have to go, but still having no idea as the map is too complicated to decipher.
It’s a huge relief, then, that Fallen Order nails the combat aspect so well. Much like Jedi Knight before it, Fallen Order completely captures that badass feeling of being a Jedi. The game uses all kinds of clever design situations to keep things interesting – be it fighting multiple enemies at once or juggling numerous types at once. Whether you use your lightsaber or your force powers, there’s always some method to help defeat the crowds, and it’s utilising a mix of these that really makes you feel like a Jedi.
The saber combat is designed well enough to elevate it beyond the button mashing you’d see in a game like 2008’s The Force Unleashed. Instead, here is a system that rewards thoughtful strikes rather than relentless hyperactivity. Almost every enemy can be parried or blocked in some way, and, on harder difficulty levels, knowing your enemy’s movements can be the difference between life and death. It’s not quite as punishing as other action games that Fallen Order draws inspiration from, but it does strike a perfect balance between challenging and fulfilling.
Force powers are similarly used to great effect both in and out of combat. In combat, they can be used to not only mix up your approach but control crowds more effectively. It never gets old, just pushing a few lone enemies off a dangerous cliff. Outside of combat, however, Fallen Order uses them similarly to games like Zelda – allowing you to manipulate your environment to solve puzzles and discover new pathways with hidden buffs for Cal. The puzzles in Fallen Order are simple but effective – you feel accomplished when you work them out even when the answer is straightforward.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Fallen Order is how meaty an experience it is. Cynical me was expecting something rushed, something with sorely missing features or both. Thankfully, Fallen Order feels like anything but. For one, the main story will take most players anywhere between 25 to 30 hours, depending on the difficulty you play on. More important, however, is the fact that the game feels reasonably well-paced. While the runtime is longer than expected, the game continually throws new things at you that it never outstays its welcome.
It’s rather impressive just how much love and care has gone into Jedi: Fallen Order. Every planet feels like a place that could slot right into the Star Wars canon (some even already are). You’ll find a slew of Empire troops in each one too, but each of them also has their own unique set of native fauna to do battle with as well. In a bid to make the world seem even more alive, you’ll often see the Empire and the native wildlife clash, giving you an opportunity to take advantage of the situation. In one instance, while backtracking, I even saw two creatures arguing over a body of a stormtrooper I previously had slain.
When done with the game, there’s a little bit more to do, but admittedly not heaps. With the new abilities and tools you’ve unlocked, you can go back and explore areas you might have missed to max out Cal’s abilities. There are also four unique creatures to hunt throughout the planets for more experience, though these don’t pose a considerable challenge. At random points, the game will also throw random bounty hunters at Cal to cash in on his wanted status. Winning these encounters, which are always overwhelming and unexpected, leads to significant gains. Losing to them sees them retreat for another time.
One thing the Battlefront games did right was capturing the look and sound of Star Wars, and thankfully Jedi: Fallen Order continues that trend. It is phenomenal just how good Fallen Order looks and how adept it is at encapsulating that classic Star Wars feeling. From the breathtaking vistas of the game’s five major planets to the trademark camera transitions to the superb lighting and cinematography, this is one of the best-looking Star Wars games ever.
This dovetails beautifully with some strong and well-directed cinematics that help to sell Cal’s story. Add to the mix a stellar score from Gordy Haab and Stephen Barton, which perfectly emulates the trademark orchestral tracks we’ve come to expect from the Star Wars property. There are booming tracks that play during the epic action set pieces, and there are more mellow, quiet string pieces that layer on the ambience when Cal is exploring. Hell, even the ambient noises, like the chirping of crickets and birds that play while you explore an ancient rainforest, are just perfect.
And that’s why Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is so successful. It manages to understand what makes a good Star Wars game, what players want from a Star Wars game and most importantly – how to offer a genuine and authentic Star Wars experience.
THE XBOX ONE VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED ON AN XBOX ONE X FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the Star Wars game fans have been waiting for. It brings together a strong story, addictive combat and an earnest dedication to recreating that Star Wars magic to offer one of the best Star Wars games in over a decade. It’s an experience that any Star Wars fan can’t afford to miss.