Growing up, I always thought that the Jedi Knight series were among the best of the Star Wars games. I have many fond memories of Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy, and while they are fairly archaic today, at the time they were some of the best attempts to truly make you feel like a Jedi. There was just something about the Jedi Knight series that cemented them in my mind as my favorite Jedi power fantasy games, and decades later I’m still craving a new game along those same lines. Sadly, for me at least, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order still doesn’t really satisfy that itch.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Platforms: Windows PC, PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One (Reviewed)
Release Date: November 14th, 2019
Jedi: Fallen Order is set five years after Revenge of the Sith. You play as Cal Kestis, a young Padawan that narrowly survives Order 66 and now hides as a scavenger on Bracca, spending his days employed by scrapper guilds dismantling the remnants of the Republic’s arsenal so that the Empire can build more Star Destroyers and TIE Fighters.
All of this comes to a quick and violent end when a nearly fatal workplace accident causes Cal to use the Force to save himself and a friend, which unfortunately draws the attention of the Empire’s Inquisitors.
After a fast and frantic chase sequence, Cal is rescued by the crew of the Mantis, Cere and Greez, who are on a mission to restore the Jedi Order by finding survivors of the Purge.
This quest will take players across five planets, several of which will be familiar to the more devoted Star Wars fans out there, as they follow in the footsteps of Eno Cordova, Cere’s former Master.
Cordova was obsessed with an ancient civilization of Force users called the Zeffo, and used their technology and ruins to hide a holocron containing a list of Force-sensitive children that the crew of the Mantis wish to find and rescue before the Empire’s Inquisitors track them down.
I must admit that the opening sequence on Bracca had me hooked and extremely excited for the rest of the game. It serves as a great setup for the game’s plot and is crammed full of fanservice as players explore the husks of Republic Venator cruisers.
The backgrounds are covered in references to the Clone Wars as the Empire literally and figuratively tears down the remnants of the Republic to fuel the Imperial war machine.
The game’s environments in general are a fanservice overload as you explore familiar planets like Kashyyyk, Dathomir, and Ilum. It also helps that all the planets look gorgeous, and feature some spectacular backdrops and skyboxes.
From the many callbacks and shout-outs, to the excellent soundtrack, fans upset with the direction of Disney Star Wars will be pleased to know that, at least from a story and exploration standpoint, Jedi: Fallen Order truly feels like a classic Star Wars experience.
Exploration is Fallen Order‘s bread and butter, and will comprise the majority of your time in the game. The game’s planets are massive, maze-like paths full of collectibles, secrets, and shortcuts to unlock.
The game’s collectibles mostly consist of cosmetics, like new outfits, lightsaber components, or skins for your faithful droid companion, BD-1. The more well-hidden secrets tend to be gameplay relevant improvements like health and Force upgrades, or additional stim pack slots.
The final bit of collectables are Force Echoes. Cal has the rare ability to use the Force to see memories associated with an object.
These Force Echoes serve as something akin to a audio logs or letters in other games that help flesh out the plot and lore. BD-1 will also often run off to find things to scan that unlock codex entries that can be read in the character menus.
Fallen Order follows a Metroidvania-esque approach to progression. The trauma Cal experienced during the Purge damaged his link to the Force, which serves as the game’s excuse for making you re-learn Jedi abilities throughout the game.
Cal starts with the ability to slow objects and enemies, and throughout the game he’ll gain access to all the stables, like Push, Pull, a double jump, wall running, etc. You’ll also be upgrading BD-1, allowing you to hack doors or overload power generators to access new areas.
The story requires you to backtrack to several of the game’s planets twice, which also gives you an excuse to use your new abilities to hunt for collectibles in areas you previously couldn’t reach.
As you can imagine, this means that the game is crammed full of backtracking, which can get very tedious because there is no fast travel system. You’ll find plenty of shortcuts, but ultimately you’ll need to travel around every level manually, which honestly feels like a lazy attempt to pad the game a bit longer.
I’m honestly fairly conflicted about how the game handles its exploration. While the levels are all visually pleasing and fun to make your way through the first time, the amount of backtracking gets very old.
I ended up missing a decent amount of the game’s secrets and collectibles simply because I didn’t feel like running around each level over and over again as I gained access to new abilities.
While I already had mixed feelings about the game from an exploration standpoint, the combat is where I feel most conflicted. Instead of going with a full-blown Jedi power fantasy like Jedi Knight or The Force Unleashed, Fallen Order takes a more Sekiro or Souls-like approach.
I know that comparing any moderately challenging game with slow, methodical combat to Dark Souls is a meme, but that really is the best way to describe Fallen Order.
The game even features bonfires-I mean “meditation spots” that act as a save, respawn point, and character upgrade screen. You also drop your unused experience upon death, and must return to where you died to retrieve it by smacking whatever enemy killed you.
While the combat is competent enough, my biggest complaint is that you don’t feel like a Jedi for the vast majority of the game. Yes, I understand that you are playing as a Padawan, but because the game de-emphasizes Force powers in favor of perfectly-timed dodges and parries you aren’t really able to go on huge rampages like in previous Jedi games.
You have a very limited Force bar, and even heavy slashes and lunges deplete it. Pushing hapless Stormtroopers off ledges never ceases to be amusing, but the limits on your Force abilities means that you can’t do it as often as I wish.
Worse still, many enemies can take quite a bit of punishment, which makes your lightsaber feel like a glowing Nerf toy when you are fighting anything that isn’t just a basic Stormtrooper.
On the bright side, when you finally do land a lethal blow on the many alien creatures you’ll encounter they tend to get sliced to bits, though sadly this dismemberment doesn’t extend to any humanoid enemies unless its a cutscene.
The camera can be quite frustrating at times, especially in confined areas. More than once I got staggered into a corner by an attack and found myself unable to see what was going on. There’s some wonky hit detection too, especially in relation to enemies with grab attacks or charged shots.
There’s a famous video floating around of someone being grabbed by the frog monster’s tongue attack because it passed by the tip of their lightsaber, and I’ve certainly encountered similar situations myself.
The game does feature a modestly sized skill tree consisting of a few dozen or so upgrades. These include new combos, passive bonuses like increased health or Force power, and a few new attacks like the iconic saber throw.
While there is a skill tree in the game, you won’t be confusing Fallen Order for an RPG. There’s really no such thing as “builds” in the game, and unless you rush through and avoid combat and collectables as much as possible, then you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting most of the skills before the end credits roll.
It’s not that the combat is bad per se, its just that the Souls-like elements feel a little forced and thrown in.
It comes off as if a suit from higher up in the company told the team that the combat has to emulate a Souls-like because those are popular, and that it must feature all these specific mechanics just because those are in Dark Souls. Its like no one stopped to think “does this mechanic make sense?” before throwing it in just because its in Dark Souls.
I also must point out that Fallen Order is kind of a mess from a technical standpoint, especially on PS4. There’s tons of texture pop-in, and the framerate regularly drops below 30 even when just running around a large area. There’s also some lengthy loading screens that the devs try to hide with elevators, but even with those the game will randomly decide to freeze for a solid 20 to 30 seconds to load the next area.
Then there’s the strange bugs you’ll encounter. I’ve seen quite a few floating enemies in the distance, and more than once I was confronted with a charging Night Brother that was in the T pose with his weapon hovering beside him. There was one time where I missed a jump and the game’s reload mechanic placed me mid-air instead of on the previous platform, leading to an infinite death loop I had to overcome by quitting the game.
Maybe I’m just biased or approaching the game through rose-tinted glasses colored by older Jedi-focused action games, but Fallen Order failed to really grab me the way I was hoping it would. I really wanted a straightforward Jedi power fantasy along the lines of Jedi Academy or The Force Unleashed.
Instead, we got a very by-the-numbers experience that blends the platforming and exploration of Uncharted or God of War with a fairly watered down Souls-like combat system. I can see why a lot of people are currently enjoying the game, but Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order just wasn’t really for me.
Second Take by Brandon Orselli
I have to agree with the majority of Frank’s review. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is so close to nailing a classic Star Wars experience, something true fans of the series have been begging for, for quite awhile now. I played the game on Xbox One just to compare performance, and it’s mostly the same.
The game tends to have frequent framerate drops, full lock-ups, long load times, and a myriad of goofy bugs like floating enemies, animations getting wonky, physics causing silliness, and more. Frank and I both played on original PS4 and XB1 hardware, so it makes me wonder how optimized it is.
As for the combat, while I’m not a diehard fan of the Souls-like formula that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order heavily borrows from, it felt okay in context to the expected tropes. Fallen hero has to recover his abilities, you have to get stronger as you progress, but it did leave me wanting more Force powers.
Fans of the series will find something fun with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order but don’t expect a polished game to match its massive budget. I can’t help but feel like this game was rushed to ship before the final movie in the new trilogy is released.
The story is through and through a classic Star Wars tale, set within the first and second trilogies, and yet it falls short of truly being a must-buy due to its technical problems and its somewhat disappointing combat and mechanics. I simply wanted more, and a more polished game.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One using a review copy provided by Electronic Arts. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.