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Review: Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order is Cinematic, and a Successful Hodgepodge of Game Design

Screenshot: Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

I grew up as a Star Wars nerd. I played every Star Wars game I could get my hands on during the glory days of Lucasarts, and it felt like it was a wellspring that would never dry up. Ironically, with the coming of the prequel trilogy, it seems like the days of abundant and fun Star Wars games were over. So it feels like a sort of nostalgia to be deflecting blaster bolts with a lightsaber again.

Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order is a third person action adventure game, with some of game’s hottest design decisions rolled into one package. It’s like if developer Respawn took integral parts of the Uncharted and Tomb Raider series, while throwing in a dash of Dark Souls and what you get is the gameplay in Fallen Order. Usually, if such an amalgamation is tried the result is clumsy, but the pieces fit together beautifully in Jedi Fallen Order.

Screenshot: Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

In Jedi Fallen Order you play as form Jedi Padawan Cal Kestis, on the run from the Empire. As Cal you’re not a full-fledged Jedi, but you are on the path to becoming one. Cal can eventually jump, wall run, force push, pull, slow and with the help of his droid BD-1, slice (hack) doors open and even get droids to fight for you. There is a fair amount of platforming, in sections that hearken back to my days playing as Nathan Drake—but with a lightsaber.

And lightsaber combat is an integral part of Jedi Fallen Order. The combat system, though not as tight, feels reminiscent of Dark Souls­—but with lenience towards hack-n-slash. You have stamina, which is used to block incoming melee attacks—usually electrified batons used by scout troopers and the Imperial Inquisition—those who are still hunting the Jedi who escaped Order 66. Your lightsaber makes quick work of blasters, and skillful blocking and deflect sends bolts back to their source.

Screenshot: Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

For the most part, combat feels fun. But while it’s fun, it’s extremely cheese-able. Most enemies are easily defeated with force powers. Stormtroopers are,appropriately, cannon fodder—even if you’re facing down huge waves of them—and the Inquisitors, while being a challenge, are easily defeated with force abilities and patience. Jedi Fallen Order isn’t quite Dark Souls in terms of challenge—but it’s pretty close. And with variable difficulty settings, if you don’t want a hardcore challenge, you can choose to take it easy to enjoy the cinematic story.

As I mentioned earlier, you play as Cal Krestis, on the run from the Empire and being hunted by Imperial Inquisitors. You’re joined by former Jedi Cere Junda and the captain of the Stinger Mantis, Greez. The Stinger Mantis feels like a nice analogue to the Millennium Falcon, and is your home base of operations, and serving as a vehicle to the different planets you’ll be visiting throughout the story.

Screenshot: Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

While the story is exciting, it’s hardly epic. You’re not on some grand quest to destroy the Empire, rather, your quest is to get information that could possibly, maybe, help destroy the Empire someday. And getting that information makes it accessible to the empire, putting people at risk by just going after it. The story takes place post Episode 3, so there are a ton of references—from the Clone Wars and prequels to the original trilogy. The set pieces are great, the action is great, and the acting is pretty spot-on, with some stand-out performances by Debra Wilson as Cere Junda. And despite my initial apprehension towards the main character, his determination and growth sold me on him eventually.

Each planet in Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order acts as a map to explore, full of secrets to find. Unfortunately, they’re not quite open-world, and the entire experience feels railroaded. It’s not entirely linear, but it might as well be. But if you do take the time to explore each planet, there are lore tidbits to find, and customization options to unlock.

Screenshot: Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

BD-1, the Stinger Mantis, and even Cal’s clothing can all be customized. But the most customization options were saved for Cal’s lightsaber. You can change everything from the hilt, the switch, beam emitter, color, etc. As great as the options are, later on in the game you are shoe-horned into a specific look. It follows the story, but it kills the freedom of customization that I enjoyed through most of the game.

I played mostly on PC, and that has some interesting user experience issues. Getting the game through Steam just means that you have to go through the extra step of also launching Origin–that’s to be expected, but still worth mentioning. Also, despite Fallen Order running well for the most part, I couldn’t get my setup to avoid jitteriness when moving from area to area, room to room, etc.

Screenshot: Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order isn’t perfect, but it’s a return to form for Star Wars games. I wish it success: I miss the heady days of endless Lucasarts masterpieces, but Fallen Order brought me back to my childhood of chopping down Stormtroopers–here’s hoping for more.

 

Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order is available now on Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

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