November 18, 2019
Han Solo made a fine point when he suggested that "hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side," because for much of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, we were longing for just that – a good blaster. Upon starting Fallen Order, you're a fugitive Padawan laying low on Bracca as a humble 'scrapper', chopping up old Republic ships. That is until the Empire catch up to you and a blistering pursuit kicks things off. As Cal Kestis, you're a fledgling Jedi, missing many of the key skills that define you as worthy of the order – you're out of your depth, and his lightsaber might as well be a baseball bat to begin with. A blaster would be wonderful, but wouldn't detract from this being the best Star Wars game in ages.
Set between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Fallen Order takes you to far-flung planets across the galaxy, where Imperial presence is in abundance, in bases, dig sites, and subterranean tombs harbouring ancient Jedi secrets. Raiding these tombs, you’ll find a dose of light puzzling, some of the game’s most taxing platforming segments, and intriguing, buried treasures. These areas can offer welcome respite from the game's brilliant lightsaber duelling, although you will still encounter Imperial entanglements and indigenous beasties lurking in the depths, so sharpening those Jedi skills is a must, to make life easier.
Kestis' affinity with the Force has been locked away, forgotten for years, and as such, the game gradually drip-feeds you new abilities that not only enhance your combat prowess, but enable you to traverse to new areas and unearth hitherto undiscovered secrets, Metroidvania-style. Jedi: Fallen Order is really two games. One is an Uncharted or Tomb Raider-style journey, featuring traversal (including Respawn speciality, the wall run) and seat-of-the-pants set pieces, while the other is a Souls-like, boasting almost everything that comes with it – measured, "thoughtful" combat (to quote developer Respawn) and bouts that require focus.
Encounters with Imperial Stormtroopers are straightforward enough, blaster bolts easily pinged back their way with a flick of your lightsaber, but showdowns with creatures and other lightsaber-wielding enemies prove less predictable. Happily, Fallen Order's combat is extremely tight and enormously rewarding, demanding quick reflexes and good timing. At default difficulty (Jedi Knight), Respawn's game is challenging, but if you're after something more akin to a Souls game, then Jedi Master difficulty or above is the way to go. If you'd prefer something simpler, then Story Mode has you covered.
Although it shares DNA with Dark Souls, Sekiro, and their ilk, Fallen Order is far more accessible, despite enemies respawning when resting at meditation spots (Fallen Order's bonfires, in essence) and encounters against multiple enemies and bosses proving remarkably tricky at times. Die in battle, and you’ll also lose progress towards your next skill point, until you return and land a strike on the enemy who killed you. Once you've unlocked enough skill points to boost your health, found more stims to replenish said health, and acquired a few more abilities, like lightsaber throwing and such, you'll be cutting down Stormtroopers, Bounty Hunters, and hostile fauna down like Yoda going apeshit in Attack of the Clones.
There's a diversity of foes to face across Fallen Order's five planets (Bogano, Zeffo, Wookiee homeworld Kashyyyk, the caustic Dathomir, and snowy planet Ilum) too, and using your starship, the Mantis, you can freely travel to and fro between them all, as you like. It's the Purge Troopers and Inquisitorius that you really need to worry about during your Jedi travails, though; they're trained to dispatch the last surviving Jedi in the wake of Order 66, and will stop at nothing to take you out. Best Force push them off the edge of a cliff, then, or master those all-important parry and dodge manoeuvres. Like Sekiro, your enemies' guard can be broken by hammering away at their posture meter, often (with weaker fodder) opening them up for a brutal execution, or you can use a little finesse, busting out a precision parry or dodge at the perfect moment.
During your quest to retrieve a doohickey known as the holocron, you'll have multiple run-ins with Inquisitors, including central big bad, Second Sister. The Mantis' pilot Greez and saviour-with-a-secret Cere have your back, but you can really only rely on your trusty droid, BD-1. The former property of Jedi Eno Cordova, BD-1 is not only cute in the best traditions of favourite Star Wars droids, like R2-D2 and BB-8; he's also got more than a few tricks up his little metal sleeve. BD-1 is on hand to throw you a stim when you need it, slice a locked door, or hack an enemy droid, but when it comes to everything else, you're on your own.
When you're not carving enemies asunder with a lightsaber, exploration is an engaging aside, with chests tucked away in various places, containing new outfits for Cal, fresh paint jobs for the Mantis, and separate parts that you can mix and match to build your very own lightsaber. You can combine emitters, switches, and sleeves in any configuration you like, then add your own metallic finish and blade colour to really make it your own. The level of customisation on offer is fantastic, lending you a genuine reason to keep your eyes peeled for secrets, of which there are plenty.
In spite of a smattering of annoying bugs (pop-in, game crashes, instances where the map fails to load in), Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is not only an excellent Star Wars game, but an excellent game in its own right. Combat is elegant, immediate, and exceedingly well put together, while the quieter moments of exploration and traversal break things up, and allow you some time to really soak in the game's little corner of the Star Wars universe, complete with a wonderfully John Williams-esque score to please the ears as you do so.
Cal might seem initially bland (calling him Blando Calrissian seems a little unfair), but as his story unfolds, you'll feel increasingly invested in Cal's journey to help restore the Jedi order and fulfil his own destiny to become a Jedi Knight himself. What's more, by the time the credits have rolled, you'll have new hope that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order might be the beginning of what could quite easily be a rather special single-player Star Wars saga.
Every iconic Star Wars sound effect is accounted for, while BD-1's beeps and boops (provided by original Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt, no less) are great. The orchestral score will give you goosebumps, and the voice performances are superb.
A good looking game that's hamstrung by occasional bugs, Fallen Order has some truly beautiful vistas to behold and the character models are excellent. Unfortunately, there's a lack of overall polish that holds this back from being a technical marvel.
One half owes a debt to Dark Souls/Sekiro, while the other half of Fallen Order channels Tomb Raider/Uncharted. Both are highly accomplished and enormous fun, but it's the hugely gratifying combat that you'll keep coming back for.
Everything that Fallen Order has to offer is excellent, and the narrative itself is nice and meaty, with Metroidvania elements that encourage you to return to previous locations. Still, you can't help but long for a little extra refinement and attention to detail that would have elevated the experience.
A very strong list with the perfect spread of tasks across the board. Finding every collectible and secret will take a lot of time and patience, but the good news is, you can complete the game at any difficulty you like. There's no trophy for beating the game at its hardest level.
While Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is strong with the Force, it's held back slightly by some irritating bugs. Fortunately, none of them can detract from the overall experience, its superlative combat and absorbing, enjoyable take on the Star Wars universe.