Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (2019)
It’s easy to be cynical for me, when it comes to Star Wars. Something special as a kid, that has been bastardized first by Gorge Lucas and his meddling ways, ever changing a movie instead of just letting it be. Then secondly by Disney and the over-saturation of the franchise and the insane marketing. Even Disney themselves have realized that going whole hog into making three movies a year was going to lead to burnout extremely quickly. The baffling choice to give EA (voted the worst company in America several years in a row) to give them exclusive rights to the Star Wars franchise and be the only company that can make Star Wars games seemed odd. What seemed even odder is the fact that EA killed so many different Star Wars projects that seemed rad, only to put out awful cash grab titles that were only there to get everyone into the Loot Box gambling racket.
So to say that I was hesitant about yet another Star Wars game, is putting it mildly. I didn’t pay attention to this game at all, until after release. Paying $60 for a game that I have little to no actual interest in seemed like a tall order, and only knowing that it was a weird Dark Souls style of game even put me off it more. Yet, EA Orgin’s All Access program exists. For $15 I can basically have full access to the game (even all the premium Deluxe DLC as well) and a couple other games. This is perfect for me as I know I’ll probably never go back to it anytime soon after I finish the game and when I do it’ll be super cheap on Steam. So now, the game is more appealing to me just from a financial standpoint. Will I have $15 worth of fun with this game… almost assuredly.
Jedi: Fallen Order takes place about five years after Anikin turns to the Dark Side and gets all his limbs chopped off and becomes a Sci-Fi version of the Six Million Dollar Man, Steve Austin. Cal Kestis is a Jedi in hiding and it’s up to him to restore The Order Of The Jedi. A simple enough plot, one that allows you to planet hop on your journey. Picking up friends and well wishers along the way.
The Dark Souls game style was never my favorite and I actively dislike the series. Most of it relies on it being overly difficult, priding itself on it’s tagline “Prepare to die!”. It all comes down to trial and error, and memorization. Instead of it being solely on skill, it’s just going to throw things at you over and over again until you memorize every single tell that an enemy animation has, and dodge and block and parry accordingly. You’ll never get past anything without memorization. But Jedi Fallen Order takes it’s approach a bit differently. It allows you to button mash your way though if you are good enough… which of course I am. I really tried to learn the combat, to parry just like the game wanted me to, everytime I did, I found that I would just leave myself open to more attacks and caused much more frustration than just doing what I do in melee focused combat games, and just aggro the enemy from far enough away and let them come to me one at a time, then I just wait for them to attack, block and take a tiny bit of damage and wail away until they are dead.
This type of combat is very unsatisfying to me unless it’s got some unique spin on the whole thing, and gussy it up a bit. Lightsabers are that spin. Flinging around a lightsaber and pretending you are a Jedi is so darn enjoyable and fun in Fallen Order. Being a Jedi and spinning around like the Star Wars Kid, taking on several opponents at once is just a joy when executed properly. Reflecting shots from blasters and force pulling and throwing rockets or grenades into a pile of Stormtroopers makes me feel like I’m playing with all my action figures again and just coming up with as many ways to murder these faceless enemies.
While the game does allow you to backtrack and go back to each planet multiple times, it actually is fairly linear, much more so than I originally thought. There is a narrative arch that you will see to conclusion, and deviating from the path is basically impossible at certain points. It’s not as open world, and the back tracking isn’t as annoying as in other games. The map really does help you focus on your path to the next thing you want to do. I love exploring in these games, and the worlds are serene enough to want to spend time in them longer than the game wants you to. So going off the beaten path was something I did quite frequently, and there are many paths that are locked until you acquire the correct power to traverse. The map highlights anything that you can do in green, anything path unexplored in yellow, and anything that is not able to be tackled and blocked off in red. THIS IS AMAZING!! All games need to do this. So many times, I waste so much effort and time trying to get a collectable or onto a new path while exploring, only to find that I don’t have the correct thing to move on. Dialogue also helps, when a character goes “I don’t think I can get there yet, let's move on!” allows the player to not waste time trying to go somewhere they just straight up can’t.
There are many little boxes scattered around the game that contain collectables. Little indiscriminate lock boxes that contain skins for Cal, his droid BD-1 and his ship. When it comes to customization of character looks, I usually find one that I really like and stick with it, all others very rarely appeal to me, with Fallen Order however, I found myself trying out each little skin, clothing style and color. Most of it was very similar browns, greens, and reds, nothing really stood out, but I was able to get a very “Man with no name vibe” out of Cal by the end with his weird sackcloth tan poncho. One of the biggest things that is customizable is the Lightsaber itself, with many options for hilts, and styles of the handle. You pick up several different looks and can mix and match them on the ship or several upgrade spots on each planet. Sadly, this really doesn’t have much of the desired effect, as the saber itself is very small and not really able to be seen much during actual gameplay, several cutscenes will focus a bit on it, but those are few and far between. The main thing is the color of your lightsaber, which you only have two to choose from (three if you are like me and are able to have access to the premium DLC content) Blue, Green or Orange. I opted for Orange since it was DLC and I figured I might as well use it. I really wanted Purple, but that wasn’t an option. Sadly, the game gates off all the other colors until about an hour and a half to the end of the game, which is all pretty much linear and a third of that is cutscenes. I would have loved to be able to choose more colors and swap them out at will during the entire game.
I don’t have an issue with the story, but it is pretty well worn territory for the Star Wars universe, You are a Jedi, you must find some random artifact from long ago to foil the empire and restore order and balance to the force. Your new mentor who shows up out of nowhere has a dark past that deals with tragedy and you are the chosen one to fix everything. But the acting is usually fairly well done. A lot of characters you come across have focus and weight to their actions, and the line delivery is solid for the most part. There are a few flubbed line reads that bring back memories of “No, it is I, who is in love with...you?” But overall it's decent and gets the point across.
I really didn’t care about most of my crew, and seeing certain things happen really had no emotional effect with me, since I didn’t spend most of my time with them (the first major death is about your friend who you spend all of 3 mins of cutscene time with, and you are supposed to feel sad when they die a few minutes later in the opening of the game) Most of the time, your relationship building is them spouting exposition to me on the ship in a cutscene or listening to a line or two every 30 mins while they communicate through the radio. It just wasn’t enough time spent with them to really care.
I would have loved for this game to really delve deep into the characters, and allow for companions to travel with during the game. That is why Mass Effect is still loved, it allows you to spend time with your companions and form a bond with them, when most of the time you spend with a character is in the interactive loading screen between planet jumps, it just doesn’t make the relationship meaningful, since you don’t really know them. The scope of the game could have been much more grounded and focusing on small things instead of going the large JRPG world saving event, which would make everything mean more. Rogue One is a great example of focusing on a small story that leads into greater things, and connects an overall bigger arching story.
Now, the end of the game is where the whole thing falls apart and has me eye rolling harder than Liz Lemon. Why does Darth Vader need to be shoehorned into the end? Like WHY?! It makes zero sense, and just goes to show that executives got their hands into this game more than necessary. Even EA has the audacity to put their company name and logo in the actual logo of the game itself! Look at it, EA right under the words Fallen Order!!! I actually was really enjoying the game, and the climax could have been much better than “hey, remember the last level of the Halo and Uncharted Series? Let's do that!”. It just felt cheesy and unnecessary. I would have loved something much different, because I’ve played those types of endings before. They don’t work here, when you do it several times in the game as well. There are multiple “Things are falling apart and we are being chased, LET’S GET OUT OF HERE!!!”
There is one last thing I have to mention, the game itself is a technical mess. I didn’t get nearly as many issues as I’ve seen or heard from others. Things like T-posing enemies, no animations, and other things like that. But the game feels unpolished, which is sad, since this is the big release from EA this year (other than the yearly sports roster update). Having a powerful lightsaber just clip through the environment throughout the whole game, or even through my characters clothes during gameplay makes everything feel fake. The wobbly physics and floatiness of Cal makes him feel like he is made of paper, and the movement makes him feel like a marionette. Throughout the game there were characters floating about a foot off the ground, even Cal… It’s just an embarrassment because these are small things that could have been corrected if it wasn’t rushed out the door prematurely to make it out a month before the new movie. Shigeru Miyamoto’s quote of “A delayed game is eventually good, A bad game is bad forever” stands here. With the advancement of technology and the internet, this game will receive patches that will fix all the technical issues that the game is currently plagued with (hopefully). But it’s just a shame that I had to play this at release and not a year or two later, where it again, hopefully would have been fixed and to play the best version of the game.
I enjoyed my fifteen hours with Fallen Order, I was pleasantly surprised by how fun a melee focused combat game was given the right treatment. It’s an amalgamation of several tried and true genres and gameplay styles, mixed together and blended into a nice short piece that can fit tightly in between the new Manalorian show and the movies. Nothing about this game is new or ground breaking, it’s all been done before, but it’s that blending to make something a bit different and fun that makes it, itself unique. Looking back, this game feels similar to 2014’s Shadow Of Mordor, almost too similar in fact. A game that takes the good parts of everything else and cobbles something together that is just really enjoyable, but nothing spectacular. If you like Star Wars and Dark Souls combat, this is a quite solid game that doesn’t get nearly as frustrating or difficult to complete. I believe this will be one of the standouts in Star Wars games, taking its place alongside the KotOR series.