You know, Disney and EA really are great at taking beloved franchises and destroying all the beautiful happy memories we have of them with their gorgeous visuals, fantastic sound design, and AAA show...which ends up being nothing more than “potato chip marketing” that is all show, hardly any dough, and mostly air.
Bog it down with bloated or ill-implemented “features” no one cares about and put premium content behind a paywall and you’ve got yourself EA’s most recent Star Wa-... wait... what’s that? Jedi Fallen Order? Oh, my bad.
Sorry, I was talking about EA’s 2017 release of Star Wars Battlefront II (Which has greatly improved over the years, and I recommend giving it another chance if you gave up on it... kthnxbai).
Fallen Order, on the other hand, is a totally different story, and a great one at that.
With EA’s release of the Respawn-developed Jedi: Fallen Order title for PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4, EA truly has redeemed themselves when it comes to Star Wars, and has given us a new hope that the Star Wars franchise (at least in terms of video games) is not as bleak a future as we all thought it was back in 2017. In fact, this is in large part because there really isn’t a trace of “EA” anywhere in the game except for the logo letting you know they published it.
I for one was extremely hyped to hear this game was being released, and the trailers only whetted my appetite for a fantastic, cinematic Star Wars story, the likes of which most of us haven’t seen since Knights of the Old Republic or The Force Unleashed (if you can call the former “cinematic”, but I digress). I can honestly say that every single friend I tried to get hyped about this game always met my excitement with “I’ve been disappointed too many times” or “I just don’t trust EA anymore” and any other variety of honestly legitimate reasons to suppress any hope or excitement one may have wanted to feel towards this game.
While their lack of faith disturbed me, since the beginning I didn’t have a bad feeling about this, there was no need to be concerned, and that this was going to be an amazing game. I’m glad to say my faith was not in vain, and Respawn, our only hope, has come through in a miraculous way.
Does it have any of the typical EA shenanigans?
Getting straight into the meat of it, let me clear all concerns by saying there is no trace of EA cancer anywhere. No microtransactions, no under-delivering promises, nothing. One thing I tried to tell my friends to help them relax is that every single game that EA has been criticized for in the past few years has been multiplayer-focused either in gameplay or features (i.e. Battlefronts 1&2, Anthem, etc.). This being a single player game, wholly and completely, I can assure you that you too will probably forget you’re playing an EA game like I did at some points. Their usual antics are nowhere to be found here.
Does it feel like a Star Wars game?”
As for the game itself, it is absolutely gorgeous, and a fantastic return to the wit, humor, and spectacle we know and love in Star Wars. Any of us who have grown up on the classic Lucasarts Star Wars games remembers the awe and mystery of learning about the secrets of the Sith and the Jedi, and still remember how cool it was to have a yellow, orange, or even pink lightsaber, none of which we’d yet seen in the movies. Using the Force against the Empire, fighting against Sith warriors; it was amazing, and this game delivers in that regard. It’s not at all over-the-top like Force Unleashed, and it’s not nearly as slow as KOTOR, but would rather fall somewhere closer to Jedi Academy.
Then again, it isn’t exactly like Jedi Academy either, so I don’t even know if I can totally compare it to that. What I can say for sure is that it feels like a Star Wars game from start to finish. From the drama and intrigue, to the campy humor and one liners, this game had my heart racing, ripping in two, and laughing out loud at the dialogue that was expertly voice acted. The character design is incredible, and the effort they put into making the characters look and move realistically shows. It reminds me a lot of the way the characters look and act in the Uncharted series, which makes sense since they used the same technology to capture facial expressions and movement.
Is the movement fluid and believable? Do you feel like a Jedi?
One concern I heard while preparing to review the game was whether or not you actually feel like a Jedi. The answer is yes...but there’s more to it as well. See, the point of the game is you’re a padawan on the run, so really, in my experience, you go from feeling like a padawan to feeling like a Jedi at the end. It’s actually a really natural progression. Cal gains experience points (which come at a very balanced rate, leaning on the faster side) and he can use them to learn new Force abilities, saber attacks, and survival skills. You definitely feel a little weak at the beginning, but it makes sense since you never finished your training and didn’t actively use the Force for years since Order 66. From start to finish, you are a Jedi, and will grow in power to the point where as long as you’re not as bad at melee action games as me, you’ll feel like you could give Yoda a run for his money. You start out only knowing how to use the Force to briefly slow down time around a specific object or creature, but as you learn the staples such as Push and Pull, you’ll become a veritable “Force” to be reckoned with.
As for the actual combat, I’m not sure if I should chalk this up to the game drawing combat influences from Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Dark Souls, and God of War, the fact I’m awful at games that require precise blocking and countering, or that this is all a part of really feeling like an under-trained padawan, but I got my butt kicked so many times playing this game. It was so hard for me to get used to actually needing to be somewhat decent at blocking and countering, and I was playing on the second easiest difficulty. If you’re expecting anything close to the kind of all-powerful combat you’ve experienced in Star Wars Battlefront or The Force Unleashed, you will receive a rude awakening. This game pulls combat mechanics from some of the most difficult games in the industry, and while I don’t think I could dare compare it to Sekiro or Souls in terms of difficulty, newcomers to the genre like me will still struggle at anything more than Story difficulty.
Be prepared for a challenge, but know that if/when you do master the combat system, you’ll experience some of the most satisfying fights you’ve ever seen in a Star Wars game, with choreography and finishers that, at times, put the prequels’ lightsaber fights to shame. Top it off with being able to force pull enemies from across the room and one-hit stab all but the mid-tier enemies like the Purge Troopers, and you’ll feel like an absolute beast.
Being rewarded for out of the box thinking is a pleasure (I found out I could use the Force to redirect rockets back at the enemy, or redirect them to other enemies), though I do wish the game wasn’t so hard all the time. I never really felt like I could consistently mop the floor with enemies at any point in the game, as each situation in the game got just as hard as you became powerful. It’s a double-sided lightsaber here because while the skill ceiling rises along with the difficulty, I never felt the expected “on top of the world/overpowered” feeling one typically gets at the end of a game like this. There’s no Master Sword, no Ultima Weapon, no Lord of Wolves to tear through the enemies at the end. While some will find that beneficial to their experience, to have relative difficulty increases, others may find it hard to chew if they are struggling through the combat or expecting a Force Unleashed kind of game and progression. Whether it’s a choice in design I don’t like, or I’m just awful at melee action games, if you hop in, be prepared for the most difficult Star Wars game you’ve ever played…...other than Abyss on Star Wars Episode 1: Racer on N64 frame rates.
How is the world design? Does the game feel complete? How is the pacing?
One thing I really loved about this game was the world design. If any of you have ever played the Metroid Prime series, you’ll instantly be right at home with how the game’s map is designed. It literally looks like they hired someone from Retro Studios to come in and design the game’s map system, as you can see in the comparison below.
Each planet you get to travel to feels and looks fantastic, and is rife with crates and secrets to find. Each crate you find will grant you some XP as well as lightsaber materials or cosmetics for your character, robot companion, or starship. It reminds me a lot of how ReCore, Legend of Zelda, and just about any metroidvania game has their treasure system with their secrets sprawled around the game. You also get a little bit of scanning elements from Metroid Prime, though it is all handled by your faithful droid companion who at times will run to a wall or object or enemy and wait for you to enact the scan command. This nice because he’s able to detect those things and show you where they are if you walk close enough to the secrets, and his scans give you lore about the world you’re on (a thing which the Prime player in me appreciated), and strategies to fight enemies you’ve downed before (another Prime feature, except in this game you’re required to fell the enemy in order to scan them, unlike Prime where you can scan during combat). You’ll also be returning to these planets and be making good use of the shortcuts you unlock, and it’ll be a fun journey for the completionists out there who want to find all the secrets.
As for the story, personally, I loved the story, and was impressed with how they handled the ending and I won’t spoil it at all for you. You need to just experience it and without saying what the rumors were, I can definitely say the plot leak rumors that were on the internet right before launch were false. Not true at all. If you heard them, the game isn’t spoiled, if you haven’t don’t go looking for them and accidentally spoil the amazing ending. It was a very well-paced story, and I feel like there weren’t any dead spots at all. It moved along very well, and after each mission I kept wanting to play and see what would happen next. Fantastic narrative with a great plot, great villains, and fantastic ending. The game does feel complete, and satisfyingly so, despite the fact it’s a rather short campaign compared to other story games. And even though it took me only about 18 hours to finish the game at 81%, it actually felt longer than that, and I’d play it again to experience the story all over again. It’s such a good story that I actually plan on playing it again fairly soon, but trying my hand at a higher difficulty (since I seem to have finally gotten the hang of it during post-credits gameplay).
And as for the ending…...this is all I’ll say: I was very, very pleased. It was jaw dropping actually. I might even venture to say it was the best part of the game for me. Full marks for the story getting better and better as you go along and having such a good conclusion.
Lastly, there are various moments throughout the game where you’ll actually need to put your thinking cap on and thank your lucky stars you played The Legend of Zelda, because there are some puzzles in the game that require just as much, if not more out of the box thinking as a typical Zelda dungeon. The puzzles are never ridiculous, nor are they overly difficult, and I felt they were sparse enough to keep the focus on action, but plentiful enough that it wasn’t just a “let’s mow down Stormtroopers” game for 20 hours. I’m looking at you, Force Unleashed…..
How’s the Story?
Now, I’ve already mentioned the story a fair bit, but if I may be able to take some time to talk about the story specifically, I’ve gotta say that this may be the deepest Star Wars story I’ve ever seen in a game. Without spoiling anything, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised to see this game tackle really heavy issues and topics that plague our day. Things like PTSD, spiritual disconnection (the connection to the Force being the “spiritual connection” of the game), and the struggle to do what’s right even when no one is watching, when everything is falling apart inside you or around you, or when others say it no longer matters. It tackles the usual Star Wars themes of fear, anger, hate, betrayal, guilt, and more through the Dark Side, but does so in a way that is honestly more relatable to me than I’ve ever seen before in a Star Wars story, and likely the for a lot of other people as well. I’ve had moments playing the game where I would sit back and say to myself “I needed to hear that. That is profound.” While the topics covered in the story are applicable to anyone, those who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will especially, in my opinion, find a lot to learn and identify with in the story of Cal Kestis and his nigh-unto-spiritual journey of reconnecting with the Force and overcoming the trauma of Order 66, which took place only a few years prior to the start of this game.
Aside from the masterful execution of exploring those themes, the story is also just a fantastic Star Wars ride. Hyperspace, stormtroopers, Sith Inquisitors, lightsabers, blasters, pew pews, and exotic worlds abound and will delight Star Wars fans of any generation.
The detail in this game is impressive. I’m happy to say that the lightsaber model in game is actually detailed enough that your customization of the hilt and color of your grip will actually be clearly visible in combat and when it is holstered, so take your time to make it exactly how you’d like it. According to some comments online, the Star Wars experience at Disney World actually carries all of the materials you’ll see in this game, so whatever your endgame lightsaber is, you could actually make a Force FX lightsaber of it at Disney World next time you go. It’s fantastic marketing and customer experience on both ends of the aisle there, and it’s also pretty awesome to see it in cutscenes and those close-up lightsaber faceoffs. At the time of writing while my EA Access was active, I was a bit disappointed that us Nvidia users couldn’t use Ansel to pause the game and take high quality, photographic screenshots like in Battlefront II, because this game’s worlds and models are detailed and beautiful enough that one could get some fantastic work with it, though I hear that there is now a screenshot mode for Xbox and PlayStation, and according to a recent Nvidia update there is now Ansel support for the PC version, so I look forward to doing more of that when I reactivate my EAA subscription.
I’m also really impressed with the sound design. The lightsabers sound amazing, and when I turn mine on, the subwoofer near my leg pushes out enough air through its front facing port that it actually reaches my leg almost six inches away. The explosions, ignitions, blasterfire, and sizzling crackles are real, believable, and all sound like they’re straight out of Star Wars media, further adding to the experience.
So far it sounds like I’ve really only praised this game and haven’t criticized it much. It’s true! There’s really not much to criticize. Legit, my only criticisms are below, and most are really subjective and should not be considered objectively necessary to correct:
- I wish I could attack while holding the block button. I’ve been really used to games in the past where you can hold the block button and immediately go into an attack and disengage block while still holding the block command. Can’t do that here. Everything has to be precise.
- Grabbing onto vines (or anything really) is the most frustrating thing at first. It wasn’t until much later in the game I realized that you have to jump into the vines, wait for Cal to hang for a hot second, and then push the grab command. You can’t grab onto vines unless you see him hang by one hand and see the “Grab” text at the bottom of the screen. It’s impossible. I’ve fallen about 20 times trying to prove otherwise.
- Following that, jumping distance and height isn’t quite as high or smooth as I’d expect a Jedi to have. Even when you get a double jump later, it all feels a little too quick and shallow. Man, if I’m using the Force I want to juuump. But, again, just an opinion. Could be smoother in my opinion.
- I did notice a few glitches with wonky arms spinning around, and beast character models moving like a static chess piece in the distance, so you might see a glitch or two which will un-suspend your disbelief.
- There were a few times the “uncanny valley” effect was seen in some character models, but it was rare.
That’s about it. Really not much to knock, but they do affect my rating since this is a look at all aspects of the game, namely mechanics/controls, coding quality, visuals, and narrative.
In conclusion, I can wholeheartedly recommend this game with an 8.5/10. I feel like IGN’s review of 9/10 is partly influenced by the fact that this phoenix of a game has risen from the ashes of the galactic dumpster fire that was Star Wars Battlefront II (2017), and in my opinion almost anything will look good if you’re comparing it to that game on release day. That being said, it really is an amazing game, and the only reason it doesn’t get a 9/10 from me is the length of game time, a few weird technical glitches or programming choices, and lack of endgame content past collecting cosmetics. While this doesn’t affect the rating, as IGN put it, the difficulty of the combat “[diluting] the Jedi power fantasy”, which may actually be a draw to some people, and I respect that, but it could also be a negative aspect to others. Since it is so subjective, I can’t really make it a part of the review score, but still feel it’s worth mentioning.
Either way, Respawn’s newest masterwork, Jedi: Fallen Order, is a safe (albeit short) and much-needed return to form for fans of the Star Wars franchise with an entirely new cast and completely original story material that knocks it out of the park in terms of gameplay and storytelling, and long and short-time fans alike will not be disappointed in this incredible work of art that has been given to a deeply wounded fanbase.
The Jedi have returned. A new hope has risen. Will we see the rise of more Star Wars Jedi games? I certainly hope so, and should you decide to play the game yourself through its conclusion, I think you will begin to hope so as well. It would be a shame to have this be the last we see of Cal Kestis and his ragtag group of rebel friends in the Star Wars universe. They’ve grown on me, and that’s saying a lot in my book, considering the last four years of Star Wars. Until then, may the Force be with you.
Final Verdict: 8.5/10
Coding Quality: 8/10
Price-to-Value Ratio: 7.5/10
- Fantastic, original cast and story, expertly told, with excellent voice and character acting. Could be compared to the same level as Uncharted.
- Gorgeous, challenging worlds to explore and fight in. Everything you’d expect from a Star Wars game, and loads better than the ultra-linear Force Unleashed games. You have a reason to revisit old planets.
- Hype, acrobatically choreographed lightsaber combat. Finishing moves are brutal and powerful, and seeing droids and alien creatures literally get sliced in half provides a very authentic lightsaber experience.
- Did I mention the story is amazing?
- Not a single trace of EA anywhere.
- You currently don’t own it (unless you do).
- You’re reading this article instead of playing it.
- You can’t watch the story on Disney+.
The Actual Bad:
- Every now and then you might run into some optimization weirdness, but not too much
- For PC users, they bothered to make 21x9 gameplay support, but not cutscene support (16x9 or less only), which is disappointing. No one likes half-effort support.
- Most of the end-game secrets to find are cosmetics, and there isn’t a mode where you can just face hordes of enemies, so once you beat the game, you’ve got finding all the secrets and that’s about all to do afterwards.
- Some people may feel like Cal is a tad underpowered compared to other Jedi games. I think it makes sense, since he’s an under-trained Padawan who survived Order 66, but take it as you will.
- It might take more time to read this review than finish the game, but the story is so good and so well directed that you’ll feel oddly satisfied with the short, 18-20 hour length of the plot. It’s like the first episode of The Mandalorian, not the second (thankfully). It’s the best $60 movie I’ve played since Spider-Man PS4, and it’ll leave you wanting more, which can’t be good for your wallet. But then again, some people may find it short. I prefer short and amazing to long and bloated, but if you like long and amazing, this game does not have a long story. For most people, I’d recommend buying at $45 or playing on EA Access. It’s just a tad too short with too little meaningful endgame content for a $60 price tag in my opinion. I would have bought it if I’d had $60 at release time, since I was so excited, but now that the release week hype is gone, I would recommend getting it on sale at $45 max ($50 for deluxe edition, which has a cool documentary about the game and legitimately neat cosmetics that I used for a large portion of the game).
- Amazing story
- Gorgeous world design and gameplay
- No micro-transactions
- Occasional glitchy-ness
- Weak endgame content
- Jedi powers could use a buff