EA has had a license to publish Star Wars games for 10 years, and a lot of that decade has been wasted. Now it gave Respawn Entertainment a shot to make a singleplayer game without the microtransactions and other elements that have gotten a bad taste in my mouth from the depressingly disappointing Battlefront reboots. Jedi: Fallen Order defies expectations by delivering the experience that I always wanted from a game in this beautiful franchise.
In classic SW fashion, the developers do take a reasonably safe path in its story. Set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Cal Kestis (Cameron Monoghan) finds himself working on a desolate planet to scrap whatever he can find to make a living. After a run-in with Second Sister (Elizabeth Grullon) and her elite Jedi hunting squad in which they are called the Inquisitors, he must go on the run, which leads him to his saviors and new friends, Greez (Daniel Roebuck) and Cere (Debra Wilson). The trio must find an ancient artifact that has a list of force-sensitive children who can get hunted down by Sith forces if gotten into the wrong hands.
The narrative sticks to many of the formulas that have been set by the films; it is still one of the best stories from any format that Star Wars has delved into, mostly because of its cast. Not only are the characters and their bonds strong, but the performances by Monoghan, Grullon, Wilson, and Roebuck can also rival anyone in the films. Although, I wish to see more of Grullon’s villain as she was compelling enough to be one of the best villains in this universe if utilized enough.
I was impressed by how well the writing is with both dialogue, the story, and creating these new characters. I instantly connected to Cal and his friends by how well they interacted and were able to stand as individuals. The best of all is the redhead Jedi’s little buddy, BD-1, my new favorite droid in Lucas’ sci-fi epic galaxy.
Little details in the writing like stormtroopers trying to pump themselves up to take on Cal or being frightened gave that extra depth to the world around me. From protagonists to generic baddies, everyone felt like a person, or in some cases, an alien.
Of course, the minds behind Titanfall made maneuvering necessary in the core mechanics. Wall running, jumping, swinging are just some things that can be done, and it feels so good, mostly. I enjoyed the hell out of moving around environments and dodging enemy lasers, but sometimes Cal did not do what I commanded. Grabbing onto a vine/wire and some other obstacles can be infuriating as he does not reach for the thing to keep him alive.
Thank you, Respawn, for setting Cal back on the last ledge to make this less annoying, but still, this Jedi needs to get it together to grab a damn rock or rope.
Combat is both intuitive and challenging. It takes skill on any difficulty other than the easiest setting, with each level affecting parry time, damage, and enemy aggression. The lightsaber and force powers feel amazing when mastered, I truly felt like a padawan who would eventually rise up to be a Jedi knight like what I have seen on the big screen my whole life.
I did not find too many bosses, but the right amount that completed the overall experience. Combat has its difficulties, especially with these significant fights. The patterns of big creatures or when fighting Inquisitors strikes a cord in classic boss design that did get me angry when I died, but triumphant when defeating my foe.
Enemy variety is small yet mighty. The right amount of soldiers and animals get thrown into the mix to diversify the experience when fighting while making me think twice about my strategies.
Puzzles complete the trifecta of combat and platforming. This third piece of gameplay can get tricky while not overcomplicating itself. Most of the time, it was quite clever, at least to me, because I am a moron who gets confused when these mind obstacles occur.
Leveling up does make it easier to survive while making fighting more complex. Skills can be earned in a survival, force, and lightsaber categories. It is a straightforward system that does not overwhelm; instead, it streamlines the whole system to become the ultimate Jedi.
The Mantis is your ship and hub to travel to various planets, rest up, and customize on your lightsaber (more on that fun later). It lacks from other safety nets you tend to see with only those essentials waiting to prepare before going into new territory. The ship cannot even be explored with only three rooms for travel, chit chat, and the maintenance that I mentioned.
Customization has plenty of options, but sadly not all of it is exciting. BD-1 and Mantis get fancy paint jobs, especially for my adorable number one buddy. The lightsaber has plenty of parts and colors to swap out, leaving me continually wanting to unlock more options. Things are not so lovely for Cal as he has a few outfits, most of them are boring with lame ponchos that have variety, but I don’t want a goddamn poncho for my hero, who is taking on scary ladies working for the Empire, come on Respawn.
Level designs balance complexity and simplicity. Each world has its own personality by its environment and wildlife, though that number of creatures is small. The paths do open up with areas that can be unlocked later on or found by looking hard enough. Nothing here is groundbreaking, just satisfactory, and gets the job done to elevate gameplay when needing a break from going straight down Cal’s adventure.
BD-1 can do a lot for Cal like healing, scanning items to uncover additional lore, and unlocking new areas in the map. This little boi gets better with each mechanic that gets introduced.
The one complaint about my robotic friends is when bringing up the map, it was hard to navigate where I needed to go. It needed to be clearer to distinguish parts of the world for an easier time to get from point A to point B.
Exploring does give rewards like upgrades, expanding the universe with interesting details, and finding new cosmetics. I may not be the biggest fan of most of the customization options I discussed, but it is beyond addicting finding crates or old ruins for Cal’s droid to scan. I am not a completionist, but it is easy to do it at the endgame that I feel tempted to grab everything.
Checkpoints allow for a nice reset after death while allowing for a place to rest up to restore health and gain new skills. It clearly mimics other similar titles, and that is perfectly okay with me as it makes things so much easier. I just wish some of these spots were closer to bosses since enemies between Cal and that headache of an opponent will be even more frustrating.
Death has meaning, which surprised me big time. You lose all of your experience, and that is regained when hitting the one that killed you. That extra motivation makes it even better when getting revenge.
The music and visuals tie everything together with an authentic Star Wars experience. The combination of beautiful graphics and the already brilliant style of this franchise is breathtaking. The cherry on top comes from the score crafted by Stephen Barton, Gordy Haab, and Nick Laviers, who all created something that sounds like John Williams and manages to be a unique piece to the puzzle that wraps up this wonderful game.
The sceneries and Cal’s incredible hair made my jaw drop, I had some graphical issues. Light pop-in textures and objects in the world would occur. Also, I had seen a lot of flickering from lights and shadows. None of this took away from the gorgeous work of art that is Fallen Order, but it did distract me.
Respawn Entertainment’s Star Wars title is the experience I always wanted to make me feel like a padawan growing into a powerful Jedi. The game does play it too safe in its overly familiar structure for the action-adventure genre with mild RPG elements in its skill trees. Slight frame rate drops, in the beginning, did worry me too, but thankfully that went away so I could embrace this enjoyable experience.
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