Monday, November 20, 2023

Microreview [Video Game]: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order by Respawn

May the Force be with you. Just not too much of it.

Set a few years after the infamous Order 66, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order follows an escaped padawan named Cal Kestis. As he remains hidden amongst the scrap heaps of Bracca, evading the ever-seeking eyes of the Galactic Empire—the Force sets him on a path toward rebuilding the once-great Jedi Order. Accompanied by Cere and Greez, Cal endures a multi-planet-spanning adventure that tests his Jedi training, forcing him to face his past and combat his trauma.

This all sounds well and good, and for the most part, it is. Respawn (of Titanfall and Apex Legends fame) took the reins on this one and decided to adopt a Souls-like combat formula with the exploration of a metroidvania. As you learn more Force abilities and droid upgrades, blocked paths on all the planets open up to you allowing for further exploration.

Exploration is my favorite aspect of the game. The puzzles aren't overly complex, usually a simple use of the Force will solve what you need to, followed by some wall running or platforming to get what you want. Secret passages reveal echoes from past inhabitants of the world. By simply touching something, Cal can relive a brief memory and add it to the archives. This is used skillfully at one point in the story to affect the hero in a meaningful way, an inclusion I much appreciated. BD-1; the adorable, lovable companion droid follows Cal around and also assists with lore discovery by scanning the environment. This is not only great for the lore but helps flesh out information on enemies and is useful for combat tips.

Speaking of combat, the game’s lightsaber fighting works quite well. As mentioned previously, the game plays similarly to the From Software games, though not quite as unforgiving due to being able to choose a difficulty. Blocking, parrying, and timing are essential in overcoming foes. This game is not a hack-and-slash like The Force Unleashed or other Star Wars games. The player must accurately assess the enemy and strike when the time is right or face the consequences. If a player loses all health they respawn at a meditation point, but without their most recently gained experience. Upon reaching the enemy that killed the player, a simple hit on the enemy will restore not only their lost experience but their health as well.

While the combat is implemented well, I can't help but get the feeling that I don't feel powerful. A Jedi is a powerful being and a lightsaber is a deadly weapon. I sometimes felt like I was being smacked around a little too frequently when there were too many enemies on the screen. The times I felt like a true Jedi were in moments when I would use the Force to push or pull a group of enemies all at once, or when I would deflect blaster bolts with a proper parry and watch the stormtroopers fall from the impact. Regardless, the combat is still satisfying and feels especially good when fighting another foe with a lightsaber. The lightsaber-wielding boss battles are exciting and challenging and, in my opinion, the best combat encounters in the game.

The story is solid. Cal is on a mission to help restore the Jedi by following the breadcrumbs left by Eno Cordova. By opening a vault left by an ancient civilization, Cal and his friends will gain access to a list of force-sensitive children. The challenge is in getting the key to open the vault. Spread across multiple planets, the player discovers not only the truth of the ancient civilization but of themselves and their secret pasts. Some parts of the story feel rushed, some emotional moments don’t feel earned, and some events that occurred didn’t make sense at all. For instance; one enemy character decides to talk to Cal instead of attempting to kill him, but the scene before she set a group of undead upon him. There was no development between the two characters or any reason as to why she would stop. She just does. While there are hiccups in the development of characters and moments, the overall story still works and provides worthwhile entertainment worthy of the Star Wars name.

While the game ran well I ran into some issues. Some cutscene voice acting didn’t sync up with the animation (which is weird for a AAA game that’s been patched and then ported to next-gen consoles). There were plenty of deep framerate dips. Not to mention enemies getting stuck in the floor when I would use force push on them. While I would stumble upon these things every so often, none of them were game-breaking, though they should have all been ironed out for the updated next-generation release.

Overall, I enjoyed Jedi: Fallen Order. BD-1 is an adorable and memorable addition to the Star Wars universe. Cal is basic, but he gets the job done. The other characters and arcs throughout the game are enjoyable if not always perfectly implemented. The combat is great, even if I don’t always feel very powerful, and the exploration is enjoyable. Though the game isn’t executed quite as cleanly as Order 66, nor is it as effective, it’s still an enjoyable adventure set in the world of one of the biggest franchises of all time. It has me curious about the sequel Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. If you're a fan of Star Wars or even just Souls-like games, try giving this one a shot, you may be pleasantly surprised, just don't mind some of the bumps in the road. Plus, you can have an orange lightsaber, and who doesn't want that?


The Math

Objective Assessment: 7/10

Bonus: +1 for fun and challenging lightsaber boss battles. +1 for enjoyable exploration.

Penalties: -1 for occasional bugs. -1 for odd/unearned story beats.

Nerd Coefficient: 7/10

Posted by: Joe DelFranco - Fiction writer and lover of most things video games. On most days you can find him writing at his favorite spot in the little state of Rhode Island.