Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Review – It it worth playing now?

Released in 2019, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was the first single-player only experienced from AAA publisher EA since they acquired the illustrious licence back in 2015. It came as a welcome surprise to fans who’d been growing weary of the cynical, soulless multiplayer-only experiences that had come from the publisher so far.

In Fallen Order you take control of Cal, a Jedi in hiding after the events of Order 66 decimated his kind across the Galaxy. The game draws heavy inspiration from other contemporary third person adventure games, incluiding Dark Souls, Uncharted and Tomb Raider; as well as older classic such as Metroid, aiming to deliver a rich, mature and satisfying adventure for Star Wars fans.

So does it deliver? And is it worth playig now? Let’s find out…

Good

STAR WARS Jedi: Fallen Order™_20191108231329

Graphics: Fallen Order is up there with 2019’s Battlefront 2 as one of the best looking Star Wars games ever made. Everything form the character models to the environments are designed and rendered wonderfully, oozing the Star Wars style and feel. The seven visitable planets all have a distinct feel, with highlighs being Dathomir (the firey volcanic home of Darth Maul) and the icey wasteland of Ilum. The animation of the characters, particularly the Stormtroopers (the game’s highight) is top notch, with a huge variety of different actions and movements on show. Cal’s own combat animation is also excellent, with themultiple lightsabre types and fighting styles all impressive and fluid, wand watching him deflect lasers whilst sprinting or hacking down three troopers at once with a dual blade sabre never gets unsatisfying to watch.

Fluid 60 on S: I played Fallen Order on my Xbox Series S, and honestly I couldnt imagine playing it in anything other han 60 frames per second. The fluid nature of the combat pactically demands to be played in 60, so if you can I’d really recommend doing so.

Star Wars feel: EA have absolutely nailed the Star Wars atmosphere in Fallen Order. The combinaiton of sci-fi bleeps and blops mixed with the dramatic orchestral score rovide tha perfect Sar Wars cocktail in the sound department, and although many of the creatures and characters have beenc reated exclusively for this game, they’d fit right into any of the 9 films no problem.

Music: The score is worth mentionining on its own, as it really is outstanding. As you traverse through each level, the music will change contextually depending on what Cal is up to; soft string instruments if you’re creeping through an unexplored cavern, and bobastic orchestra if you’re in the middle of a battle. Great stuff.

Production value: Fallen Order is AAA in the best possible way. EA have spared no expense in crafting this game, with every nook and cranny of the levels packed with detail. Borrowing from Metroid Prime, most of the flora and fauna is scannable by your companion explorer droid BD-1, allowing you to put together an encyclopedia of your encounters. There are also object scattered throughout the word on which Cal can do a ‘force scan’ of sorts, that project a memory to Cal and serve as optional tidbits to build up the lore. It’s all a real treat for Star Wars afficionados. What’s more, it doesn’t feel like it suffers from some of the AAA traps – namely designed-by-committee, safe choices that plague other high budget games. It feels like EA have let the designers do what they weant with it, which is only ever a good thing.

Dark Souls: Fallen Order borrows from many of gaming’s great franchises, and one of the most obvious and effective is the Souls series. Cal uses force spots to save the game and replenish his health – but doing so respanws all the enemies in the world, as with From Software’s acclaimed series. This allows for a nice element of risk calculation on the player’s part, particularly as you’re first exploring and uncovering the world – if you’ve defeated lots of enemies but are low on health, do you heal and bring them all back? Or perservere?

Metroidvania-lite: Fallen Order also features mechanics form the tried-and-true Metroidvania style gameplay. Namely the loop of: discover an area, come up against a blocked entrance or gap too large, go elsewhere and unlock a new ability, then return to the previous spot which can now be accessed with said new ability. It was satifying then, and its satisfying now. Cal’s abilities unlock in a satisfyingly paced out way, and give you a sense of getting stronger as you devleop. The games’ map is also straight out of the Metroid Prime series, and works brilliantly well in conveying complex layered 3D landscape.

Combat: A real highlight of the game, Fallen Order’s lightsaber combat is excellent. Again borrowing a lot  from the Souls games, Cal is able to lock on to an ememy (and toggle between targets) and strafe, parry and roll around them whilst engaging in combat. As the game progresses you’ll develop combos on top of your basic heavy and light attacks, comining force powers with lightsabre moves, and by the end you’ll be smoothly slicing apart Stormtroopers like you’ve been doing it all your life. The real fun begins when you get different lightsabre types, and the ability to mix up types mid battle. It puts every other attempt (bar Jedi Knight Academy) at a third person lightsabre combat to shame, and is a lovely template for future games of this ilk.

Traversal: The way Cal moves across the levels is also compliments the smooth combat, with controlling Cal an intuitive and satifying endeavour. Wall running, ledge hopping and squeezing through gaps are big parts of the game when you’re not fighting, and exporing the environment is fun. The devs seem to be really proud of the squeezing through gaps part too, as there seem to be an unusually large number of gaps in the Galaxy that Kal can just about shmmy his way through. It does look cool watching  your droid sidekick BD-1 squirm around him when he does it, so fair enough.

Secrets required:  At one point in the final third of the game I hit a boss that i simply couldn’t defeat. And this was on the average difficulty. Not wanting to lower it to Easy, I kept trying. And trying. And trying. But no matter what, I’d always run out of health, stamina, or both, without being able to do the required amount of damage to him. Annyoyed, I turned around after I spawned for the hundredth time and tried a different route I hadn’t yet explored. To my surprise, a mini-boss creature (the mini bosses are empowered/mutated versions of the regular enemies, which is neat) appeared, and after defeating it I was rewarded with a chest containing a health increase. I realised then that I had’t been exploring the nooks and crannies enough, so I went back to places my map indicated I hadn’t been yet. Sure enough, I discovered new health increases, lightsabre upgrades and stamina boosts that then helped me win the fight relatively easily. It’s great that you can get through the game up to a point without optional extras, and no doubt a more skilled player han myself could have beaten this boss without them, but making the additional extras really worthwhile is something the designers have done well here.

Moveset/skilltree: There’s a skilltree you can build up in Fallen Order, featuring different moves, force powers and general stat boosting. It supplements your general overall skill improvement, and builds you up from a raw force user to a fully-fledged Jedi master by the end of the game. The tree serves as an addicting mechanism to keep the player going, and allows for bonus secret areas to be unlocked once a specific skill has been acquired.

Bounty attack: At one stage I was going back to my ship (more on that shortly) after achieveing the main objective, traversing through a large warehouse  on the jungle planet I’d already cleared on my way through, and I was  ambushed by a large droid and a Bobba-Fett-a-like jetpack bount hunter, who made short work of me. I thought this was nice, in achieving the objective the game had made my backtracking more interesting by adding a mini boss, so after respawning I headed back there to  give them another bash, and… they weren’t there. I realised then that the bounty hunters were a random event, and bumped into several different types throughout my journey from thereon, which was a really nice way of keeping things fresh.

Mixed

Save points: Another thing borrowed from the souls series – you can only save your game at the Jedi hotspots, where you also replenish health, reset enemies and upgrade your skills. This serves the purpose of making things intense and having something at stake as you battle your way past some Stormtroopers on minimum health, knowing if you die you’ll lose that progression, but in the modern day it still feels arachaic – the reality i sometimes you need to leave your session unexpectedly, or only want to play for short spells at a time. As a result, this system can get frustrating. Thankfully, playing on the Series S with the Quick Resume feature, this was never an issue – the game instantly put me exactly where I was when I last switched off the console, leaving me to woner why the designers just didnt implement a save-anywhere feature, knowing this would be the case for Xbox Series players anyway.

Massive maps: The seven planets you visit are all huge, sprawling maps that loop back on themselves and knit together in various clever ways. The thought put into the design and aesthetic of each is really worthy of commendation, with every nook and cranny of each area feeling fully hand crafted and designed – not copied and pasted like so many games fall prey to. The only time suspension of disbelief is shattered is when you com across yet another conveniently placed set of walls for Kal to wall hop across, or another slide for him to skate down – the worlds do feel a bit too conveniently designed for Kal’s traversal, rather than existing in and of themselves.

Difficulty spikes: Fallen Order is a chalenging game, particularly on the higher difficulties. Even playing through first on the regular difficulty, at times the game really spiked in difficulty, particularly during some of the spectacular boss fights. I mentioned this is the game’s way of encouraging you to explore optional areas an level up, but the spikes were at times quite jarring and very occasionally off-putting to the experience. Still, a challenging game is much more welcome than one that’s too easy or hand-holdy, so erring on the side of difficulty is a positive in my book.

Story: As good as the presentation is, and as well as the actors are voiced, the story  is very much a mixed bag. It does fall victim to maguffin syndrome, as every mission is essentially going to find some obscure relic or token that effectively only serves as a reason for Kal to go somewhere and fight some enemies. It’s not all bad, though – the flashbacks to Kal’s Jedi training when learning a new skill is a clever mechanism of making sense of the progression and developing the plot, and some of the enemies and their motivaitons are believable and very well-done. Kal himself is rather two-dimensional sadly, the typical caucasian twenty-something cookie cutter hero we find in most games, but his supporting characters are a lot more interesting.

Linearity: Despite adopting the Metroidvania design, the game is quite linear – only on two occasions are you given the chocie between two planets to visit, and when you do each of those is linear in itself. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it is a welcome change form the ‘open world for the sake of it’ design so many contemporary games adopt, but I left feeling a little more exploration would’ve been nice.

Bad

Back to ship: By far the game’s biggest fault, made worse by the fact it could be easily remedied. Once you land on a planet, traverse through it to achieve your goal (which takes a few hours, navigating through the intricate levels and fighting your way through hordes of enemies), your next objective will invariably be on another planet. How do you get there? Via your ship of course. How do you get back to your ship? The only option is to go back on foot. Via the same route that go you there. Now and again the game provides a shortcut through some of the areas, but this happens far too sporadically. Fallen Order is crying out for a fast travel option, I can only assme they wanted to encourage more epxloration via the backtrakcing, but it quickly becomes tedious.

Samey structure: Whilst the variety in each of the locaitons is impressive from visual and atmospheric standpoints, there’s nothing particularly unique about any of them in terms of structure. All of them have a mix of open areas and tight corridors, they’re all multi-layered and have walls to jump across, slides to slide down and ropes to swing on. A bit more variety in the actual design of the levels would’ve been very welcome.

Cheese: The story is passable and has some good beats, but sadly the dialogue is largely generic and devoid of any nuance or humour. It’s a shame, as Star Wars is known for its wry humour at times, but the voice actors do well with what they’re given.

Overall

Jedi: Fallen Order is well worth playing now.  It’s home to some of the most believable, fully-realised environments Star Wars games have provided, oozing atmosphere and hitting all the right notes. The gameplay is solid and enjoyable, and whilst it doesn’t do anything partiualrly new or original, what it borrows from other gaming greats it executes expertly.

8/10