Prior to its gameplay premiere at E3 2019, few games were more intriguing than Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. After all, it’s a Star Wars game that’s being developed by the same team that made Titanfall. On top of that, it’s a singleplayer game that puts you in control of a Jedi. Not exactly what you would expect from Respawn or EA given their history, but stranger things have happened before.
Now that E3 is over, the whole world has gotten a glimpse of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Based on what can be told from the 15 minute gameplay demo, it looks fairly average. Exceedingly average, if that makes any sense. The best way to describe the game is that it’s a modern version of The Force Unleashed. Even so, such a comparison seems like it’s doing a slight disservice to Force Unleashed. The gameplay appears to be largely similar, though Fallen Order has mechanics that are vaguely inspired by Dark Souls. The main difference lays in the fact that you’re a goody two shoes Jedi in Fallen Order. Chances are that you’re probably not going to be Force choking anyone to death. In fact, it has been confirmed that you won’t be able to dip into the Dark Side of the Force at all. The fate of your character, Cal Kestis, has been predetermined by Disney, and there's nothing that you can do to change it.
So what you’re basically left with is a game that takes place during the most heavily covered time period in Star Wars history, the Rise of the Empire, featuring a generic looking Human protagonist and an inflexible storyline. Frankly, this seems like a giant waste of Respawn’s potential and EA’s resources. There's so much more to the Star Wars universe, but we're back to fighting Imperial Stormtroopers and their many variants. If the time period is set in stone, Fallen Order has the Second Sister of the Inquisitors as an antagonist, so why not play as her instead? She's a much more interesting looking character who wields a double bladed lightsaber for crying out loud. The best part is that Respawn wouldn't have to change the game's title or overarching story.
The actual story would be much darker, but it opens up so many opportunities. Narratively, it could show what the Jedi would resort to to survive. It would be much more interesting from a gameplay perspective too. For starters, the Inquisitors hunted down Jedi, who could serve as very interesting bosses in this new hypothetical Fallen Order. Yes, it would go against Disney's image of being a family friendly company. But it's not as if the days following Order 66 was happy fun times for everyone. Unfortunately, you wouldn't be able to tell this from the E3 demo. Everything looks so sanitized in the most literal sense of the word. This isn’t an exaggeration by the way. The demo took place on Kashyyyk, a forest planet, and none of the characters have any hint of dirt on them. Oh, and you can definitely forget about dismemberment.
However, it is interesting to note that you team up with Saw Gerrera. Commonly referred to as an extremist, Saw's partnership with a Jedi could give Respawn some narrative leeway to explore some of Star Wars' darker themes. Based on what can be told, Saw hasn't quite gone off the deep end yet. The game can thus explore that aspect of his character a bit more. It would also allow for some interplay between a character who is basically a superhero and a character who is practically a grunt in the trenches. At the most basic level, it should look at how lawful good and chaotic good aligned characters could interact with each other and where they diverge. Questions of morality can emerge. Unfortunately, the E3 demo that was shown gave no indication of this being the case, but one can hope.
It doesn’t help that the gameplay itself appears to be rather basic. It looks nice to be sure, but whether or not it offers depth remains to be seen. One would hope that the missions aren’t straightforward point A to point B affairs at the very least. To be entirely fair to Respawn, details on Jedi: Fallen Order are rather scarce, obviously. Not just in regards to gameplay but also in regards to the amount of creative freedom that they had. It would be one thing if Jedi: Fallen Order was an entirely new IP of their own making. It’s another thing entirely when Disney likely had a list of do’s and don’ts to follow. If that’s the case, then Respawn probably did the best that they could with the parameters they were given.
Needless to say, things can change between now and release. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order comes out in November though, which is barely enough time to make relatively minor tweaks to the gameplay. While E3 presentations tend to be not entirely accurate, the idea behind them is to make the game look fun. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order looks safe. Doom Eternal looks fun. The difference between safe and fun is that the former usually leads to average games that you play once and forget about. The latter is, ideally, a game that you can talk about because it’s something that’s new and exciting. Doom Eternal looks new and exciting, Jedi Fallen Order looks like it was designed by a committee.