Since the early days of the Atari 2600, Star Wars games have always been hit or miss. While I enjoyed the aesthetic and immersion of Star Wars Battlefront 2, and I have no problem with some of the odder entries into the series, modern Star Wars titles have been lacking when it comes to truly taking me away on an original adventure in that little galaxy far far away. When Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was properly announced at this year's EA Play (awkwardly revealing the title in 2018 doesn't count), I've been skeptical but hopeful. Developer Respawn has a pretty rock solid pedigree with storytelling and combat in their games, and when it was revealed that this one would have a single-player narrative focus, it just seemed too good to be true. Thankfully this isn't one of those situations.
From the second I began playing, it was clear that this is going to be a massive step above recent Star Wars titles. The presentation and overall direction in the cutscenes and dialogue show a level of appreciation and care that I've never seen in a Star Wars game before. One thing to note about Star Wars titles is that there's always a disparity between the game and movies. While recent games may feature "movie canon" stories and help expand the post-Disney universe a bit, I always got the feeling that I was seeing a "made for TV" version of Star Wars instead of something that could stand side by side with the films.
Jedi: Fallen Order's protagonist, Cal Kestis, is probably one of the more likable Star Wars characters since the universe was reset back when Disney acquired Lucasfilm. His cocky but not annoying attitude gave me Ezio from Assassin's Creed 2 vibes, and his Droid BD-1 is a perfect companion for a Star Wars story.
The way Cal and BD-1 interact during combat and exploration felt natural and well-written. During the demo, BD-1 would frequently hop-off Cal's back to explore the environment and slain enemies, while in combat he's a creative way to display how Cal stores health stim packs.
The side characters and environments felt like they were surgically crafted with care and attention to detail. Stormtrooper and rebel banter sounded like it should and not as binary as Battlefront 2 wrote some of its side characters. Low level stormtroopers would try to pump themselves up when they were the last man standing or in a rare instance ask why you killed everyone. Small moments like this really helped build the gritty and bleak universe Star Wars takes place in and hopefully carry through the entire game.
Combat has never been better in a Star Wars game. What came as the biggest surprise from the demo was that you can't just hack away at everything on screen to beat the game. While I hate saying this phrase, the combat felt closer to Dark Souls than your typical action game. You'll need to parry and block laser blasts as well as time your dodges and slashes with close encounter enemies if you want to stay alive.
The difficulty was definitely challenging, but thanks to the game's skill tree and save point system, it never felt overbearing unless I was playing on the hardest mode. Blocking and parrying lasers back into stormtroopers faces felt extremely satisfying and makes up for Cal's lack of blaster (uncivilized, I know). Combat felt fun and even though I just compared the game to Dark Souls, it felt more like a down to earth Devil May Cry. Either way, I found myself smiling whenever Cal landed a stylish finisher with his lightsaber.
The rank and skill level of each enemy was easily identifiable by their uniform and weapon, and It might seem silly, but playing an RPG light action game without level numbers above everybody's head was refreshing and helped with the immersion. While it's your standard kill enemies, earn XP, spend points to stab harder kinda system, it's refreshing to see some customization like this in a modern Star Wars game. Save points are all in meditation spots; here you can access the skill tree as well as replenish your health and curatives at the cost of every enemy respawning.
There's two ways to die in the game: misadventure and combat. When dying from misadventure, you'll immediately respawn to the spot you died from for the cost of some health. When dying in combat, you're given the choice to respawn at your last save point or sacrifice some XP to respawn at the fight you died in.
Upgrading and crafting is another important core of the game. While BD-1's upgrades were more necessary to the story, it seemed like all the other upgrades were more optional than anything. In my few hours of the game, I found a few lightsaber enhancements, a super sick blue poncho, and a skin that gave BD-1 a Mopar esque paint job. There wasn't really an indication that the lightsaber upgrades were anything more than cosmetic, but it was still a nice touch being able to ditch the blue laser sword for a superior jedi green.
The exploration and puzzles were surprisingly deep and made the game feel more like Metroid Prime and Zelda rather than Uncharted in space. When earning skills such as force push and BD-1's slice ability, I found myself backtracking to open doors and access areas I couldn't earlier in the game. Jedi: Fallen Order isn't an open-world game, but it has large environments you can freely explore and return to later on. My demo time only allowed me to explore one map and briefly fly to another, but it's clear that developer Respawn wants you to come back and explore the game rather than just playing it in a linear fashion. Hopefully the final game wont involve too much grinding or backtracking to finish the main story.
The puzzles in the game were smart and logical. In the level I was at, I had to move heavy boulders around the map into keyholes. I could move them with wind tunnels, force push, or by playing with the game's physics and logic. It felt more like something you would find in Breath of the Wild than your standard AAA action game. After discussing the demo with others at the preview event, I learned that people had solved a specific section differently than me, which made me immediately want to go back and try a different approach. It's saying a lot when a modern game makes me actually want to redo a puzzle.
After playing for a little over four hours, I can confidently say that between its incredibly well-executed narrative bits, fun and engaging combat, intuitive puzzles, and promise of an original Star Wars story that's genuinely interesting,Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is shaping up to be one of the best entries in the Star Wars series in a very long time.
Nick played Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order during an EA/Lucasarts private press event at Anaheim California.
What do you think about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order? Does the game seem more interesting now that more details are out? Does the combat seem more appealing now that its not just hack and slash? Do you ever wonder what stormtroopers' kids think about the Jedi? Let us know in the comments below!