Jedi: Fallen Order Review
I’m unashamed in admitting I’ve long dreamt of wielding a lightsaber, using the force, and fighting against the tyranny of the Galactic Empire in my very own space epic. With Jedi: Fallen Order, Respawn Entertainment delivers that and more as it truly fulfills my fantasy of becoming a Jedi, and is unequivocally my favorite Star Wars video game to date.
The story, characters, and gameplay all begin strong and significantly evolve until the end. While I do have some minor nitpicks, I didn’t experience a single minute of boredom throughout my thirty-hour run. I spent those hours achieving 100% completion, as I was determined to understand and cover every aspect before writing this review. I love the game, and I couldn’t be more excited to talk about it.
A Special Kind of Force
The period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope is rich for storytelling, and Fallen Order capitalizes with an original story packed with interesting characters. You follow the tale Cal Kestis on his journey to becoming a Jedi Knight and uncovering the key to a war-altering artifact. He’s joined by crew members Cere and Greez aboard the Stinger Mantis as they set off on an adventure to bring hope to the galaxy.
Fallen Order fits wonderfully within canon. The goal of Cal’s quest is pretty straightforward, but there are some fun, unexpected twists along the way. New and known characters you encounter have compelling goals motivating their actions. The exploration of how people are affected in different ways by the fall of the Republic is fascinating. Ideas such as a Yoda-like character that’s in hiding, but grows power hungry in their isolation, or the effects that tapping into the dark side has on a tried and true Jedi. Some familiar tropes are apparent, but the galaxy-building ideas Fallen Order presents are outstanding. Longtime Star Wars fans will love some moments that occur throughout, and the story ultimately leads to a tremendous conclusion.
The legacy of Cal Kestis will stand boldly alongside those of other famous Jedi. Cameron Monaghan gives a stellar performance that I find highly engaging. While we aren’t on paths to becoming Jedi, we all pursue goals of our own. Not only does Cal battle stormtroopers and giant toads, but inner feelings of doubt, pride, and guilt; emotions that I and countless others have faced in our own lives. Externally he strives to overcome the might of the Empire, but internally conquer himself. I find it oddly relatable, so I connect well with the character. However, I find Cere’s story to be far more interesting. Her dilemma’s rife with darkness and becomes more dramatic as the truth of her past unravels.
Fallen Order may be derivative of many great games, but Respawn has prevailed in combining several influences into a design of their own. There’s Uncharted and Prince of Persia-like traversal, combat akin to Dark Souls and God of War, and exploration similar to Metroid and Tomb Raider. They’ve drawn inspiration from all the right places, and I absolutely adore it. It’s a blast from the onset and becomes increasingly fun as you unlock abilities and acquire new gear. Best of all, it feels mechanically divine to play.
There’s much to love about the planets. There are five in total loaded with new lore to discover, cosmetic items to collect, and enemies to battle. Exploration is vital to opening shortcuts, finding easter eggs, building your catalog of glamorous ponchos, paint jobs, and lightsaber parts, and acquiring practical upgrades for yourself and BD-1. Initially, I appreciated the lack of fast travel. Planets evolve throughout the game with new areas to explore and enemies to face. However, trekking across entire planets to collect the last remaining secrets I’d left behind was a bit frustrating after I’d experienced all they had to offer.
Spread throughout the planets are meditation spots enabling you to rest, spend skill points, and save your progress. Your skill tree is broken into three categories: Force, lightsaber, and survival. All are self-explanatory, but I’m happy to say every skill you unlock drastically alters Cal’s abilities and results in an incredibly satisfying progression system. Resting restores your collection of health stims and respawns enemies. I’m fond of Soulsborne games, so I find a lot of enjoyment in the design. In dying you lose half the XP you gained since your previous save. Returning to and attacking the enemy that killed you restores your life, force, and lost XP. It’s a pretty hardcore system I never imagined for a Star Wars game, but Respawn nails it.
Thankfully, exploring planets and keeping track of your progress is a breeze with your three-dimensional holo map, providing you clear sight of where you’re at, open doorways, pathways to explore, and your main objective. Some areas remind me of large-scale shrines from Breath of the Wild. Optional and mandatory puzzles are within requiring you to combine all your abilities to solve them. I often loath puzzles in action games but found them to a be nice break from the challenging combat.
At long last, we have a nuanced lightsaber combat system in a Star Wars game. From mere Scazz to Purge Troopers, enemies are unforgiving. They’ll downright slaughter you if you aren’t diligent with managing your defensive stamina and force gauge. Methods of combat are designed with purpose. Your single-bladed lightsaber is powerful against small groups, double-bladed is useful for crowd control, and dual-wielding is great for breaking defenses. Using force powers and having BD-1 hack particular droids makes it all the more interesting. You eventually memorize where enemies are located, but fights never feel monotonous due to the variety of weapon modifications and ambushes from bounty hunters.
Boss fights are excellent overall, but especially thrilling with inquisitors. Breaking their defenses is significantly more demanding than standard enemies, adding a cinematic element to the fights. Narrative and gameplay work beautifully in conjunction. As Cal’s confidence grows throughout the story, so does your’s as you master the mechanics. By the end of the game, I felt like a seasoned Jedi Knight in every battle. All enemy types are fun to fight, but I did encounter a few A.I. and performance issues. In a couple of instances, a group of enemies would cease attacking me and walk away in the middle of a fight. On one occasion I walked on air, and the game crashed once. Fortunately, the A.I. error rarely occurred, and battles often played out correctly. Respawn has since released a day one patch to improve stability and fix bugs, so you may not experience any of these issues.
The Best Saber in The Biz
I can’t celebrate the lightsaber customization enough. You can alter it to your heart’s content by modifying the color, emitter, switch, sleeve, and material. That alone encouraged me to scavenge every nook and cranny of the planets. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but altering it along with Cal’s appearance enabled me to role-play the journey from Padawan to Jedi Knight. I spent the majority of the game in his default flight suit with a blue lightsaber. Following a critical turning point in the story, I changed into a black outfit wielding a matte black hilt and cyan blade. Mentioning this isn’t all that critical to the review, but it was one of my favorite moments in the game, and I hope you experience the same enjoyment. You can also ignite your lightsaber at will. It’s a minor feature but one I much appreciate.
Fallen Order isn’t graphically earth-shattering, but it looks beautiful in max settings on P.C. The performance capture is impressive, especially with alien characters like Greez. I imagine it’s no easy task to make a squashed face like his convey emotion, but Respawn succeeded in doing so. The physics are highly believable, specifically with Cal’s slick, flowing do. The lighting’s gorgeous and most impressive in dark areas and on Zeffo in particular. The animations are my favorite aspect of the visual presentation. Cal looks stellar in traversal and combat, and I love that his flip is animated after Luke’s from The Empire Strikes Back. Attention to detail is sparse in how there’s no effect of Cal dragging his lightsaber across the ground or igniting it inside the Mantis, but those aspects don’t detract from the experience.
I revere good sound design, and Fallen Order is full of it. From your lightsaber, droids and creatures, ambient noise on planets, to the familiar audio cues from the long history of the franchise, the game sounds fantastic. The grandeur of the London Symphony Orchestra is on full display with familiar music and an original score composed by Gordy Haab and Stephen Barton. Collectively, the presentation makes for an immersive Star Wars experience.
I love Star Wars, I love video games, and Fallen Order is a glorious amalgamation of the two. Though I’ve experienced everything the game has to offer, I genuinely can’t wait to play through it again on the hardest difficulty. At this point, I can only hope Respawn follows it up with a sequel because the force is remarkably strong with this one. For more on Jedi: Fallen Order, you can check out a multitude of gameplay videos on our YouTube channel. Thanks for reading, and may the force be with you.
***PC code provided by EA for review***
- Fun gameplay
- Satisfying progession
- Compelling story with great characters
- Excellent visuals and sound design
- Minor A.I. issues
- Minor performance issues