Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Review
There must have been a Death Star’s worth of pressure on Respawn when it came to developing Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order. Despite plenty of attempts in the past, there hasn’t been a great Star Wars game for quite some time. Following Battlefront II’s lootbox debacle, any developer stepping up to the plate was going to be under a magnifying glass. More than ever before, this needed to be a success.
The results serve to show that Respawn took that pressure and thrived under it - Jedi Fallen Order is easily the best Star Wars game this generation, and a fantastic adventure in its own right.
Fallen Order puts you in the shoes of Cal Kestis, a Padawan who managed to survive the purge of the Jedi known as Order 66. Cal finds himself exploring the planet with new companions BD-1, Cere, and Greez in order to find an artifact that might help rebuild the Jedi Order. All the while he's up against some of the Empire's Inquisitors and the wild creatures that inhabit each planet.
For the first half of the roughly 15-hour adventure, the story stays light and doesn’t make much impact. Of course, the further you get, the stronger the narrative hooks become as more of the character dynamics and motivations come into the fold. Cal, Cere, & Greez are all great additions to the Star Wars mythos with fantastic performances all around, and Respawn has worked their mech magic again into making BD-1 more than just a droid. Saying any more about the plot would be spoiling some of the best reveals, but it's definitely one of the better narratives to come from the series for a while.
One of the most impressive parts of the whole experience is just how Star Wars it all feels. Although that may seem like a fluffy throwaway comment, everything from how the characters act to the music that plays on each planet feels like pure Star Wars fan-service. You can tell that Respawn cares about the franchise as a whole, and that level of care makes playing it all the better whether you're a die-hard fan or not.
Fallen Order also looks stunning across the board. Environments are dense and detailed with unique fauna decorating them. They're surprisingly well-structured as well, with each world actually feeling lived in. Almost all of the characters are well detailed and expressive, with the only exception being the incredibly poor Wookie texturing. As mentioned before, the soundtrack is quintessential Star Wars and accompanies the planets accordingly and I was impressed at the lack of reliance on pre-existing Star Wars themes as well.
Although everything surrounding it is strong, the gameplay is really the star of the show in Fallen Order. Rather than focusing solely on combat, Fallen Order actually places a lot of emphasis on exploration and movement. 'Metroidvania' is an apt description for Fallen Order, as you’ll constantly be opening the world up more with the skills you learn.
Getting through these planets takes some platforming which is great fun and very evocative of Prince of Persia, although it wasn't always 100% clear what could and couldn't be platformed on. The number of explorable planets in the game is a little disappointing at 4, but each one is massive and full of secret boss fights and items to collect. It’s this element of exploration that really sets Fallen Order apart from any other Star Wars game we’ve seen before.
Puzzles also play quite a big part in Cal’s adventure, as hidden tombs feature as the climax for most of the planets. None of the puzzles are head-scratchers, but they’re fun to work around, and usually utilise a force power you’ve just unlocked to help get to grips with it. Similarly to the platforming, it’s a pleasant side to the combat encounters, although nothing to write home about. The phrase, "jack of many trades, master of none" is a little harsh, but can be applied to elements of Fallen Order.
Saying that, what kind of Jedi would Cal be if he didn’t get to use a lightsaber every now and then? This is where the game really excels, as using a Lightsaber is just incredibly satisfying. Combat is very akin to Sekiro, which is absolutely a good thing, focusing more on parrying and dodging to leave enemies open rather than just swinging wildly. It’s both a smarter and more rewarding way of looking at Lightsaber combat, even if it can be a little disappointing to not see proper dismemberment in place.
As great as a Lightsaber is, a Jedi wouldn't be much without the Force. Both combat and movement are opened up more and more as you unlock new Force powers. The Force plays a big part in gameplay and although you won’t be bringing Star Destroyers down from the sky, it definitely makes you feel powerful. It helps that these Force powers are upgradeable with a pretty extensive skill tree which makes for a satisfying difficulty curve.
Combat is at its absolute best when you’re in some of the boss encounters. Although not every boss in the game is great, there are a select few that really show off the Sekiro vibes. In fact, a very welcome surprise comes with how difficult these encounters are. Some enemies are legitimately challenging and it becomes necessary to actually get good at the game in the last few hours.
As has been commonly compared across the internet, there are a lot of comparisons that can be made between Fallen Order and many of FromSoftware’s titles. Meditation points act like Bonfires, combat is parry-focused like Sekiro, and experience is lost upon being killed. Although it does end up working in the games’ favour, it's worth noting for those who hadn’t previously experienced the genre.
Jedi Fallen Order is also an extremely back and front-loaded adventure. Although the middle points of the adventure are fun, the best bits are really in the first and last few hours. That isn't to downplay what the game does in those middle sections but the highlights take some time to get to.
Despite all that it does well, there are some annoyances in Fallen Order. Although all of the human enemies have pretty telling parry points, a lot of the creatures feel like they have far too many attacks before being open. Customisation is also a little disappointing considering it’s mostly just ponchos and colour changes, although the Lightsaber stuff is pretty awesome.
The lack of fast-travel between meditation points can make traversing the massive areas a bit of a pain, and I found that some of the collectibles were a bit much. It's great to have all the extra content for those who are properly invested, but it got a bit boring cleaning them up.
If all of this sounds a little nitpicky, that's because it is. Fallen Order doesn't tip the boat in a massive way but it does provide an adventure that's clearly been made with a lot of thought, care and appreciation for the source material.
The only thing really holding Fallen Order back are the technical issues. Even in performance mode on PS4 Pro, I experienced consistent stuttering and frame drops, particularly on Kashyyyk. Glitches were fairly common too, and I even suffered a few game crashes that set me back a couple of minutes. None of it was ever bad enough for me to consider quitting, but it did get annoying in some of the slower-paced moments and is a shock considering how polished most of the game is.
Looking beyond the technical hitches, Jedi Fallen Order is an extremely strong, confident Star Wars adventure that shows how much potential the universe still has in gaming. If this is the A New Hope of Star Wars games, then I can’t wait to see the Empire Strikes Back.