EA and Respawn recently put out a single-player game without microtransactions and based it in the Star Wars Universe. A game that had a lot of promise based on its trailers alone.
You play some kind of Jedi, you cut through a bunch of stormtroopers with a lightsaber, and you use some Force powers. I mean is there anything more perfect? However, there was still a lot of worry going into this launch, from fans, that EA would somehow find a way to ruin it.
As a huge Star Wars fan myself, I’m going to give you a fair and mostly spoiler-free Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order review. Honestly, despite the skeptical fans, I still had "a new hope" that this game would be amazing.
It is a great time to be a Star Wars fan, with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker coming out in December that will finish a nine-part story told over 40 years. The Mandelorian on Disney+ is three episodes in and getting great reviews. They opened the new Star Wars park at Disney a few months ago. The fandom is everywhere.
So, a brand new Star Wars game? I mean, how badly could they screw it up?
In a world oversaturated with Star Wars, it's hard to write a story that fits in with the rest of the universe, unless you write one about the Old Republic or some sort of new storyline not taking place anywhere near those damnable Skywalkers.
However, in Jedi: Fallen Order, you play as Cal Kestis, a Jedi Padawan in the era immediately following the events of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. So, exactly near the Skywalkers. Old man Palpatine has just staged his destruction of the Republic and become Emperor, and has already put into motion Order 66. Now, the Jedi are outlawed and hunted down like dogs to the brink of extinction.
Cal has somehow survived this. It’s ok that we don’t know much about it. The game begins with him in hiding, and we see the life that he’s settled into for some time. He gets a job working as a scrapper in an Empire shipbreaking yard, tearing down grounded spaceships for parts. This is how you learn some of the major motions that Cal can do, making it feel like one of the new Tomb Raider games.
Unfortunately, Cal doesn’t stay in hiding for long. His Jedi secret dissolves when the Empire shows up with a new Sith baddie with her musclebound henchman. He escapes with the help of Cere and her reluctant pilot friend and then they go off and try and find the remaining Jedi. As Cal explores the universe and battles his way past various monsters and Stormtroopers, he will try to find a magical macguffin that might be the secret to restoring the shattered Jedi Order.
As far as the story goes, it’s a well-written, and sometimes cheesy, Star Wars story. But that is what makes it great. It has some clunky dialogue, it has its very serious moments, it has its jokes, it has temptation, it has redemption. It’s a great balance for a newly told Star Wars story.
His Name Is Cal
Cal, as a protagonist is not terrible nor will he be as memorable as Rey. He feels like a good mix of Obi-Wan and young Luke but with the personality of a wet sponge. He can be serious, but he likes a joke. He isn’t completely trained, and therefore, he makes mistakes. However, he mostly fits the story being told. I’m ok with that.
Right in the beginning when he is sniffed out by the Empire, he makes a huge blunder. The way he brandishes his lightsaber after losing a friend is as noble as it comes but is also completely reckless and yet still believable.
While many will criticize his actions, saying he should have kept his lightsaber sheathed and not let his emotions overcome him, we need to remember that he was still in training when his master was hunted down. And despite his power, he doesn’t have full control over his emotions. Remember how annoying Anakin was? Let’s cut him a bit of slack.
Electronic Arts via Cheat Sheet
Cal Kestis may not be as iconic as some of the other gaming characters that we have been introduced to over the years, but his story is something we needed. The problem isn’t really with the character but more with when this story is placed. This is why Cal doesn’t shine more. The story that the Skywalkers invoke in people is what we remember. The team has to fill in the blanks between these movies.
So, making Cal and his adventure a little mundane is something that makes sense. If Cal had made too much of an impact in our hearts, then the whole “Skywalkers are the most important family in the galaxy” thing needs to be retold. Which should happen, but won’t. So, it’s fine.
When all is said and done, the game is about a hero's journey with a few interesting twists. The inclusion of or mere mention of characters from wider Star Wars lore and the giving of some backstory from its locations is commendable. As a fan, I love it, but it just doesn’t have the emotional pull I would have liked to see. Cal may not be the best Jedi we’ve ever seen, but he's not as forgettable as Yarael Poof or Plo Koon.
Gameplay: The Lightsaber
Cal climbs walls, swings on ropes, and leaps onto precarious ledges like many video game characters that came before him. The key to the best gameplay you’ll have in Jedi: Fallen Order is the Lightsaber itself. Much like in The Force Awakens 1 & 2, you’ll never get tired of cutting up enemies with it.
It goes without saying that combat, at first, is a bit dull. All you will have to work with are basic strike combos, blocking, and rolls to escape attacks. At its core, the fighting is memorization, despite the incredible fun of wielding a glowing, indestructible laser sword.
However, the level up system helps with Cal’s gameplay immensely. Traveling through the story also gives Cal the edge to work with different powers. As I played, I gained skill points to unlock abilities that expanded Kestis’ capabilities.
This is when I begin to feel not only confident in his abilities but I also felt unstoppable cutting through Stormtroopers like a hot knife through butter. Once combat gets going, you will see some slight similarities to a Dark Souls-lite type of fighting style. Lock onto a single enemy, circle them, wait for them to attack, and then expertly roll out of the way and counter.
The difference is I can use the Force to push a stormtrooper screaming off a cliff. I can use the Force to put them in a slow motion state while I move into a better position. I can pull enemies toward me, and then throw them back at their friends to break up groups. Also the lightsaber perfectly deflects blaster bolts while troopers desperately try to bash my skull in. I can Force Pull baddies to my side and bury the lightsaber in their gut. I can throw my lightsaber at them while dodging the barrage of lasers flying at me. Also, I can hack droids with BD-1 and have them fight by my side. There are so many ways to engage the enemies.
The act of juggling all these various attacks with different lightsaber styles, while making sure I was paying attention to the limited amount of Force energy I have, is challenging but absolutely doable. Especially as you start to level up Cal. His Force energy and life bar can be added on to, making you an unstoppable killing machine.
The easy button presses for attacks make sense tactically. I didn’t have to worry too much about combos. The actual in-game animations make everything look fluid and choreographed like the movies were coming to life.
Having the options of how I choose to fight and how it changes the situation is a breath of fresh air. Like a less complicated Witcher game.
The different style of baddies and coming up with a tactful fighting style as they sometimes surround you is both fun and nerve wracking. The enemies ratchet up in intensity too, from easy local wild animals to stormtroopers to specially trained anti-Jedi forces. Then, of course, there are small Boss fights as well that feel intense, but once you memorize a pattern, they aren't entirely difficult. BD-1 keeping you healed up is a definite help.
Electronic Arts via US Gamer
By the end of the game, I had become a Stormtrooper killing machine, with a huge range of attacks and options when it comes to messing up any Empire agent who tried to cross me.
My Lightsaber Barbie
I want to quickly address one of the most wonderful, yet simple aspects that Jedi: Fallen Order added to the game. It features one of the best lightsaber customization systems that I’ve ever seen in a Star Wars game. I could pick the color of my blade, the material that makes up the hilt and its color, the grips, the emitters, and more.
Then as I played and found different secret areas, I unlocked more options for my blade. If I’m being completely honest, I spent an embarrassing amount of time messing around with my lightsaber dress-up doll. I ended up searching high and low for more servers just to find more options for my saber.
And then when I reached a particular part in the game … well I don’t want to spoil it. So, let’s just say I became one with the Maul and leave it at that.
Electronic Arts via Gamer Tag Zero
The way Jedi: Fallen Order handles death is interesting but strange, and doesn’t seem to serve much of a narrative purpose. Even though they purposely talk about it in the beginning of the game.
Cal has an issue with meditation. He states that he has a hard time controlling it. However, each save point that is scattered throughout the levels is brought to you by these meditation circles. This is also where you level up Cal.
Other than that, they serve little purpose in the overall story.
But when you die, you show up at the last one you saved at. To keep the game at some kind of difficulty level, you lose all the experience you gained through your between saves. However, the game lets you track down the baddie that killed you to get all that back, which comes in handy.
Electronic Arts via Attack of the Fanboy
The overall story of Star Wars is ultimately about making mistakes. How you rectify them is what makes you a great part of the story. Think about it. Vader’s mistake in turning to the Dark Side only to take out the man who brought him there. Luke’s mistake in his training with Kylo ultimately turning Kylo to the Dark Side. George Lucas’ mistake on making the prequels and ultimately having to sell to Disney so he didn’t go bankrupt (just kidding, George).
Jedi: Fallen Order is no different. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s something that I found myself liking. Jedi: Fallen Order isn’t a game with decisions. You won’t be making hard choices that bring you closer to the Dark Side or the Light Side. You’ll never get lightning powers. The game is a linear narrative with just enough twists to keep your interest until the credits.
While it may take some of you a few hours to get into the swing of what Jedi: Fallen Order is trying to do, and to not get frustrated by some of the glitches, ultimately it’s 20 hours of a fun new space adventure. More if you want to look for all the customization treasures for Cal, the ship, BD-1, and your lightsaber.
We’ve had so many Star Wars experiences that were first-person shooters, action games, or role-playing games, and, of course, all the LEGO games. We’ve seen a ton of things familiar to us as fans. But this is a semi new idea for how Star Wars games can be structured. It also gives us an idea of how much room there is to experiment with some new ideas of how we perceive the Jedi and the Empire.
Yes, there’s a lot about this game that’s awkward, i. e. Cal. Cal is incredibly awkward. But to do something different means you have to actually do something different. A single-player Star Wars story that doesnt have some dumb, forced love story is a huge step in the right direction. But it also means it may take some time for a series like this to find its footing.
Jedi: Fallen Order is enjoyable. While I caution about its sometimes glitchy performance and some aspects of its design, it goes places I didn’t expect, and it gets there by a route I didn’t even consider. It made its own bold choices, and for a game that is genetically commercial, it should be applauded.
Quick shout out to EA for making a game with little to no controversy in its debut.
Jedi: Fallen Order is a largely flawed game by any means. It is a good game with a good heart and really fun gameplay. It’s a Star Wars experience I didn’t think I would get. The lightsaber play alone is worth getting the game.
Even after finishing it, I definitely want more. I don’t know if I want it to be with Cal, but it’s nice to know that a company like Respawn put their heart and soul into this. And what came out was a pretty good Star Wars game.
- BD-1 is adorable
- Story is well written
- Lightsaber gameplay is incredible
- The Force powers are fun to use
- Cal is sort of boring
- Game can get glitchy/buggy
Writer’s Score: 4 scoops out of 5
Disclaimer: The graphic above is a ranking system used to rate video games and video games only. Do not use this as a guide for consumption.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is out now on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Top image via Electronic Arts
This article was written by John D. AKA SomeBeardy2Love. John has been gaming for over 30 years, has a bow tie tattoo, and watches anime and Bob’s Burgers. He has a sponsored beard and a modest book collection.