Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

I finally completed my playthrough of Jedi: Fallen Order, a game I have eagerly awaited since its announcement and gameplay footage shown at last year’s E3 presentation. Where would it rank in my Games of 2019 list? Let’s take a look…

Jedi: Fallen Order begins with Cal Kestis, a young human living on the planet Bracca. Cal spends his days salvaging the destroyed ships scattered across the planet, visible reminders of the Clone Wars recently fought between the Trade Federation and the Galactic Republic before Palpatine assumed control of the Senate, thus forming the Galactic Empire. One fateful day a co-worker/friend named Brauf slips from the edge of a crashed cruiser and Cal reaches out using the Force to prevent their otherwise certain death. In a mere instant, Cal’s life will take a dramatic turn as this incident is noticed by a nearby Probe Droid. Cal immediately realizes his quiet life is changed forever as Imperial troops quickly arrive to begin the search. Knowing all too well those who demonstrate a sensitivity to the Force is quickly apprehended by Stormtroopers and never seen again, he decides to make an escape aboard a freighter train.

The opening sequence of the game is somewhat reminiscent of other Star Wars movies where we first see Luke Skywalker or Rey <SPOILERS> as they live an unassuming life before being altered forever. Shortly into Jedi: Fallen Order however, we learn that Cal Kestis was once a Padawan to Jedi Knight Jaro Tapal and throughout the game we see flashbacks from his training with his former mentor leading up to the moment you hear Palpatine’s voice through a Clone Trooper’s intercom instructing the Clone Army to execute Order 66. Anyone who has watched the Star Wars prequels know what a pivotol moment this represents as Galactic troops turn on the Jedi in an event referred to in the game as The Purge.

You eventually receive the upgrade to your lightsaber which allows you to switch between single and double blades…

As Cal ventures further through the train, he encounters the Second Sister – a powerful Sith and member of the Imperial Inquisitors who hunt down the remaining Jedi and those with the ability to use the Force. Cal barely escapes the duel with the Second Sister as he is rescued by mercenary Cere and Greez, pilot of the Stinger Mantis. Cal initially distrusts Cere, but soon agrees to help the duo search for the Holocron, an object containing a list of all younglings known to show Force-sensitivity. The search for the Holocron begins on Bogano, where Cal comes across a droid named BD-1 who possesses a message from Eno Cordova, the Jedi Master responsible for hiding the Holocron among the Chozo Zeffo ruins. Time is running out as Cal is still being pursued by the Inquisitors who also seek out those able to use the Force and eradicate any remnants of the Jedi Order.

Jedi: Fallen Order is the product of developer Respawn’s long-awaited Star Wars game that began in 2014 and was released in November 2019. I wrote a post about some of the games I was most excited about after watching the E3 2019 conferences this past June with Jedi: Fallen Order being one of the games I was anxiously anticipating. The thought of a new Star Wars game with an original story was enough for me to be onboard, but adding to the excitement was hearing Respawn Entertainment was developing the game, the studio that created Titanfall 2 – one of my favorite games this console generation. After EA’s epic failure surrounding Battlefront 2’s implementation of micro-transactions and the…um…mixed reactions to The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story in theaters, enthusiasm for Star Wars as a franchise seemed to have reached somewhat of a low point in 2017-18, leaving many fans desperately wanting a “good” Star Wars game…or utterly indifferent.

Flashlight? Who needs a flashlight?

It was over this past summer in developer interviews, those working on the game stated their main inspiration(s) for Jedi: Fallen Order were Dark Souls and Super Metroid. Shortly into playing the game it was clear that Naughty Dog’s Uncharted games are an influence as well. The game certainly does borrow from the likes of Dark Souls and metroidvania games, heavily from the former and somewhat loosely from the latter.

The beginning moments of Jedi: Fallen Order make it readily apparent it takes inspiration from the Uncharted games. Gameplay begins with Cal following Brauf to their destination on top of a destroyed cruiser as he jumps, climbs and shimmies across gaps just like Nathan Drake. The freight train sequence in the first chapter of the game sees Cal sneaking through cars and taking out Stormtroopers and was very difficult not to make comparisons to Uncharted 2, albeit this time armed with a lightsaber.

One can see Jedi: Fallen Order’s metroidvania influence as Cal reaches Bogano. You step foot outside on an unfamiliar planet teeming with hostile lifeforms before meeting up with BD-1 and setting off for the Zeffo homeworld. There are many corners of the map that are currently unaccessible and require you to use specific tools or skills that you have not yet acquired, similar to Super Metroid where Samus can only explore certain areas without the help of suit upgrades and powerups. There’s also a number of enemies guarding secret powerups that are vastly more powerful than Cal in the early stages of the game, indicating you simply cannot battle a particular enemy at this time. I found this out the hard way…several times. Each of the planets you visit – Bogano, Zeffo, Kashyyk and Dathomir – can be returned to later in the game if one wishes to scour the various nooks and crannies within. The main story in Jedi: Fallen Order is pretty linear, though it does allow for further exploration of the planets if you so desire.

Not entirely unlike Dash Rendar fighting an AT-ST in Shadows of the Empire.

The influence from which Jedi: Fallen Order most heavily borrows is none other than From Software’s Dark Souls series; developers at Respawn Entertainment admitted as much during interviews leading up to the game’s release. The central combat mechanic in the game is very heavily inspired by Dark Souls, but in place of medieval swords and shield Cal Kestis wields a lightsaber. Jedi: Fallen Order also makes a great effort to not simply be another Star Wars action game, in which players typical can button mash their way through waves of enemies and obstacles like the Star Wars Force Unleashed games, but players much approach enemies and combat scenarios much more methodically. While the average “grunt” Stormtrooper doesn’t pose much of a threat, at least not when facing them individually, you quickly encounter Imperial troops as well as hostile creatures that cannot be defeated by simply swinging a lightsaber at them. Many, if not most of the enemies you face later in the game will have a particular attack pattern or weakness that must be blocked and then countered to deal any damage. Just as in From Software games, you cannot simply “turtle” your way through fights by holding down the block button as your block/stamina meter will quickly fill up and leave you defenseless against vicious enemies. This gameplay element feels quite similar to the posture meter in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice – once your posture meter is filled you will be able to perform a devastating attack dealing far greater damage than slowly pecking away. There were many times in Jedi: Fallen Order(…Sekiro too) where I wasn’t keeping a watchful eye on my block meter before being swiftly killed by an enemy. Overall, the lightsaber combat felt GOOD, but I couldn’t help but feel it wasn’t as polished as it could have been, leaving it feeling a little clunky when attempting to dispatch multiple enemies in a given area.

Another Souls-like element of Jedi: Fallen Order is how it incorporates save points. Every so often you will come across a glowing circle in the ground which allow Cal the opportunity to stop and meditate. These meditation points act just as the bonfires in Dark Souls as they save your progress and refill your health, but also any nearby enemies. The meditation points also allow you to spend Skill Points to upgrade your health and Force meters, along with acquiring new abilities through seperate skill trees. Skill Points are gained once your skill meter is completely filled after accomplishing objectives and defeating enough enemies.

Overall, I enjoyed Jedi: Fallen Order, though my feelings were quite mixed at times. I would enjoy every minute of it one night only to feel frustrated with the game and conflicted about whether or not I was having all that much fun. The game’s high points come from a few certain set pieces such as the opening freight train or hijacking an AT-AT on Kashyyyk and demolishing Imperial troops. I really liked the boss battles, with exception of one or two fights against some of the more fearsome creatures inhabiting the various planets. The boss fights against the Inquisitors and other human(ish) foes were among the game’s most memorable and enjoyable moments. The visuals in Jedi: Fallen Order feature some impressive lighting elements and highlight the beautiful, if harsh otherworldly environments. The soundtrack is superb as well and lives up to everything you would expect from a game or movie set in the Star Wars universe. It can go from very soft and subtle when venturing through ancient vaults and caverns, to full John Williams-esque dramatic during the action sequences and cutscenes. The voice acting and motion capture used in the game are very well done as the game, at the surface level rivals anything else released in 2019. Last but not least, the game allows you to customize your lightsaber – emitters, switches, materials, sleeves and crystal color. I’m not sure how long I spent just tinkering with different combinations for my lightsaber…..

Oh….hello there

My criticisms of Jedi: Fallen Order lie mostly in the “feel” of the game. It’s a wonderful game to see and hear, but I felt the movement and alot of the combat scenarios felt a bit on the clunky side. There were certain parts of the game where I would be attempting to run through an area featuring many environmental obstacles and found myself frequently getting stuck to edges of uprooted trees or Cal’s character model sinking through the ground. Another point of frustration with the combat in the game was the fact I felt like the game just refused to let me “reach” the enemy as I would charge and swing my lightsaber only to be “stuck” in place as if behind a Force barrier and was only allowed close enough to deal any damage when the game deemed it permissible. Fights in which you were allowed freedom of movement and the ability to attack, but the game made everything feel a bit too context-sensitive. I also grew frustrated with your Force abilities, which are largely relegated for use in solving enivronmental puzzles and whenver I tried to use them during enemy encounters it was inexplicably “blocked” by common Stormtroopers and creatures.

In addition to the issues I had with combat and how the game runs overall, I felt the story was a bit detached, or uneven at times. It seems the game wants to provide both – a linear storyline similar to Uncharted AND a metroidvania type experience emphasizing exploration.

In conclusion, my feelings after playing through Jedi: Fallen Order could be summarized by “pretty good, but not great”. It’s a Star Wars game featuring an orignial story that feels its most interesting when it fills in some of the events between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope such as Cal arriving on the wookie homeworld Kashyyyk to speak with chieftan Tarfful about involvement with Eno Cordova. He discovers it is currently under siege by Imperial forces(remember the tutorial level as Darth Vader in The Force Unleashed?) and hijacks his way onto a AT-AT before running into Saw Gerrera and his band of rebels. There’s also a HUGE spoiler-y moment at the end of the game that I did think was pretty cool, though I wasn’t entirely shocked to see it play out that way. When playing Jedi: Fallen Order it’s perfectly clear just what games inspired its development – Dark Souls, Super Metroid, Uncharted. I have to admit that I don’t feel it did much to further the souls-like or metroidvania sub-genres, but still accept it for what it attempted to be despite feeling like it came up a bit short. The aforementioned titles are nothing short of influential in gaming and going back to play those games will only demonstrate just how many subsequent titles have borrowed from them. I feel similarly about Control as I do about Jedi: Fallen Order – both games are far from perfect and feature some rough gameplay and frustrating characteristics. I do feel as though I enjoyed Control a fair amount more so than Jedi: Fallen Order as its unique experience helped to overcome its shortcomings, whereas Jedi: Fallen Order felt more like “a Star Wars game trying to be Dark Souls”. It’s a good Star Wars game that I feel could have been much better if allowed more time for Respawn to refine and polish some of its gameplay elements. It’s very hard not to look at EA and automatically assume this is another example of insisting a Star Wars game be released alongside its theatrical counterpart in Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker.

Have you played Jedi: Fallen Order? If so, what did you think of it? Thanks for reading!

Weekend Gaming Review – February Pickups

It’s show-and-tell time again! I had kind of a short weekend and didn’t get to spend much time playing games, but got some time looking through a few stores and talking about games. I actually ventured outside and stopped by my local used game store to check out the selection as well as the nearby pawn shop for the off chance something interesting had turned up. The pawn shop ended up having a pretty impressive amount of games other than the anticipated abundance of Madden and Call of Duty games. I was able to get a couple pretty good deals and added a few more entries to my ever-growing list of RPGs in my backlog.

Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story – I’ve had my eye on this one for quite a few years, Alpha Dream’s Mario & Luigi games are always easy to pick up and play, but provide enough depth to them for a satisfying RPG experience. The humor and dialogue are also similar to Paper Mario games. I did happen to find a very nice copy of Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door also….then proceeded to talk myself out of buying it.

Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose! – As a kid in the 90’s, I spent plenty of hours sitting watching cartoons. The Steven Spielberg produced cartoons like Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs were very popular, so of course there was a variety of games based on them. I remember always getting the SNES game Buster Busts Loose! confused with the NES game, simply titled Tiny Toon Adventures. I’m curious to try this out…

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor – I recently mentioned Sin & Punishment 2 in my post about underappreciated Wii titles. I had previously owned the game, but ended up parting with it a few years ago when I attempted to downsize my game collection. I started replaying some of my old Wii games a couple months ago and really wanted to play Star Successor again, so I’ve been looking out for a copy of it in decent condition. This copy was in near mint condition when I found it, though it took a little effort to get the sticker residue off once I got it home.

Tetris Attack – I love puzzle games, especially games like Tetris, Dr. Mario, or Tetris Attack. There’s something so simplistic, yet satisfying about them that I find myself completely getting lost in them even after many years of play. I found Tetris Attack at the pawn shop for only $1, making it too hard to pass up. I had never played it on the Game Boy before, but it seemed to play remarkably fluid when I tested it out on my trusty old Game Boy Color. Nice!

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – I’ve been on the lookout for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for the Switch for a while now, with the lowest price I had seen to this point being about $40. While at the local pawn shop looking through the surprising amount of good games available, I noticed a copy of it for a mere $20. A pretty simple decision…

Also, I happened to acquire an Xbox One X over the weekend. I haven’t played too much Xbox since before the One was released and was excited to jump back on Xbox Live and play some Microsoft exclusives like Halo 5, Forza Horizons 4, and Gears 5. After my initial setup I spent a fair amount of the weekend browsing the different games available on Game Pass Ultimate, which is one of Microsoft’s better moves of this current console generation. After adding a few dozen games to my “play later” list, I decided to download the Rare Replay games and try out some R.C. Pro-Am and later a bit of Perfect Dark(this is where I’ll re-state how AWESOME this collection would be on the Switch given Microsoft and Nintendo’s current working relationship). The Xbox One X bundle I received came with the code for the deluxe version of Jedi: Fallen Order, so I do intend to play through that shortly and will more than likely write up a post of my thoughts on the game; it being a game that I had been incredibly anxious to play(Star Wars/Dark Souls/Super Metroid, double-bladed lightsabers!).

Have you made any recent pickups? Have you played Jedi: Fallen Order yet? Let me know. I’m off to go for a little drive in Forza and then jump into some Star Wars. Thanks for reading!