While Disney’s takeover of the Star Wars franchise has resulted in fantastic new stories across films, comics, books, and television, quality new video games in the galaxy far, far away have been basically non-existent. In the six years since Disney handed the reins of Star Wars video games over to EA, Star Wars games have been mired in controversy and steeped in mediocrity thanks to the utterly lackluster Battlefront and Battlefront 2. That means the bar is set extremely low for Respawn Entertainment’s highly-anticipated Jedi: Fallen Order, which released this past weekend.
Jedi: Fallen Order sounds like everything Star Wars fans have been wanting from a next-generation Star Wars game: a single-player, story-driven, action-adventure game set at the dawn of the Empire that pits a lone Jedi against waves of Imperials. In that regard, the game absolutely delivers and easily surpasses the abnormally low bar that had been established by Battlefront.
After spending 15 hours or so playing the game, however, I still can’t say I am actually satisfied, even if it is leagues above the last two attempts from EA. Basically, if you’re a fan of Dark Souls style games, you’ll likely love Jedi: Fallen Order. If you’re like me and never enjoyed the Souls style of gameplay, well, you’re in for a frustrating experience.
One problem I have with Jedi: Fallen Order is its lack of identity or uniqueness. This game is entirely an amalgamation of other more successful games — the combat, save system, and focus on exploration is clearly inspired by Dark Souls while the platforming is an almost blatant copy of Uncharted. This may seem like a recipe for a fantastic game, but Jedi: Fallen Order merely mimics these mechanics without truly capturing what made them so successful in the games they were initially found in.
The combat is repetitive yet challenging, though not in a rewarding or satisfying way. In the recent God of War, for example, I felt a sincere sense of strategy and surprise in each encounter, whereas in this game it feels like I am endlessly parrying just so I can mash the attack button in the hopes of defeating whoever I might be fighting. A well-timed parry followed by an immediate kill is satisfying, but the satisfaction wears off quickly thanks to a small variety of kill animations and a wonky camera that often obfuscates the player’s vision.
The target locking mechanic also leaves plenty to be desired and often stops working mid-fight, which can cause frustrating, unavoidable deaths when tackling more than two enemies at once. On countless occasions I found myself swinging wildly at nothing as I was pummeled with blaster fire or electrostaffs because my target lock had suddenly stopped working.
Force powers add a nice level of strategy to combat encounters but ultimately don’t make much of a difference as the game progresses. Instead, Force abilities are far more useful for exploration and platforming. I will say, though, that force pushing Stormtroopers off ledges is always a good time and one of the best uses of the power in the whole game.
The game’s combat absolutely shines, however, during one-on-one encounters with Imperial Inquisitors. It’s during these frenetic lightsaber duels that Jedi: Fallen Order is at its best, with fights that feel fluid, stylistic, and graceful while presenting just the right amount of challenge for the player. Though I have not finished the game yet, each lightsaber duel I have had has been an absolute blast and is something I wish had been incorporated into more of the game.
Encounters with Stormtroopers, Scout Troopers, and the new Purge Troopers are frequent and vary in difficulty ranging from laughably easy to throw-your-controller-at-a-wall frustrating. Any encounter of five enemies or fewer tends to strike the perfect balance of challenging yet entertaining, however, any more than five results in a discouraging combat experience that left me more annoyed than satisfied.
It’s also worth mentioning how often you’ll be fighting random monsters (and by monsters, I mean giant rats or Lord of the Rings-esque trolls) instead of stormtroopers, which I actually found to be disappointing. This is a Star Wars game, after all, not The Witcher or Monster Hunter.
Sadly, my frustrations with Jedi: Fallen Order don’t end with the combat, as I also found the level design and pacing of the levels to be exhausting in nearly every way. For starters, the Holomap broadcast by the lovable droid BD-1 is an absolute mess. It is unnecessarily dense and complicated, often causing even more frustration to the player as you try to maneuver the point of view correctly to see where you should be going.
Once you do figure out where you must go, you’ll find the maps are densely populated with enemies — either Imperial Troopers or some generic flavor of space rat, troll, or ram. The encounters often give the player a much-needed break from platforming, however, the difficulty of these encounters and frequent deaths can really set the player’s progress back, sometimes making the player replay 20 minutes worth of platforming just to get back to where they were.
This is caused by the game’s campfire-save system, which was popularized by the Souls series. The sparsity and placement of these save systems are baffling. Sometimes they’re placed relatively close together (around 10 minutes of gameplay) and other times they’re inexplicably far apart (around 20 to 30 minutes of gameplay). When a player is defeated they’re sent back to the last campfire, or meditation locations in this instance, and forced to re-traverse the map and defeat all the enemies that have responded after their death.
Given the challenging nature of the combat and the frequency of death, this causes an abnormal amount of repetition that ultimately robs Jedi: Fallen Order of any sort of pace or satisfaction. On multiple occasions I angrily yanked my headset off and shouted obscenities in my room after dying in the same gameplay loop for the seventh time in 45 minutes. I know that the campfire save system is gaining popularity, but all it does is harm this game and make it feel frustratingly repetitive by forcing players to go through the same platforming sections and combat scenarios over and over and over again.
What’s worse is I rarely felt a sense of grand accomplishment after getting through these frequent troublesome parts. I usually just breathed an exhausted sigh of relief, happy to just get on with a game that seemed to be purposefully testing my patience.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what type of game Jedi: Fallen Order is — it’s Star Wars. And being the Star Wars shill that I am, it means I will play it no matter what, if for the story alone. Unfortunately, not even Jedi: Fallen Order‘s story offers anything noteworthy. It’s more just there as an excuse to take players to new planets to explore.
The story isn’t bad or predictable (looking at you Battlefront 2); it’s simply not very engaging. You’re just sent on errands across the galaxy to look through tombs because a holographic Jedi wants you to. Though there’s a chance for the narrative to really rope me in before I finish the game, I feel as if the story should be more promising after 15 or so hours of gameplay. It might help if the characters were memorable, but Jedi: Fallen Order struggles in that regard too.
Cal Kestis, the game’s protagonist, is as bland as a main character can be. He has little to no personality and his motivations are never properly established. He’s not insufferable or annoying by any means, but he’s not endearing or inspiring either. He is simply there. There’s also Greez, the pilot of Cal’s de facto ship, who has a pesky gambling problem and penchant for ambiguity that does little to arouse any player interest.
Cere Junda, a former Jedi turned freedom fighter, is by far the game’s most interesting character and the only character who’s been given any depth during my first 15 hours of gameplay. Cere cut herself off from the force after failing her padawan, and she struggles to reconcile with her past. She’s the only character with any sort of tangible internal struggle and her relation to both the holographic Jedi leading the crew across the galaxy and the inquisitors make her the most intriguing character in the game by a long shot.
Keeping in the tradition of post-Disney Star Wars, this game’s new droid is loveable in every way. BD-1 is super helpful and absolutely adorable with puppy-like enthusiasm that legitimately helps soothe frustrations during the game’s more infuriating parts.
Aside from Cere Junda and lightsaber duels, Jedi: Fallen Order‘s biggest strength is the immense amount of Star Wars lore to be found throughout Cal’s adventure. While the endless, repetitive exploring can be exhausting, players will pick up an insane amount of reading material in the tombs and caverns they explore, which will cause die-hard Star Wars fans to spend more time reading in the menus than actually playing the game. None of the lore is groundbreaking in terms of Star Wars canon, but it is usually quite interesting nonetheless.
At the end of the day, the only reason I will finish this game is because it is a Star Wars game. I’m not even sure I think it is necessarily a bad game either, I just don’t think it’s a game for me. Plenty of people love Souls style games that feature a heavy emphasis on exploration and unforgiving combat scenarios, and those people will likely love Jedi: Fallen Order. For those like me, who prefer God of War or The Force Unleashed style melee games, Jedi: Fallen Order will prove to be a disappointing and frequently frustrating experience with little reward.
So is Jedi: Fallen Order worth your money? Maybe, just depends on the type of player you are.