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There’s so much to cover in an analysis Jedi: Fallen Order, in part because it borrows its gameplay from so many sources. The lightsaber combat is reminiscent of Dark Souls, its map and world are indebted Metroid Prime, its 3D platforming lifted from Titanfall and Apex Legends, and so on. Jedi attempts to mix all those components into one satisfying experience. It largely succeeds at doing so because, as much as there is to criticize, there’s even more to like. But there’s one element the game seemingly forgot to account for: the story.
Read an analysis of the many different facets of Jedi: Fallen Order, how they do (or don’t) mesh together, and why playing through it is simultaneously a frustrating and satisfying experience
Respawn trades the guns from its FPS Titanfall series for Cal’s lightsaber in Fallen Order. The combat leans heavily on titles like Dark Souls and Bloodborne for inspiration. If it has to borrow the sensibilities of other action games, the library of Hidetaka Miyazaki is an excellent choice.
Since Star Wars games are always designed for a wide audience, Jedi isn’t as punishing as the notoriously challenging Souls games. It offers several settings to choose from but does a poor job scaling the difficulties. Based on the reactions I’ve seen, most players (including myself) needed to adjust their settings several times over the course of the game so that it offered a suitable challenge. Until doing so, gamers will find themselves repeating hyper-difficult lightsaber battles ad nauseam. In more precisely designed games, players would be comfortable remaining at a single difficulty level throughout the game, not giving it a second thought.
The game lacks several gameplay mechanics fans have come to expect from AAA action-adventure. One is the lack of any stealth options whatsoever. Players aren’t able to perform silent takedowns on Storm Troopers and other enemies. There isn’t even an option to crouch in order to hide from view. When playing as Cal, you end up in scenarios where the best option is to quietly dispose of enemies one at a time instead of a 1 vs. 10+ brawl, but the game won’t allow you to do so.
Maps and world design
The 3D map Kal can access to find his way around is largely effective, no worse than the average map you’ll find in a third-person action game. The map helpfully color codes areas you’re able to or not able to access based on the abilities you’ve unlocked. But once you’ve accessed an area the special color disappears, which ultimately makes it more difficult to figure your way back to your ship than it was to originally venture out into the world.
At the start of the game, the spaces are relatively contained. Until you unlock more abilities you can only access certain areas on the planet. But your surroundings really open up when you reach Kashyyyk, the Wookie world responsible for some of my favorite moments in my 20+ hour playthrough.
Jedi: Fallen Order is missing something the developers could have added (and still can add!) very easily: a compass. Most action-adventures will let you follow an arrow that tells you if you’re heading in the right direction. In Jedi however, players must resort to opening their map repeatedly to confirm they’re on the right path, which detaches them from the gameplay experience. The game supposedly rewards exploration, but
Most of the technical challenges are related to traversal, which is somewhat surprising given Respawn’s reputation. The developer of Jedi: Fallen Order, is renowned for interesting traversal in its titles. The Titanfall games and Apex Legends following them incorporate extremely satisfying 3D platforming that allows the player to jump, wall-run, and slide to attack and escape from opponents. But those mechanics have led to some of the frustrating glitches, some of which force players to completely start over.
The game was scheduled to drop following the debut of The Mandalorian but ahead of Episode IX. EA had a strong incentive to keep it in that release window, even though even a cursory analysis of Jedi: Fallen Order would have told the publisher that it needed more polish. Sticking to its release date wasn’t a big loss in the scheme of things, even if it undoubtedly led to lower review scores. Many of the technical issues will be fixed with updates. My experience improved even as I was playing through the campaign with the arrival of several patches. I envy anyone picking up the game now. As is increasingly becoming the norm, those who wait to buy a game end up having the best experience with it.
The story, including the characters featured within, is the weakest part of Jedi: Fallen Order Most of the problems stem from the protagonist. Cal Kestis is a completely generic white dude with virtually no discernable character traits beyond his emotional scars from barely surviving the culling of the Jedi. If you asked me to describe him apart from his mission I’d draw a blank, that’s how poorly defined the character was.
Even the most impactful moments in Jedi: Fallen Order, most of which occur towards the end, were compelling despite Cal. Hopefully, the inevitable sequel minimizes Cal’s role and moves the focus to a different Jedi or Jedi-in-training.
The supporting characters are more interesting than Cal, though that’s a low bar to clear. His fellow rebels Cere Junda and Greez Dritus are sympathetic heroes with genuine, heartfelt pathos. I was looking for a little more from them this go around, but I look forward to their appearance in future games.
The clear star of Fallen Order is BD-1, a droid imbued with far more personality than his Jedi companion. It’s still early but I think he’s on par with favorites like R2D2 and BB-8 and leaves C3P0 in the dust. I’d love a smaller-scale title that lets the player control BD-1 and go on adventures without Cal to slow him down.
Even if the story was something special, its impact would be hampered by how video game-y the rest of the experience feels. So much of what happens just feels so… convenient. After falling into a pit there’s always a way out. You can always find something to slide down when you need to make a quick escape. Several action sequences are only possible because of perfectly placed pieces of scrap metal for Cal to jump between. The story and settings exist to serve the gameplay instead of the other way around.
Somehow, despite all the issues listed above, Jedi: Fallen Order does an excellent job immersing you in the world of Star Wars. The sound design captures the magic of the film series, even though John Hughes didn’t write the score. When Cal arrives on Kashyyyk, the game fulfills a Star Wars fantasy you might not even know you have. Wielding a lightsaber is a constant joy, even though you’ll frequently wonder why Kal doesn’t just pick up a blaster as a backup. Rebounding blasts from Stormtroopers with a lightsaber the single most satisfying gameplay mechanic of my 2019.
Despite the abundance of moments that would only occur inside a video game, Fallen Order gives players the sense that they’re in the world of the films. For all its faults hat might ultimately be the single important factor of any Star Wars game no matter how much analysis you put into everything else.
Final analysis: Jedi: Fallen Order is a cocktail of outside inspirations, blended together into a single video game. It doesn’t go down completely smoothly, but thanks to the Star Wars branding it has a kick to it you won’t find anywhere else in gaming.