Fans of the galaxy far, far away have been waiting a long time for the return of the single-player narrative-driven Star Wars game. With Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Respawn attempts to deliver a quality AAA game that doesn’t rely on competitive multiplayer combat to keep players hooked. The result is an ambitious game that takes inspiration from some of the most popular franchises of the current console generation and adds the trademark Star Wars look and feel to the mix to create one of the best games of 2019.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order could easily be a huge mess. A game that takes a beloved IP and tries to make it a mashup of Uncharted, Tomb Raider, Dark Souls, and Breath of the Wild feels like it has no identity of its own while mimicking the mechanics and tropes that work in other games that. Somehow, the Jedi Fallen Order manages to bring everyone out. The game delivers challenging combat (with different difficulties to choose from), puzzles that will leave players scratching their heads, and huge action set pieces inspired by iconic Star Wars locations.
The Respawn Star Wars game puts players in control of a new character, Cal Kestis, who has been in hiding for years after the events of Episode 3. The game begins with Cal revealing his secret Jedi identity to attempt to save a friend’s life. From there, he finds some common partners in crime and forms a mini-Resistance. The story itself will be familiar to Star Wars fans and it has some exciting twists and turns that feel right at home in the franchise. Telling a story when most fans already know what’s happening in the franchise universe in the next few years is a difficult task, but Respawn is really taking this journey with it. While Cal himself may be a bit bland, fans of Star Wars extended universe lore will not regret spending twenty hours or more on this adventure.
Part of what works so well about Jedi Fallen Order is also something important to Force: Balance. During a long campaign, it’s hard to feel like you’ve been doing the same thing for too long. The game has awesome cutscenes, but they only come at key moments in the story. Combat is challenging and rewarding, but not all corridors are filled with enemies. The puzzles are challenging and offer a chance to slow down and use Force powers, but there are often long breaks between them. It all comes together to create a game that makes hours seem like minutes in the best way possible.
While it feels like there’s a ton going on in Jedi Fallen Order, the game also uses simplicity to stay focused and not overwhelm the player or the game’s aesthetic. For example, Cal’s weaponry and powers are very limited compared to what players can use from older Star Wars games. The lightsaber is Cal’s weapon of choice and there is no sidearm blaster or sniper rifle to switch to. Players can craft the lightsaber and all battle-related skill points are used to add new maneuvers, improve Force abilities that offer better openings for lightsaber swings, or increase Cal’s health and prevention skills.
Force abilities follow a similar pattern. Players can use Force push, pull, or freeze; but that’s the extent of the powers that Cal wields (besides the ability to touch certain objects and learn about their past). Those three main powers will improve everything throughout the game, but players won’t be shooting lightning bolts from their hands or anything like that. This focus on a handful of core combat and puzzle-solving abilities allows players to really master Cal’s tools and become stronger throughout the game without a list of extra weapons or power.
The game pits Cal and his little droid buddy, BD-1, against a roster of enemies that range from simple creatures and stormtroopers who get down with a nice lightsaber swing to bosses that will require incredible timing. and patience to defeat. The game’s various difficulty settings ensure that players who just want the story will easily burn through every enemy, but players looking for a challenge will surely find one. Don’t expect the combat to be exactly like the Souls games though, the main thing Jedi Fallen Order borrows from is the emphasis on timing and blocks. Playing on one of the medium or hard difficulty settings will definitely make every enemy feel like a serious threat. Cal is powerful, but he only needs to let his guard down for a minute to be taken down by attacks from a giant monster or a group of powerful Jedi hunters.
Fighting and encountering the enemy is also made more interesting by the game’s Rest mechanic. When players visit designated save locations, they are able to spend skill points and also have the option to rest. Resting restores health, stamina, and Stim packs (what BD-1 uses to heal Cal in battle); but deciding to Rest will also respawn every enemy on the map. This mechanic will not be new for fans of FromSoftware games, but it works very well in this context and gives players a serious problem to consider every time they meditate. There’s a lot of back-tracking through each world’s massive map, so running into the same mini-boss twice is a real concern.
As players travel around the galaxy and unlock additional powers for Cal and repair BD-1’s scomp link, additional paths become available. Doors can be unlocked, walls knocked down, and plenty of reasons to revisit old locations and open crates containing items used for customizing Cal’s lightsaber and outfit, BD paint -1, and Mantis ship appearance. The available planets are gorgeous and it’s very easy to lose time exploring every path available on each of them. We noticed a few times that the game became choppy while in an elevator or when opening a door leading to another new area. The game always recovers fairly quickly and there are no other performance issues.
When the game’s story, setting, puzzles, exploration, and combat come together; they add something really special. This is a must-play Star Wars experience that is likely to be a game of the year contender not only for fans of the franchise, but for anyone who loves a unique and challenging action-adventure title.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Today Technology was provided with a PS4 code for this review.