The Force is strong with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The latest instalment set in a galaxy far far away is arguably the best Star Wars game in years. By the end, I felt like a powerful Jedi, which is probably the point of these escapist games.
Set between the film series' third and fourth movies, Fallen Order takes place after the Jedi are deemed as traitors of the Republic and are hunted down by government forces.
The game has the unenviable task of crafting characters that are footnotes in the Star Wars universe. In short, Fallen Order could have suffered from prequel-itis - we know what happens next from the movies - though in its case, the protagonist Cal Kestis is a character created for the game that we know nothing of.
But the Rogue One movie (2016), also set roughly in the same period but after Fallen Order, showed that one can tell an interesting standalone story despite our foreknowledge. At its conclusion, Fallen Order cleverly manages to explain why Cal Kestis, despite his abilities, has never been previously mentioned in Star Wars lore. And it still leaves room for future games involving the same characters.
The gameplay of Fallen Order is a lot more predictable than its story. Developer Respawn Entertainment has liberally borrowed gameplay mechanics from recent games like Tomb Raider, God of War and Dark Souls. While this approach mostly works, Fallen Order often feels like a mashup of all your favourite video games.
This borrowing of game mechanics can be jarring. For instance, resting at a save point respawns the enemies in the area in Fallen Order, which is what happens in Dark Souls. While Dark Souls integrates this game mechanic into its story, Fallen Order simply chooses not to address it, which makes it stand out as an artificial game construct.
But for the most part, Fallen Order feels like an action game with a heavy dose of platforming and puzzle-solving.
Cal Kestis, who has lost most of his Force powers, is relatively weak at the start. As you progress, he gains new powers, which can unlock areas of the game map that were previously inaccessible. In short, there is a good amount of backtracking through previously-explored areas, especially if you want to locate all the hidden secrets in the game. But you can also ignore these secrets as they mostly offer in-game cosmetics like costumes and lightsaber customisations.
At its default difficulty level, the combat in Fallen Order is mildly challenging for veterans of games like those in the Dark Souls series, which clearly influenced Fallen Order. You actually have to dodge or parry the enemy - simply spamming attacks will get you killed quickly. There are a couple of boss fights that require you to learn and anticipate the enemy's moves but they are not overly difficult. The good news is that this difficulty level can be adjusted at any time.
Unfortunately, there is no difficulty gauge for the platforming portions. I found myself getting frustrated with some of the jumping and sliding challenges around the map.
The lack of a way to quickly travel between save points on a map is another downside, as it often means doing the same jumps and slides again when you are returning to your spaceship after exploring a map. To be fair, the game spices things up by throwing in some minor bosses while you are backtracking through the map.
My biggest disappointment is that the game ends too soon. You spend most of the game without Kestis' full complement of Force abilities. And by the time he regains all his powers, the game is practically over. While you could still return to older areas after the game's conclusion, it is not quite the same as exploring a brand-new area.
Overall, Fallen Order does a great job of whetting my appetite for another Star Wars game.
- Interesting story with some thrilling cameos
- Solid and competent game mechanics
- Adjustable difficulty levels
- Gameplay liberally borrows from other games
- Minor performance issues and middling graphics
- Takes too long to unlock all the Jedi powers
Price: From $69.90 (PS4, version tested; Xbox One; PC)
Genre: Action adventure