Published On: Fri, Nov 15th, 2019

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order review: unoriginal, but it doesn’t matter

There’s little about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order that actually feels new. The latest game from Titanfall and Apex Legends studio Respawn, Fallen Order is an action-adventure game that’s something of a mish-mash of its contemporaries, blending elements of Tomb Raider, Breath of the Wild, Uncharted, God of War, and more, before slathering the concoction with a fine layer of Star Wars mythology. The result isn’t groundbreaking, but it will be a relief for long-suffering Star Wars fans. Fallen Order doesn’t have to be great: it’s enough to know that this is a solid Star Wars game that really makes you feel like a Jedi. It even has a cute droid.

Fallen Order takes place after the events of Revenge of the Sith, when all of the Jedi have been purged from the galaxy at the command of Emperor Palpatine. You play as Cal, a Jedi Padawan who managed to escape the Empire and is now living a quiet, solitary life as a scrapper, shut off from the Force. Naturally, it’s not long until he’s forced to abandon that life and is pulled back into the never-ending struggle between the light and dark sides. He joins up with some Resistance members for an ambitious plan: to uncover a hidden list of Force-sensitive children, and ultimately rebuild the Jedi Order.

Of course, given the chronology of the Star Wars timeline, we know that Cal can’t ultimately be successful. But that doesn’t make the quest any less interesting, due in large part to the characters. Cal is sort of a generic lead, but the rest of the cast is excellent, from the terrifying Second Sister who hunts down Jedi Cere, a former Jedi with a questionable past, to BD-1, Cal’s adorable droid companion. Fallen Order is also a dream for lore nerds, with lots of ancient history to delve into if you’re interested. (Much of this is optional, buried in a codex in the main menu.)

Fallen Order

As a game, Fallen Order fits snugly into the action / adventure niche. You’ll spend equal time doing both. The combat, as you’d imagine, is a mixture of lightsaber duels and force powers. Initially, it’s almost dull, as you can do little more than swing your laser sword around. But slowly you’ll unlock new abilities that really open combat up. Abilities like easily blocking blaster bolts and tossing stormtroopers off of cliffs help sell the fantasy that you’re a Jedi. There’s even a good narrative reason why you don’t have these powers from the get go, as Cal is an out-of-practice Padawan re-learning as he goes.

Aside from the powers, what’s nice about the combat is its diversity. You aren’t just doing one thing. There are battles with giant creatures, squads of stormtroopers, and tense, one-on-one fights with skilled warriors. There are also a handful of big, impressive set-pieces that call to mind Uncharted; one of the opening scenes involves escaping a train that’s under attack. And when you take down a towering alien monster, Cal will take it down — and maybe slice a few limbs off — in a canned animation reminiscent of the most recent God of War.

Outside of combat, there’s a large focus on exploration. In Fallen Order you’ll travel to a handful of planets, always in search of the next mysterious artifact or bit of gossip to help you find that list. Each world is structured sort of like a level from Metroid, a series of interconnected areas with lots of locked doors and hidden areas that can only be accessed once you have the requisite skill. You might see a cracked wall, for instance, but you can’t actually knock it down until Cal remembers how to do a Force push. These are areas that you’re meant to go back to multiple times, searching for new paths.

One of the worlds you’ll spend a lot of time on is the homeworld of an extinct species called the Zeffo. Here you’ll find ancient tombs that house all kinds of useful secrets. Exploring these tombs is like a mix of the shrines from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and, well, the tombs from Tomb Raider. They’re bigger than Zelda’s shrines, but they have a similar feel, generally testing your ability to utilize a newly discovered skill with lots of physics-based puzzles.

There are also a handful of of superfluous elements that nevertheless add to the atmosphere. You can collect parts to customize your lightsaber, for instance; this doesn’t change how it works, it just looks cool. You can also collect seeds to grow in a terrarium on your ship, and outfit Cal with a new Jedi shawl or re-do BD-1’s paint job.

Fallen Order

For the most part, Fallen Order fuses these ideas culled from other games into a well-made whole. I wouldn’t call any aspect of the game amazing in its own right, but each element is good enough, and more importantly it all fits together in a way that’s both cohesive and makes sense for a Star Wars game. BD-1 is a great example of this, as it touches on almost every element of the experience. It’s a character with a key place in the story, but it’s also a clever bit of game design; the droid will scan important objects for you, give hints during puzzle sequences, and serve as something of a co-op partner, unlocking doors and hacking into computer terminals. It can even help in battle by overriding enemy droids. My favorite part? There’s a button just for checking in on the little bot to see if it’s doing okay.

There are some visible seams where these different concepts fit together, most notably trial-and-error platforming sequences and frustratingly dark visuals, particularly in the tombs, that can make it easy to miss key points like a rope dangling from the ceiling that’s necessary for escape. I’m also not a fan of the save system, where you can meditate at specific points to save your progress and, if you’re willing to have every enemy respawn, refresh your health as well. It makes what should be a chance to catch your breath into a tough decision.

But given the state of of Star Wars games over the past decade or so, a good-but-not-amazing single-player adventure is something of a miracle. Those issues I mentioned can be frustrating, but they’re also worth putting up with given how much Fallen Order gets right: the intense and open lightsaber combat, the clever puzzles, the intricate level design, a universe just dripping with history and intrigue. This is what I want from a Star Wars game — and Fallen Order gives me just enough to satiate that long-ignored need.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is available November 15th on the Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

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