With the conclusive episode in the “Star Wars” franchise, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” to be released in under a month and the recent premiere of the first Star Wars live action television show, “The Mandalorian,” the newest “Star Wars” single-player video game “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” dropped. The release happened in the middle of the wave of “Star Wars” content on Friday to deliver a fulfilling story filled with memorable characters and top notch action-adventure gameplay.
When Disney bought Lucasfilm Ltd, the “Star Wars” production company, from owner and creator George Lucas in October 2012, it was announced that we were getting more movies and content from the “Galaxy Far, Far Away.” Many, including myself, felt optimistic about the future of the “Star Wars” franchise. However, when the LucasArts division, who was responsible for the development of the franchise’s beloved video games, was dissolved in 2013 and Electronic Arts (EA) was announced as the new publisher of “Star Wars” games, some were skeptical that the video game license’s integrity might be compromised by greed.
Skeptics were proven right. Before the release of the new video game, EA’s two biggest titles with the “Star Wars” franchise: “Star Wars: Battlefront” and its sequel “Star Wars: Battlefront II,” were riddled with controversy due to expensive downloadable content for the former and various pay-to-win microtransactions for the latter. Naturally, when players were promised a single-player experience by game development powerhouse, Respawn Entertainment, the first questions to many were: What’s the catch — Are there expensive downloadable content? Are there any microtransactions? Is there a disconnection from the franchise?
It turns out there was no catch. “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” delivers on its promise of being a fully fleshed out, story-driven experience. The game feels like, from start to end, pure “Star Wars.”
The game follows a former Jedi Padawan, Cal Kestis, who narrowly escaped the Jedi Purge seen in “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” and who has been in hiding from the galactic empire on a remote junk planet in the years afterward. One day, the deadly Jedi-hunting Inquisitors find Kestis when he exposes himself by using the Force to save his friend, and his escape leads to a journey to try to reinstitute the fallen Jedi Order. The key characters are memorable and charming, all displaying unique personalities and character arcs that feel like they belong in the “Star Wars” universe.
Kestis is portrayed via motion capture by actor Cameron Monaghan, who gives a top-notch performance as the protagonist. The game’s plot allows Monaghan to portray multiple key emotional beats that fuels Kestis’s emotional arc, particularly as a witness of the Jedi Purge at a young age. The key supporting cast includes Debra Wilson as former Jedi and Kestis’s mentor Cere Junda; Daniel Roebuck as captain of the Mantis, Greez Dritus; and Elizabeth Grullon as the fallen Jedi and Inquisitor, the Second Sister. Junda and the Second Sister’s relationship, without getting into too many spoilers, gives way to two of the most emotional performances in any “Star Wars” media.
Out of all these characters, the most memorable is the charming droid companion BD-1, whose cute actions and loyal companionship are similar to that of a man’s best friend. BD-1 not only serves as the source of some of the best comedic relief and heartfelt moments, but also holograms the Jedi researcher Eno Cordova, portrayed by Tony Amendola, who provides a lot of the lore that the game has to offer. BD-1 makes you want a real life droid pet; when you realize you can’t have one, you want a new puppy with as much energy and charm as BD-1.
The game bleeds immersion. The realistic graphics make the game look and feel like a cinematic event. All six planets are unique in their own way, each providing a specific atmosphere and scope with creatures that all fit into the world’s environment.
The score adds elements of excitement and wonder to the gameplay and cinematic moments alike; it brings a new but familiar feel reminiscent of John Williams’s classic “Star Wars” compositions. Although the game looks beautiful, even on a high-power gaming laptop, the game still seems to have framerate drops during large-scale moments; fortunately, lowering settings seems to have a small effect on the game’s graphic quality and highly improves the game’s framerate, which is important for the intricate and reactive combat system.
The gameplay is a hybrid of adventure games such as “Uncharted” and “Metroid,” while mixing in the combat elements of series such as “Dark Souls.” Exploration is a key part of the game, all of the planets that can be visited by the Mantis have secrets and areas that can be revisited as Kestis improves his skills throughout the main story. It’s satisfying to find the secrets to grant Kestis a small health or force upgrade, or customization options and tidbits of information inconsequential to the main story. The game gave “Star Wars” nerds such as myself the opportunity to dive deep into the lore of the galaxy I have so many questions about.
The gameplay has four difficulty settings; even playing on the second to lowest setting the game has to offer, its combat system still poses a unique challenge that rewards patience and ingenuity when fighting even the most basic of enemies. The lightsaber, the weapon of the Jedi, forces the gameplay into a close quarters combat system; whether it’s getting up close to ranged enemies or defeating them from afar with deflections, all elements of the combat are fulfilling.
The enemies and especially bosses, although unique in their own way, don’t pose much of a challenge when their attack patterns are recognized and the player is able to adapt. The difficulty of much of the game comes with swarms of enemies whose mix in attacks throw the player for a loop.
Kestis has three elements of energy: his health; force energy, which controls how many abilities he can use; and defense stamina, which will stagger you if you block multiple consecutive attacks. Kestis can receive several upgrades throughout the game through experience points by defeating enemies; each level obtained is put towards a skill tree that grants special upgrades and skills such as special attacks, increased forces skills, health, etc.
You are able to access your skill tree through mediation points that also act as respawn, save and healing centers; these points also respawn any defeated enemies, so progress means not only defeating enemies once, but getting through a whole area without fully replenishing your health and force. Thankfully, BD-1 grants you a limited number of health boosts; these are also replenished at the mediation points.
The game took me around 19 hours to complete, including the time to immerse myself in the world and discover new lore and items by backtracking and exploring different planets multiple times, while also dying a fair number of times. Although the game has a few rare bugs that take the player out of the experience, these are few and far between and expected of any video game.
I recommend “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” to any casual video game fan that enjoys a fulfilling story, as well as a moderate gameplay challenge. However, the target audience is definitely any “Star Wars” fan, to which I strongly recommend this game; it feels like a love letter to the franchise and the LucasArts games of yore.
Correction: Dec. 1, 2019
A previous version of the article listed Melissa Azofeifa as the author because of a WordPress saving error. The article was written by Alek Lewis.