There’s a surprisingly persistent perception out there that there hasn’t been a good Star Wars game in aeons, perhaps since Knights of the Old Republic II.
Never mind that Battlefront II was actually a fun, and extraordinarily high-fidelity team shooter that still attracts thousands of players today, because Jedi: Fallen Order has been greeted with the sort of adulation a prodigal son could hardly expect.
The reality is that this is no divine visitation – Fallen Order is very much solid in many ways, but unpolished in key areas. It’s a game that might have felt top-class eight or nine years ago, but now reads as simply good.
This is a third-person adventure knowingly in the shadow of the Uncharted series, as so many others have been in recent years – although an early level on a speeding train does stretch its debt to the point of counterfeiting. You play as quip-handy Cal Kestis, a young force user and former Jedi Padawan in hiding after the aftermath of Order 66 and the Jedi’s extermination.
Cal is thrown out of anonymity by the intervention of an Imperial Inquisitor, the masked Second Sister – because what good villain doesn’t have a helmet, right? Joined by a small crew of helpers and a droid sidekick that is an unqualified success of character design, BD-1, Cal sets out to thwart said Inquisitor in a straightforward plot while recovering his force abilities and exploring a handful of planetary locations.
Those planets are effectively the game’s levels, a series of sprawling maps that open up as upgrades and techniques are unlocked and discovered. Dotted around them are myriad combat encounters – the game’s two main gameplay elements are exploration and combat presented in patterns.
Combat is where the seams show most clearly in Fallen Order. The system at play has drawn comparisons to Sekiro for its parry and guard system, but lacks any of that game’s precision. Instead control feels fluffy, and a wandering camera conspires to make blocking blaster-fire and projectiles regularly frustrating.
There is also a completely curious decision to make the majority of your enemies throughout the game brutally dispatched alien wildlife – something that seems deliberately at odds with how Jedi interact with fauna in the film universe.
Exploration is more positive in the main, with lush locations uncovered in stages. However, the age-old, Metroid-esque backtracking that Fallen Order leans on as it progresses becomes stale with repetition. With no fast travel and only limited shortcutting the levels eventually become fast-track obstacle courses to objectives, rather than rewarding traversal challenges.
Even in its most trailer-friendly, cinematic moments, lankiness plagues developers Respawn’s efforts. Why frequent slip-and-slide rides with frankly awful controls weren’t ditched is a mystery, while even a theoretically thrilling climactic chase had its dramatic tension ruined by poor telegraphing and twitchiness.
Not everyone can produce story driven third-person adventures to the standards set by Naughty Dog or Santa Monica Studio. But, critically, some developers are doing so. In this context, Jedi: Fallen Order is merely a solid game, with a decent story and relatively good execution.
It’s let down by small frustrations that rear their heads too regularly, but still represents a quality of story-based game that the Star Wars universe has lacked for some years.