After the controversial Battlefront series, Fallen Order returns to the classic Star Wars adventures of old. But does it bring anything new to the galaxy?
Its almost 10 years since the release of the last single-player Star Wars game, Force Unleashed II, which feels a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away from EAs controversial Battlefront series. While those games offered some exhilarating moments of first-person blasting action, Star Wars fans have been longing for another epic adventure, something with the role-playing complexity of Knights of the Old Republic or the Force powers of Unleashed. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order promises to meet at least some of these criteria.
Developed by Respawn Entertainment the team behind sci-fi shooter series Titanfall and battle royale hit Apex Legends Fallen Order introduces Cal Kestis, a Jedi padawan and one of the last of his kind. The game follows on from Revenge of the Sith, with the Jedi Order in ruin after being destroyed from within by Darth Vader. Cal had been forced into hiding when the Empire announces Order 66, demanding the extermination of all Jedi. Now its time to fight back.
At the start of the game, however, Cal has been in hiding so long he has become completely disconnected from the Force and is unable to use his Jedi powers, a setup that echoes the story of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: A New Hope. Its not about being a Jedi, its about becoming one. Throughout the game, the player earns XP via combat and mission objectives, while an RPG-style skill tree helps emphasise the sense of progression as Cal rediscovers his Jedi powers and unlock new ones such as Dash Strike, a lightsaber lunge thats perfect for closing gaps during combat.
At a recent press event in Los Angeles, journalists were given hands-on time with near-complete game code. Judging by this, the combat in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order feels natural and intuitive, allowing players to combine Force powers with brutally elegant lightsaber strikes. Focusing on just two actions attack and block its a simple system that soon gives access to a flurry of lightsaber moves, like the intuitive melee combat in a Batman Arkham title. With good timing, parries turn into counter attacks. You can even deflect blaster bolts directly back to the stormtrooper who fired them.
The addition of Force powers allows for some pleasing combos. Using Force Push to deflect an incoming rocket as you rush lightsaber-first into a group of stormtroopers is exciting, but combat is often far more measured and grounded, especially when it comes to lightsaber duels. These structured boss fights have a cinematic feel, with cut scenes punctuating longer, drawn out fights. Lightsaber duels are an iconic part of Star Wars and here they dont feel like easy wins. Battling the Ninth Sister (a member of Darth Vaders Inquisitorius) is a fight for survival, and learning to anticipate and counter her moves is key. Its clear Respawn wants players to get a true sense of accomplishment from taking down formidable foes, and has perhaps been looking toward Dark Souls for this sense of tactical challenge.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order also introduces a new Force ability, Force Slow: a bullet-time system that allows Cal to manipulate enemies and objects in extended time. We saw something similar in The Force Awakens, where Kylo Ren slows a blaster bolt in midair. But here it creates interesting new gameplay dynamics, locking down enemies for a few seconds and giving you time to thin out waves of stormtroopers before taking on their commander.
According to Respawn CEO Vince Zampella, the addition of a fresh Jedi ability required some negotiation. We worked with the story group to hone whats acceptable and whats not, and to figure out how to play within the rules of the Star Wars universe, he says. There was back and forth on how that should work and how much is okay. Everyone thinks through all the implications of what anything new could be. Its a gigantic universe and were playing in a small piece of it. They have to worry about what implications it has for everything.
As your powers grow, so do your Force Slow options: an upgrade unlocked via the skill tree allows you to target entire groups of enemies at the same time, accentuating the crowd control possibilities.
Learning the classic Force Push ability, which shoves enemies around the landscape, allows for some interesting combos, too. A Force Slowed stormtrooper can be used as a barrier, which you can then hurl at other enemies with a quick Force Push. Force Slow can also help with some of the trickier platforming aspects, and its essential to progress past certain quick-moving obstacles. Its here, however, that the ability starts to feel a little stale: stopping a fan so that you can move between its blades is a tiresomely familiar mechanic.
Interestingly, Fallen Order adds Tomb Raider-style puzzles, with a Star Wars twist. Throughout the game, there are environmental enigmas to solve, often blocking progression by way of a closed-off route. At times, it feels like Lara Croft with a lightsaber, but the addition of Force powers creates some unique challenges you wont find in the Tomb Raider universe. Right now, progression can feel a little frustrating the HUD is minimal, and its often not obvious where you have to go, especially when certain puzzles involve doubling back on yourself multiple times. The lack of a waypoint means youll have to pay extra attention to your map.