You are also probably the deadliest person in the universe. Though you spend your days cutting crashed Star Destroyers open for parts, within your cloak you hide the true star of Jedi: Fallen Order—a blue lightsaber that you will use to strike down hundreds of stormtroopers across the course of the game.You can feel the influence of those games in Fallen Order, but unlike Respawn’s earlier work, this is a third-person action game deeply reminiscent of FromSoftware’s SoulsBorne games, and perhaps even more akin to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.But the fact that it adopts, and mainstreams, one of the most idiosyncratic and influential schools of game design of the decade—the third-person, exploration-based action of games like Dark Souls— feels radical. Taken as a whole, Jedi: Fallen Order brings a very familiar concept to the world of Star Wars video games: balance.
It cracks to life when you press left on the D-pad. You can combo together light strikes by tapping the square/X button, and activate special attacks with the triangle/Y button. You hold left bumper to block incoming blaster fire and most enemy melee attacks. If you time your left bumper press well, you can parry enemies and send blaster fire hurtling right back at the trooper shooting you.Sheev Palpatine has staged his coup of the Republic and become Emperor, and the Jedi are outlawed and hunted to the brink of extinction. Cal has somehow survived, and the game begins with him in the life in hiding he’s settled into for sometime: working as a scrapper in a shipbreaking yard, tearing down grounded spaceships for parts.Then there are upgrades for BD-1, your adorable droid companion that you unlock at various upgrade stations you encounter throughout the game. These are often powers that help you navigate new areas of a map by unlocking previously impassable doors and so forth.
If you break the posture bar with parries or a flurry of attacks, Cal finishes his foe with a particularly flashy lightsaber strike. Most Stormtroopers are trivial to deal with, as they should be, and meet their fate with a hilarious collection of barks that range from statements of extreme overconfidence to cries of terror. If you rack up Cal’s bodycount, he’s kind of a monster.These are essentially the same as Estus Flasks from Dark Souls. BD-1 carries them and will toss them to you when you heal. The more you carry, the more times you can heal. When you meditate at meditation points, you’ll replenish your Stims.You’re being hunted across the galaxy by a Jedi-hunter called The Second Sister. She commands an elite cadre of troopers who will stand against your lightsaber with energy weapons. Skillful use of the lightsaber will still take them down, but you can also use a variety of force powers to freeze them in place, push them away, or pull them into range of your blade—particularly useful against flying Imperial drones. Of course there are points where you fight an enemy who also has a lightsaber.
Here the game introduces a hint of Dark Souls. If you die you lose any skill points you have earned, but if you make it back and strike the enemy that killed you, you get them all back in a satisfying slow motion explosion.It just feels better to win fair and square, and like Souls games, learning an enemy’s move-set and how to counter, dodge and respond with your own suite of abilities is enough to overcome the odds.These systems are nowhere near as punishing as they are in their source games, but they do successfully convey the power fantasy of being an elite Jedi fighter in a world of blaster fire and blustering stormtroopers. I put the difficulty up for a while, and while the game gets harder, it isn’t a satisfying and cathartic experience like Sekiro and Dark Souls can be.The ability to pull especially annoying enemies toward you from a distance and one-shot them is incredibly gratifying. Force pushing a group of mooks off a ledge is also. Force powers drain your Force meter, so you’ll need to constantly switch between normal attacks and Force powers, since the only way to regain Force is by hitting enemies.
Eventually, his Jedi secret gets out, and he goes on the run from Imperial forces sweeping the galaxy for the last remaining Jedi. As Cal explores the universe and battles his way past various baddies, he also picks up a group of misfit friends and a macguffin that might be the secret to restoring the shattered Jedi Order.Elite troops offer a bit more challenge.The game’s planets are all quite different and some of the maps are much more elaborate and vast than others. But often the levels are very three-dimensional, replete with short-cuts and secret areas to find. In many ways, if you took the platforming and exploration of Tomb Raider and just had FromSoftware design the levels, this is what you’d get.
The Jedi experience is somewhat undermined by some of the contrived puzzles and paths of exploration, though not enough to completely break the experience for me. Each planet is essentially a massive tangled dungeon with a good mix of gorgeous exteriors and atmospheric Imperial bases. As you learn more powers, new routes and shortcuts open up on each level. You’ll go through one section of the map and face certain enemies, but when you get back to the same point later, new enemies will have appeared. One time I fought through a bunch of Stormtroopers and when I came back to the same area the Stormtroopers were being attacked by various monsters.Like Metroid and the games that it inspired, you’ll regularly come across areas that are unreachable, locked off until you acquire the power that effectively functions as a key. You’ll find shortcuts and secrets as you travel through labyrinthine planets, then backtrack through them again with your new powers, more swiftly than before. It’s satisfying.
Here, again, Jedi: Fallen Order smooths over the experience for you. On your map passable doors are marked in green, impassable doors are marked in red, and unexplored areas are marked in yellow. This is another good decision—it’s hard to feel like a cool Jedi if you keep getting completely lost.In this sense, it’s very much in the Metroidvania tradition. You’ll often spot an area you know is reachable, but you won’t be able to reach it until many hours later after you’ve found the proper ability. It’s fun to go back to older areas and have new enemies, new secret paths and so forth.
There are giant alien bugs, asshole alien rams, and alien feral hogs, all put on these force-forsaken planets purely to piss you off. There are also a wide variety of Imperial Stormtroopers, droids, and highly-trained Inquisitors around to test your mettle. It’s here, in combat, where Fallen Order’s biggest surprise lies: The game is modeled after FromSoftware action role-playing games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne.I’m not sure what it would have looked like or played like had they gone with Frostbite, but I’d wager it would look better but play worse. Frostbite games are gorgeous most of the time, but the engine isn’t designed for every scenario, and Unreal gave Respawn more flexibility.