Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order - Spoiler Free Review
I feel like I owe Fallen Order an apology.
I was hard on the thing before I even got a chance to play it. It looks bland and shallow, I said. Cal seems about as generic as they come, I said. I took one look at the story pitch and said "Why in the blue blazes do we keep telling the Jedi who survived the purge and is in hiding story?"
I wasn't alone in my skepticism, but it hardly seemed fair to approach the finished project with an axe to grind. So there I sat on Friday night, ready to give EA's latest Star Wars game a shot with an open mind. And, for what it's worth, I'm glad I did.
Jedi: Fallen Order puts players in the role of Cal Kestis, a Padawan who survived Order 66 and has been lying low for the past five years as a shipyard scrapper. After a particularly harrowing day on the job, Cal finds himself thrust back into the fray as he is hunted down by the Empire and, in particular, two powerful Inquisitors.
The game's opening didn't do much to assuage my fears about the overall direction of the story, but I pressed on, lightsaber in hand and found myself enjoying the act of cutting down Stormtroopers and climbing all over the place. Blocking blaster bolts and slicing through armor feels as good as you would hope from a Star Wars game. A well-timed block will send blaster fire right back where it came from or help break through the defense of a baton-wielding trooper, similar to the poise system found in Sekiro.
Combat generally feels solid, helped in large part by the excellent sound design. The game will regularly mix up the type of enemies it sends at you, ranging from melee and ranged troops to dangerous animal species. While Fallen Order is not as difficult as something like Sekiro or Dark Souls, it is still very possible to become overwhelmed as the game will sometimes resort to throwing a large number of enemies at you at once.
When Cal's not fighting, he'll be busy channeling his inner Lara Croft or Nathan Drake by climbing around obstacles and generally finding the most roundabout way possible to get from point A to point B. I felt encouraged to explore off the beaten path because I was often rewarded with another cosmetic item for Cal. I was able to change up his look and the look of his lightsaber and I was always excited when I found a new chest because it usually meant more options to make Cal feel a little bit more my own.
While these mechanics are all fun, they're held back by a lack of consistency. Wall running, for example, is fun, when it works. Often times, I found Cal not quite wanting to go where I was pushing the the control stick and, unfortunately, this seeming lack of polish permeates throughout the experience.
The game sometimes struggles to keep a consistent frame-rate and I even found myself desperately fighting off a group of enemies coming at me in a t-pose as they menacingly floated over the floor with no animation until after they had started hitting me. It's frustrating to see a game with this big of a budget struggle with such basic graphical hiccups. Textures regularly don't load fully for several seconds, and in general, it feels like the game needed an extra round of polish and bug fixes.
If we're being honest, it also could've used a few more passes over the script. If I had to pin down the largest thing holding the game back from being something truly special, it would be Cal himself. I honestly struggle to describe Cal as a character. I would just say "he's generic and bland" and call it a day, but there's a lot that could've been done with Cal and his history. The story attempts, and arguably pulls off, some really impressive moments, but the emotional impact isn't as strong as it could be because I found myself not caring about Cal's part in it.
If you haven't picked up Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, I would still recommend it. It's certainly not the best Star Wars game ever made, but it has a solid foundation that delivers a fun, if safe experience. It's a step in the right direction for EA and I hope the success of Fallen Order means more singe-player focused content set in the galaxy far, far away.