Well this is it. The moment many game and star wars fans alike have been waiting for, a story driven FPS with depth and story. Many of us Star Wars gamers have longed for an experience akin to that we experienced being Kyle Katarn in Dark Forces and Jedi Outcast. These were amazing lightsaber swinging romps now cast into the dark of the expanded universe.
Recent Star Wars games have focused on the MMORPG crowd with Star Wars the Old Republic or multiplayer FPS like Battlefront. Both are good in their own way but Star Wars strength lies in its characterisations, they even managed to get that with the starfighter sim X-Wing Alliances, something they now need to replicate.
Jedi Fallen Order had much to live up to, Respawn, EA and Dice got a great deal of flak for the lootbox kerfuffle with Battlefront 2 and needed a solid win to secure the future of Star Wars gaming and for me they have done this.
Fallen Order is a beautiful game. I played it on an X box One and can only dream what it looks like on an X box One S, X or PS4. The worlds you visit which include Kashyyyk and Dathomir are beautifully rendered. The game play is far from your simple hack and slash type. They extol the game as having thoughtful combat and this is true. It is not as punishing as Darksouls or Seikiro but you do need to think about your skills, powers and ability to block. Sometimes it is better to avoid an enemy if you are not fully equipped and watch out for those mobs. Real tension and drama is built up by the fact that even the lowliest grunt can end you if you make a mistake.
You only start to feel that epic killer feeling towards end game when you are finally able to laugh in the face of the stormtroopers facing you. Progression through the game is simple and well levelled. The skill tree is well laid out and not overly complex and you can complete the game without gaining all the skills, I did it without once throwing my lightsaber.
The game is rather linear, there are elements of choice in where you go but it is clear the path intends you to take for story reasons and story is where this games heart lies. We are introduced to Cal Cestus in hiding on a junker planet. He is a former padawan who fell foul of Order 66 and left to fend for himself hiding his true nature for fear of attracting the Inquisitors, of course as soon as we take control of the character this all changes and its no spoiler to say that the Empire very quickly latches on to us.
The game keeps the core characters to a minimum and those used to RPGs with stacks of inter-actable NPCs will be disappointed. This is Cal’s story and much of the game is him alone with his adorable droid BD-1. The story is solid and has a movie quality to it dealing heavily with the themes of loss, guilt and redemption. There are genuine tense oh my god moments throughout the game but never once did the story seem to pander to the usual game tropes… except for a fighting arena… been there and done in that in so many games.
The narrative draws from the prequels and supports the original films as well as linking to Rogue One, Rebels, the comics and The Clone Wars. Star Wars is a vast rich universe and this game draws on these separate threads to weave the drama.
I did not think I would like the character of Cal Cestus, in the trailers I felt he may have had a touch of cockiness and arrogance but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Cal is a broken jedi who in the course of the story learns to come to peace with himself. Although the main thrust of the main mission is something of stunning significance it is really his inner growth that is the main achievement in the game.
The music and voice acting is spot on. The cut scenes made me stop and watch them intently whereas in some games they just feel like filler or exposition pieces these were interesting and drove the story onwards.
Gameplay wise, it was fun. I ran most of the game on normal Jedi Knight setting although as a casual gamer I found the boss fights difficult. I was in this for the story and so had little tolerance for repeatedly dying at their hands and enjoyed it much more once I lowered the difficulty at these points aware that once I am done I can replay it on a harder setting for more of a challenge. The idea of stims and meditation points take away the old Jedi Outcast need to find med packs or shield recharges and the idea you can only skill up at those points meant you had to think about when you set these save points. And her we hit my biggest gripe, the load times. Having just played the innovative Greedfall with its camp load sections it seemed to take ages to load especially after a death. You will die and die a lot. There are places where you are mobbed and places where its not always clear what you need to do and it does become frustrating having to wait so long between attempts.
The puzzles in the game and traversing which mimics much of that in Uncharted is fun and exciting and to stop making planets boring as you skill up you now have the ability to re-explore previously unreachable areas. There are collectibles to … well collect but these are just skins for the ship, droid, yourself and your lightsaber.
Due to the nature of the maps, which are essentially linear for the quest you are on it can become easy to get lost. I took ages to get back to the ship after the completion of one mission despite the use of the holomap!.
Overall Fallen Order has done what it needed to. This was the game Star Wars needed, it was the story it needed. I will enjoy replaying the game and finding all its secrets and I will most definitely be waiting for Fallen Order 2. There is the possibility for a sequel but the story also stands alone for now. Disney also now need to arrange for Respawn to make us a Starfighter sim as good as X-Wing and Tie Fighter.