The latest Star Wars game, Jedi: Fallen Order, is unlike any other one before it. However, much like the rest, it doesn’t fully touch base with the movies, but tells a story of a single Jedi trying to bring back order in all the chaos.
You play as Cal Kestis, a former Padawan who went into hiding on an Imperial ship after the Jedi Purge, which takes place during the Revenge of the Sith film. Unfortunately, circumstances occur which push Cal to use his Force powers, revealing his location to Sith, thus beginning your journey.
After escaping Bracca with the help of a few friends, Cal comes across a little droid by the name BD‑1. He’s the key to everything in this game, figuratively and sometimes literally. BD‑1 rides on Cal’s back for the entire adventure, and a great relationship is formed while these two travel the planets. However, he does more than just lend an ear and make a few jokes. During combat, BD has a stash of Stims that give Cal health when he asks for it.
Unfortunately, the rest of combat in Jedi: Fallen Order, is not as amazing as BD. There’s nothing particularly rewarding about it, since everything you do is rather limited to your Force bar. All the Force powers and skills you unlock along the way are tied to this bar. Once it depletes, you have to wait for it to recover or put points into skills that gain Force during battles or permanently increase it. Even so, it’s still restricting while in a fight, making for boring combat. You never get a true sense of what’s it’s like to be a powerful Jedi, and isn’t that the point?
Early on, enemies can be a handful, especially in numbers or when they surprise you. Elite Troopers pose the most threat throughout, since their attacks are extremely fast and blocking them is difficult. In games similar to this, precisely timing your blocks gives you an advantage, like dealing damage back to that enemy or staggering them. This isn’t the case here. Timed blocks don’t stagger all enemies and those that do leave a small window for you to attack.
The stamina bar marks how many hits you can block before you take damage. A couple enemies have this same bar, and depleting it makes your next attack deal its full damage. Aside from blocking, Cal is a master at avoiding damage. He can dodge most attacks and the Precision Evade skill is particularly useful for keeping damage to a minimum. Enemy damage isn’t the only kind that can be dealt to you. Missing a jump or getting smacked off a ledge means you’re taking a bit of damage for falling.
In the end, combat isn’t nearly as entertaining as it was in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, which is rather disappointing.
Combat isn’t the only lack luster piece of this game. All the planets you travel to are laid out like a maze. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, if the holomap BD‑1 provides you wasn’t such a waste. The camera when viewing the map is somewhat fixed, so maneuvering it to the area you want to see is a major pain. There’s also several levels, and highlighting areas below level one require you switch to that level (if you’re not already on it). It’s also quite difficult to distinguish different parts of an area without rotating the camera a bunch.
Actually traversing the planets are just as, or more, frustrating than the holomap. There is no fast travel system, and the “shortcuts” they provide you don’t do enough to make travel shorter. Getting back to the Mantis (your ship) can sometimes take 10–15 minutes. Longer if you haven’t unlocked any shortcuts or are a great distance away from it.
That being said, long travel isn’t the only time consuming part of Jed: Fallen Order. There’s also plenty of time spent loading these areas, sometimes under the guise of elevator use or slopes you ride down on. Most of these areas load in, or occasionally have poor textures upon entering.
However, there are some areas that load slower than the initial loading time. There’s an elevator that really stands out in my mind when it comes to this issue and it happens every time. The first time I didn’t notice the area wasn’t loaded, and stepped outside the elevator door only to end up free-falling for nearly 5 minutes. At that point, the game finally registered what happened, forcing me to take damage from a “missed jump” and resetting me back to the top of the platform.
This is far from the only bug. There is a massive amount of frame loss throughout the game, especially on the first planet you encounter, Bogano. It seems the game loads in chunks, even though there is loading time before you drop into a planet. Cramped fighting spaces can end up with bad camera angles, and the camera doesn’t move fast enough to adjust before you take damage. You can’t stand close to any object when opening the holomap, or a portion of it will be covered by that object. There’s a particular slope that, when riding down it, is too short to catch the next slide. I fell so many times in this specific spot, that I had to respawn at the last save after losing all my Stims. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy.
Another rather irritating aspect of Jedi: Fallen Order, is the save system. You can’t just save anywhere (this is a huge pet peeve of mine), forcing you to push forward to the next save, or going back to one you’ve passed already. These save points also count as a place to unlock skills and rest. Resting gives you back any Stims you may have used, but also respawns all enemies on that planet. Choosing the best time to rest can mean less hassle in the long run. If you die before you reach another save point, the enemy that killed you will be holding all your skill points, health and Force. Finding that enemy and dealing any damage to it will grant you your items.
Graphically speaking, the game doesn’t look as appealing as I had hoped. Although, planets do have beautiful architecture, with exquisite statues, engraved murals on the walls, massive tombs and exotic flora. All the markings of a Star Wars environment. However, cutscenes suffer from voices not syncing with character lip movement, which brings you right out of immersion.
I did take off motion blur, film grain and chromatic aberration in the visual settings. Motion blur is never enjoyable, and taking off the others helped somewhat with the frame loss. There’ also a performance setting, which does make the game smoother, but comes with a graphical hit from 4K to 1080p.
Finding collectibles is usually a favorite activity of mine, but in Jedi: Fallen Order, it’s more of a hassle. As mentioned before, traversing these maps is painstaking, so seeking out collectibles is more work than it is fun. Stim canisters and essences are the most important items to look for. Every time you find a Stim box, it permanently increases the amount of Stims BD‑1 can carry. Essences are collected in sets of threes, and when completing a set permanently increases your life or Force bar.
There appears to be plenty of customization, but in reality, it’s pretty limited. BD and the Mantis have their own skins. Cal has a few base outfits and a number of ponchos to choose from and you can customize the handle of your lightsaber. Unfortunately, you only have two options for the color of your saber until way later in the game. It used to be one of my favorite parts of The Force Unleashed, hunting down different colored crystals so I could switch to whatever I wanted.
While Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order isn’t like other Star Wars titles, it does have shining moments. The story can be captivating at times and the scenery definitely brings you to another world. But some of the choices Respawn made mechanic wise, are not so enjoyable. There’s no fast travel system and having to save at specific locations, are major negatives. The most redeeming quality of the game is the wholesome relationship between Cal and BD‑1.