If the Jedi way is defined by personal growth and straying away from the dark, I’d like to think that going back to videogames I didn’t initially enjoy counts as my grand journey towards becoming enlightened. Dramatic? Sure, but it seems like an apt comparison when talking about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
After previewing Star Wars Jedi: Survivor a while back and then reviewing the full game when it dropped, I decided to revisit 2019’s Fallen Order. EA’s attempts with Star Wars have been rocky at best, and it seemed odd that Respawn (Titanfall 2, Apex Legends) was tackling a third-person, action-adventure game based on the property.
Regardless of my initial thoughts, the game was a success, owing to the public’s yearning for a narrative-driven, single-player Star Wars adventure. In hindsight, however, it makes sense that with someone like Stig Asmussen (God of War) at the helm of something like this would do well.
As for me, however, it’s a game I tried going back to several times without ever managing to get it to click. While I had some issues with it in general, a large part was that it came out during a period when I just wasn’t into Star Wars. The disappointment that was The Rise of Skywalker and my lack of interest in any related TV shows had me feeling completely burned out on the IP, so committing time to a new game along the same lines wasn’t in the cards for me. After enjoying Survivor though, I decided the time might be right for me to revisit its predecessor again and really give it another shot.
After a little over 20 hours on the “Jedi Knight” difficulty mode, I finished the campaign and… quite enjoyed it! It’s definitely a flawed experience, but it felt special to roll credits as someone who couldn’t be bothered to finish it initially.
Looking back on it, my biggest problem was how long it took for things to get going, mostly due to the combat system. Taking clear inspiration from the Souls series, combat is slower and a bit more about managing blocking and stamina, as well as protagonist Cal’s force powers. There’s a similar dance of attacking, blocking, rolling, and the occasional super move to be found From Software’s work, although the entire experience here is far easier.
The biggest issue comes in how sluggish things feel in the early stages, owing to the fact that players don’t have much in the way of powerful force abilities or even unique combos. While it’s fairly easy to mow down the standard Stormtroopers who use blasters, those with electric staves take a bit more work and felt like a genuine challenge — which was fine as a skills test, but things slow down to an annoying degree while dealing with them.
However, a few hours in and a few new abilities later, and the combat improves significantly. Being able to use the force to pull enemies towards me before stabbing them with a lightsaber was a thrill, as was launching them off platforms or even throwing my lightsaber at them to mow them down at distance.
While the combat took a bit of time to heat up, the exploration is incredible from the jump thanks to some awesome level design. Using a Metroidvania template, levels slowly open up as Cal learns new abilities and discovers secrets. I loved roaming different planets, like the Wookie world of Kashyyyk or the snowy wasteland that is Ilum. While not exactly open-world, they are open-ended enough to provide an excuse to roam around while looking for health upgrades, lightsaber parts, and cosmetic options for Cal’s poncho.
While I wasn’t too big on Fallen Order‘s puzzles, they did provide a nice change of pace when they popped up and allowed me to fall in love with the art direction. They usually come in the form of labyrinths that are intricately designed, and while a few really made me wonder what the hell I was doing wrong as I looped back in circles, I still appreciated their inclusion as a way to to break up the combat and keep it from becoming monotonous.
The story was an aspect that I appreciated this time around, too. While some have complained about Cal Kestis as a character, I believed in his struggle and loved the adventure. Like Survivor, it manages to balance a lighthearted adventure with dark undertones. My favorite sequence involved the Order 66. Playing through the Jedi purge as a young Cal was harrowing stuff, taking cues from the best bits of Revenge of the Sith. While there are a few obvious attempts at fanservice in its narrative, Fallen Order still managed to provide a great Star Wars story.
I mentioned last year in my review for Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga that I was attempting to get back into Star Wars. I didn’t really stick with it at the time, with the exception of watching a few behind-the-scenes docs from the Prequel trilogy and a documentary on the making of the original trilogy. As of writing this piece, however, I have re-watched the 2003 Clone Wars animated series, caught myself researching different in-universe eras of the Star Wars timeline, and even made up a massive list of old expanded universe books to dive into. Hell, I even started The Mandalorian, something I never thought I would do.
More than just a solid game that grew on me over time, Fallen Order was one more piece of the puzzle that helped me remember my past appreciation for Star Wars — a thing I used to love so much. Of course, it still carries the baggage of so many flawed endeavors over time, but there’s a joy in rediscovering this galaxy, far, far, away, and ultimately I have Survivor to thank for this newfound appreciation.
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