Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was received well by players who praised the game’s true-to-form Star Wars story and its combat, but such a success was far from a guarantee before its release. Expectations were set high for the game due to past successes and shortcomings: developer Respawn Entertainment was coming off a big win with Apex Legends and past works like the Titanfall series while Electronic Arts desperately needed a redeemer in its Star Wars catalog. After a draught of single-player Star Wars games and the lingering effects of poor in-game economies and microtransactions, it wouldn’t be enough to just make a captivating game with a "Star Wars" name slapped on it – it had to be a good Star Wars game above all else.
Respawn met these expectations by capitalizing on some of the core parts of the Star Wars franchise, often serious while sometimes lighthearted and goofy. Take Cal Kestis for example, the Jedi protagonist of Fallen Order who never got to fully complete his training but knows his way around the Force and a lightsaber enough to get by. Fulfilling the fantasy of playing as an acrobatic, one-man-army Jedi was key to Fallen Order’s success, and Respawn nailed its approach with Cal. He’s frustrating, at times, because of his lack of discipline and Jedi knowledge, though that makes him all the more compelling because you know he’s ultimately trying to do the right thing even if he doesn’t know what that thing is. His personal growths as a character are woven neatly into the game’s progression as well. There’d hardly be any challenge or enjoyment in mowing down enemies as a Jedi Master for more than a few minutes, so the point of Cal’s Jedi progression in which we meet him seems like the perfect launch point for a new Jedi protagonist.
Fallen Order’s world – or worlds, since we’re talking about Star Wars – is also crafted in a way that perfectly blends callbacks with mystique. The sheer vastness of the Star Wars universe can be utilized to create web-like immersion or freeing accessibility to newcomers, and we see both of those approaches demonstrated in Fallen Order. Take Bogano for example: it’s a new planet established in Fallen Order with all kinds of weird creatures like boglings, the vicious Oggdo Bogdo, and the revered binog that’s just tantalizingly out of reach. Fallen Order never makes the less invested Star Wars fan feel like they’re missing out on something since it lays its mysteries out for everyone to explore in-game without requiring outside resources, and if you want to know more about your encounters, the in-game codex entries you uncover will tell you everything you need to know.
Things do get a bit melodramatic and hokey at times, but it wouldn’t be a well-rounded Star Wars story unless it had all the expected emotions and themes to create the full package. With BD-1 being the lovable droid companion gives Cal an authentic way to show the player his character’s more subtle elements through offhanded conversations and concern for his partner. Everyone’s got jokes in Fallen Order as well, some of which work well while others don’t land as easily, but they all seem like they come from a place of reverence for banter from characters like Luke, Leia, Han Solo, C-3PO, and Finn. The chemistry between Cal, BD-1, Greez, and Cere is one of the best examples of this and manifests itself through conversations heard in the iconic Star Wars scene of a hodgepodge of characters huddled into the cockpit of a ship while they plan their next moves.
Fallen Order does find itself constrained at times by its placement in the Star Wars timeline since it’s nestled between established and integral moments in the franchise, but that itself is part of what makes it such a true-to-form Star Wars story. Through encounters trivial and significant, like a shuttle filled with scrappers of various species to the Wookiees at war on Kashyyyk, Fallen Order does an excellent job of showing just how small someone and their story can be in the boundless expanse of Star Wars. It’s a contained adventure that doesn’t have a tremendous impact on the events around it, but it doesn’t have to. It’s a Star Wars story through and through and it’s raised the bar for wherever the Star Wars games go next.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is now available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC platforms.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker lands in theaters on December 20th.
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