The Star Wars game we've waited nine years for...
If there's one thing that's absolutely clear by now is that EA probably should never have been given the video game Star Wars license. Since they received this in 2013, all they have made are blatant cash grabs; Battlefront (2015) was a way to grab a quick buck by doing minimal work, Battlefront 2 (2017) was a way to garner all the cash through microtransactions before Disney stepped in, and let's not even go into the two (unfortunately) successful Star Wars mobile games EA currently has on the go. If you include "Project Ragtag" it's just been a complete utter mess. So in steps in Respawn Entertainment, known for the fantastic Titanfall games and the incredible battle royale Apex Legends. There was a lot of scepticism from many on if their latest title, Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order would also be a cheap microtransaction cash crab (from GamerGhost included). However I'm actually pleased to say that the game is nothing of the sort, even if the chance might have been there.
With the Star Wars universe, there are many different time periods and locations a developer could go with their game. While Battlefront 2 told the story after the fall of the Empire, Jedi: Fallen Order begins its story five years after it rose with Order 66. You play as Cal Cestus, a young Jedi who has been in hiding on the planet Bracca working in the scrap yards taking apart ships. When an accident forces him to use his force powers to save his friend Prauf, the Empire senses this and heads to the general vicinity on where this occurred. It's not long before Cal is forced to come out of hiding and go on the run, where he encounters a human former Jedi known as Cere Junda and an alien named Greez Dritus. They convince him to help track down a holocron which contains information on young force wielders, all while trying to fight back the Inquisitors before they find it first. To help them, Cal encounters a small, adorable droid named BD-1 who holds encrypted information on how to find the holocron.
Along the way you'll come across various characters both old and new, though the game does well not to dwell on the larger movie characters, as that would just feel silly if every video game character you play as encounters Luke or Obi-Wan in some capacity. What the game can definitely get away with is small cameos, one of which comes in the form of Saw Gerrera. Unfortunately he doesn't stick around long enough in the game to warrant being important to the story, so he definitely just felt thrown in there just because Respawn could. One person you'll certainly encounter often is the Second Sister, a brutal Inquisitor who, quite honestly, works brilliantly as a villain. Every time Cal encountered her I had this sense of awe and actually felt a little scared of a potential fight with her. This is the problem I have with the current Star Wars universe however, as Respawn does female characters right whilst trying to not push out male characters and make them feel less important, while Disney has recently been doing the complete opposite. Even your companions, Cere and Greez both feel fleshed out enough to find them both interesting and relatable characters. The only real problem I do have with the story is the idea around it though as characters act like the force wielders in the holocron they're trying to find are still children. If this game was set perhaps fifteen years after Order 66, it would not work as well, since those young force wielders would now be adults, or even eighty years from now, probably dead. This meant that the story was totally tailored around that setting alone, which I find just a tad far-fetched.
So how exactly does the game play? Well finally, after waiting nine years since The Force Unleashed 2, Jedi Fallen Order is completely a single player only game, something I'm sure EA are often tossing and turning about at night. When I say completely, I mean it, the game doesn't even require a slither of a connection to get going like EA has tried to require in recent years (talking about you SimCity). You might have heard in previews prior to the games release that it plays as a sort of Dark Souls / Metroid / God of War game. Take out Dark Souls and replace it with Sekiro and you've absolutely hit the nail on the head. While yes, the game features elements of the Souls series including tactical boss fights, healing stims similar to Estus flasks, enemies respawning upon "resting" and potentially losing any experience you've earned upon death, the overall gameplay is more in line with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice released earlier this year, which yes stems off of the Dark Souls series too, but in terms of combat the franchises are vastly different. Your main weapon will be your lightsaber, so granted you'll find yourself in quite a few melee duels, which require you to block, parry and dodge attacks at an extremely quick pace all while keeping an eye on your stamina gauge. You may also have enemies trying to shoot at you while trying to fight those at melee range, so while at times it can become quite cluttered and difficult to manage, eventually you'll start to think more tactically and know which enemies to take out first before taking on the tougher ones.
As you progress through the game, you'll unlock simple, but effective force powers such as force push, force pull and even the ability to slow enemies for a few brief seconds like Kylo Ren can. These powers allow you to unlock areas you previously couldn't before as well as becoming an asset in combat, especially when you've got a good ten enemies trying to attack you all at once. These powers are also needed to help solve puzzles you'll come across in order to get to new areas. These puzzles can be relatively simple or even leave your head scratching; I will admit there was one puzzle I was stuck on for a whole hour, and I felt so dumb because the solution was absolutely simple. Even after BD-1 gave me hints, I just couldn't originally figure it out. Your powers practically encourage exploration, as I found myself heading back to one of the starting planets to try and see what I could find and unlock with my new abilities.
It's not just Cal that can be upgraded, as your droid partner in crime BD-1 can also obtain new abilities that not only help in exploration but in certain elements of combat. For example you'll encounter probe droids throughout the game that become a mild annoyance in combat. You can pull these towards you and BD-1 can hack the droid and have it attack your enemies instead, though I'll admit I barely used this as before BD-1 had a chance to complete the hack, I had usually mowed down my enemies, so sometimes there really wasn't much point; it really depends on the difficulty you play on and how rough the fight becomes, though I was playing the game at the second hardest difficulty. Speaking of, the game comes with four levels of difficulty. If you're a true Souls veteran (let's say you've beaten each game 4 times over) then Jedi Master difficulty is for you. If you enjoy a Souls game but only enough to complete them once, then Jedi Knight difficulty it is. If you however just want to burn through the combat and rush through the story, then of course play at the bottom two difficulties.
As you earn more force powers and progress the story, you earn more abilities you can unlock. You unlock these by using skill points you can earn by fighting enemies as well as finding lore items. These abilities can help you increase your health, how much force you can use as well as stronger potency to your powers, such as being able to push multiple enemies at once or a stronger lightsaber strike. A lot of these abilities do come across as a bit unoriginal in nature, but I'd like to see this as Respawn setting a starting bar to what could be a brilliant branch in the Star Wars franchise.
Cal has a very odd connection to the force in that it allows him to feel echos through touching various items (only when it's needed of course, otherwise he'd feel echos just by merely touching the ground). As you explore the various planets you'll land on, Cal can find objects, which act like collectables, some of which that give the player a tid bit of lore and back story to the environment, and as stated before finding these objects are worth it because they can give you experience to eventually unlock a skill point.
Then there's the other side of the collectables, which can either be shown as "they were totally going to do microtransactions at one point" or just a harmless bit of cosmetic fun. You'll find imperial boxes (some might say "loot boxes") scattered around the environment which can give you one of five things; a new gear colour scheme, a new poncho skin, a new BD-1 skin, a Mantis (your ship) skin or lightsaber customisation options (such as hilts, switches and so forth). I will admit that while some of these skins lacked flair, the completionist in me did find me wanting to find as many of these as possible before the games end. While it was also great to customise and create an absolutely epic lightsaber, you can barely see what your hilt looks like from the position the camera is angled behind Cal, so what really was the point except for a different lightsaber colour? In some more hard to find boxes as well, you'll be able to find extra stims that BD-1 can carry, which are a must to find if you're often getting hit in fights.
I suppose there is also one other aspect of collectables, and that's actually in the enemies you encounter. After defeating the first type of an enemy, BD-1 can scan it and give you information on them, not just in the lore around the enemy but certain tips on how to effectively fight them, which always came in quite useful even if I sometimes couldn't always do what the tip tried telling me to do. You will encounter quite a lot of various enemy types too, ranging from different types of Stormtrooper to rather dangerous fauna on each of the planets. It's actually quite amazing as although some enemies might have similar abilities to another, Respawn have actually done well in making each enemy feel a little bit unique in how they fight you, though I will admit I found it more fun to fight humanoid enemies rather than animals on the planet.
This does mean you'll come across some bosses too, and although in a Souls game if you enter a fight with a optional boss you're often locked in the area, here if you don't fancy the fight you can just get straight on out of there until you're experienced enough to fight them, which I greatly appreciated. However at the same time, there were some bosses that even on Jedi Knight difficulty I found were just a little too easy to mow down early on while others were quite brutal, and even when I did fight them, there wasn't really a reward for doing so apart from a bit of experience, so what was the point? Fortunately in times where story bosses are tough, the game can be quite forgiving in that it doesn't force you to travel too far to get back to it, or perhaps a fight actually had a checkpoint in the middle of it. For example, one fight had me fighting waves of enemies right before a boss; I died at the boss, worried I'd have to fight the waves of enemies again, but fortunately I didn't need to.
Now although I had an absolute blast playing in this universe again, it wasn't without its shortcoming. Although a recent patch has supposedly fixed some of these problems I'm going to mention, I'm going to mention them nonetheless (hey, maybe you don't have internet and can't download these patches, who knows!). I played the game on the PS4 Pro, and even though I was playing on performance mode, I found the game often dipped to a distracting frame rate. Texture pop-ins were quite frequent, and every time I'd turn a corner or even the camera you can see assets loading in for a split second. The load times were also quite bothersome, especially in a game where dying can become quite frequent. It was often also distracting when just before I'd enter a room, I would see characters frozen in their starting positions, and then when I did enter, they'd start moving and talking and, eventually, react to me. For me personally, I probably found myself fighting a little faster than the game could probably keep up, and in my time the game crashed twice because of it.
Finally lets talk about the AI. Now at first I often thought the dumbness of, say, the Stormtroopers was more of a well thought out joke. For example, and I have a video for these examples, a rocket trooper launched a rocket at an enemy at point blank range, killing the enemy and himself. At first I thought "haha, dumb Stormtrooper" and moved on. Then I started to notice this a bit more and it wasn't until enemies literally started to get trapped behind things that I realised this wasn't an intentional joke, but just a bit of laziness on Respawn's part. The AI is admittedly fine around ninety percent of the time, but for the other ten percent they can be a total joke.
Despite its mild shortcomings, Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order is one of the best Star Wars games we have had in recent years. The story is more or less engaging, the characters are noteworthy, the worlds are absolutely gorgeous and a thrill to explore and the lightsaber combat is relatively solid, even if I may have wondered at times why the hell Cal wasn't parrying when I was holding down the button (and I had stamina remaining). If you can forgive the distracting glitches, bugs and long load times, you have a Star Wars game that has set up what future games in the franchise could be... and yet I worry that, like with Titanfall 2, EA are hoping this game fails in order to prove their point. It's kind of damned if you do buy the game, damned if you don't, because either way, EA win.
Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order was paid for by GamerGhost and played on the PlayStation 4 Pro.