[Review] Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
“Dark Souls meets Uncharted, in space.” If you have any interest in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, you’ve probably already heard someone describe it that way. Though it’s clear that Respawn Entertainment — of TitanFall and Apex Legends fame — took heavy inspiration from those two franchises, my own experience with the game left me feeling that those comparisons are a little… generous.
[TLDR:] While Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is certainly an enjoyable and rewarding adventure set in a beautiful galaxy far, far away, it’s also far too basic, short, and repetitive to warrant the current asking price; if you aren’t a hardcore aspiring Jedi, wait for a sale.
It’s true that Fallen Order borrows some of Dark Souls’ signature mechanics (challenging melee combat, XP loss on death, save points that are few and far between, etc.), but it doesn’t have any of the series’ depth or length, either.
Whereas a big part of Dark Souls is coming up with a build that suits your play style and helps you beat challenging foes more efficiently, Fallen Order has… two lightsaber options. Eventually. No stats, no other melee weapons, no blasters, and no armour. (C’mon, there are giant frogs with lightsaber-resistant skin, but Cal has to stick with a poncho the whole game?)
There are Force powers and combat abilities to unlock, of course, but they’re nothing to write home to Tatooine about. In my opinion — as someone who grew up with games like Jedi Knight, Knights of the Old Republic, and The Force Unleashed — the powers available to Cal are downright basic, almost boring. (All those games are non-canon now, of course, so I suppose you could argue that this is some sort of justifiable return to basics; that still doesn’t make being limited to push, pull, slow, and throw exciting.)
Never mind that having no option to use Dark Side powers is almost unprecedented in Jedi games, you don’t even have convenient powers like Force Speed or a real Force Jump to help you go back and forth across the handful of labyrinthine planets. And believe me, you’ll be doing that a LOT.
It’s these same basic powers that help you resolve most of the game’s puzzles as well, crude little exercises in throwing or pulling things around that feel far less intricate or impressive than anything in Uncharted or Tomb Raider.
Though learning to master the game’s challenging lightsaber combat is very rewarding, once we stop pretending that difficulty is a “feature” (real talk: that’s just tweaking health and damage values, not a brilliant feat of design) it’s hard to deny that Fallen Order is a very spartan game. Virtually every other Star Wars action-adventure game that’s come before it has offered the player more choice over what kind of Jedi they want to be and how they want to play.
Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast — originally published in 2002 and recently rereleased on the Switch and PS4 — took about 14 hours to beat, let the player switch between first person shooter AND third person lightsaber combat, had 8 Force powers (including choke and lightning), and even offered multiplayer modes.
Fallen Order… doesn’t have those things. Instead, you get to run back and forth across a few maze-like planets several times over the span of approximately 21 hours — on the short side by modern standards — while killing more indigenous wildlife than stormtroopers. It may be a bit longer, but otherwise it’s hard to feel like Fallen Order is much of a step forward for Star Wars games, and certainly not the level of agency or the Jedi power fantasy I’d have hoped for after all this time. (Also, for the record, Dark Souls games are about 60 hours long…)
All that said, the game is far from bad.
Rudimentary as it may be, Fallen Order’s gameplay is satisfying to master and the difficulty makes exploring feel appropriately dangerous and exciting. The planets you visit are also beautifully rendered, offering awe-inspiring vistas (which you should capture which the game’s recently-added photo mode), and are full of lore that helps flesh out what happened after the end of the Clone Wars and the fall of the Jedi Order. Particularly satisfying is visiting Dathomir, which fans of the Clone Wars series will remember as Darth Maul’s home planet. Not only is the planet stunning and oozing atmosphere, it’s a pleasing affirmation of the legitimacy of the Clone Wars series in Star Wars canon.
Without giving too much away, the story is enjoyable too, if a bit predictable, and the ending had me on the edge of my seat. The characters are also engaging, a ragtag bunch of misfit underdogs who develop their own camaraderie over the course of the game; unfortunately, though, the most interesting companion joins the crew late in the game and hardly has any opportunity to interact with the others. Still, by the end you have a cast worthy of their own Disney+ series (which totally wouldn’t surprise me).
Anyway, it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve finished Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and the overall impression it left me with is this: it’s an enjoyable Star Wars adventure, but a little too short and a little too simplistic when compared to other games and its own source material. Is it worth playing? Yes, especially if you’re a Star Wars fan, but there’s probably not enough to it to justify paying full price.
The Good, the Bad, and the Hunh?➕ Engaging story and characters
➕ Beautiful graphics and locations
➕ Rewarding combat
➖ Limited set /of Force powers
➖ No meaningful customization
➖ Relatively short and repetitive
❓ “Lightsaber-resistant skin”?
❓ Can’t Force / lightsaber locks or doors
❓ Can learn to use things by touch, doesn’t