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Old 11-29-2019, 04:53 AM   #1
vallor
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Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Review

Title: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Platform: PS4,Xbox One, PC
Platform Reviewed: PC
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: Electronic Arts
MSRP: $59.99
Writer: Vallor

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Review

Don't Get Cocky!

You may have heard there's a new Star Wars movie coming soon. However, Star Wars hasn't been a terribly happy place after the two most recent movies were poorly received and with the ripple effects of the Battlefront "lootbox-gate" still being felt as legislation is being proposed around the world thanks to that snafu. Now Disney and EA sending another Star Wars branded item into the lions den to see how it fairs. Did Disney and EA do more damage to the franchise or is this a good omen of things to come? Is it worth grabbing on Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

The short answer is: yes!

I really enjoyed playing this game. Fallen Order delivers the Star Wars game we’ve been waiting to see since the golden age of LucasArts. Heck, it may be the best product to sport the Star Wars license in a decade. Fallen Order nails the atmosphere, character, and scope of Star Wars so well that, at times, I got goose bumps.

Fallen Order takes place near where we left off at the end of Episode III and the events which unfold in the Clone Wars TV show. Upon his ascension the Emperor issues “Order 66” which called for the capture or death of all Jedi or Force sensitive beings in the galaxy who do not serve the Dark Side.

You play as Cal Kestis a member of a Scrapper’s Guild and former Padawan currently living on the planet Bracca dismantling ships from the Clone Wars for salvage. When Order 66 was triggered Cal and his master were aboard a capital ship and had to extract themselves to escape pods. Though Cal successfully escaped, his master died holding off enemies while boarding the escape pod. To avoid detection by the Empire and the Sith Inquisitor who hunt the remaining Jedi Cal has been suppressing his Force abilities and training ever since. As events unfold Cal is put in a position where he must use the Force drawing two Sith Inquisitors, the Second and Ninth Sisters, to investigate. Cal is exposed and flees but is eventually cornered. At the last second an unfamiliar spaceship appears and hovers nearby and a woman named Cere Junda offers Cal help. He leaps into the ship avoiding death by one of the Inquisitors named the Second Sister.




Cere heard of the Jedi on Bracca so came to investigate because she has a mission which can only be completed by a Jedi. Even though Cal’s never graduated from Padawan he’s the closest thing she’s been able to find. This seemingly, simple and somewhat trope-y start leads the player on a journey to multiple planets and tells a pretty good Star Wars story.

Fallen Order mixes the mild platforming and puzzle solving one might expect to see in an Uncharted game with the combat of a Batman Arkham game. There are a lot of "sliding" on-rails sequences, very reminiscent of some of the sequences from older "Call of Duty" games. This mechanic is not only used as a mild reflex challenge but it is also an efficient mechanic for moving the character around in some of these quite large worlds.





As one might expect of a flagship title from a AAA studio with Respawn’s pedigree the graphics are dazzling. If you watch the credits, you’ll see legion of artists worked on this game and that effort shows. Textures are crisp, the characters look great, and the world art is top-notch. The animations are natural, lip-sync is nearly perfect, and apart from a few places where the lighting made the textures look overly washed out and dull the lighting is spot on.



The mocap is outstanding and goes a long way to making the characters feel like they move properly in the world. Few things break immersion more than a jerky animation that contorts unnaturally or an animation with too few frames that stutters or pops.

The audio is decent. The instrumental score is good and does well at invoking the tone of Star Wars though the original works pale in comparison to pieces of music incorporated from the John Williams score.

All the familiar Star Wars sounds are there for combat, spaceships, idle chatter by the enemies. The voice acting though is generally just OK. Some of this is due to the script, which isn’t going to win any awards, but also it feels like the performers were mostly just giving “video game” level performances. Serviceable but not amazing. However, I felt Tina Ivlve, Liam McIntyre and Elizabeth Grullon stood above the rest of the cast for delivering on very high quality voice work.



A game relying mostly on melee fighting and a decent level of platforming needs to have responsive controls. Though I was playing on the PC I chose to use a gamepad rather than mouse and keyboard.

Respawn got it right on the controls. The movement felt smooth and combat allowed for strategic play.



The game has great level design to complement the controls. Not only are the set pieces all well-crafted but they capture the distinctive Star Wars vibe.

The detail, the layouts, the world art, the reuse of areas, and amazing amount of verticality helped give the game the illusion of being far larger than the actual geography. Like a Metroid game the player is constantly changing elevations or returning to previously inaccessible locations adding to the playable space without needing to create a ton of extra assets.

Respawn nails the atmosphere of Star Wars. The Empire structures and areas feel like the Empire. Kashyyyk looks and feels like it should. The temples on Dathomir look and feel like Dathomir.



The platforming elements is standard fare but often combined in ways which enhance the feeling of using the Force or Jedi training. Rather than these feeling cliche the spectacular level design makes use of the mechanics to hammer home the Jedi aspect.

I was concerned some of the platforming would require a greater degree of dexterity but with the controls, the animations, and the (usually great) cues built in by the level designers I was able to conquer all the platforming after only a little practice.

Having “shortcuts” unlock – ropes you can drop down cliffs you just scaled, doors and elevators you can unlock, and so on – allows the player to bypass many platforming segments after they’ve beaten the challenge so returning to a location is less onerous.

The combat system does the job and doesn’t get in the way while adding little touches to reinforce the fact the player is a Jedi. There are a few basic attacks, blocking/parrying, jumping, blaster fire deflection/reflection, and two levels of evasion.

Of course, what is a Jedi game without the Force? The main Force powers are used for travel and for combat. It is very satisfying to use Force Push to knock an opponent off a cliff or Force Pull to drag an enemy to you allowing for a melee hit which is enough to kill many normal opponents.

The amount of Force the player has access to in combat is governed by a pool shared with both the Force powers and special lightsaber attacks. This replenishes slowly in combat so protracted battles rely heavily on the various dodges and parry/block and the basic attack.

The game’s save system generates the “Dark Souls” comparisons. At various locations there are spots where the player can “meditate”. Meditating saves the game. If the player dies to an enemy, they lose all the experience they’ve gained since the last time they meditated, and all bad guys respawn (except marquee opponents) while the player is returned to their most recent meditation location.



The player must return to the location of their death, without dying again, and strike the bad guy who performed the death blow to reclaim that lost experience. If the player dies on their way back the experience loss is permanent, and any experience earned during the trip back is given to the new killer.

The level design, thanks to shortcuts and reasonable enemy density, really helps mitigate the pain of death. In all the time I played I lost XP only a few times. Though I never needed it, if the worst happens difficulty level can be adjusted dynamically.

You can also choose to Rest at a meditation point, saving the game and refilling all of Cal’s resources. The downside is resting, like dying, also respawns all enemies (once again, except for marquee opponents).

Skills can only be bought at meditation points. The skills are separated into three categories – Force, Lightsaber, and Survival. The skills either increase the size of the various resource pools, give weapon abilities, or enhance Force powers. Not all skills are unlocked at the start. More unlock as Cal gets back into tune with the Force and remembers more of his training.

Getting skills feels rewarding and it is possible to grind experience to unlock everything ASAP or bank skill points for when the next tier of skills becomes available. I also never got “buyer’s remorse” when I got a skill; they were all good even if I didn’t use some of them often.



The game is outstanding, however there were a few points I found very frustrating.

Probably the biggest obstacle I had was the healing system. There are a few seconds between making the request and the heal activating where the player is completely vulnerable. This includes an animation which, if broken by any evasion movement or enemy attack, interrupts the heal. Due to the way the heals are delivered it is understandable why this design choice was made however, I think it detracts rather than adds to the game.

The lightsaber the player wields is the weakest lightsaber ever. Cal’s lightsaber is resisted by glass, branches, vines, grass, just about every door in the galaxy, well… pretty much anything that isn’t an enemy. The reasoning behind such a thing is sound however I think there might have been different ways to make the lightsaber powerful.

I found all the constant backtracking a little tiresome. While the layouts were inventive sometimes travelling wore thin with how often you had to go back and forth. This was exasperated by the crummy map. I know it’s hard to represent 3d space in a game map, but this map was only barely useful.



Being able to set a way point would have been a great first step. Letting the players draw a line on the map so they didn’t have to reorient each time they opened the map up to see if they were on track would have been even better.

The loot system is woefully lacking. There was no sense of anticipation on what would be in the chest because all the standard chest would contain is a cosmetic. Except for the lightsaber appearance customization options, the cosmetics were uninspired.



The lack of microtransactions was a nice change of pace from an EA published game however, it definitely feels like it limited the level of customization for your character. The player can have a poncho on with a little over a dozen possible textures or they can not have the poncho on and have normal clothes with one of five color schemes which differ ever so slightly from each other.

At one point in the game there is a sequence where you briefly see Cal in the Sith Inquisitor outfit. It was so cool looking I was disappointed to find out the outfit didn’t come up as an option afterward. This underscored the anemic customization options.

Still, most publishers and developers haven't done is find the sweet spot on cost for content so I'd prefer no customization to an abusive microtransaction or loot-box gambling ecosystem.

The collectibles for the data bank seemed scattered around with very little rhyme or reason for their locations. Some of the collectibles told small vignette unrelated to the main quest but intended to add some extra character and dimension to places or things you ran across. However, the player rarely got these story snippets in order, and based on the level design and skill unlocks it would have been impossible for the player to get the story in a linear fashion. Maybe this was on purpose, so the player was presented with a jumbled, chaotic story but to me it didn't make any sense or add to the game.

I would have preferred a system where interacting with a collectible activated a trigger telling the next, linear part of the side story, rather than having the story snippets attached to specific collectibles.

There are some other nitpicks I have with the game but even with these few I didn’t find anything game breaking. And the game was surprisingly stable, I crashed once and got caught in geometry once forcing me to restart but otherwise no awful bugs stood out when running on my mainstream configuration. In a time when console versions seem to get all the QA leaving the PC version buggy as hell this is a pleasant surprise and I hope more companies give the same attention to their PC releases.

I expect a first time player could run just the main story in about 10 hours though they might find themselves a little too weak for the end if they aren't able to unlock some crucial skills. My 100% completion play-through (all collectibles and secrets found, not all achievements) took 35 - 40 hours.

Bottom line:
If you like 3rd person action adventure games or are a Star Wars fan this game is not to be missed. It is worth full price or at least subscribing to EA’s Origin Premier level for a month to play it.

Score: 4.5 out of 5



The Good:
  • Nailed Star Wars atmosphere with look and feel, audio, and even an OK story
  • Very responsive controls for combat and platforming
  • Player is given many opportunities to feel like a Jedi
The Bad:
  • The built in delay on the heal system is frustrating
  • Boring loot system
  • Collectible placement led to the player getting very disjointed stories
The Ugly:
  • The in game map is terrible
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Old 11-29-2019, 02:00 PM   #2
brandonjclark
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Damn fine review, Vallor!

I think I'm going to have to sub to EA's Origin Access Premiere to play this.


I've heard it doesn't have great replayability, so that's probably the route I'll take instead of outright buying it.
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Old 11-29-2019, 08:13 PM   #3
vallor
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Originally Posted by brandonjclark View Post
Damn fine review, Vallor!

I think I'm going to have to sub to EA's Origin Access Premiere to play this.

I've heard it doesn't have great replayability, so that's probably the route I'll take instead of outright buying it.
Thanks!

You are right the game does not have a ton of replayablity so the subscription option is great and gives access to a few other games in the meantime.

When I finished Star Wars I grabbed "A Plague Tale" which I'd been waiting to go on sale somewhere (it is, for $20 on the Steam sale right now) but now I have the chance to play that as well.

And of course there are the staples like Madden or even Anthem if you want to see what it is like before they start their "Anthem 2.0" push to revise the game.
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Old 11-29-2019, 08:47 PM   #4
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Great game. My only complaint is that all of the loot is cosmetic only. I wish there had been unbeatable areas that could only be passed after upgrading your gear and skills.
Played it on 3/4 difficulty, and it was still really easy except for two of the bosses.
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