Review – Jedi: Fallen Order
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Starring: Cameron Monaghan
Director: Stig Asmussen
Release Date: November 15th 2019
Going back to review Jedi: Fallen Order, brought me back to how I felt when I first finished the game; I remember feeling profoundly confused. Not because of some complex twist or story revelation, but because on paper by all rights, I should have loved every minute of this game. You take the parkour movement and sense of adventure from a game like Uncharted and you give it to a Jedi, who we follow during some of the darkest days in the Star Wars lore and what do you get?
Apparently you get something that doesn’t feel anything like Star Wars.
I have a fair number of problems with this game, so I’m going to go ahead and list them and explain why they bothered me so much during my experience playing through Fallen Order.
First of all, when this game dropped and did pretty well commercially and critically. EA were commended in the games media for having the guts to release a single-player, story based Star Wars game with no online play. When the reviews dropped just before the game’s release and this news was revealed, it got me really hyped as I have never been much for online gaming and much prefer story based games over anything else. Now whilst EA did give us a single-player, offline Star Wars story, they did so in such a sloppy, janky, half-finished fashion.
I lost count of the amount of times that I had to restart my game because of loading errors or game breaking bugs. Almost every time I would enter a new area the characters would initially appear in a T-pose position and remain that way for a good few seconds until I approached them. Onscreen prompts would often fail to appear making the game’s already confusing exploration methods even more unclear. I have not seen this much pop-in in a videogame since the launch version of No Man’s Sky. Almost every area was covered in murky textures upon initially entering them, with some entire structures and areas failing to render. During a few boss fights, the AI character would fail to attack me and would just stand still and no matter how many blows I would land on them, their health bar would not budge until I fully reloaded the level. This sort of thing was present during every one of my play sessions and at a few points the game became almost unplayable due to it’s glaring technical glitches. Also, I got this game as a Christmas gift and played it at the start of 2020, so it had been out for a decent amount of time by then. A game of this calibre, that had been out for months at the time I played it, from a major studio like Respawn and a publisher like EA, not to mention being from a major franchise like Star Wars, – the fact that it is in the current broken state that it’s in is frankly unacceptable.
The next issue I want to highlight and something that really stood out to me when replying Jedi: Fallen Order for review was the story and characters in the game. The game’s protagonist Cal, is an unsympathetic, whiny bitch of a character that got on my nerves every time he opened his mouth. The rest of the crew were also pretty bland, unendearing and lacking in much personality. I grew up loving the Star Wars universe, yet I found myself trying in vain to skip almost every cutscene and really not giving a crap what happens to any one of the characters. The villains were unengaging and the other side characters like Cal’s master and the old dude that left holograms for Cal to find got increasingly annoying every time they appeared. The only character I found engaging throughout the whole game was Sister Merrin.
I always thought Jedi Knights were supposed to be extremely capable, powerful warriors, yet at no point in this game do you ever feel powerful in any significant way. The whole time, you feel on par with the non descript enemies that you are fighting. While I agree that the last major AAA single-player Star Wars game, The Force Unleashed was too easy, at least you felt powerful while playing as that character. The combat never feels as satisfying as it should due to the lack of dismemberment. The decision not to allow the player to chop off limbs makes it feels more like you are hitting enemy shaped piñatas with a big stick, rather than welding a laser sword of pure, raw energy. I also felt that there was a lack of variation in the combos and moves-set and found myself watching the same animations over and again no matter what combination of buttons I was mashing. Every fight in this game is hard and not in a fun,challenging way, but instead in a grinding, irritating way. The ridiculously long loading times also made dying even more frustrating. If you are going to design a game where the player is going to die frequently, you HAVE TO have a snappy respawn system in place à la Super Meat Boy or Hotline Miami. (Especially when your goddamn studio is called RESPAWN, but I digress.) They were clearly going for a more defensive, methodical approach to the combat system, which is fine, but they should have given you a choice between that and a more aggressive, offensive skill tree, meaning that more play styles could be catered to. Another majorly annoying thing was the way that the game justified unlocking new skills for Cal, with him having out-of-the-blue flashbacks at seemingly random points in the story where he would suddenly remember that he could wall-run or double-jump. I hate when games do this, it feels extremely lazy and unjustified within the context of the story that is being presented. Another thing that bothered me gameplay-wise was the checkpoint system. The whole refilling your health = respawning the enemies thing felt really arcady and often broke immersion.
Something else that I hate in games is when the game tries to pretend that it is an open world game rather than a linear experience, which this game does. I don’t understand why you would want to masquerade as an open world game when that mechanic has been so oversaturated for this entire generation. After you play through the game’s intro and get access to the ship, you are given the impression that you can choose what order to visit each planet and progress though the game. However this is not the case. When I was first given the choice to pick a planet, I chose Dathomir as I am a big Darth Maul fan and thought it would be cool to explore his home turf. I got there and was making my way through the clear-as-mud holomap when I got to a section where I could not progress. There was a jump that I just could not make no matter how many times I tried. After eventually getting fed up I had to look up a walkthrough to find out how to progress whereupon I learned that you actually need to go to the other planet first and gain an ability to make this jump. Now even if I did design my game so poorly that I let the player go to the wrong planet on their first travel, I would have at least had the decency to put in a prompt at the un-passable jump to let the player know that they don’t have the skills to progress here yet and to go to the other planet and return here later. It could have been a voiceover from a crew member or even an immersion-breaking piece of text, but something would have been nice to prevent me having to look up a walkthrough to learn this fact. Witnessing this ineptitude in game design from such a major studio was shocking. So yeah, from that point on, – lesson learned, – I just followed the checkpoints to decide what my next planet would be to travel to, but then why even give players the illusion of choice in this? Why not just usher the player automatically to the next planet they need to visit after they return to the ship?
My final and biggest issue with this game is despite it being a Star Wars game, it never really felt like Star Wars. I noticed this during the first third of the game in the some of the character designs. Some of the side characters looked more akin to something from Ratchet & Clank than from the Star Wars universe. Then as I was playing through Kashyyyk and fighting spiders and giant slugs, I’m thinking to myself, I don’t ever remember Luke Skywalker doing this and that dude lived and trained in a swamp for like a year. Then the shark was well and truly jumped. Upon revisiting Dathomir and finally being able to make some progress, a character literally raises bodies from the ground for you to fight. That’s right, they put zombies in a Star Wars game. I thought since Disney had taken control of Star Wars, that they were way stricter than Lucas ever was about what does and doesn’t get into the Star Wars universe, so whoever greenlit this zombie nonsense over at Disney should really get the boot. I can’t quite believe that I’m saying this, but if you want a more authentic and higher quality Star Wars videogame experience, go and play Battlefront 2. Sure it may have had an extremely messy launch and been marred with controversy up until fairly recently, but at least it feels like Star Wars.
There were a sparse few things that I did enjoy. As I mentioned above, Merrin was a fairly engaging and well acted character. The Lightsaber customisation was also pretty neat. I also enjoyed the music and (SPOILERS,) the brief appearance that Darth Vader makes. However the music is only great because it’s the Star Wars score and whilst Vader’s appearance as an unstoppable force was cool here, I personally feel like it was done better in Rogue One.
Overall, upon revisiting Jedi Fallen Order for review, I kind of feel like I played a different game to everyone else. I really wanted to fall in love with this game and I kept waiting for it to win me over, but unfortunately it never did. I think that there is potential here for something better, mostly owed to the interesting time period the game is set in on the Star Wars timeline, so I really hope that they take the few good elements that were present in Fallen Order and improve upon everything else for the sequel.
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