In March of 2014 Respawn Entertainment caught my attention for the very first time with the release of Titanfall, a multiplayer centric FPS game that allowed players the freedom of fluid movement coupled with the ability to utilize robotic mech units dubbed as “Titans”. Touted as the Call of Duty “Killer”, Titanfall was doomed to failure being locked onto the Xbox One as their big exclusive for the season. Mechanically and conceptually the game proved to be a critical success. However, its Niche status as a strictly multiplayer only game tied to a single console doomed the title to a swift death. However, Respawn and their publisher EA saw the potential behind Titanfall, and in 2016 released a sequel that aimed to fix the glaring issues of the first, exclusivity and the lack of a campaign. This conscious effort gave birth to what is probably one of the finest FPS experiences of the generation. Titanfall 2’s campaign alone is in my mind the single greatest FPS campaign of all time, and after the credits rolled, I was sure that Respawn could do no wrong. Its been three years since I first experienced Respawn’s raw talent as an FPS developer and while I was always hoping that their next endeavor would be a direct sequel to Titanfall 2. Yet somewhere along the line, after Amy Hennig’s Star Wars project was cancelled and after the critical and public backlash of Star Wars: Battlefront 2, EA decided to hand the reigns of the next single player Star Wars adventure to Respawn. When it was first announced respawn would be working on an original Star Wars, I had envisioned that they would be doing what they do best by crafting a first-person shooter experience that would be highly reminiscent of their past work. However, Respawn had something else in mind, they wanted to let players wield a lightsaber once more, so stepping out of their comfort zone Respawn unleashed Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order upon their very eager fanbase.
Jedi Fallen Order is an interesting blend of gaming’s, its traversal and movement is highly reminiscent of Uncharted, its level design and a lot of the systems at work are almost shamelessly lifted directly out of Dark Souls, with a liberal heap of Metroid Prime exploration and a sprinkle of classic Zelda like dungeon design. When put into plain words it would appear that Respawn took a lazy copy and paste approach, merely cobbling together elements from popular games in order to appeal to the masses. However, its quite clear to me that the developers at respawn have a great passion for gaming as a whole and desired to express that within their own title. Every singular piece that appears to be inspired form another game, comes together to create a quite fantastic and entertaining adventure that blends these elements with a Star Wars aesthetic and feel. Jedi The Fallen Order lets you take control of a Jedi in hiding, Cal, who has closed himself off to the force. So naturally the forefront of the gameplay experience lies within mastering the art of the lightsaber alongside utilizing your control of the force to overcome enemies. Much like the combat found in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the combat relies heavily on taking the defensive position, waiting to strike until you have successfully parried or dodged past the enemies initial strikes, and launching a counter attack. At first the combat feels slightly cumbersome however as I continued to progress throughout the games combat systems grew natural to me in such a way that slicing my way through waves of enemies became as fluid and satisfying as you would expect from a game that puts you in the shoes of a jedi. As you progress through the game you will slowly uncover jedi abilities, some that are tied to the core narrative, such as the ability to force push enemies and objects in the environment, and additional abilities that you unlock through a skill tree that you poor skill points into, generally the active abilities that were unlockable were inconsequential to my playthrough, I never found myself utilizing them at all due to them not being beneficial compared to the narrative tied abilities. However that is honestly just a testament to how fun and intuitive those core force abilities are to use, because while the main star of the combat is quite clearly your trusty lightsaber, as I progressed further in the game I began finding more creative ways to integrate the force powers into common combat scenarios. Dodging enemy attacks often positioned me directly behind my target allowing me the perfect opportunity to slow them down with the force in order to gain a critical hit on them without the threat of deflection, or at times as I would be dueling in close quarters combat while being shot at from a different direction, but thanks to the force push ability I could often dodge the attacks from my close quarters combatant and force push the blaster Stormtrooper off the side of a conveniently placed cliffside. While clearly essential to use in combat, they were equally purely just fun to use, being able to fluidly wield a lightsaber and utilize the force was by far the most fun I have had in a video game in 2019. The fun factor that the games combat contains offsets and brings a balance to the games other mechanics that could possibly become frustrating to some players, mainly in the way the game handles save systems and XP. These systems are very much akin to games like darksouls, where you are given specific places in which you can save and rest, at these places you can also replenish your health packs. Any time you fall in combat you are brought back to one of these places and the enemies are respawned, you also lose all the XP you have gained in between these spawn points however if you manage to land a blow on the enemy who bested you, you gain all that experience back alongside a full health bar. While this could prove frustrating and tedious to certain players, I found this extra challenge incredibly rewarding whenever I successfully managed to reach the next save point with just the slightest sliver of health that I was able to escape with. This system ensures that you not only are careful while fighting but also give you time to fully explore the beautifully crafted planets on display. From Kashykk to Dathomir, each planet is passionately crafted and beautifully realized, I absolutely adored exploring these worlds that I had only ever been able to experience on a screen or from a book. However, despite however fantastic and fun the combat and exploration may be, the experience is sadly marred by its often-despicable technical issues. It was not uncommon for the frame rate to drop to an absolutely sluggish and unplayable speed, not just within its combat scenarios but I would often just be walking around a environment and the game would slow down to a crawl leaving me thrown out of what is otherwise an incredibly immersive experience.
The Story here takes place after the fall of the Jedi order, around 6 years after the events of Revenge Of The Sith, the protagonist Cal is a surviving Jedi who finds himself at odds with the empire and on a journey to discover a ancient Jedi relic. For the sake of spoilers ill leave the exact details absent from this review, however as a lifelong star wars fan, this story takes you to places and puts you in scenarios that Star wars have only dreamt of being able to experience in a Star Wars game. Its main band of characters do take a little getting used to however by the end of the journey the progression they have made together not only on their quest, but in their relationships and character complexities as well. Throughout my 23ish hours with the game, I was constantly engaged not only due to its gameplay but because narratively I was eager to see where we were going, how storylines would be resolved, and what the geniuses at Respawn could possibly have in store for us next. As an individual who has not particularity been too fond of most recent Star Wars media, I was grateful to finally see a story and world crafted by people who truly understand what makes the universe so special. The opening section instantly had me hooked, every bit of it felt unique yet totally in line with what Star Wars should be, a fun adventure that highlights not only combat but self-growth and acceptance.
It will be interesting to see where Respawn takes the inevitable sequel, because despite EA’s comments over the last years, its quite clear by both the critical and fan reception that single player Star Wars games have a place within gaming. This is a game that any Star Wars fans will immediately become obsessed with, it is the one we have been waiting for after years of disappointment and cancelled projects, yet I think that even a non Star Wars fan will be able to easily pick up the game and have a good time with it despite its technical issues. Jedi Fallen Order was very close to being my game of the year, however it falls short of that title merely because of its shortcomings in the technical department, it’s a fantastic core experience that needed a little more time for refinement and polish, however there is no doubt that I would highly recommend this game to just about anyone.