Developed By: Respawn Entertainment
Published By: Electronic Arts
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
The Star Wars franchise has had its fair share of ups and downs in recent years. From video games to the silver screen, it almost seems like the iconic series is starting to lose its shine but as most of us know a franchise as big as Star Wars would not just disappear just like that. Especially when it comes to the games many have wished that there would be a new Star Wars game that is focused solely on story and role-playing elements. Not to say that we haven’t had any Star Wars games lately with the last one being Battlefront II but even though it had a decent albeit short story, it’s primary focus was still on multiplayer and the game had its share of controversy and was ultimately met with a mixed reception. The last true single player-focused game fans got was the Force Unleashed series and that feels like ages ago as it was during the PS3 era. In a stunning announcement last year, fans were delighted to know that the talented folks from Respawn Entertainment took up the mantle to give what fans have been clamouring for and it would not be long before they were able to experience Star Wars: The Fallen Order.
A New Padawan
Fallen Order begins five years after Anakin becomes the iconic dark lord known as Darth Vader. The game puts you in the shoes of a young padawan named Cal Kestis who is in hiding as a scavenger on the planet Bracca due to what is now one of the most pivotal moments in Star Wars history, the execution of Order 66. However, Bracca is under the Empire’s control and due to an accident that Cal was forced to use his Jedi powers to save the life of his close friend. The Empire is alerted almost immediately and it’s not long before Cal has to make his escape but comes in contact with two other characters which serve as your closest companions throughout the game – Cere, a former Jedi and Greez, the pilot for the ship Mantis as well as BD-1 or BD, your companion droid whom will be travelling with you, providing some light-hearted conversations and assisting you throughout your journey.
What makes Fallen Order interesting comparative to past Star Wars game is that the story is actually canon to the Skywalker timeline. While the game does not in any way involve any of the famous characters fans have come to know of, it does highlight more on the events of Order 66, which is the only connection it has that makes the story canon. The game does reflect a number of things on the path the Jedi walk through the eyes of our hero Cal but shows that the path itself is a long journey.
Cal Kestis is like any Jedi Knight we have come to know when they are still Padawans. However, Cal is characterized as someone that is being enveloped by fear, uncertainty and doubt. The developers do portray him well from the manner he speaks to how he holds himself in a fight especially with a fighting stance that shows his inexperience as well as his rather odd running animation. From the start, you will immediately pick up that this guy is just not Jedi material or even remotely cool in any sense. Nonetheless, this was probably the intention of the developers to put you in the role of someone that still needs some character building. Over the course of the game, you start to see him regaining his self-confidence and being clearer in his path as a Jedi through the trials and tribulations he faces throughout the game.
When Star Wars: Fallen Order was first unveiled many were thinking it will play like a Dark Souls game due to similar mechanics like medication points at which you can heal up, restore health stims as well as respawning enemies when you do. However, the more the game was revealed it showed that the Dark Souls influence seems to stop there as the game actually still plays out like any Action RPG. Even at the toughest difficulty, it still isn’t as hair-tearing, controller throwing and rage-inducing as any Dark Souls game. The game is still relatively easy and the difference in difficulty only affects the level of aggression in enemies, damage received as well as the timing in parrying.
The flow of combat in this game is quite smooth and rather free flow. Although there are times, the movement such as switching one target to another can get pretty awkward and deflecting shots from blind spots can result in small hilarious animation moments. There are two buttons for attacking as you can use light or medium attacks. I must say though that the combat may feel light – sometimes a little too light. You can also dodge, jump as well as force pull and push to tackle any combat situations as you see fit. Cal’s repertoire of Jedi skills can be unlocked by using points you gain when you fill-up the experience meter by completing objectives and killing enemies. Remember the meditation points mentioned earlier? This is where you will be investing those points into 3 different categories – Force, Lightsaber and Survival. Force skills represent the skills that require the usage of the force bar such as Push, Pull and Slow. Lightsaber, is where you will gain some new skills such as my personal favourite, the Lightsaber throw. Survival on the other hand focuses more on Cal’s health, deflection agility, evasion properties and blocking strength.
The list of skills can look rather overwhelming but thankfully the game does not throw everything at you at once as these skills go by tier levels and you can only unlock them as you gradually progress in the game. If you are an OCD type of player, rest assured, there is no max limit to how many points you gain, you can gain all skills eventually however the rate or the experience gain starts to go very slow as you gain more skills so that means you can’t actually ‘farm’ enemies. So, choose your skills wisely especially at the early stages of the game.
Apart from the gameplay aspect, I am rather satisfied with the sound quality of the game especially the sound as I whip out the Lightsaber. It has always been addictive to hear for me ever since I was a kid watching the earlier Star Wars movies. The sound effects of them Lightsabers especially when it hits an enemy or an object just feels so satisfying.
The ambience in each planet you visit is very uniquely done that you don’t ever feel anything was recycled or reused. Every planet has its own characteristics in its audio representation. All the sounds that made Star Wars iconic are all in here and some even sound better than before such as those laser shots fired by the Stormtroopers.
The soundtrack is also well done and has all the flairs and unique instrumentation that many of us have come to expect from Star Wars. Gordy Haab whom has composed for Halo Wars 2 and Stephen Barton which lent his expertise to Apex Legends have really done an amazing job here.
Coming into voices of the characters, they seem rather good if not above average at best. Cere to me probably showed the most emotion and felt very natural out of the whole bunch. Debra Wilson really did a wonderful job in portraying Cere.
The (Graphic) Force is Not With This One
While so far I sing praises for Fallen Order, it is a little unfortunate that I can’t continue it all the way as the visual aspect of the game is a little lacking. The game isn’t actually bad looking as it still does look a lot better than many other games. Nonetheless, I still find certain textures looking very muddy and character models looking dull. While Respawn were likely not aiming for the hyper realistic-looking characters like in Uncharted it still felt like it could have been done much better. The worst looking ones are the wookies which look like their fur texture just got exported out from a PS2 game. While it is understandable that realistic flowing hair isn’t part of the plan (even though Cal and Greez have it) and to contribute a stable performance (even though performance on Kashyyyk isn’t always the best) I still felt that with Unreal Engine 4 it could’ve been done better.
The planets on the other hands, do look amazing at certain angles especially on Bogano with its brightness and lighting. Another planet called Zeffo has a rather beautiful looking landscape in the background. However not all planets look amazing like Dathomir which is a planet that is drenched light blood-red and is akin to a desert looking area. While the planet it is not meant to look beautiful as based on the characteristics (and lore), its a placed that is filled with death and desolate but yet I felt the representation does not fit well as it looks rather tame for a place that even Greez is so afraid to step out to. While this may well be a matter of preference but I can’t help to think that the planet lacks something to represent a place that not many would want to land.
What I Liked
Star Wars: Fallen Order has been rather positive in my book. I really like how the game puts the combat into simple and understandable mechanics without being overwhelming to players. The feel of handling Cal in combat while at times can feel awkward but still provides a sense of fun. He may not be the coolest looking Jedi around but how each animation for his attacks connects and flows is just an experience in itself that any Jedi (or non-Jedi) fans would come to appreciate.
The challenge in combat especially on the higher difficulties is rather acceptable while the easiest one can be too easy nonetheless this still comes down to what kind of player you are. The skill ceiling in this game isn’t high nor requires you to be skillful as well. The game just wants you to really enjoy the experience.
Furthermore, while this game isn’t actually a full-blown open world, but each map is done well with sections which you can explore. It can get really confusing when you bring up the map but you will eventually find appreciation in how each planet is designed. There are no way-points other than consulting the map through BD. What this means is the game encourages you to explore as much as you can. No paths on each planet are straightforward as there are plenty of shortcuts which you can open up as you explore further and there are many sections on each planet holding chests containing customization options for Cal, BD, the ship Mantis as well as your lightsaber. In addition, you will come across unique named enemies that serve as additional sub-bosses for you to fight as an extra challenge and to gain experience points.
What I Didn’t Like
The game can be considered good but I can’t help but feel it has not reached its fullest potential. For instance, Cal actually can gain additional stances besides wielding his lightsaber in one hand. However, many of the skills that are available to unlock doesn’t expand much as there are only a few moves to utilize. Considering each Jedi has their unique fighting styles and stance, it is a little disappointing that this was not explored further.
The game also features a Customization tab in the menu where you can change the looks and appearance for Cal, BD and the Mantis. You can also change the appearance of the lightsaber from the colour of the crystal, to the Emitter, Switch and the Sleeve. It has its novelty but felt like an odd addition that serves little purpose. While it is cool to look at what kind of customization you can do to shape how you want Cal, his lightsaber, BD and the Mantis to look, but most of the time you won’t notice much because you will be more absorbed into the combat and the story. It just ends up feeling like they put way too much effort and resources into that when it could have been something else better..
Another little peeve I would like to point out is Cal himself. While he isn’t exactly a terrible character but he can feel boring. As you progress further, he doesn’t exactly feel that he is growing as a character. Sure, he may say some things like he has either finally moved on or he has seen things through but his voice, his character even at the last moments of the game, just doesn’t convince. He sounds as stoic as he was at the beginning of the game. It really does feel wasted as the game takes a clever approach in showing how Order 66 affects the survivors of it and even tried to tell a story about that trauma but doesn’t really fully commit to it. It would have come out much better if the game showed much better and clearer how he was incomplete as a Jedi and to make it worse traumatized by the events of Order 66 but eventually found the path.
There is a good chance his character building is made this way in order to make space to show much better growth in future sequels – if there is on. However, it is hard to find the progress Cal supposedly made on his journey convincing.
Compared to recent Star Wars games, Star Wars: Fallen Order really is a much better Star Wars game. However putting it beside other notable AAA titles, then you can really start to see the bad spots in this game. Nonetheless, we all have been hungry for a Star Wars game and by all means, Respawn Entertainment has done a tremendous job in delivering a wonderful experience to any Star Wars fan out there. What’s left is just the official word that they finally are going to expand this into a series as there is so much untapped ‘Force’ in this one.