As a Star Wars story, Jedi Fallen Order is unsurprisingly threadbare, but as a solid action title set within one of cinema’s greatest universes, it’s a pretty solid game.
Five years after The Emperor executed Order 66, former Jedi Palawan Cal Kestis is in hiding. Working as a rigger on the junkyard planet of Bracca, his connection with The Force is disturbed. After a crisis situation causes him to reach out and use the iconic Jedi power to save his friend, Cal’s forced to go on the run from a group of Jedi Inquisitors poised to wipe out the remnants of the Jedi Order.
At least, that’s what we’ve been led to believe. Just like how Halo 5’s Master-Chief-on-the-run tale or Ghost Recon Breakpoint’s intense survival storylines ended up being marketed fallacies, Fallen Order’s narrative is also drastically different from what was proposed. Instead, through a series of events, Cal is tasked with recovering a Holocron that shows the location of force sensitive children to rebuild the Jedi Order.
From this point, we know how the story is going to go. You’re not explicitly being hunted: outside of a couple of encounters with the Ninth and Second Sister Inquisitors, Cal is consistently endangering himself. Whether that’s through fighting alongside Resistance fighter Saw Gerrera on the Empire-infested Kashyyk – complete with bizarrely unsightly Wookies – or pushing through Imperial forces on Zeffo, Cal never wants to stay hidden.
Thankfully, these planets at least offer some interesting combat scenarios for some glorious lightsaber combat… Eventually. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Cal is rusty with his blade: for the first few hours combos are non-existent. Without any force powers or interesting ways to use your laser sword, fighting is a cut-and-dry slap of the X button with successive blocks and parries when the situation arises.
In an attempt to combat this, early planets are presented as exploratory adventures even if the created locales aren’t as interesting as they wish they were. There’s no sense of Star Wars’ thought-out world outside of already established worlds. You can see how people would live on Kashyyk: the planet’s unique look is paired with the signature Wookie treehouses. There’s actual houses there. The desolate planet of Dathomir – once home to the Sith Darth Maul – is constructively designed with culture both past and present.
As the game continues and Cal becomes more attuned with his powers, Jedi: Fallen Orders’ combat becomes less of a to-and-fro and more of a spectacular dance. Switching between Force Push, Force Pull, Force Slow and a combination of various lightsaber abilities feels fantastic. When you first get the ability to Force Push, you’ll struggle to make enemies stumble. By the time you’ve reached the end, you’ll be pushing over crowds of Stormtroopers, Purge Troopers and various extraterrestrial creatures.
Its Dark Souls influences are worn on its sleeves, chest and back; a AAA mainstream tribute to the hardcore franchise is tattooed firmly on its face Maori-style. Souls’ bonfires are replaced with Jedi meditation points; Souls are replaced with XP points that can be regained by hitting the enemy that killed you. Even Dark Souls’ penchant for a rough-around-the-edges camera, technical hiccups and the ability to accidentally walk through scenery is replicated. It’s never truly difficult – this is coming from someone who struggles with Souls – but it offers a decent challenge.
But as Cal increases his powers and combat prowess, Fallen Order’s story and exploration begin to fizzle. You’ll still be able to customise your lightsaber, run around planets and discover optional goodies off the beaten path, but it becomes more focused and linear in comparison to its meagre beginnings.
It never fixes its overarching story issues. While we won’t spoil its message, the background story between Cal’s sidekick Cere and the main villain is not only more interesting but more relevant to the story at hand. With Cere and Cal both going through similar ordeals with their connection to The Force, Cal’s inclusion feels forced for the sake of more sales with a certain crowd of Star Wars fans.
Overall, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a solid Star Wars game. A meandering narrative, weirdly-chosen protagonist, shoddy start and technical issues make it hard to recommend, especially with such technical issues on base Xbox One consoles, but it’s still a fantastic game beneath its issues.