Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order | game review
Let the Force flow through you.
Game summary: On a quest to rebuild the Jedi Order, you must pick up the pieces of your shattered past to complete your training, develop new powerful Force abilities and master the art of the iconic lightsaber - all while staying one step ahead of the Empire and its deadly Inquisitors. (Xbox.com)
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a very, very good game for the most part, but has a number of obvious flaws that means it feels like a good first attempt at a new Star Wars story rather than being an qualified success from the start. The individual issues aren't even that big in themselves, it's just that there's so many of them, they're persistent across the game, and they often flare up alongside each other to cause immense frustration.
From a technical standpoint, there are some graphics issues, with textures and objects sometimes taking a while to load and the frame rate being very inconsistent - especially on the Wookiee world of Kashyyyk - which can lead to stuttering gameplay making the platforming and combat parts more difficult than they should be and even leaving the audio out of sync too.
Then there are some issues with objects very obviously clipping through each other, flickering shadows and some flat out ugly characters - again, the Wookiees really suffer here - that combine to really undercut some of the fantastic lighting and animation that make Fallen Order shine when everything's running smoothly. Hopefully these issues can be ironed out of the coming sequel, which would be a significant improvement right off the bat.
There's also the issue of 'timing', such as when blocking, parrying or dodging attacks, which might be related to the technical issues above but occurs in areas that are running perfectly smoothly. There is a slight feeling of delayed response when controlling Cal (Cameron Monaghan) most of the time, which can be very frustrating at times when trying to time your movements and feeling like you have to fight the game to do what you want.
Everything mentioned so far has been a technical issue which can be ironed out with enough time to polish things to a higher level than with this first game, but there are also a couple of design issues which were a little frustrating too, mainly revolving around level structure and how often you have to visit the same places over and over again.
Fallen Order is pretty lax in how you tackle each planet you have to visit and you can ignore the story missions to go off and explore them at your leisure, but I'd advise against it because you'll end up visiting most of the planets multiple times anyway. I'd understand having one primary location that is vital to the story that you have to visit multiple times, but having to leave a location only to return later does sometimes feel like padding out the game length rather than something narratively meaningful.
It doesn't help that the areas of the planets you visit are very 'video-gamey' in design, seemingly designed by the people living and working there to be something played through rather than actual locations that serve any kind of purpose for said people. Going through the first time can be enjoyable as you figure out how to proceed, but going back the way you came and multiple visits to the same places take the shine off pretty quickly - especially with no fast travel in-level to skip areas you've already been through before.
Aside from all of those issues, which are more frustrations/irritations than anything genuinely bad or wrong with Fallen Order, I enjoyed my time with the game. The story actually felt shorter than I thought it would be - possibly because I was expecting to have to visit all the planets yet again - and I think something of similar quality in the second game with a greater variety of environments would be great.
Set during the rule of the Empire, it's a typical Star Wars story of a ragtag group trying to accomplish something of galactic importance without being murdered by Storm Troopers, bounty hunters, highly aggressive wild/plant life or Sith Inquisitors hunting you down. It's a lot of fun dealing with all these enemies, especially as you gain more Force abilities for Cal and more experience as the player.
I actually watched a playthrough of Fallen Order after I finished the game and it was interesting to see just how differently they played as Cal - focusing almost entirely on lightsaber combat - while I took full advantage of the Force to fling enemies around, drag them to me or launch them off platforms and both approaches proving strong, valid choices.
That's some pretty excellent game design in itself and I would fully encourage experimenting with you control Cal and the abilities you unlock as you progress, as it should prove possible to mould him into a character that mirrors your playstyle if you try. A slight concern I have for the sequel is how they're going to start him off next time - assuming he remains the main character - because it could be frustrating to be forced into a style of play you don't enjoy.
And I do like Cal Kestis himself as a character, with Monaghan putting in a great performance as the young Jedi who has what feels like a very natural arc progressing from desperate, inexperienced novice to a full Jedi Knight confident of facing (almost) anything the Empire can throw at him. His relationship with BD1, a small droid who helps unlock new areas with upgrades of its own, is also fun and gives Cal a reason to think out loud without it coming across as him being weird.
Debra Wilson as Cere Junde and Daniel Roebuck as Greez Dritus round out the initial crew you travel with on the Mantis (a weirdly-designed ship for them to get from planet to planet), both giving very good supporting performances as well, but the majority of the supporting cast - especially Tina Ivlev as Nightsister Merrin and Elizabeth Grullon as Cal's primary opponent, Trilla Suduri - are pretty damn good too.
There is a lot to enjoy about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, but the sheer number of issues and how often they crop up will almost certainly put some people off. I played the game on Xbox Series S (thanks again, Game Pass!), but it seems like the technical issues occur to varying degrees on every platform, so just be aware of the possibility they might happen should you choose to try it out.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a solid foundation for what appears to be a new sub-franchise for Star Wars that has some serious teething issues that will hopefully be resolved in the recently-confirmed sequel. It looks pretty great, the story are characters are pretty good too and I enjoyed my time with them - just some fundamental issues with parts of the gameplay stop it from being great.