Star Wars Jedi: Fallen OrderPS4, Xbox One, PC¦ action/adventure
There’s been a disturbance of late – not so much in the force, but in gaming. There was a trend adopted by developers to forgo the single player campaign for a pure multiplayer experience.
This foray into the dark side appeared in 2015’s multiplayer only Star Wars Battlefront, as well as 2018’s Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII. Developers quickly came to their senses, with the next iteration of both games including a single player mode.
For the latest entry in the Star Wars gaming saga, the pendulum has swung once again, this time in the opposite direction, with purely a single player game. But the question remains: is the force strong with this one?
Working as a scraper on the planet of Bracca is Cal Kestis. The planet is one almighty salvage depot, where large cruisers and such go to be ripped to pieces for their parts. It’s a planet that has allowed young Cal to live in relative anonymity, which is just as well under the circumstances; Cal was once a Jedi Pedawan, learning the ways of the force, until the Great Jedi Purge forced him into hiding.
But when a close friend of his nearly dies on the job, Cal has to use the force to save him, and therefore expose himself. With his secret out, Cal has to escape the planet, where he learns that there are plans afoot to rebuild the now destroyed Jedi Order, in an attempt to reinstate some balance in the galaxy.
With the Galactic Empire increasing their evil hold however, the return of the Jedi will be no easy feat. But with his lightsaber in one hand, and loyal little droid BD-1 by his side, Cal is determined to do all he can to help the Jedi rise again.
The one thing that defines a Star Wars game is the use of the lightsaber, so it’s no surprise that it’s the main protagonist’s weapon of choice here. Occasionally though, this game by EA and developed by Respawn Entertainment, almost feels like it’s a Star Wars game in name only.
The story certainly carries the Star Wars mythology well enough, with its focus on the Jedi coming back from near extinction, but its mechanics feel otherwise.
After getting into the game for a while, although characters root you in a familiar universe, its game-play sends you somewhere else.
Essentially what this game is, is Prince of Persia in Space! One of the first moves your character carries out is that of running along walls – you know, like Prince of Persia used to do. It even involves the old PoP trick of running along one wall, only to jump to another opposite to continue the run.
It’s also not a huge stretch of the imagination to replace the Prince’s sword with a lightsaber, to parry the strikes from enemies.
This game also includes puzzle elements, you know, like Prince of Persia did. For us, puzzle elements in a Star Wars game just don’t sit well. It would be like having a John Wick sequel a musical, or a live action version of The Simpsons - just things the world really doesn’t need.
There are also a number of times where your character will inexplicably slide downhill, with various obstructions to overcome, feeling like something you would have to do in a video game from ten years ago – like Prince of Persia, maybe? It certainly feels dated, and again, just doesn’t feel like it belongs in a Star Wars title.
The one thing that should feel like a Star Wars game is the use of the force; in places you will need to use it to slow down time to access another area. Slow down time you say? Hmm, didn’t we have to do that in that other game, oh, what was the name of it now?...
Of course using the force is an integral part of being a Jedi, but unfortunately the game drip feeds your use of it, so it will take some time before you can access all of your Jedi powers.
This frustrating idea of not having full access is something this game clearly likes; one of the biggest annoyances is the fact that you won’t have full access to planets from the off. This means that you will have to return at some point if you want to discover everything about it. For a game with a single player narrative at its centre, this notion of drip-feeding where you can and cannot go, really breaks up a sense of rhythm as far as the story is concerned.
This isn’t helped by locations that are far too easy to get wrapped up in. There is endless backtracking involved, in order to reach your destination, and even once you discover a shot cut or two, they don’t really seem to help.
Talking of unhelpful. If you want to develop a strong single player, story lead campaign, we’d suggest that having save points, that once used, will respawn enemies, isn’t a way to go. It’s difficult to imagine that happening in a real scenario, and again, it’s just another mechanic that doesn’t fit with a narrative led game.
There are other elements that don’t help either. Like chests that contain absolutely nothing of any use. You can change the handle of your Lightsaber, or other elements of it, as well as change the colour of your poncho. That’s right, poncho; if ever there was a piece of clothing ill-suited to space travel, surely it’s the poncho. A robe with a hood? Damn straight that’s the uniform of a Jedi, but a poncho? Aye aye aye. No doubt this will have loyal poncho wearers up in arms, but that’s easy for them, considering the garment they’re wearing.
The environs are also a little bland and dull. You seem to spend a lot of time in cave-like areas that aren’t terribly appealing, using your lightsaber as a light source no less. How demeaning is it to use one of the most potent weapons in the galaxy as a torch?
And it sounds odd to say, but having only a lightsaber as your only weapon feels a little restrictive. You will have Stormtroopers attacking you with blasters from a distance, whilst others are close up and personal; although the best fun in the game is parrying attacks with the lightsaber, it would have been nice to have a secondary weapon at hand. And as a certain space pirate once mused, ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.
All in all this game is a Star Wars game in name only; so much so that the much berated The Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978, which includes musical numbers, feels far more part of the Star Wars family than this does. And that’s as damning as it sounds.
That’s not to say this is a bad game – it’s far from that. It’s challenging, BD-1 is a cute little sidekick whose fun to have around, and the parkour bits are OK, just not the actions of a Jedi.
It genuinely feels like the developers have squandered the use of the franchise, by shoe horning other gaming elements into the Star Wars universe, that simply don’t belong. Prince of Persia was a great game, and a re-boot of that would be great to see, just as long as the main character wasn’t wearing a poncho and lightsaber in hand.
Although it’s a relief to see a company like EA once again embrace the single player campaign, this attempt, however competent it may be, sadly lacks in the force.