Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – review

Yes, that is Cameron Monaghan twirling a lightsaber about, but this isn’t a new series of Gotham that’s taken an entirely unexpected turn. It is in fact that beast we’ve all been screaming for for years; a new singleplayer Star Wars game! Taking place between the events of the prequel trilogy and that legendary first film, the story tells the tale of Cal, one of the last Jedi (nothing to do with the new movie). It’s very good… in bursts of clarity.

You see, when Fallen Order is good, it’s pretty much the Star Wars game you’ve always dreamed of. You can deflect laser bolts with your lightsaber, and this never gets old. There’s a pleasing amount of shameless fan service; you’ll eventually get to switch between a standard and double-bladed lightsaber, early on you (briefly) get to stomp around in an AT-AT, there are Wookiees, and even the new planets look and feel like Star Wars. It can be a mightily impressive thrill.

This is a game though, not a film, something that is made clear in both positive and negative ways. The combat system, arguably, gives you a taste of both. The aforementioned laser deflection, like everything else, is about timing. When you get up close and personal with an enemy – which you almost always will – you’ll need to get a handle on evading and parrying attacks very quickly, or you will die. A lot. Cal is disappointingly fragile for a Jedi, especially before you’ve started chewing your way through the upgrade tree. You gain Force powers as you progress, however, which can be used in combat. Sending bad guys flying off a cliff, or slowing a huge monster so you can get a few free hits in, can be one heck of a power trip.

How much can you see out of that helmet?

Mind you, the way you unlock these powers is… well, it’s silly. Cal will suddenly remember the fact he once learned something at scripted moments, making him a bafflingly forgetful Jedi. Guess that training didn’t actually stick too well. 

Actually, let’s talk a little more about Cal himself, and the characters around him. Firstly, Star Wars is a fictional universe crammed full of a seemingly endless variety of alien species, right? It’s therefore disappointing to see Johnny Whiteman as the hero, especially as the latest movies have started to take some much-needed steps toward (human) diversity. This is a game where you can change the colour of your lightsaber, but not the colour of your skin.

More generally, it’s just very hard to care about what anybody says or does, because they’re all so uninteresting.The true identity of the main baddie is squandered, not least because it’s revealed too early and is signposted so clumsily that you know it hours before you’re supposed to. The only character with potential – Merrin, who oddly enjoys the triple whammy of the best writing, the best graphical fidelity, and the best acting – is criminally sidelined in favour of Cal Blandwalker.

Anyway, the combination of demanding combat and limited-use Force powers shines in most of the boss fights, which range from battering huge, mindless beasts to deadly ballets against bounty hunters or lightsaber-wielding Siths. The difficulty of your choice tends to be perfectly balanced in these sequences, the kind of boss fights where victory is hard-won and immensely satisfying, where you’ll eventually emerge victorious with just a sliver of health remaining. The platforming, though, is less successful. Wall running is okay, and works just fine; but Fallen Order leans too heavily on the Uncharted influence at times, too often involving overly familiar climbing sequences and ‘surprising’ collapses.

There’s no denying the game can make you feel cool at times.

The story’s disappointingly weak, but the game’s biggest flaw is all the forced backtracking. There’s no fast travel, the unlockable shortcuts are of limited use, and the 3D maps soon become confusing and awkward. This makes retracing your steps (which happens often) a chore. The reason this is so frustrating is that, elsewhere, things can be so good

That doesn’t include the final leg of the game, though. The last hour or so of the story feels rushed, joltingly linear compared to the rest of the game, and with an unforgivable difficulty spike presumably meant to paper over the lack of care and attention.  

At its best moments, Fallen Order is a fantastic Star Wars adventure, one that is better than you’d dare hope. The problem is, when considered holistically, it’s a brilliant game woven into a mediocre one.  

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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