Fans of the galaxy far, far away have been waiting a long time for the return of the single-player narrative-driven Star Wars game. With Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Respawn attempts deliver a high-quality AAA game that doesn't rely on competitive mutliplayer combat to keep players hooked. The result is an ambitious game that takes inspiration from some of the most popular franchises of the current console generation and adds the trademark Star Wars look and feel to the mix to create one of 2019's best games yet.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order could easily be as huge mess. A game that takes a beloved IP and tries to make it a mashup of Uncharted, Tomb Raider, Dark Souls, and Breath of the Wild sounds like it should lack its own identity while imitating mechanics and tropes that work in those other games. Somehow, Jedi Fallen Order manages to pull it all off. The game delivers challenging combat (with a variety of difficulties to select from), puzzles that will make players scratch their heads, and huge action set pieces inspired by iconic Star Wars locations.
The Respawn Star Wars game puts players in control of a new character, Cal Kestis, who has gone into hiding for years after the events of Episode 3. The game kicks off with Cal exposing his secret Jedi identity in an attempt to save a friend's life. From there, he finds some like-minded partners in crime and a mini-Resistance is formed. The story itself will feel familiar to Star Wars fans and it has some exciting twists and turns that feel at home in the franchise. Telling a story when most fans already know what happens in the franchise universe in the years that follow is a difficult task, but Respawn really makes this journey with it. Although Cal himself may be a little bit bland, fans of Star Wars extended universe lore won't regret spending twenty or so hours with this adventure.
Part of what works so well about Jedi Fallen Order is also something that is important to the Force: Balance. During the lengthy campaign, it's hard to ever feel like you've been doing the same thing for too long. The game has amazing cutscenes, but they only come during pivotal moments in the story. The combat is challenging and rewarding, but not every corridor is full of enemies. The puzzles are challenging and offer a chance to slow down and put Force powers to use, but there are usually long breaks between them. All of this comes together to create a game that makes hours feel like minutes in the best way possible.
Although it sounds like there is a ton going on in Jedi Fallen Order, the game also uses simplicity to stay focused and not overwhelm the player or the game's aesthetic. For instance, Cal's weapon and powers are very limited in comparison to what players may be used to from older Star Wars games. The lightsaber is Cal's weapon of choice and there's no sidearm blaster or sniper rifle to switch over to. Players will master the lightsaber and all combat-related ability points will be used to add new maneuvers, improve Force abilities that offer better openings for lightsaber swings, or increase Cal's health and dodging abilities.
The Force abilities follow a similar pattern. Players can use a Force push, pull, or freeze; but those are the extent of the powers that Cal is working with (aside from the ability to touch some items and learn about their past). Those three core powers can all be improved throughout the game, but players won't be shooting lightning bolts out of their fingertips or anything like that. This focus on a handful of core combat and puzzle-solving abilities allow players to really become masters of Cal's tools and feel more powerful throughout the game without a laundry list of extra weapons or powers.
The game puts Cal and his little droid buddy, BD-1, up against a list of enemies that range from simple creatures and stormtroopers who drop to one good lightsaber swing to bosses that will require incredible timing and patience to defeat. The game's variety of difficulty settings make sure that players who just want the story can easily burn through every enemy, but gamers who are looking for a challenge will definitely be able to find one. Don't expect combat exactly like Souls games though, the main thing Jedi Fallen Order borrows is the emphasis on timing and blocks. Playing on one of the medium or hard difficulty settings will definitely make it feel like every enemy is a serious threat. Cal is powerful, but he only needs to lower his guard for a minute to be taken down by a flurry of attacks from a giant monster or a group of powerful Jedi hunters.
Combat and enemy encounters are also made more interesting by the game's Rest mechanic. When players visit designated save locations, they are able to spend skill points and also have the option to rest. Resting restores health, force power, and Stim packs (what BD-1 uses to heal Cal in battle); but deciding to Rest also respawns every enemy on the map. This mechanic isn't going to be anything new for fans of FromSoftware games, but it works incredibly well in this context and gives players a serious dilemma to consider every time they meditate. There is a lot of back-tracking through each world's enormous map, so running into the same mini-boss twice is a very real concern.
As players travel around the galaxy and unlock additional powers for Cal and repair BD-1's scomp link, additional paths become available. Doors can be unlocked, walls be be knocked over, and there is plenty of reason to revisit old locations and open crates that contain items used for customizing Cal's lightsaber and outfit, BD-1's paint job, and the look of the Mantis ship. The available planets are all gorgeous and it's very easy to lose track of time exploring every path available on each of them. We did take note of a few times that the game got choppy during an elevator ride or when opening a door that led to another new area. The game always recovered fairly quickly and there were no other performance issues.
When the game's story, setting, puzzles, exploration, and combat all come together; they add up to something truly special. This is a must-play Star Wars experience that is likely to become a game of the year contender not just for fans of the franchise, but for anyone who loves a unique and challenging action-adventure title.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Game Rant was provided with a PS4 code for this review.