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Just another Star Wars game? Jedi: Fallen Order struggles to stand out

Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

At E3 2019, EA and Respawn Entertainment gave us our first look at Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. During the preview, we were shown Padawan Cal Kestis and his Droid BD-1 as they embark on a mini-adventure on the planet Kashyyyk.

From hijacking a Walker and platforming through treacherous overgrown landscapes, to getting ambushed by a giant spider and using the force to fight off a group of Empire baddies, Fallen Order looks stunningly cinematic and right on brand for a single-player Star Wars experience.

It’s so on brand, in fact, that it left little room for surprise.

The focus of the gameplay is combat, traversal, and the role BD-1 plays as a companion. It starts off with Cal scaling to the top of Walker, fighting off Stormtrooper pilots, and assuming control. A holographic message of an enemy demanding the status of the Walker goes off in the pit, and Cal asks BD-1 to take care of it. The droid happily assists and shuts the holographic message off.

This is our first real peek into the relationship between Cal and his droid, and it continues to play out through the preview. In another moment, Cal scales a wall and with the help of BD-1’s Overcharge ability, is able to move it out the way and continue moving forward. We also see BD-1 provide Cal a bit of healing. Cal speaks to BD-1 like a pet for maximum cute.

The adorable BD-1 and Cal’s relationship resembles that of Luke and R2D2 and Rey and BB-8 in the movies. It’s a mechanic that seems to add charm to gameplay, though the moment revealed so far are more for cinematic flourish and don’t impact how the game plays.

That might change, as we caught a glimpse of a BD-1 skill tree in the menu. That alludes to more advanced assistance in the later parts of the game. Perhaps BD-1 will become a tool in your toolbox as well as an amusing companion.

It’s a Star Wars game

Combat is fluid and flashy. Cal wields a lightsaber, of course, and uses the power of the force to fight off enemies. In traditional Jedi style, he pulls in enemies and strikes them down stylishly in between acrobatic moves. He also uses his lightsaber to deflect bullets and parry attacks, as well as execute a finisher where he drives his lightsaber into the chest of a Stormtrooper.

It looks entertaining, and very reminiscent of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. With Respawn Entertainment spearheading development, it gives the impression that Fallen Order will feel tight and precise.

The most striking element, and most subtle, was the minimalist HUD. It’s unclear if that will carry over to later versions of the game, but keeping the HUD to the bare essentials helped maintain the cinematic look. On the bottom left corner is a health and stamina bar, and the occasional skillpoint notification would pop up on the top right hand corner. The transition from cutscene to gameplay was unnoticeable, and the developers revealed that this was intentionally done to make Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order feel more cinematic.

There’s that word again. Cinematic. Everything about Fallen Order seems bound to it, for better or worse.

Story, though, is still largely unknown. We know it takes place after the events of Revenge of the Sith, and we know propaganda against the Jedi is at a critical point. Cal is a young Jedi up against the Empire accompanied by a cute new droid, and a group of rebel characters in supporting roles.

And that’s a bit disappointing. I’ve heard this story many times before.

A cameo made by Rogue One’s Saw Gerrera, played by Forest Whitaker, brought a little extra life to the gameplay reveal. It’s unclear, however, if he will play a significant role in the game. None of the larger plot points or character have been revealed — aside from Cal and BD-1, of course.

If Fallen Order keeps its minimalist HUD and hidden loading screens, it’s sure to be one of the most cinematic and immersive Star Wars games to date. It also risks feeling too familiar. Respawn has said Fallen Order will be a narrative driven experience. I just hope it isn’t a cliche.

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