Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order hands-on: You have potential, Padawan

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is an upcoming single-player action adventure game from the same studio behind the Titanfall series and Apex Legends, Respawn Entertainment.

Set between the events of Revenge of the Sith and a New Hope, Fallen Order takes place during the darkest time for the Jedi, when the Imperial Army is at its most powerful. You’ll follow Cal Kestis, a Jedi Padawan that just barely escapes the grips of the empire and goes on to embark on a journey to master the force.

Sound a bit familiar? Yea. It is.

The game’s predictable premise left me skeptical of the game’s ability to stand out. Star Wars has played the “dark time for the Jedi” card a few too many times for it to still stand out. Luckily, after I had the chance to play over two hours of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, I walked away from the experience with better expectations.

Exploring and traversing through beautiful environments with your adorable little droid BD-1 is incredible fun, and the flashy lightsaber combat feels feels as tight and cinematic as fans will hope. While I’m not convinced the story has what it takes to leave a lasting impression, the gameplay in Fallen Order certainly does.

RPG-lite

My journey began as Cal boards a ship called the Mantis. He and his crew – a loud-mouth Latero named Greez Dritus and retired Jedi known as Cere Junda – are preparing for take off.

After boarding the ship, I found a holographic map with two planets on it; Dathomir and Zeffo. The developers informed me I could travel to either planet, but Dathomir would be a bit of a challenge since I was in the earlier parts of the game. Those familiar with Star Wars lore might recognize the planet Dathomir, and why that would be so.

star wars jedi fallen order hands on stars review dathomir

I opted for Zeffo, which initiated a space traveling sequence where Cal, Greez, and Cere head to the cockpit and start to talk casually. Greez pilots the ship and as we begin to pick up speed, he tells Cal to sit down as we’re headed into hyperspace. It’s an organic conversation that it feels ripped straight from a Star Wars film (in all the right ways).

There’s something about Greez and Cere that feels familiar, like two old friends you’ve known forever. I found myself wanting to spend more time with them. Based on the limited time I spent talking with them, Fallen Order does a good job at establishing that from the start.

Greez’s sass adds some much-needed humor to the group. He’s prickly, but you love him for it. Cere is less in your face, but she pulls you in with her story of abandoning the force. It took me back to the days of playing Mass Effect and reminded me of how much I loved exhausting every bit of dialogue each character on my ship had.

Fallen Order doesn’t go that deep with its characters, however. While dialogue options helps to flesh out the story — new ones will come up when you push it forward — how you respond doesn’t necessarily impact your journey or do anything to strengthen the relationships with those characters. It feels like a missed opportunity. Star Wars is all about its characters, but those in Fallen Order don’t seem to change the gameplay.

Cal also remains a forgettable protagonist. His personality falls flat. I only came close to caring about him when the game told a story about how Cal’s friend sacrificed themselves to save him from the Imperial Army. Yet that just made me more invested in his dead friend. It’s clear Cal is supposed to be relatable, but he’s ultimately a boring, blank slate.

The levels are beautiful, and fun

Once you arrive on Zeffo, you’re free to start exploring it’s tundra-like terrain. Greez and Cere hang back by the ship, as Cal and BD-1 venture off into the unknown.

star wars jedi fallen order hands on stars review traversal

Zeffo is beautiful. Its strong winds, mountainous terrain, and occasional ice-covered path will test your platforming skills. Cal uses abilities like run, climb, wall run, and the force to traverse through an Zeffo’s obstacle course of hills, valleys, caves, and ruins. Traversal is fun and intuitive, presenting you with challenges that cleverly make use of the planet’s environment and Cal’s abilities.

Fallen Order’s environments aren’t linear, and it invites you explore every nook and cranny. Each time you take down a new enemy or discover a new item of interest, you can read up about it in the menu. Finding hidden treasures and investigating anomalies with BD-1 is a great pastime, especially when you find containers with a cosmetic item you can use to customize Cal, BD-1, or the ship.

There are areas that you won’t be able access your first time around because you don’t have the proper force ability. That means backtracking is a thing, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Since the platforming can get pretty intense, it might be more effort than its worth to backtrack. Hopefully, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order provides a nice incentive to do so. You can unlock shortcuts if you’re a meticulous explorer, which helps to lessen the burden.

Pewm, pewm

As you explore, you’ll come across a wide variety of enemies. Some are wildlife that inhabit the place you’re in while others are — you guessed it — Imperial enemies. I only came into contact with Stormtroopers during my playthrough, but a peak into combat further into the game revealed there are tougher adversaries ahead.

Still, as recent movies have shown, not all Stormtroopers are created equal. Some are lower on the hierarchy and easier to take out, while others carry heavy weaponry or know how to hold their own in combat. These varied enemy types force you to think on your feet and make use of Cal’s full skill set. It does a nice job of keeping combat varied and interesting.

Cal starts off with a basic attack, dodge, and the ability to down enemies. As you earn experience and make progress you can unlock and upgrade abilities. Even with a simple moveset, lightsaber combat is immensely satisfying. Parrying and blocking adds an enjoyable strategic component combat.

star wars jedi fallen order hands on starwarsfallenorder enemy

Dodging in incoming attack, taking a few swipes, parrying, and then landing a flashy finishing move never gets old. And you can actually parry oncoming Stormtrooper bullets and deflect them back at enemies for instant kills. Combat in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order feels and looks outstanding.

But it isn’t easy. You’re going to fall, get crushed, and blasted to bits. Repeatedly. While BD-1 can heal you with handy Stim Canisters, you’ll soon run out.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order addresses the challenge with glowing circular symbols on the ground where you can “meditate”. There, you can save, rest, and use any acquired skill points to unlock abilities. Experience and skill unlocks come at a reasonable pace, and resting will respawn enemies, so it can’t be abused.

I had a lot of fun with Fallen Order — more, perhaps, than I expected given its modest trailers. The flashy combat, challenging traversal, and rewarding exploration left me optimistic for what’s to come.

However, while gameplay is on point, Fallen Order needs to nail the story and the relationship between the characters to drive it home. With more meaningful NPC interactions, some more story and world building, and a more interesting protagonist, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order could ascend from Padawan to Master.

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