For years, it seemed like a single-player Star Wars game was never going to happen. After Disney acquired the rights in 2012, LucasArts' Boba Fett game, Star Wars 1313, ceased development. Then, in 2017 EA shut down Visceral Games during production of an open world Stars Wars game from Uncharted director, Anne Hennig, codenamed, "Project Ragtag." That wasn't the last single-player Star Wars game terminated by EA either, with the cancellation of a Star Wars project called "Orca" earlier this year. Against all odds, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order somehow made it here, and while the fervent screams of fanboys and fangirls around the world still echoes, I've spent the last two days taking a critical eye to what many consider to be the savior of both single-player games and the Star Wars brand at large.
Fallen Order is a fun adventure and is as authentically Star Wars as any game has or ever will be. The locations, characters, music, plot, sound effects, and dialogue all hit the mark for what fans know and love. As a Star Wars property, Fallen Order delivers. When everything's working, Fallen Order can be best described as a swashbuckling space adventure with thoughtful level design, gorgeous landscapes, memorable cinematic wonders, and plenty of flashing lightsaber fighting.
When it works.
When it doesn't, Fallen Order can be best described as an unpolished jank-a-thon that needs either more time to get patched into shape or a sequel that learns from the shortcomings of its predecessor. Fallen Order is going to sell 10 million copies before Christmas and there's already plenty of glowing reviews to go around, so it's likely any sort of criticism will fall on deaf ears. While I appreciate a lot about Fallen Order as a fan, I'm cautious about the state the game was released in, performance-wise, and more than a little let down by the lack of character progression, meaningful exploration, and janky physics/combat.
20 minutes into Fallen Order and we have T-posing sith goons with levitating lightsabers pic.twitter.com/Zy1Jcmjxiu— TierZoo (@TheTierZoo) November 16, 2019
Borderline Unplayable On Console
On the base PlayStation 4, I found Fallen Order to have consistently debilitating performance issues. The frame rate dipped to a stutter frequently throughout the entire game, load times lasted over a minute after each death (which there are plenty of, given it's a Souls-like), the game full-on crashed several times, and textures loaded in very slowly both in the customization menu and in the world. If I ran through a level too fast (which I often did because there's a lot of backtracking), entire sections of the planet would load in behind me. Starting midway through, the game would pause to load during combat, sometimes multiple times.
These weren't sometimes problems. These were problems I had the entire 21 hours I played the game. PC seems to fair better for load times, but I've heard PC players are experiencing many of these same issues.
These specific problems will most likely get patched sooner or later, and I can't say for certain if the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X have the same issues, but it's likely that - at the very least - the frame rate is more stable on the Pro consoles. If I was not reviewing the game, I would have waited to play until the game was fixed. These performance issues seriously impacted my enjoyment of the game. Combat was more difficult with bad frame rate and deaths were more frustrating with long load times. I wouldn't recommend anyone but the most forgiving Star Wars fan play this until these issues get resolved.
Cal Is A Zero And So Are His "Customizations"
All of the characters in this game are charming, nuanced, and earn the right to be canonized in Star Wars lore, except for the protagonist. Cal demonstrates very little agency on his journey, doing only what he's told to do, and his response to every situation oscillates between generic hero and confusingly flat. The only redeeming quality Cal had for me was his companionship with the adorable BD-1 droid. Other than that, nothing about Cal or his journey is likely to stick with me.
The worse offender, though, is the customization system and how it connects to exploration. In true Metroidvania fashion, you'll be able to re-explore areas and backtrack down side paths to find hundreds of hidden caches that hold color palettes for your ship, BD-1, Cal's Poncho, and five different parts to build your lightsaber. None of these offer any kind of perks to Cal. Early on, you'll find a set of lightsaber parts called Honor and Wisdom 1, and later a set called Honor and Wisdom 2, which is proof enough for me that these parts at one time did have some form of stats, or were planned to at least.
Why didn't this make it into the game? Customizing your lightsaber from different parts on the workbench is cool, but once you leave the menu, the individual switches and panels you selected are completely meaningless; you can't really see your lightsaber handle while you play. I'm not particularly compelled to go back to past areas with my new double jump ability to look for hidden chests and unlock a new color of the same ugly poncho. The whole customization system is weak, underdeveloped, and really hurts exploration.
Combat And Mobility Feel Slightly Off
There's something not quite right about the physics of Fallen Order both in and out of combat. It's hard not to draw comparisons to the games Fallen Order is clearly inspired by - the platforming and cinematic action of Uncharted, the combat and upgrade system of Dark Souls, and the power progression and level design of Metroid Prime. All of those games do what Fallen Order does, but better.
There are enough times I fell through geo that had no collision, got hung up sliding sideways on one of the many sliding sections, walked without my feet touching the ground, and experienced weird animations to label this game as janky. One time, I entered a boss arena to find a 2D model with a flat sword sliding back and forth that transformed into the boss when I got close. It was late in the game, and I'd put up with some much weird stuff already that I was practically unphased.
Hey @Respawn this area on Dathomir is really buggy and has a lot of invisible walls, texture clippings, and no collision (I can just walk right through the tree that's clipping out of the stone). Love the game so far, but this planet feels like it needs polish. #FallenOrder pic.twitter.com/9qeaZGbKwS— ScaryBoi (@SeijinScaryboi) November 16, 2019
I don't think the combat stands up next to any other Soulborne game. It isn't layered enough, and while there are plenty of enemy types, combat relies far too heavily on parrying to overcome them. It has the same unpolished feeling that the physics have. It isn't responsive enough, the hitboxes aren't clean enough, it just doesn't feel very good.
Star Wars-Factor Saves The Day
This is Star Wars we're talking about though, which relies almost entirely on atmosphere as a measure of success. As I said before, Fallen Order absolutely nails being Star Wars. The 20-hour campaign takes you to numerous exotic planets both new and old and steeps you in the lore of the post-Jedi world. This game nails the fan service, and the ending sequence is so exciting even the most jaded player wouldn't be able to help getting hyped up.
Despite its flaws, Fallen Order is a thrilling adventure with an appropriately ragtag group of misfits and familiar themes of honor, temptation, betrayal, and redemption. I just wish it came in a cleaner package with more thoughtful progression, and maybe a few less ponchos.
A PlayStation 4 copy of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was purchased by TheGamer for this review. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is now available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.