Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order full review

It’s one of the great mysteries of our time that since it took over the Star Wars videogame licence, EA has so far failed to release a big budget single-player game in that universe, despite multiple attempts. Jedi: Fallen Order looks to finally fix that.

From developer Respawn - best known for Titanfall and the battle royale smash Apex Legends - Fallen Order blends the cinematic set piece platforming of Uncharted with the challenging dodge-counter-parry melee combat of Souls games as you fight your way through a Star Wars universe still reeling from the impact of Order 66 - the command that killed the Jedi.

EA showed off gameplay from Fallen Order for the first time at EA Play, just before E3 2019, and we got to watch an extended hands-off demo including loads of moments not feature in the public stream.

The game isn’t out until 15 November 2019 - when it releases on PS4, Xbox One, and PC - so there might still be a bit of a wait before we can actually play it. Until then, here’s what we think.

If you watched the 14 minutes of gameplay footage that EA shared online then you’ll know that it featured protagonist Cal Kestis - a half-trained Jedi padawan - making his way through an Imperial sap refinery on the Wookie planet of Kashyyyk.

That footage mostly focuses on the heart of the game: lightsaber combat. Reassuringly, this looks pretty ace. The combat borrows from the rhythm of Souls games, with an emphasis on dodges, counters and parries, with perfect timing keeping you safe from harm and maximising your damage output.

The complicating factor is that it’s not all melee, and plenty of Cal’s Stormtrooper opponents will keep their distance to pummel you with blaster fire while others - including the new Purge Troopers, trained to fight Jedi - will get up in your business. That means you’ll have to keep track of multiple opponents and types of attack, using the lightsaber to deflect laser blasts as much as block melee attacks.

Fights look fast-paced, and Respawn has smartly decided to keep enemy hit points low from what we’ve seen. That means individual bouts aren’t likely to drag on too long, and instead the challenge will be juggling crowds and prioritising targets.

Cal’s force powers will help there. For a padawan he seems surprisingly proficient, and you can use your Jedi magic to freeze enemies in place, yank them towards you, and more - one particularly creative moment in our demo saw a dev stop a laser blast in its place before dragging the responsible Stormtrooper straight into it.

If that sounds a bit violent, it’s only the half of it. This is an aggressive game, and over our 25-minute demo Cal racked up quite the body count, throwing Stormtroopers off ledges and carving them in half. It’s bloodless, but even so feels undeniably gnarly - hopefully Respawn is intentionally leaning into the greyer areas of the Jedi/Sith spectrum here, because otherwise the sheer violence of the game is jarring at best.

It doesn’t help that so far we’ve seen little to suggest Cal is anything more than a generic white guy action lead, and no real hints as to where the story is going, other than the inclusion of Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera. Nothing we’ve seen suggests that this will break out from the familiar tropes of a million other Star Wars stories so far or show us anything we haven’t seen before.

Still, it’s worth having faith in the devs. They may be best known for online multiplayer, but the brief campaign in Titanfall 2 was one of the best AAA single-player experiences in years.

They don’t seem to have lost their knack for the cinematic at least. Our extended demo showed scenes before the public footage, including Cal scaling a moving AT-AT, dispatching the troopers inside, and taking it for a joyride to the local Imperial base.

The climbing itself could have been lifted straight out of Uncharted or Tomb Raider, and it shared those games’ blockbuster bluster and scale, with TIE fighters spinning through the air and explosions all over. Borrowing an AT-AT also looked like exactly the sort of power fantasy you’d want it to be, leaving us wondering if the full game will boast other, longer vehicular sections.

There’s some limited puzzle solving too, but this was the least compelling element of what we saw. Force pushing objects to make bridges, freezing fans to get through the gaps, short circuiting systems to open doors - there’s nothing here to surprise, and it looks exceptionally linear.

Graphically speaking, Fallen Order so far looks slick enough to justify those cinematic aspirations, though we have our hesitations too. Faces and other animations seemed slick and fluid, but ironically water was the exact opposite: the aquatic animations in the opening AT-AT segment looked a bit last-gen, though with a few months left hopefully Respawn has time for a final coat of polish.

Early verdict

The devs teased other mechanics - a holomap highlighting other planets to explore, and a meditation point to let you advance the skill tree - but the focus so far was really all about running, jumping, and killing Stormtroopers.

Those are all the things that really play to Respawn’s strengths as a studio, so it’s reassuring - if not surprising - that it looks solid so far, with dynamic combat and stylish set pieces that should live up to Star Wars’ big screen heritage, even if some of the puzzles and exploration in between seem flat.

Fallen Order’s influences are obvious, but the specific cocktail here feels like its own beast. Of course, that’s easy to say from watching someone else play the game, and the real test will be whether it stands up to the same scrutiny once we can get our own hands on it.