There was a great wave of expectation when Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order was released for the Playstation 4 (PS4), Xbox One and PC last fall. Fans of Star Wars games have clamored for a single player adventure in the Star Wars universe for some time and it seemed like Jedi Fallen Order would finally fulfill those wishes. With an average Metacritic score of 80 between the Xbox One and PS4 versions, it appeared that the game developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts was more than satisfactory for many players. But for me, it was a bit of a different story and after playing through the game on PC, I personally found the game to be underwhelming overall.
First, let’s start with the positives of the game. I do want to recognize that it felt like the game took a tremendous amount of effort to create and I want to recognize that. The graphics were outstanding and the overall look of the game was very eye-catching. Kudos to the actors involved because the voice acting was well done. The combat mechanics were also a highlight of the game as wielding the lightsaber and pulling off the various force abilities felt smooth, responsive and fun. Respawn does very well with combat in its games as Titanfall 2 also excelled in that area. Thinking about the combat system just reminds me of how Jedi Fallen Order had the potential to be a really great game.
LACK OF CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
So what made the game fall short in my opinion? For starters, the story was very bland with the characters lacking a significant amount of necessary development. This game told its story in a fashion that led me to never become fully invested in its central characters. The main character, Cal Festis, had some moments in the game where it seemed like we were peeling back some of his layers, such as his memories as a child in Jedi training. Unfortunately, the game was more concerned about moving things along than giving his character depth. Rather than the flashbacks truly teaching us more about Cal, the main purpose seemed only to merely lead us to discovering his next ability. The path the developers took with Cal was good enough but the details on that path were lacking. Furthermore, the journey we took with him in the game should have taken a greater toll on him in order to make us truly feel his struggle. For what he was up against and being a Jedi padawan, he should have had many more crushing setbacks to overcome.
Perhaps the developers should have taken notes from how Square Enix presented Lara Croft in Tomb Raider (2013). Not only did we have flashbacks to expand on her story, but we literally saw Lara take a beating, struggle and fight through proverbial hell in the game. We watched her work through her fear, bandage herself up, bleed, limp, breathe heavily when she was nervous and grunt in pain. This connected me more to her character as I was able to empathize with her. Naughty Dog pulled off the same connectivity with Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series, as well as Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us. Jedi Fallen Order really missed the mark and squandered many opportunities to make Cal a memorable and strong character. Instead, he was left feeling generic and hollow. The game would have been better off allowing the player to create a custom character.
Interactions between the main character and the supporting characters are key in not only having the player care about the main character but it provides opportunities to give some depth to the rest of the main cast as well. These interactions were very shallow at best. While they tried to present these scenes as if they did have weight to them, the fact was that the game never provided enough leading up to these moments for it to really count. How much more would Cere, Greez and Merrin have meant if we had more dialogue options with them or were actually able to play parts of the game as them? In The Witcher 3, I connected with Ciri to a much higher degree when I played as her in certain parts of the game. Mary Jane Watson and Miles Morales became more alive to me in Marvel’s Spiderman because there were portions of the game where I was able to use them and see events from their perspective. Rather than making the planets in the game so vast, I would have taken smaller and more limited planets if it meant a fuller story. Think Mass Effect in that regard. While the game world was limited in exploration, the excellent building of the Mass Effect’s characters made such an open world unnecessary.
Another missed opportunity to develop the characters was in the fact none of the other characters actually fought alongside Cal in the game. Merrin was the closest to this but more of that type of interaction should have been present in the game from the start. Think about just how much the characters feel bonded as a unit when they are actually on screen fighting together. The parts of the game in Uncharted when Drake and Sully were on the screen together made me invested in their bond. When Final Fantasy VII Remake grouped Cloud, Tifa and Barrett together and fighting off enemies as a trio, it was easy to regard them as a real team. Cloud and Aerith’s growing bond was believable because the game actually set aside missions and story that was just for the two of them. Jedi Fallen Order could have used something like these examples to make me believe in the trio of Cal, Cere and Greez.
OPEN WORLD EMPTINESS AND ANNOYANCE
Next, the game world was too big for what it ultimately offered. It’s one thing for a game world to be huge while maintaining a proper ratio of significant activities to do. But Jedi Fallen Order felt like a world that was very empty. Maybe this was done for the more platforming elements of the game to have a chance to shine, but other than the spurts of action here and there, the game was barren far too often. This negatively affected the pacing of the game and made me lose interest several times.
Not only did the lack of action detract from my enjoyment but the puzzles were more tedious than fun or challenging. Other than the action sequences of the game where I was using my lightsaber and force powers, the game contained multiple segments that were not gratifying. Puzzles felt like the type of busywork that you would be assigned to do by a professor in a college course or by a boss on a job. The rewards for finding and opening containers were mostly added accessory options rather than matching the time and effort taken to discover them..
Lastly, the navigation in this game was very flawed. I can not even begin to count the amount of times I was confused or lost in the game. There was so much time wasted trying to figure out how to get out of a cave and back to the ship. The holographic map was more confusing than helpful and could have been designed so much better. Rather than trying to have the entire map of the planet on the screen, the developers should have included more detailed smaller maps for each area, floor or region that were easy to reference. This would have made traversing the game’s areas far more pleasant.
When I first played this game, I really wanted to like it. It’s Star Wars, and I am a huge fan of the franchise. That being said, my expectations will always be high when it comes to something Star Wars related. I expect great action backed up by a well written story that is loads of fun to engage. Jedi Fallen Order is by no means a horrible game but I would not recommend it. The fact that I saw it all the way to the end is a testament that it is a decent game. But what is more telling is that when I finished it, I knew for a fact I would never want to play the game again or spend any more time with it even with added content.
There are too many other Star Wars games, while not having today’s graphics or visual fidelity, that certainly will give gamers a much richer experience. I’d rather point fellow gamers in the direction of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed I & II, and Star Wars: The Old Republic as titles more worthy of their time. Because the games are older, you can purchase several of them for the price it would cost just for Jedi Fallen Order.
The combat of Jedi Fallen Order was absolutely superb and there is a great deal that can be built upon if these mechanics are used in the future for a sequel. In its action parts, the game was as good as any out there. That is why it was so frustrating to see the other aspects of the game not compliment the action as they should have. Because of it, we ended up having a game with a lot of wasted potential.