If you’re reading this article in 2020, then congratulations to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order for winning Game of the Year. But if it didn’t win (Resident Evil 2 remake will have won) then it’s likely because, although Fallen Order is easily the best Star Wars game published by EA, its design leaves much room for improvement. From navigation to lackluster customization, and overall bugginess, Fallen Order falls short in function, but excels far beyond its downfalls through a compelling story, rich characters marred by loss, and it’s true to the tone of Star Wars. And if this review sounds negative at any point, I would remind you that much like professional wrestling, no one is a harsher critic of Star Wars than Star Wars fans.
Immediately you find that Fallen Order’s guiding principle is training. The game will show you what you can’t do and where you can’t go so that you may earn the ability to move on. This is most apparent in its level-design, which features labyrinthy multi-level mazes of doorways, slides, and elevators which, when combined with its lack of a mini-map, makes exploring feel punishing. Even BD-1’s pop-up holomap is difficult to read and takes hours to acclimate. But it’s only upon returning to that planet with a new ability or tool that you’ll understand what was missing to get through those hurdles. That sense of accomplishment through trials also extends to combat.
Perry and roll is the name of the game when it comes to boss fights, as well as random creatures and mid-tier troopers you encounter along the way. But unlike the Dark Souls games that inspired this timing-style combat, the bosses in Fallen Order seem to follow much looser combat loops, making them feel more alive, but also more punishing. These stages are made all the more grueling by the ‘Meditation Point’ respawn system that sends you all the way back to where you last rested, regardless of how far you’ve come. A similar system was employed in this year’s CONTROL by Remedy, which was also viewed as a design flaw by many. Luckily, Fallen Order allows for mid-fight difficulty changes to allow flexibility and stave off multiple respawns. Regardless of how you choose to tackle the combat, an ever-growing arsenal of force powers and lightsaber moves will grant a sense of accomplishment as you fight tougher and tougher bosses.
The reprieve from Fallen Order’s arduous combat comes in the form of its amazing cut scenes. The story is well-crafted and emotional but definitely takes its time to develop. Combined with the sluggish middle sections of the game, it can feel like you’re stuck with a two-dimensional main character in Cal, but with time, and a series of stellar flashbacks, you’re rewarded with dark secrets, tragic losses, and a genuine bond between the characters that that feels earned. Not to mention that this game has given us yet another adorable droid with BD-1 that I would literally take a bullet for. If this were a movie, I’d put it near the top of the Disney-lead Star Wars films, and in case you’re seriously considering putting the controller down at any point, I promise they stick the landing.
Some games made today feel lost in time, unwilling to learn from its predecessors or adapt to the landscape of modern gaming in order to satisfy a niche player base, but Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order borrows elements from some of the best games ever, combining unforgiving Souls-style combat with Uncharted-esque traversal and God of War-level storytelling to create a truly unique experience that makes this the only truly must-play for 2019.