Long ago, in a gaming ecosystem far, far removed from the one we currently occupy, there were a solid handful of great Star Wars games. While they weren’t all produced by the same developer, they shared one common trait: They were principally single-player titles, though some of the FPS games did include multi-player game modes. The entire Jedi Knight series (Dark Forces, Dark Forces II, Jedi Outcast, Jedi Academy) and titles like Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2 are great Star Wars games, though KOTOR 2 plays much better if you install fan-made patches and mods.
And then, it all ended. After KOTOR 2 in 2005, only the mediocre Force Unleashed and Force Unleashed 2 remained as far as robust single-player content was concerned. The most recent edition of Battlefront II was hailed for having a single-player campaign at all, which sort of tells you how far things have fallen. Games like Bioware’s The Old Republic may have attempted to fuse single-player storytelling with multi-player MMO gaming, but we haven’t had a Star Wars game that put the single-player front and center for a long time. Now, finally, it looks like that might be changing.
Ars Technica, Polygon, and VentureBeat have published writeups based on playing multiple hours of Jedi: Fallen Order. The game isn’t an open-world experience, but it isn’t linear, either — you can journey between multiple worlds, with each world consisting of an explorable area and various secondary areas to explore and unlock. Gameplay is based on action, puzzles, and some light platforming elements, which sounds fairly standard for a Star Wars game. As you play, you earn the ability to unlock new abilities, some of which can be used to access areas that were formerly inaccessible.
Lightsaber combat is something the Jedi Knight games did fairly well, particularly for their time period. According to VentureBeat, while combat is the bulk of the game, mindless swinging just gets you killed. You’ll have to time your attacks, blocks, and counters to win battles. Lightsabers can be tricky to balance in a game. If individual mobs go down to a single slash, as they (mostly) do in the films, there’s very little sense of difficulty. If every mob is a bullet sponge, there’s precious little intrinsic “cool” factor to using a lightsaber in the first place. Landing those single-slash kill shots requires careful timing — parry an attack successfully, and you’ll be able to launch a one-hit kill counter, assuming your target has no stamina left.
Jedi: Fallen Order puts you in the shoes of Cal Kestis, a Jedi Padawan who abandoned his training in the wake of Order 66. In that, he sounds similar to Kanan Jarrus, the Jedi Knight character from Star Wars: Rebels. Cal has become a scavenger but the use of his powers brings him to the Empire’s unwanted attention.
Regarding the game’s influences, Ars writes that Dark Souls was “an explicit design inspiration to a degree I haven’t yet seen in any other triple-A title that wasn’t made by FromSoftware.” VentureBeat declares it “Star Wars meets Dark Souls meets Metroid Prime.” Combat is oriented more towards skill and precision than hack-and-slash mayhem. That’s a deliberate style choice from the developers, who wanted the combat in the game to echo the careful precision a Jedi is supposed to hold dear. One thing Ars didn’t like is that the current difficulty curve makes the “Story” difficulty mode incredibly easy, while even the “Jedi Knight” difficulty (the next step up) is quite difficult. Difficulty levels progress from there, through Jedi Master and Grand Master. Ars felt the difficulty made it harder to capture the feeling of actually being a Jedi, since being beaten down by some wimps with stun batons doesn’t match the kick-ass version of Luke Skywalker we all pretended to be as children.
(We all did that, right?)
Ars criticized aspects of the game design it felt were derivative of other AAA titles, but ultimately concludes “It’s polished, it’s fun, it’s challenging, and it’s presented with a whole lot of style.” VentureBeat writes “Jedi: Fallen Order is ambitious, but like Luke running through Dagobah while carrying Yoda on his back, it never feels overburdened.” Polygon concludes “Fallen Order shows great promise, successfully building on the existing lore while carving out its own place in the galaxy.”
Hopefully, this is the game we’re looking for. Nine years after the last single-player Star Wars and more than 15 years after KOTOR, it’d be nice to return to a galaxy far, far away for a story-driven title with strong combat mechanics, as opposed to a multi-player fragfest.
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