One of the less cited takeaways of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel is how it focuses on the inability to achieve perfection. Despite the mad doctor gathering up the most ideal body parts to stitch together his patchwork creature, his efforts ultimately prove unsuccessful because no matter how perfect the individual pieces are, the whole could never achieve that level of success.
It’s within the nature of all creation that nothing can be perfect even if it presents itself as such or consists of elements that when isolated bear the veneer of something untouchable. It’s something that I continually noticed during my time with Jedi: Fallen Order because on the outside the parts that make up Respawn’s action-adventure game should amount to a near unmatched experience for both fans of the Star Wars franchise and lovers of third-person action games, yet those individual limbs have been stitched together in such a way as to create a game that while no doubt is impressive, still has some faults that are hard to look past. Yet if you manage to do so, you’re in for a fantastic time.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order follows Cal Kestis in his quest to reform the Jedi Order following Order 66, the purge of all Jedi Knights and what many would consider the beginning of The Empire. While its plotting and story beats certainly feel drawn from the same universe that gave birth to the original trilogy, what I appreciated most about Fallen Order’s narrative was that it was entirely separate from the worlds we’ve come to know in those films.
This isn’t a story that wants to win fans over by flashing Luke Skywalker or Han Solo before them like a cute plush toy in front of a baby, relying on those initial moments of enjoyment to carry the narrative. It’s devoid of nostalgia, taking liberties with the canon that most fans know like a science fiction bible. It plays out within the Star Wars universe, instilling that sense of wonder and exploration that makes that galaxy so iconic for many. It’s helped in no small part by its characters that, while initially painfully obvious within the tropes they’re pulling from, grow into people I actually enjoyed encountering when wandering aroudnd The Mantis spaceship. Even Cal undergoes a character arc of sorts, going from totally bland white-bread protagonist to slightly toasted white-bread protagonist with a splash of butter. Easily the weakest cast member, his relationship with BD-01, the adorable droid hitched to his back, was enough for me to overlook his mundane commentary.
It’s a well-paced and well told story, helped by the gameplay which is honestly difficult to describe without alluding to other games that have employed similar systems. Levels are designed in a manner reminiscent of Dark Souls, combat feels inspired by Bloodborne and the actual progression of Fallen Order feels heavily influenced by Metroidvanias. Meditation Points that act like bonfires, combat that’s both aggressive and deliberate and a slew of impossible to reach areas that only become accessible by finding certain upgrades. It’s the Frankenstinian metaphor, taking the best parts of beloved games and genres, stitching them into each other and for the most part it works. Combat is weighty and challening, but never becomes punishing to the point of frustration. It helps that flinging Stormtroopers over the edge of a cliff will never not be fun and while the the enemy variety does grow a bit stale towards the end, Fallen Order freshens things up with enemy combinations that ensure that you’re constantly evaluating what the best move could be. It’s not revolutionary stuff but it does the job well enough that the game is consistently fun.
That being said, while the Souls-like genre it draws from is handled in a way that’s both fun and accessible for players not looking for a taxing experience, other aspects of the gameplay don’t quite live up to the standards of the combat. Exploration in Fallen Order is next to pointless, with your rewards for heading off the beaten path being incredibly bland and unimportant. Your efforts will only ever net you new cosmetic parts for your lightsaber, BD-01 and The Mantis and while it can be nice to see your ship change colours, you’ll never really be spending a great deal of time examining your lightsaber or droid for these filler unlockables to really make a difference. You’ll also be able to find upgrades to your health and Force meter which seem important until you realise you can just unlock those essential upgrades with skill points, rendering their discovery both unexciting and negligible at best.
What makes exploration even more taxing is the use of the 3D map and before someone shouts at me that it makes sense in the context of Star Wars, I’ll respond by saying that I don’t care about context. The map you’ll be working with is unclear and difficult to read at the best of times and while it’s nice having locked and inaccessible areas highlighted it’s also frustrating having to spin the map in different directions just so that you can make out what the various different colours of blue are trying to communicate. Perhaps it’s a personal preference, and I understand that with vertical levels comes the need to display that unique aspect through your navigation screen, but the actual implementation of that process is janky at best and annoying at worst.
Besides these main gripes there’re are other things I could complain about. Some animations take too long or are seemingly absent from the game (Open a chest underwater and you’ll see what I mean), some character models look rushed and incomplete, and the illusion of open-ended exploration is ditched the second you explore a certain planet and realise Fallen Order actually doesn’t want you heading there despite telling you it was totally feasible.
There are little things like that which are difficult not to notice but I’d be lying to you if I said they ruined the experience. Overlooking its flaws I think I adored playing Fallen Order. Its cinematic and bombastic in a way that appeals to my storytelling nature and satisfying enough to experience that I never wanted to put down the controller and take a break. Fallen Order has been the first game in a long time that’s kept me going on what I would call a binge-session, choosing to order a pizza for supper because I was having too much fun playing to be bothered to cook.
It’s far from a perfect experience, yet that doesn’t spoil what is ultimately a fantastic game. It’s the Star Wars game we’ve been promised for years now and it’s a real pleasure to see Fallen Order come to fruition in such a satisfying manner. That’s the thing about Frankenstein’s monster: He wasn’t perfect but there’s a reason we still talk about him over 200 years later.
Last Updated: November 19, 2019