Released back in 2019, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order takes players on one of the most immersive Star Wars experiences yet as they play through the story of Cal Kestis, who is tasked with reviving the Jedi Order. This thrilling story is accompanied by an in-depth and challenging combat system that makes wielding a lightsaber feel fun and rewarding to master. Graphics are top notch, with Respawn Entertainment using the Unreal Engine 4 to its fullest potential with the variety of beautiful locations that the game takes you to. Epic orchestral music makes you feel like you are playing through one of the movies as you clash lightsabers with your adversaries. This fun and galaxy wide journey will have players on the edge of their seats and can be enjoyed both by the seasoned and casual Star Wars fan alike.
For the sake of not spoiling the story, I will only give a brief summary of the plot so that readers will be able to experience this adventure on their own. The story of Fallen Order takes place after the events of Revenge of the Sith, where Emperor Palpatine had taken control of the Republic and called for the genocide of the Jedi through Order 66. This tragedy became known as the Great Jedi Purge, as it destroyed the Jedi Order and eliminated most of its members. This is where the main character, Cal Kestis, comes in as he managed to escape the Purge when he was just a padawan in training and has lived a quiet life of hiding until the beginning of the game where tragic events led to the discovery that he is a former Jedi. This forces Cal to escape from the Inquisitors – Jedi Hunters trained by Darth Vader who are skilled in using lightsabers and the Force – with the help of unlikely allies Cere and Greez, who come to his rescue just in time. After his escape and a brief introduction, Cal is then tasked by Cere, who turns out to be a former Jedi, to retrieve a Jedi holocron that has a list of all the known Force sensitive children in the galaxy before the Empire can get their hands on it, with her ultimate goal being to use it to rebuild the Jedi Order. Throughout Cal’s journey to retrieve this fabled holocron, he learns what it really means to be a Jedi as he and his friends experience the realities of trauma, hatred, failure, and other tragedies as they fight for hope in a galaxy that has been left in despair.
While Star Wars has primarily always been a story about the battle between Good and Evil, Fallen Order’s story chooses to place more emphasis on how events affect it’s characters (the human condition) than typical Star Wars does. Throughout the story there is an emphasis on the reality of suffering, as we see how characters are affected by their past, especially by trauma and guilt. Being survivors of a geniocde has had haunting effects on both Cal and Cere as the pain they tried to run away from ends up returning as obstacles for them to overcome throughout the course of the story. Other characters have to deal with the guilt of shameful choices they have made and the effects they have on others. What the game ultimately wants to tell through all this suffering is that while we can’t control what happens to us in life, we can choose how we respond. This doesn’t mean doing the right thing will be easy or that our trauma goes away, but that the potential to make the correct choice is always there. For us Catholics, we see this as an opportunity not only to reinforce our goal to imitate Christ daily but also a chance to offer up any suffering we might experience for the souls of others.
This lets us transition to discuss one of the ultimate lessons that Cal learns throughout his journey, which is that he can only place his trust in something higher than himself. Because of the Purge, Cal has known from a young age that he ultimately has little control over what happens to him. This is further reinforced at the beginning of the game where any semblance of control that Cal thought he had by planning a life of hiding is ripped away when he is discovered to be a former Jedi. He continues receiving these lessons, as once he starts his journey he also realizes he can’t always trust those around him, even those who ultimately mean well. This is why the phrase that Cal’s master taught him “Trust only in the Force” is repeated from beginning to end to teach him the lesson of surrendering to a sort of Divine Providence. What one should take from this is not to start suspecting ill of everyone we encounter, but rather taking solace that we can surrender our lives to God, knowing that whatever happens to us will ultimately be for His glory and the good of His children. In other words, even if someone we once trusted is revealed to be untrustworthy, we can be sure that God did not allow this event to occur if there was no good to be taken out of it.
To give a personal connection, seeing Cal grow in his trust with the Force made me question how much I truly trust in the providence of God as I pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet often, proclaiming the words “Jesus, I trust in you” everyday, but truthfully I still have a long way to grow in trust before I can say it with my full heart. Ultimately we are to follow the guidance of Psalm 146 to not put our trust in “princes, mortals, in whom there is no help”, but are to declare alongside the psalmist of Psalm 143 “Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.”
Moving on to gameplay, Fallen Order plays as if Dark Souls, Uncharted, and Mirror’s Edge were thrown into a blender and served as a Star Wars themed smoothie that splits gameplay into two main sections: Exploration and Combat.
Exploration in Fallen Order utilizes an open world rather than a linear mission system and allows you to hop in and out of missions to explore the galaxy as you please. Exploring takes you cliff climbing, vine swinging, and wall running across various planets that each have their own set of collectibles, minibosses, and gameplay boosts that you can otherwise miss if you play straight through the campaign. This encourages you to take your time with the game and try to find everything you can before moving on to the next story mission. There is even a bit of backtracking as certain areas can only be explored once you have unlocked a new force ability or equipment upgrade. Once you actually decide to progress the story, you’ll have to traverse your way to the next story mission almost entirely on your own, as the game gives you the location of your objective on your map but doesn’t guide you there with indicators such as arrows or waypoints on the screen. This exclusion may sound strange to someone who has never played a Soulslike game, but not having someone holding your hand telling you where to go makes gameplay so much more fun and immersive because you have to actually use your head to figure out how you’re going to get to the next mission with the powers you have at your disposal. This leans into the next point which is that Fallen Order is also puzzle heavy as you are constantly being asked to use your force abilities in clever ways to solve challenging puzzles. They vary from having you escape an ancient temple by using the force to move around giant boulders (Indiana Jones style) to requiring you to force freeze and then wall run on active mining equipment. While these puzzles can certainly be difficult, they never ask anything unreasonable of the players and are akin to the difficulty of puzzles from games such as Uncharted and Ratchet and Clank and end up giving you a nice little self-esteem boost.
When you’re not off and about exploring, you’ll be fighting against your enemies wielding your trusty lightsaber and the Force. Once you’ve ignited your lightsaber, slashing is going to be your main method of attack with your end goal being to break through the enemy’s guard (if they have one) and slash at them until their health depletes. Then, once you’ve gauged the kind of fight you’re getting yourself into, you can choose to either throw out a quick light attack or a slower heavy attack. As well, because you’re a Jedi you can also use the Force to really mix up combat with attacks such as Force pushes, pulls, and freezes at your disposal. This is really useful when you are fighting a bunch of enemies as you can do clever things such as freeze a group of enemies while you focus on one, Force pull an enemy and throw him into his buddies, or even send a rocket back with a Force push. You can also use special lightsaber attacks that involve the Force like throwing your lightsaber at the opponent or around you in a circle. However, you are limited by your force gauge, which depletes with every force ability you use and can only be regained by defeating opponents or resting at a meditation circle (which is also how you save the game). The other aspect of combat is defense, as you can’t just mindlessly slash your way through fights and have to be careful not to get hit yourself. You accomplish this by studying your opponent’s attack pattern and blocking, parrying, or reflecting accordingly. There are even times where an enemy’s attack is unblockable, signified by a red glow, forcing the player to use a dodge or roll out of the way. Your guard gauge can be depleted pretty easily if you are being hit while blocking, so you’ll have to remain vigilant and guard accordingly. If you do get caught out of block, you are going to have to worry about not having your health depleted and can heal using your stim packs, but you only have so many of these each run so use them wisely.
Taking an honest look at this mixture of combat and exploration may make Fallen Order sound like it lacks originality with how much inspiration it gets from other titles as combat seems to draw heavily from FromSoftware games such as Dark Souls and the exploration from games such as Mirror’s edge. The premise of being on a journey where you explore ancient tombs in an effort to discover an important item (The Jedi Holocron) might sound a bit too much like Uncharted or Tomb Raider. This may raise the question of why someone wouldn’t just play one of the games that Fallen Order is inspired by instead of playing through some hybrid? If they liked the combat aspect then they could just go duel monsters in Dark Souls, and if they liked the exploration they could go jump around buildings on Mirror’s Edge. I asked a similar question when I first started playing as I enjoyed the combat but didn’t want anything to do with the exploration the game was forcing me to take part in. This honestly disappointed me at the time because I was expecting a hack and slash similar to the Force Unleashed where I could just button mash and it made me take around a month long break from playing. Later on when I decided to give Fallen Order another shot, I ended up really enjoying exploring the various planets as evident by my writing earlier in the review. While it certainly took me a while to get into, I eventually found myself exploring even when the game didn’t require it to progress the story, even if there were still times where it could get a bit annoying. I really came to appreciate that I could have the exploration of Mirror’s Edge yet also have the in-depth combat of Dark Souls at the same time and the game did such a good job at transitioning from fighting to exploration that I couldn’t decide which I wanted to experience next. While this mixture might not be for everyone, I ask that you at least make it to Zeffo before you decide whether the game is for you.
There is also an amazing amount of lightsaber customization as you are able to customize almost every aspect of Cal’s lightsaber to your liking. At the beginning you start out with the base lightsaber, which has a really unique design, and can unlock more lightsaber parts from chests scattered throughout the planets you explore. You can change things such as the material, handle, switch, and of course the color of the blade. There is so much detail to the lightsaber customization system that you’ll be sitting there for hours trying to make the perfect design, it’s honestly a lot of fun! My only complaint about the lightsaber customization is that there is no option to save builds that you have created, and if you’re anything like me, that’s going to be a huge bummer because you’re gonna want to constantly change your lightsaber throughout the course of the game. You can also customize other aspects of the game such as your outfit and your droid companion BD-1, but it’s pretty lackluster in comparison as you’re limited to only really being able to change the colors. With your outfit you’re limited to wearing a pancho, which is a bit disappointing for a game about a Jedi, but is understandable as Cal doesn’t want to announce to the galaxy that he is a surviving Jedi.
Slashing our way to the next section, Fallen Order also does a really good job at making you feel like you are wielding a weapon regarded as sacred by the Jedi Order rather than just a laser sword. Fans and non-fans alike will be gushing in appreciation from how much attention Respawn has given to the lightsaber effects and animations. Everything from the sound of the blade emitting to the hum of the lightsaber to the animations of swinging the blade feel really well crafted. One of the neatest details is that each blade color has its own emitting and hum sound which is a really nice addition if you’re a big Star Wars geek like me. To be honest there were probably tons of times where I would just run around playing with my lightsaber because it felt so cool to use. There is even a spiritual connection to be made with Respawn’s treatment of the lightsaber as their effort to hold the lightsaber as a special and valued piece of Jedi tradition should be how Catholics try to uphold the beauty of our own tradition because of its importance to our spiritual lives.
Moving on to environments, Respawn did a really good job at creating the locations you visit through your adventure as they are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in all of gaming with their being dense jungles, frozen caves, and even ancient ruins to explore. This immense variety makes each planet you visit feel unique from one another as each has its own environmental theme. For example, Kashyyyk is a jungle planet filled with exotic plants and wildlife that will fill you with awe while Dathomir is a desolate wasteland with intimidating mountains ranges and savage beasts around every corner that will send chills down your spine. Even if you aren’t someone who really cares for pretty sights, there will be times where you’ll want to take a small break to appreciate the beauty of the areas you’ll find yourself in.
The music is top notch as it always is for any Star Wars release, with tracks that really make you feel like you’re bringing the movies to life. Everything you’d expect, from super intense orchestral battle themes to calming ambiance, is present and really well crafted. One of the most memorable pieces is the title theme dubbed “Endo Cordova’s theme” which leaves you with a great first impression, as you are filled with this sense that discovery and adventure await you. Another great theme is that of the main antagonist, “Will of the Force”, which has an overwhelmingly strong and sinister aura to it that will send chills down your spine every time you fight the Second Sister. There are also the occasional tracks from the movies thrown in here and there with a respectful remix to keep their inclusion from being more than fan service with “Failure is Not The End” being a good example. Overall, while not the most memorable, Fallen Order’s soundtrack manages to capture the magic of Star Wars and to have some stellar original pieces.
In Summary, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order provides an amazing single player Star Wars experience that despite not being completely original is still very enjoyable. It’s exciting and pious story will have you reflecting spiritually as the game narrative focuses on difficult subjects such as trauma and regret. Challenging gameplay will have you on the edge of your seat as you seek to master your lightsaber skills against tough opponents. Awesome music and visuals will make the game feel like a genuine Star Wars story as epic orchestra music and beautiful locations are constantly before the player. If this review has convinced you to pick up the game, what are you waiting for? Become a Jedi!
Art and Graphics: 5/5
Occult: certain areas of the game have occult theming such as one planet named Dathomir where you fight against enemies who use dark magic and rituals. Dathomir’s landscape is also quite grotesque with creepy foliage and wildlife lurking around every corner. Because this game is about a Jedi, the player utilizes a power known as the “Force”, which is treated somewhat like a deity in the Star Wars universe and gives the player the ability to manipulate the environment and enemies through special psychic like powers. The player only gets to use the Force in it’s natural and pure form known as the “Light Side” and is never allowed to use the corrupted and twisted powers of the “Dark Side.”
Violence: Nothing too over the top, as wounds inflicted create no blood and only leave slash marks and laser burns. Finisher moves have somewhat violent animations but there is only dismemberment agaisnt the non-humanoid combatants such as the wild beasts you encounter with you being able to cut off the legs of a spider for example. Screaming is present when you or an opponent take damage and are defeated, but honestly isn’t as bad as other games.
Mature Themes: While I believe that none of the themes that Fallen Order addresses are handled poorly, they may be harder for younger kids and teens to process with themes such as loss, suffering, and trauma being front and center in the game’s narrative. With that being said, the scenes that accompany these themes are handled in a respectful and mature fashion that serve to help the characters grow and to advance the story and aren’t just there for shock value.
Language: very clean game in terms of language, I can’t remember there being anything offensive or vulgar when I played through the game and when I looked online I could only find references to “b******” and “hell”.