STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER

DEVELOPER: Respawn Entertainment
PUBLISHER: Electronic Arts
EXPECT TO PAY: $89-99 AUD (Deluxe Edn)
AVAILABLE FROM: EA Origin, and STEAM

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is, by far, one of the best single-player Star Wars games around. Players take on the role of Cal Kestis, a Jedi Padawan (trainee) who survived the Empire’s purge, and has been hiding ever since. After using the Force to save the life of a friend, he finds himself hunted across the galaxy by Vader’s Inquisitors: Dark Jedi committed to rooting out and converting, or killing, Force users. What starts simply as a bid for survival, quickly turns into a race to find a hidden Jedi holocron (data storage unit) which contains information which could save, or doom, the Jedi Order.

It’s been years since there’s been a good, single-player Jedi game. Indeed, 2003’s Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy has been long regarded as the pinnacle - until now, that is. Let’s be honest, what attracts most people to these games is the chance to wield (if only in virtual form) a lightsaber, and this has some of the best lightsaber combat you’ll find in any Star Wars game. Duels are tight and intense affairs, focused on precision. Make no mistake - button mashing will get Cal killed (all the more embarrassing if he’s defeated by a lowly Scout Trooper). Instead, players will have to carefully time their strikes, blocks, and counters. While blocking will defend attacks from any angle, simply holding the block button isn’t an option – each time Cal blocks, it depletes a block-meter. If this runs out, Cal will be staggered and vulnerable to attack. On the other hand, precision timing with blocks, executed just before the strike lands, is rewarded. In melee this staggers your opponent and opens them up to an often lethal blow, and when facing foes with blasters, sends the blaster-bolt straight back to where it came from.

There’s more than just timing involved, as players have access to a number of combat option. Firstly, there’s single, dual, and dual-bladed style lightsabers (think Darth Maul). Each are fit for different purposes, with normal lightsabers offering the most precision and dual-bladed excelling at crowd control or fighting certain creatures. Secondly, players have the ability to seamlessly switch between weapons and style, turning Cal into a whirling nimbus of destruction. Thirdly, players have access to a variety of Force powers, from the standard push and pull (which can be upgraded into a grab and hurl), to the ability to slow foes and projectiles (as done by Kylo Ren in the new Star Wars films). The use of these Force powers aren’t unlimited, though, and these combat abilities will only recharge while engaged in melee fighting (or, if you got the upgrade, using a Stim (health pack) supplied by the friendly BD-1 droid. 

In many respects, this is the DOOM equivalent of a melee game: though on-one-on combat doesn’t present too much of a threat (with the exception of a few bosses and some hyper-aggressive creatures) the challenge comes from facing multiple enemies. A scout trooper by himself isn’t much of a threat, but throw in a couple of Stormtroopers armed with repeating blasters or rocket launches, a couple of security droids, or – even worse – an Imperial Shock Trooper (nasty foes trained specifically to kill Jedi), then you’re in for a real fight. This is especially so if you’re playing on the highest difficulty level. Unlike a lot of games which take the lazy route of diminishing damage inflicted by the player and increasing damage done by foes, developer Respawn has clearly thought about what the core challenge of combat is. Higher difficulty levels won’t reduce the amount of damage your lightsaber does, but will affect how aggressive your foes are, how much damage they inflict, and just how precise you have to be with your timing on blocks.

Of course there’s more to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order than combat. Along with great combat comes great platforming, with Cal navigating the various planets (levels) using jumps, wall runs, ledges and force powers (such as slowing machinery to allow access to various areas). While these start off fairly straight-forward (run here, jump there), it soon becomes more complex, with players having to string together multiple moves and Force powers in order to get around. And speaking of getting around, the game will see Cal visit (sometimes repeatedly) several distinct and beautifully rendered planets. Respawn has even made going from one planet to another fun. Select the destination, and then watch from your ship’s cockpit as it seamlessly takes off, flies up through the atmosphere, enters hyperspace and lands, all with no loading screens.

Then there’s the look, sounds, feel and story. Everything about this game screams Star Wars. The opening level could have easily come out of one of the films, the voice acting is exceptional, the story and characters engaging and one of the best in a Star Wars games to date, and the animation is superb. All of this comes together in Cal’s droid companion, BD-1, which possesses all the charm of R2-D2 and WALL•E rolled into one. It’s also the first Star Wars game I’ve come across to portray Vader in a way which is truly terrifying (think Star Wars: Rogue One with the player being in the place of the hapless rebels).

Respawn are clearly, justifiably, proud of their creation. If you buy the Deluxe Edition – which is well worth shelling out the extra for, you not only get some in-game goodies (such as different outfits, and lightsaber blade colours), you also get access to a lengthy documentary on the making of the game.

This is, hands down, the best single-player Star Wars game. Brilliant, fun, and an absolute delight to play, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a must for any Star Wars fan. ■

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