Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order - Review
With Stig Asmussen (father of God of War III ) in the control room and the talent of Respawn Entertainment at his disposal, Electronic Arts wants to create a new and significant epic based on the Star Wars universe , trying to recover from the missteps of the Battlefront series and to create, with Jedi: Fallen Order , his very personal answer to the various Tomb Raiders and Uncharted .
It does so with a game that chooses to venture into a partially unexplored territory, the one between the conclusion of Star Wars: Episode 3 - Revenge of the Sith and the beginning of Episode 4: A New Hope , a choice that leaves the developers a fair amount of freedom. in terms of experimentation and plot management. The end result is a third-person action game that, while probably not representing the best video game ever created in Star Wars history, manages to entertain and offer followers of the universe created by Lucas the fantasy of welcoming the Force and its appearance. purer and more candid, to take the path that transforms a young and frightened padawan into a mighty and mature Jedi.
A new hope
Cal Kestis is a survivor of Order 66, the infamous Jedi Purge with which the Empire literally exterminated the last supporters of the Light Side of the Force . Taking refuge on Bracca and assuming the identity of a simple worker, poor Cal earns his living by repairing objects in a landfill, trying to keep a low profile so as not to be found by the forces of the Empire. Despite his attempts, Cal is haunted by his past and is soon exposed when he is forced to use his skills to rescue a friend in need.
It is the beginning of a journey that will lead the padawan, who had never completed the training to become a Jedi, to cross his path with that of the Second Sister, ruthless leader of the Inquisition, an elite team shaped by Darth Vader manipulating the minds of ex-Jedi forced to go to the Dark Side, born with the sole purpose of exterminating the last bastions of light.
The one between Cal and the Second Sister, the main antagonist of the game, is a relationship that will evolve over the course of history and that certainly represents one of the most interesting elements of the plot . However, despite the excellent premises and a well-articulated script by Respawn, the plot of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order unfortunately never manages to involve that much, thanks to a certain lack of pathos in the topical moments and situations that, in one way or in the other, in the intricate Star Wars storyline they had already seen each other.
The (fallen) order of the Jedi
Of course, creating an original story in such a large universe is not easy, but some patterns followed by Respawn are evident already after the first few bars of the game and, unfortunately, they fail to surprise too much once the stories advance, that the mysteries become clearer, that the parties in the game make their respective moves. The events remain pleasant, the plot proceeds without particular jolts and leads Cal Kestis to explore different locations (some unpublished, others already known to Star Wars fans) of that faraway galaxy so much loved, in a desperate attempt to refound the order (now gone) of the Jedi.
It is the acting, however, the element that least convinced me of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order . The expressiveness of the characters makes many scenes set up by Respawn uninvolving , some of which are particularly inspired but, as anticipated, lacking particular emphasis, never incisive and almost hasty despite the plot expanding over 15-20 hours of game.
Hours during which Cal and his allies, Cere Junda and Greez Dritus, will literally go hard and hard facing the fearsome forces of the Empire, getting to know new and unexpected allies, but also confronting their own inner demons, the all in a narrative that, using collectibles, environmental elements, films and flashbacks, makes the contrast between past and present, between fear and hope, between Light and Dark its main element . Too bad, as mentioned, that the acting is not able to properly support the story and that in the most important moments, some characters of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order end up appearing more anonymous than they seemed at first glance.
I'm not talking clearly about a narrative sector to be thrown away, mind you: there are some particularly successful moments during the story, but I would certainly have liked a more engaging and in some ways exciting story . The performance of Cameron Monaghan (the Jerome of the TV series Gotham ) on the whole is good, however his character does not seem to be properly supported by actors of the same caliber and in this sense it takes very few but iconic moments, at the end of the adventure, to make this even more evident.
Between metroidvania and soulslike
Things improve, and a lot, when it comes to naked and raw gameplay: within the typical backbone of action games à la Tomb Raider , Respawn has managed to pack an adventure that combines the exploration of metroidvania with a combat system that takes its cue from soulslike to create a very, very fun and satisfying style of play, which does not fail to test the player at the highest difficulty levels and is characterized by a good challenge rate already at the intermediate level.
On his journey to become a Jedi, Cal can explore different planets in the galaxy, each featuring a different and pleasantly labyrinthine level design upon which the aforementioned metroidvania essence is based, with areas becoming accessible as the padawan intensifies the his connection to the Force , previously unreachable areas and new shortcuts that can be unlocked whenever Cal gains new abilities. Some of these, if we want more relevant, for obvious reasons are naturally linked to the progression in the story and are entrusted to the player only once the fundamental moments of the campaign have been reached, but once acquired they become upgradeable thanks to the traditional skill tree articulated through three different categories: Defense, Strength and Lightsaber.
By making kills, collecting collectibles, exploring the scenarios thoroughly and solving the puzzles that are hidden in the various game planets, you will gain experience with which to fill a special bar which, once completed, will reward you with a skill point to spend as you see fit . In fact, you can choose to unlock the skills every time you get a point or to accumulate them to give Cal the most powerful (and consequently more expensive) ones: during my test, exploring all the planets thoroughly and completing most of the activities ( but not all), I led my character to unlock almost all skills on a list that exceeds thirty, with the exception of two of the most powerful ones (which require three points each). To power up you will have to stop in special areas in which to meditate, comparable if we want to the Dark Souls bonfires: here you can manage the skill tree and restore your health, but by doing so you will activate the respawn of the enemies in the area. This very element, in the early stages of the game, could cause a little frustration since there is no real player level to determine the amount of damage inflicted (and received) by Cal.
In fact, it happens that by exploring the first planets the number of enemies is probably a little high compared to Cal's potential and actual abilities, a feeling that gradually fades once you have reached a certain amount of unlocked abilities and powers. You fight trying not to pass away, but when this happens (and it will happen, trust me) the only solution is to start from the nearest checkpoint (bonfire). Except in rare cases, in environments that cannot be freely explored and therefore have no save points, there is no automatic checkpoint: in the event of death, you will therefore have to repeat entire portions of the game (complete with exploration and fighting) to get back to the previous area .
Also in this case it is a precise design choice of the team that I find questionable and at times too punitive, especially considering that there is no form of fast travel, not even to / from your spaceship. An incomprehensible aspect, as far as I am concerned, in particular if most of the quests (read: all) require the return to the operational base to proceed to the next enterprise, reach another planet and thus progress in the plot.
Of puzzles, powers and dark graves
Apart from this infamous choice, which seems to have been put there to artificially increase the longevity of the adventure, I must say that I loved exploring the planets of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order , for two reasons: the first concerns the level design , twisted and intricate as few but well characterized and full of elements that allow you to take advantage of Cal's skills to access new areas, but also to solve some puzzles that give the impression of being faced with an episode of Tomb Raider .
These are puzzles that exploit the conformation of the scenario to create puzzles that are never excessively bizarre, but often not immediately obvious. These elements serve mainly to make us understand the potential of Cal's Jedi powers, how the Force can be used to interact with objects scattered in the scenarios to unlock an obstacle that blocked the way, a door that allowed a glimpse of his treasure but did not want any just knowing to open up (spoiler: you needed the right skill).
Between platforming phases based on ropes to cling to, wall runs, walls to climb and jumps that are not always precise and flawless, the puzzles are mainly based on the powers of Cal and the skills of his droid, the very nice BD-1 , and I must say that in at least a couple of situations the puzzles have proved to be of excellent workmanship, keeping me busy for some time to understand how the different skills of Cal (which at the end of the game begin to be particularly numerous) could be exploited in synergy to open secret passages or unlock certain mechanisms. This is a clever way to break away from the numerous fights and make the gaming experience more varied and less linear than it appeared from the very first trailers.
The second reason concerns the presence of secrets and hidden chests, elements scattered in the various planets that are hidden behind puzzles to be solved or optional boss fights, but which reward the most curious among the padawans with objects for the customization of Cal (and not only) . These elements, the number of which is shown on the holographic map, stimulate to fully explore the scenarios in search of secrets, hidden passages and puzzles that in addition to new ponchos, skins for the ship or objects for customizing the lightsaber, could give new details on the plot, further pieces of a larger picture that is deepened within a sort of "encyclopedia" within the game. But above all, going in search of secrets is a great way to obtain fragments that increase the life and strength bar available in the combat phases . Already, the fighting, the crucial and certainly most successful element of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order .
Timing first of all
The combat system of the Respawn Entertainment game recalls, as a conception, that of the soulslike and in particular of the more recent Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice by From Software , with an offensive system that is mainly based on the use of the lightsaber and is characterized by attacks light (Square on PS4, X on Xbox One) and powerful (Triangle / Y), which however consume a more or less generous portion of a bar that slowly restores with each hit inflicted.
The same bar is used to manage the powers of the Force, which are multiple and are gradually unlocked during the story : the left trigger allows you to attract enemies and objects, while the right one to repel them or block any heavy hits (such as missiles). The left dorsal allows you to parry attacks and, if managed at the right time, allows you to send blaster shots back to the sender, while the right one allows you to slow down enemies with a slow motion effect that gives the player the opportunity to catch their breath. recover energy through the use of stim (consumables similar to the Estus Flasks seen in Dark Souls ) and plan the next move. With Cross / A you jump, while Circle / B allows you to dodge or do a somersault to avoid enemy attacks, which can be "locked" by pressing the right analog stick to block the view on a single target.
The sum of these elements, in addition to some unlockable combos with the skill points earned, gives life to a combat system that is confirmed as a complex matter of timing , a frantic dance between attacks, parries and dodges that makes the difference when you are there. find to manage large ranks of enemies.
Yes, because although in one-on-one it is very difficult for a simple Stormtrooper to compete against an aspiring Jedi, it is in the most crowded situations that the games become interesting: certainly we must applaud the guys from Respawn, who have been able to respect the Star Wars mythology by inserting some of the most iconic enemies and creating new ones with a coherent and in some cases original style, also inventing different alien races that characterize the fauna of the various planets that you will explore and that, in most cases, will prove to be a enemy to keep at a safe distance if you do not want to perish miserably.
The variety of enemies is another strong point of Jedi: Fallen Order , which among boss fights (certainly not as numerous as in a soulslike, but always satisfying and challenging), simple mobs and wild beasts, certainly knows how to keep the player busy along his path. To have a chance of success against such heterogeneous groups of enemies you need to master the main elements of his combat system at the best, counterattack at the right time with a well-placed parry and wait for the most congenial moment to unleash the attacks that consume the Strength bar.
In this sense, it is good to underline that both the player and his opponents have a balance bar which, once exhausted, will break the guard and leave the character exposed to the opponent's attacks. Although not as demanding as Sekiro's posture, this peculiarity must be understood and studied properly to get the better of the opponents. Luckily, once you have defeated an enemy you will unlock a guide (like a kind of bestiary) that will enrich itself with advice in every fight. It does not matter if you end up on the mat: if it is true that with each defeat you lose all the experience points obtained (and not spent) up to that moment, it is equally true that a hit hit against the one who killed you is enough to recover instantly all that you have lost. With each defeat, you can reach the previous position (not marked on the map, however) and try to face the enemy in order to recover the points previously earned through sweat and effort .
A droid for a friend
When the going gets tough, BD-1, certainly the most successful character in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order , kicks into action. The very nice droid, who will accompany Cal along his path, plays a fundamental role in the gameplay and in addition to finding secrets, allowing you to open crates or (with the right skill) hack robotic opponents, he confirms himself as a valid ally in fights by providing you with a dose of treatments (the stim above) with which to restore part of the energy.
Like Cal, BD-1 has its own set of skills that are progressively unlocked throughout the story and which, in synergy with the protagonist's skill tree, can improve the effects of particular skills during combat. The BD-1 itself is fundamental during the exploration and solving of puzzles, and will establish a relationship with the protagonist that, alone, manages to keep the story standing in moments when it becomes really difficult to empathize with the other characters .
On a technical level, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a game that thrives on continuous lights and shadows, as if it were constantly poised between the Light Side and the Dark Side of the Force . On the one hand, there is a valuable artistic direction, which demonstrates Respawn's respect for the universe shaped by Lucas and a great ability to create figures, characters and settings in line with the tradition of the saga. On the other hand, there is a game that, at the time I wrote the review, suffers from problems that are really hard to ignore. For example, we are talking about the uploads that, at each death and subsequent respawn, force the player to wait from 30 to 45 seconds (if all goes well) to re-enter the game. Also count that in some cases, the enemies do not reappear immediately on the map, but after about ten seconds from the spawn of Cal in the scenario.
To this we must add a technical realization certainly not at the levels of other triple-A productions, and I am not referring only to the aforementioned Uncharted , which as an exclusive first-party is also understandable that it is treated to the point (manic) to appear a game of another generation, but also to multi-platform titles such as the recent Call of Duty: Modern Warfare , which with its graphics engine has clearly shown that we can (and in some cases must) do more. Mind you, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is not a bad game to watch, absolutely. But despite the use of an engine like Unreal Engine 4, the polygonal models are not as detailed and curated as one would expect from a similar game, the animations stutter a bit (especially in the platforming stages) and in general there are obvious technical limitations. , such as loads between one area and another during gameplay that lead to real freezes of a few seconds while exploring.
Net of these defects, which will likely be resolved with the inevitable post-launch patches but which cannot be overlooked here, it should be emphasized that everything is largely compensated by a masterful audio sector , with a soundtrack that respects the story of the saga and masterfully alternates historical themes and original compositions. An inspired soundtrack that accompanies every single step of Cal, sometimes with a subdued way, others with the arrogance that is necessary when it is necessary to mark significant moments. Which may not be embellished with Oscar-worthy performances, but at least they manage to immerse the player in a fascinating and powerful imagery like that of Star Wars .
Finally, an applause for the localization in Italian and for the dubbing, with a good choice of voices and more generally a certain adherence to the universe of Star Wars (and no, it was not so obvious). Of course, as far as I'm concerned I continue to support the cause of the use of works in the original language, even if to enjoy the excellent work of Monaghan with the character of Cal, but in general the average quality of the adaptation means that the story is enjoyable even keeping the audio in Italian.