Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the ending of the Mass Effect trilogy, including Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.
Mass Effect 4 has a choice to make – at least it does if, as we’re all assuming, the game is planned as a sequel to the Mass Effect trilogy. The choice the developers will have to make will have knock-on effects for the entire plot of the game, and unfortunately will impact some players more than others. In short, BioWare will need to choose one of Mass Effect 3′s ending options as the foundation on which to build their new story.
We talked a little while ago about the ending options from a narrative point of view, and I came to the cop-out conclusion that all three have points in their favour as well as drawbacks. Though the “destroy” ending is seemingly favoured by a majority of players, there are still sizeable minorities who chose either “synthesis” or “control” at the climax of the story.
Each of the three endings are very different from one another, and each would leave the Mass Effect galaxy in a very different place. I don’t see how it would be possible for BioWare to make one game that allowed players to choose which ending to canonise; the narrative consequences are simply too different in each case to allow a single story, even a very adaptable one, to be created. Unless BioWare is prepared to essentially make three games, trying to incorporate all three endings seems like a non-starter.
There’s also the question of Commander Shepard’s fate. The teaser trailer for the next Mass Effect game that was shown off earlier in the year appeared to show Liara on a quest to either find Shepard or find their remains, and if we can infer from that that Commander Shepard will have some role to play in the game’s story – whether that’s as a playable character or not – then there needs to be some realistic way that Shepard could’ve survived the events of Mass Effect 3. As far as we know based on what we saw in the game, the only way Shepard even possibly survives is to choose the “destroy” ending.
Mass Effect 3′s ending – and really the final third of the game – was undeniably rushed, and as a result we only got a very brief epilogue showing off some of the possible consequences for each scenario. But even just in those few minutes of voiceover atop static images, we can tell that the Mass Effect galaxy ends up in a very different place depending on Shepard’s choice.
I’ve always felt that Mass Effect 3 wanted to push players toward the “synthesis” ending. That’s the one that was most difficult to unlock, and if EDI’s epilogue is to be believed it seems to lead to a technological utopia of sorts, with the rebuilding of the galaxy happening much more quickly and easily, and with the possibility of life extension for organic beings.
But paradise doesn’t really make for an interesting story! Not only that, but synthesis was never Shepard’s goal; it was only introduced as an option right at the very end of the game with limited explanation courtesy of the Catalyst. The Catalyst would claim that synthesis – i.e. fusion of organic and synthetic life – had been its end goal since the beginning, which in effect makes it the Reapers’ objective too, as the Catalyst was the force controlling the Reapers. Shepard didn’t get the opportunity to hear anyone else’s perspective on synthesis before making their choice.
Setting aside that making such a monumental decision for every living being is not Shepard’s choice to make, “synthesis” also has some pretty disturbing implications. The way in which newly-synthesised denizens of the galaxy appear to go along with everything that’s happened, combined with the Reapers’ survival and the Catalyst’s comments about this being its own endgame, could be taken to mean that this isn’t really a victory at all for Shepard and their allies.
“Control” is likewise not a strong basis for building a new story. With Shepard seizing control of the Reapers and simply directing them to leave the galaxy, the Reaper threat has not ended. Shepard may be in control for now – but how long will that control last? Can Shepard keep the Reapers under their sway indefinitely, or will millennia of isolation drive them mad?
In order for Mass Effect 4 to put the Reaper War in the rear-view mirror and move on to a new story, a decision has to be taken as to which ending is the “official” one. The popularity of “destroy”, combined with the negative consequences present in the “synthesis” and “control” options, seem to make it the only practical choice.
My concern is that Mass Effect 4 might try to tell the same story in all three settings with a few cosmetic differences to pay lip-service to the ending choices but without really exploring in any detail what the consequences of those endings might be. Take, for example, my theory regarding the Leviathans. If BioWare wanted to make the Leviathans the main villain for Mass Effect 4, that only really works with the “destroy” ending. Consider that the Leviathans have remained hidden for millions of years following the Reapers’ first harvest. If a new force (Shepard) seized the Reapers in the “control” ending, from their point of view the Reaper threat still exists. Would they emerge from hiding? And in the case of “synthesis,” the Leviathans would be affected too. It was strongly implied in the “synthesis” epilogue that every species was now working together, so in such a case they couldn’t be villains.
That’s just one hypothetical example of how one story couldn’t be forced into three very different moulds for a new game in the series. We’ve seen smaller-scale examples of this within the Mass Effect trilogy itself, and Mass Effect 3 in particular seemed to have difficulty respecting players’ choices in previous games. To give two examples: regardless of what players did in Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2, Liara will always be the Shadow Broker in Mass Effect 3, and Udina will always be Earth’s Councillor.
These stories were relatively minor, though, at least in comparison to the things we’re considering today! Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 did respect players’ choices and the consequences of those choices in some ways, though, making each playthrough unique. In fact it’s this aspect of the trilogy that makes it so appealing to me and to many other players – Commander Shepard feels like a different person on each playthrough and the story is tweaked to recognise that.
But the differences in Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 were minor. Certain characters would be missing if they’d died in previous games, for example, but there was usually someone else to take their place. Urdnot Wreav (voiced by Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Michael Dorn) would take Wrex’s place as the clan leader if Wrex died. Ashley and Kaidan were basically interchangeable in Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. And even characters like Thane, who played an important role in Mass Effect 3 when it came to the Cerberus attack on the Citadel, were replaced by a like-for-like stand-in if they’d died during the suicide mission.
It would be impossible, though, for BioWare to successfully repeat this on a larger scale. The three ending options for Mass Effect 3 simply can’t lead to the same story because of how radically different everything about the galaxy necessarily must be in each scenario. Add into the mix that Mass Effect 4 may be picking up a story some years or even decades after the end of Mass Effect 3 and there’s been time for those changes to multiply. In short: one single story cannot be made to work in all three scenarios, and trying to do so will all but guarantee a disappointing experience for players.
Mass Effect 4 has a difficult task. Whatever BioWare chooses to do with the game’s story, some players who were very attached to the way they played the original trilogy are bound to be left upset. Because those games offered players different routes leading to different endings, there really isn’t any escaping that. The only glimmer of hope is that one ending choice is substantially more popular than others – and BioWare has been keeping tabs on that! The fact that the “synthesis” ending was not a big part of the game at all, only appearing right at the very end, and that “control” had been the preference of Mass Effect 3′s villains also seems to set up a situation in which the choice should be acceptable to a majority of fans of the Mass Effect trilogy. I’d wager that most players chose “destroy” on at least one of their playthroughs anyway.
So that’s it for today. Mass Effect 4 has a choice to make – and it’s a big one. As I see it, any sequel has to choose one ending over the others simply because the state of the galaxy is so radically different in each case that one single story couldn’t possibly fit all three scenarios. Despite my feelings about Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, I’m curious to see what BioWare has in store for the next part of the franchise – even though it’s still a few years away!
The next Mass Effect game is in early development and most likely won’t be released for several years. Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is out now for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. The Mass Effect series – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of BioWare and Electronic Arts. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Mass Effect: Legendary Edition and its ending.
Though the release of the underwhelming Mass Effect: Legendary Edition earlier this year was partly a money-making ploy on the part of BioWare and Electronic Arts, there is another significant factor in the development of what we’ll generously call a “remaster.” Legendary Edition had the task of rehabilitating the series’ reputation following the disappointment of Mass Effect: Andromeda, and was also tasked with bringing in new fans – as well as getting existing fans hyped up – in time for the upcoming release of Mass Effect 4. In that sense, Legendary Edition does seem to have largely succeeded, as excitement for the next entry in the series is higher than it’s ever been.
No details have yet been announced for Mass Effect 4, and we’ve only had the tiniest of teases in the form of a CGI teaser trailer, so any details of the game’s story are complete unknowns. But based on what we know about the Mass Effect galaxy, perhaps it isn’t too early to speculate about what might come next for Commander Shepard and their crew… assuming Shepard is coming back, of course!
One of the key things Mass Effect 4 will have to balance is the scale of its story. Whether we get to play as Shepard or not, Mass Effect 4 will almost certainly be picking up the story in the aftermath of the Reaper War. This conflict saw the whole galaxy – led by Shepard – fighting for its very survival against a seemingly unstoppable foe, so from a narrative point of view that kind of epic tale can be hard to top.
This was the fundamental problem that befell Mass Effect: Andromeda. Even if that game had been launched in a better condition, without the bugs and visual glitches that would go on to define it for many players, the underlying story still felt anticlimactic. I’ve described Andromeda in the past as a game that feels like an overblown side-quest, and partly this is because of the story that came immediately before it. Andromeda was an attempt to branch out, to take Mass Effect away from Commander Shepard and spin it out into a larger franchise. But it failed not because of its bugs and other technical issues – though those were catastrophic in their own right – but because it told a story that many players simply weren’t interested in.
Coming on the heels of the Reaper War, Mass Effect 4 has to avoid feeling anticlimactic in the way Andromeda did. But it has to balance that against telling a story that’s too derivative or repetitive; another galactic-scale threat caused by invaders from beyond the galaxy would feel like a cheap knock-off of what came before. Look to Star Wars’ old Expanded Universe for countless examples of this, as fan-fiction versions of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia battled clone after clone of Palpatine and fought dozens of bland, derivative Sith Lords and Imperial wannabes.
What comes next for the Mass Effect galaxy has to feel consistent, too, with what we already know about the setting. After Shepard succeeded at uniting the forces of practically every major faction in the galaxy, having one of them turn on the others and become an antagonist wouldn’t only be difficult to pull off narratively, it would risk upsetting fans and coming across as annoying.
So I think we can rule out stories like a krogan or turian uprising, or the sudden return of the long-dead Protheans looking to conquer the galaxy! Those kinds of stories might seem interesting – and perhaps the game will ultimately try to go down a similar path – but for the reasons mentioned I think they’d be too difficult to execute in a satisfying way.
Instead I want to focus on a faction from Mass Effect 3′s DLC – the Leviathans. The Leviathan DLC is integrated into Mass Effect: Legendary Edition (albeit not especially well; there are some issues which arise from the timing of its insertion into the story) so I think we can safely assume that it’s fully canon and that most Mass Effect fans will have played it. Leviathan introduced Commander Shepard to the titular Leviathans – ancient lifeforms with the power to control minds.
The Leviathans revealed to Commander Shepard that their species created the Reapers; much like the way the quarians created the geth, the Reapers were artificial intelligences designed to aid the Leviathans. Of course, they soon betrayed their masters, having interpreted their directive to “preserve” all life in an apocalyptic manner.
Commander Shepard encountered a handful of Leviathans hiding deep below the surface of an uncharted ocean world. These were the survivors – or more likely the descendants of survivors – of a race whose empire once spanned the entire galaxy. The Leviathans were unapologetic for their dominance of other “lesser” races, who they forced to worship them as gods. The survivor who spoke with Commander Shepard had little regard for humans or other races, and seemed only willing to act in the Reaper War out of self-interest.
Despite being in hiding for millions of years – perhaps longer – the Leviathans’ sense of self-importance was undimmed. They regard themselves as the galaxy’s “apex race,” and used their mind control powers to attack or kill anyone they perceived as even a minor threat.
The Leviathans seem to regard the entire Milky Way galaxy as their own personal fiefdom; their domain. Sharing power or joining a broader galactic community is simply not on their agenda, and with the destruction or removal of the Reapers, it seems at least plausible that they might seize the opportunity to emerge from hiding to reclaim the empire they had lost in the distant past.
On a much smaller scale, this was the Protheans’ idea. At least two Prothean facilities – on Eden Prime and Ilos – were designed to host hundreds of thousands of Protheans in hibernation, to emerge after the Reaper threat had passed. The Protheans failed in their goal – though a single individual did survive – but the Leviathans didn’t. They managed to sustain a viable population at the bottom of the ocean on an uncharted world, and although we only saw a few individuals it’s possible that there are hundreds, thousands, or even more Leviathans. They may even have populations on other worlds.
Of the three endings offered to the player at the conclusion of Mass Effect 3, a Leviathan return works best with the “destroy” ending. If Shepard opted to take control of the Reapers, it stands to reason that the Leviathans would still consider them to be a threat, whereas if Shepard chose the “synthesis” ending then presumably the fusing of organic and synthetic DNA across the galaxy would also have affected the Leviathans.
But if the Reapers were destroyed – the most popular ending choice – suddenly the Leviathans could find themselves in a galaxy where their biggest foe has been vanquished. Not only that, but with the Mass Relay network critically damaged and the combined fleets and forces of the galaxy all massed around Earth (and feeling a lot worse for wear after months of conflict, no doubt), the Milky Way might appear to them to be practically undefended – and ripe for the taking.
Striking out from their hidden undersea base, the Leviathans could use similar tactics to the Reapers to gain control of key worlds – using their mind control abilities to sway military and political leaders and bring them into the fold. From there, Leviathans could abandon their base, taking up residence at key locations around the galaxy before the survivors of the battle for Earth even realise what’s happened.
Repairing the Mass Relays will take time – if the assembled scientific minds can even figure out how to do so – and with communications and travel disrupted across the galaxy on account of the long war, the Leviathans could establish a commanding position even if they didn’t make their move immediately.
A power vacuum on this scale is chaotic – and many war-weary citizens and refugees might even welcome Leviathan rule if it were accompanied by stability, and if the Leviathans could provide them with basic supplies like food and shelter. By the time the Council races realise what’s happened, large swathes of the galaxy could already be under Leviathan control – perhaps even including three of the four Council homeworlds.
Fighting the Leviathans would be similar, in some ways, to fighting the Reapers – their armies would largely consist of enthralled mind controlled victims of the galaxy’s races. The difference might be that taking on an actual Leviathan would be comparatively rare – unlike the Reapers, the Leviathans don’t seem like they’d want to get involved on the front lines, preferring instead to sit back (or hide) and let their enthralled victims do their dirty work.
So that’s the extent of this theory, really. To summarise it in a single sentence: with the Reapers defeated, the Leviathans finally emerge from hiding, intent on reclaiming a galaxy they’ve always considered to be “theirs.” Commander Shepard may be pressed back into action to save the galaxy all over again, or maybe we’ll take on the role of a new character when Mass Effect 4 is ready. Please keep in mind that, as always, I don’t have any “insider information.” This is nothing more than a fan theory – and it may very well be completely wrong!
Despite how I felt about Legendary Edition, I do like the Mass Effect series. In fact, the reason I was upset at BioWare for the sloppy work and unimpressive upgrades that Legendary Edition offered was because the games are so enjoyable – the series has the potential to be so much more than Legendary Edition made of it. I’m hopeful that Mass Effect 4 will be a game worth getting excited about – but there’s no rush. If BioWare and Electronic Arts have learned anything from recent releases, it should be to take their time!
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is out now for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. A new Mass Effect game – referred to above as Mass Effect 4 – is currently in development, but no release date has been announced. The Mass Effect series – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of BioWare and Electronic Arts. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
EA Play is bringing a huge library of new games to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service! Because it’s been overshadowed by Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Bethesda, and the arrival of those games to Game Pass in recent weeks, this news seems to have flown under the radar. I almost missed this altogether, and it was only when I saw it on Twitter (of all places) that I realised what a monumental win this is for Microsoft, Game Pass, and quite frankly for subscribers as well.
I initially signed up for Game Pass for PC last year in order to play Forza Horizon 4, and it was well worth it! I’ve since played a few other games on there, and it’s easily value for money at £7.99 ($9.99 in the US) per month, in my opinion. One thing is clear, though, and that’s the fact that Microsoft has continued to invest heavily in the service. The addition of Bethesda’s lineup of titles brought the likes of Fallout 4, Skyrim, and Doom Eternal to Game Pass. And now EA Play has brought games like FIFA 21, Titanfall 2, The Sims 4, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and many others to the service, too. It seems all but certain that the upcoming Mass Effect: Legendary Edition will be available there as well – so maybe I’ll play it after all!
Game Pass has expanded rapidly, and continues to go from strength to strength. Right now, there’s no question that it’s the best way to get into current-gen gaming, and picking up a preowned Xbox One or – when availability improves – an Xbox Series S will mean that a huge library of games is available to even players on a limited budget. For less than the price of a Netflix subscription there are more games than I could play in an entire year, including some absolutely fabulous ones!
The only pang of regret I feel is because I’d bought a few of these games over on Steam! Of course if you’re worried about permanence it’s better to buy than subscribe, because it’s possible that EA Play and/or any of its games will be removed from the service in future. But just like we’ve seen happen with television and films thanks to the rise of streaming, many people are quite okay with that concept. Sure, losing access to a title is disappointing, and when Netflix removes a big name there’s often a minor backlash. But people have generally come to accept the impermanence of films and television shows on streaming platforms – so I daresay that will happen with games as well.
In the worst case, if a game you adore is removed from Game Pass, you can always buy it elsewhere. It doesn’t have to be the huge drawback that some folks insist it is. We increasingly live in a society of renting: we rent our homes, vehicles, and sometimes even our furnishings. We rent our films, television shows, and music via services like Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and Spotify. And now, Microsoft is pushing hard to convince people to rent their game libraries too.
Having built up a Steam library over the better part of a decade I’m not willing to part with it, and I still don’t see Game Pass as a full-time substitute for buying games in a general sense. But you know what? I could be in the minority on that very soon. As mentioned, Game Pass now offers a colossal library of titles, and not only Xbox-exclusive games like Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Sea of Thieves. The FIFA series of football (soccer) games are literally the most popular titles around the world, and now the most recent entries are on Game Pass, with this year’s entry almost certain to follow. And huge multiplayer titles like Apex Legends are as well. Heck, you can even play Anthem… though goodness only knows why you’d want to.
For a player on a limited budget, Game Pass is now my number one recommendation. Whether it’s on PC or console, I honestly can’t recommend anything else. There’s simply no alternative that offers such a variety of major titles for the cost, and even speaking as someone who doesn’t use it as often as I could, it’s 100% worth it. This new addition of EA titles has taken what was already an enticing offer and made it even better.
There are still some issues with the Xbox app on Windows 10, and it doesn’t always work perfectly. But the games it launches do, and whether you’re interested in a strategy title like Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition or a racer like Forza Horizon 4, there are so many games now that it’s worth a try for almost anyone interested in gaming.
Microsoft took a risk with Game Pass, banking on players turning away from the model of buying and owning individual titles to rent them via a Netflix-style subscription. As the service continues to grow and expand, both in terms of its library and its playerbase, I think it’s fair to say that the risk is paying off.
So what am I going to play first? That’s a good question! I was tempted by the Mass Effect trilogy, which I otherwise only own on Xbox 360. But with Legendary Edition coming soon I think I’ll wait to see if it comes to Game Pass, which hopefully it will. Titanfall 2 is calling out to me, and despite being a big fan of fantasy I’ve never played the Dragon Age games, so maybe I’ll finally give those a shot. Or maybe I’ll go back and replay Sim City 2000 – there’s nothing like a hit of nostalgia, after all. I feel spoilt for choice!
This move makes a lot of sense for both companies. EA’s Origin platform and EA Play have both struggled to bring in huge numbers of players since they launched, and with EA diversifying and bringing many of its titles to Steam, joining in with Game Pass feels like a no-brainer. And from Microsoft’s point of view, anything they can do to increase the appeal of Game Pass shores up the service, and that can only have the effect of bringing in new subscribers as well as convincing existing ones to stick around.
When taken alongside the recent Bethesda acquisition and the launch of the weaker but cheaper Xbox Series S, I have to say that Microsoft is off to a very strong start in this new console generation – far better than I had expected even six months ago.
Xbox Game Pass is available now for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. Prices were correct at time of writing (March 2021). This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
After months of speculation, Electronic Arts and BioWare finally confirmed what every gamer and games industry watcher has known for ages: Anthem is dead. Rather than spend even more money on this failure, EA have opted to cancel any remaining plans that they had in the pipeline in order to focus on other projects. And while it may be disappointing to Anthem’s five or six remaining loyal players, it’s unquestionably the right decision.
What was clearly the wrong decision, though, was releasing this mediocre title in the first place. And stepping back even further than Anthem’s troubled 2019 launch, we can argue that it was the wrong decision to push a studio like BioWare – renowned for their single-player role-playing games – to create a “live service” multiplayer action-shooter in the first place.
Game developers and studios have to be allowed to innovate; without trying new things there would never be any progress in video game development, and that wouldn’t be a good thing. But when a studio has a proven track record at making a certain style of game, their publisher or the company who owns that studio pushing them to do something entirely outside that wheelhouse can lead to difficulties and problems.
The developers at BioWare simply did not have the multiplayer experience, the action-shooter experience, or the necessary knowledge of EA’s Frostbite game engine to put together an ambitious title like Anthem. And while senior BioWare managers may have felt, in 2012 when Anthem was first conceived, that they had a new and unique idea, the “live service” concept had been done and done again by the time the game finally stumbled out the door.
Anthem was boring. It was an uninspired shooter whose every in-game system and mechanic had been done before by someone else – and done better. BioWare’s final saving grace when dealing with lacklustre gameplay was the studio’s ability to craft great stories and bring wonderful characters to life – but they failed at that too, and Anthem ended up offering little more than a decently pretty environment. That just isn’t good enough, and players quickly put down this disappointing experience, never to pick it up again.
When Anthem’s “roadmap” of additional content was scrapped in late 2019, that was it. No one who follows the games industry was seriously expecting EA and BioWare to successfully revive the game – and if anyone did, I’ve got a bridge to sell them! All this talk of “Anthem Next” was a cynical attempt by these companies to convince the few remaining Anthem players to stick around and keep spending money in the game with promises of more features and updates. I seriously doubt that EA ever intended to make good on the promise of an overhaul and update of the game; that was nothing more than meaningless empty words designed to exploit those few remaining fans.
After more than a year of living through the coronavirus pandemic I am sick to the back teeth of companies using it as an excuse for whatever the problem of the day is. In their curt blog post announcing the end of Anthem, BioWare attempted to shift the blame onto the pandemic, suggesting that it played a role in this decision. I call bullshit on that. This was a business decision, plain and simple, and it was one that was almost certainly taken a very long time ago.
The reality is that Anthem, like Mass Effect: Andromeda before it, was dead on arrival. The game has been kept on life support for two years, with players fed a steady diet of lies and promises that EA and BioWare had no plans to make good on. Such is the reality of a “release now, fix later” game. So much for being the “Bob Dylan of video games” – a statement so stupid, by the way, that I can scarcely believe anyone at BioWare actually said it.
Anthem needs to be a lesson, not just for BioWare and Electronic Arts but for the games industry in general. You can’t release a mediocre game and convince people to stick around in case it gets good later. “Release now, fix later” categorically does not work. The legacy of Anthem needs to be that better games are released in the wake of its failure.
If a game is not in a good enough state, it should be delayed and not forced into a release window to meet some arbitrary deadline. Big companies like Electronic Arts can absorb the costs of prolonging development if it means that the game will eventually launch to critical acclaim and commercial success. By forcing Anthem to be released when it was simply not ready, Electronic Arts snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and pissed away a huge amount of money.
Anthem was never financially viable. No multiplayer game that loses 90% of its playerbase in a matter of weeks can possibly be sustainable, which is another reason why I’m convinced that all this talk of a “renewal” or update to Anthem was never serious on the part of EA and BioWare. The sad thing is that there was potential in Anthem. Had it been a project that was handled differently its flying “Iron Man” suits and brand-new sci-fi world could have gone on to be held up alongside franchises like Mass Effect or Halo. But a series of poor decisions across its development meant that wasn’t possible, and it seems unlikely at this stage that Anthem’s world will ever be revisited.
What this means for Anthem’s remaining players is that it’s over. It’s time to jump ship and not spend another penny on any in-game microtransactions. While BioWare have promised to keep the servers running for now, in reality it’s only a matter of time before they’re shut down and the game is gone forever. There are other, better games out there to play, so if you’re one of those few remaining players, have a look for something else to play instead.
For BioWare this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it potentially frees up a handful of developers to work on the next Dragon Age game, Mass Effect 4, and whatever else may be in the pipeline. On the other hand it confirms what we’ve all known for a while – the studio has released two failures in a row. Electronic Arts, rather like Google, has a reputation for shutting down unsuccessful studios and killing projects that aren’t bringing in enough money. There was already a lot of pressure on BioWare to get their next project right – and that pressure has just increased.
I don’t think we should celebrate the demise of Anthem – but I don’t lament it either. The game was a waste of potential, it damaged the reputation of a studio previously held in high esteem, and serves as yet another example of why this “release now, fix later” trend is such a mistake. Hopefully the lessons of Anthem will be learned so that better games will be made in future. That’s its only shot at a legacy.
Anthem is the copyright of Electronic Arts and BioWare. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Mass Effect series.
Rumours swirled for much of 2020 that the Mass Effect trilogy was to be remastered. The project was confirmed a couple of months ago – Mass Effect: Legendary Edition will be coming to PC, Xbox, and PlayStation in May. I didn’t cover the initial announcement, though, because there really wasn’t much to say. Electronic Arts and BioWare saw fit to publish only a brief teaser, and from that there was very little to gleam.
After a couple of months of waiting, however, we now finally have some details about Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, so I wanted to take a look at some of them and give my thoughts. Some games journalists were invited to a digital event for Mass Effect: Legendary Edition in which they were able to speak with developers and managers at BioWare, so in addition to the official trailer and announcement we also have some more details to look at. My invitation to that event must’ve got lost in the post!
Prior to the official announcement of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, I wrote up a wishlist of things I’d like a remaster of the trilogy to include. Obviously not everything I hoped to see has been included, but some key things will be. I would reiterate a point I made in that article, though: it’s only been a few years since the trilogy wrapped up. The Mass Effect trilogy was released during the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era, and, like many games from that generation, they still look pretty good today. I questioned the need for a remaster so soon, given that there hasn’t been that much of an increase in computing power and graphics technology in the intervening nine years.
And on that point, which is arguably the single biggest reason to remaster any game, I have to say that I’m not especially impressed with what I’ve seen of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition so far. There are some improvements, of course, and it can be hard to properly convey the scale of the changes made when dealing with compressed digital video on platforms like YouTube. But I have a decent 4K monitor, and when I looked at a number of scenes from the official trailer as well as high-resolution screenshots provided by BioWare, it was hard to see a significant improvement, especially when looking at scenes from Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3.
When Capcom remastered Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 over the last couple of years, both games saw a colossal improvement from a visual standpoint. In fact I think it’s arguable that the remade versions of those games told their stories in a much better and more immersive way – except, of course, for the cut content from Resident Evil 3. Both titles were beloved by gamers of a certain age, but bringing them up-to-date allowed a whole new generation of players to experience the horror and excitement of Raccoon City. That won’t be the case with Mass Effect: Legendary Edition. Aside from the fact that the games have all been available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and even the Wii U, there just isn’t such a noticeable change in the way the games look, and while there have been tweaks and adjustments to gameplay, none of the games have seen a huge overhaul in the way the Resident Evil titles did.
So I come back to my original question from my first piece on the subject: is now the right time to remaster the Mass Effect trilogy? Although it seems mad to think ahead to the PlayStation 6 when we’ve literally just had the PlayStation 5’s launch, I would argue that waiting another five to ten years and another console generation would have allowed the Mass Effect trilogy to see much more of an improvement. The original games are good enough – especially the second and third titles – to stand on their own two feet. A re-release or a repackaging of all three titles would have been sufficient, and I don’t really see a significant advantage to what EA and BioWare are billing as a “remaster.”
This is not, by the way, a problem unique to the Mass Effect series. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was remastered in 2016, less than a decade after its release, and was similarly underwhelming. Partly this is psychological – we have a tendency to remember games looking better than they actually did. But in the case of many modern titles it’s also due to the fact that visuals and graphics have not improved in a huge way over the last decade when compared to earlier decades. So while Mass Effect: Legendary Edition looks decent, it’s not always easy to see – at least from the footage shown so far – that it’s substantially better than the original versions of its three constituent games.
The second point of criticism I have is that no action has been taken to change the story. As I wrote last time, I didn’t expect the ending of Mass Effect 3 to fundamentally change. That would require far too much effort for a project of this nature. The “pick-a-colour” ending of Mass Effect 3 is arguably the weakest part of the entire trilogy, and while it would be great to have seen that changed I knew it wouldn’t happen. So that isn’t what’s disappointing!
What is disappointing, though, is that the final third of Mass Effect 3 appears to be left unchanged. For me, the “pick-a-colour” ending was only one part of what let the game down; countless smaller decisions taken across the whole trilogy that should have mattered were either entirely ignored or only given the barest lip service in the story’s climactic final act. The most egregious example is that of the Quarians and Geth. To make a long story short, if players follow a specific path across all three games, it’s possible to save both the Geth and Quarians at a decisive moment where it looks as though it should only be possible to save one. This choice should matter; having both powerful fleets on side should be hugely impactful in the final battle against the Reapers. Yet it isn’t. Aside from a couple of seconds of cut-scene where both fleets warp in, and one line of dialogue, this massive choice fails to make any impact.
That may be the worst example; it’s certainly the one which stuck with me. But there are dozens of others, and the final third or so of Mass Effect 3 was undeniably rushed. Revisiting the project should have been an opportunity to right some of these wrongs, and to at the very least make a conscious effort to pay off, in a meaningful way, more of the player’s choices and efforts as the story reaches its conclusion.
The lack of payoff to some of these choices will be even more noticeable in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition than it was when we played Mass Effect 3 back in 2012. This is for the simple reason that Legendary Edition is actively inviting players to play all three titles back-to-back as one continuous story – a story whose lacklustre ending and underwhelming acknowledgement of significant moments will be all the more recognisable for it.
I do understand the argument that there wasn’t enough material left on the cutting room floor to reincorporate into the game. But unlike in cinema, video games use voice acting and with practically all of the principal voice actors from across the trilogy still alive, there’s no reason I can see why bringing some of them back into the studio to record new dialogue should have been impossible. The final act of Mass Effect 3 would be massively improved by as little as fifteen minutes’ worth of extra dialogue and cut-scenes, and while the Extended Edition DLC will be included in Legendary Edition, even that could stand to be improved.
So I think that covers my main criticisms of the project based on what I’ve seen and read. Now let’s get into the good points!
We’ll look at specific overhauls and changes in a moment, but first I wanted to acknowledge that, despite their reputation as a money-grubbing company, Electronic Arts is releasing Mass Effect: Legendary Edition as a single package. All three games, plus all of their DLC, are included. It doesn’t look like there are any pre-order exclusives, special editions, or anything of the sort, and while some critics will say that such behaviour should be the bare minimum, the reality is in this industry that it isn’t – so it is worthy of praise when companies do behave themselves! EA could have easily tried to split the project up and sell different parts of it, so the fact that the entire trilogy and all its DLC are part of one package for one price is great. I would argue that perhaps full price (£55 here in the UK, at least on PC) is a bit steep for games from 2007, 2010, and 2012, but I guess for the remastered version of all three I can’t really complain about that too much.
If you recall, Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 were early pioneers of cut-content DLC. Mass Effect 2 had a couple of its characters peeled off to be sold separately, and Mass Effect 3 had Javik, the series’ only Prothean character, sold as day-one DLC. So the series is no stranger to courting controversy with the way its games are sold, which is another reason to heap praise upon the decision not to do so with this version!
Now into some specifics. The character creator has been overhauled, and while we don’t know exactly what’s changed, BioWare have promised new hairstyles, faces, and customisation options for Commander Shepard. Even by Mass Effect 2, the limitations of the original character creator were becoming apparent, so this is one area that needed work. I’m glad to hear that changes have been made in this area, as a role-playing game needs a decent amount of customisation. Making Commander Shepard feel like a unique and personal character is part of the appeal of games like the Mass Effect series.
Mass Effect 1 is seeing a number of gameplay changes and tweaks in order to bring the experience more in line with the second and third entries. Of the three games, Mass Effect 1 is the only one which felt even close to being “outdated” in 2021, and considering the substantial gameplay improvements which debuted in Mass Effect 2, I’m glad to see EA and BioWare updating it.
Specifically BioWare mentioned changes to the heads-up display, the way the Mako vehicle handled, the hacking/slicing mini-games, the removal of class-based weapon loadouts (i.e. players will be allowed to use any of the game’s guns regardless of their character’s stats), changes to aiming to make lock-on better, the ability to skip the lift (elevator) scenes, as these were only in the game to begin with to hide loading times when transitioning between areas, and a higher level cap.
All of these sound good, and will update Mass Effect 1. However, BioWare has not mentioned weapon overheating, which was a difficult mechanic to get the hang of in the first game. Overheating was dropped in Mass Effect 2 in favour of “thermal clips,” which was just technobabble for ammo, and I’m surprised in a way that ammo isn’t coming to Mass Effect 1. Also unchanged is the game’s inventory system, which could be complicated and would quickly fill up with dozens of different tiers and categories of weapon upgrades and ammo options.
There will be other tweaks and rebalances across the three games, including to enemy and boss AI. The games will all run in 4K at 60fps, which is really the bare minimum that we should have expected from any AAA remaster in 2021! Finally, there are some PC-specific changes, including keyboard and mouse options and support for ultrawide monitors.
So that’s it. Mass Effect: Legendary Edition will bring some aesthetic changes to the table and some gameplay tweaks that will hopefully make the experience smoother and more enjoyable… but I’m still left with a sense best summed up thus: “what’s the point?” The second and third games are perfectly playable in their current form without being upgraded, and the offered upgrades seem minor, even from a visual standpoint.
Packaging all three titles together, along with their DLC, is admirable, but it would have been just as easy to re-release the trilogy with its DLC and spare the effort of “remastering” some of these already-decent looking scenes. It isn’t like any of the three Mass Effect games looked bad by today’s standards, and I can think of a lot of recent games that have been less impressive.
There was an opportunity to expand Mass Effect: Legendary Edition. By bringing back some of the original voice actors and adding a few extra scenes, particularly toward the end of Mass Effect 3, the remaster could have taken the story to new heights and genuinely improved the worst part of all three games. Even without a major rewrite of the ending, by adding more context and better paying off more choices and combinations of choices, Legendary Edition would have at least felt worthwhile. At the moment, it kind of doesn’t.
Bringing games from 2007-12 “up to date” is unnecessary. Maybe in another ten years we could argue that enough time had passed and enough technological improvements had been made that the games would feel new again, but everything I saw in the trailers has left me with the belief that they won’t feel new. A shiny coat of paint and throwing the entire story together in one package is really all you’ll get.
If you’ve never played the Mass Effect trilogy, go for it. Wait for Legendary Edition, which is due out in three months or so, and give it a try. The games are great, and while the ending is a bit of a let-down, if you go into the games with your expectations set you will at least know what you’re letting yourself in for. But if you’ve already played all three games, I feel like this is a hard sell. I was genuinely interested in Legendary Edition when it was announced, but having heard what’s included and seen the minor changes for myself, I’m probably going to give it a pass, especially for £55. Maybe if it goes on sale in a couple of years I’ll pick it up then.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition will be released in May for PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5. The Mass Effect series is the copyright of Electronic Arts and BioWare. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
For almost a decade following Disney’s acquisition of LucasFilm, only one company has been able to make Star Wars video games: Electronic Arts. A deal between Disney and EA gave them exclusive rights to the Star Wars license, and in the years since there have been four mainline Star Wars games, one Lego tie-in, one VR game, and a handful of mobile titles.
Both 2015’s Battlefront and of course 2017’s Battlefront II proved controversial and divisive; the former being disappointingly threadbare and the latter for its aggressive in-game monetisation. 2019 saw Jedi: Fallen Order, which I played through last year and was a fun title, and finally 2020 saw Star Wars: Squadrons, which I’ve also been enjoying. However, four games in nine years is perhaps less than many fans were expecting, especially with two of them having serious issues.
Calls for Electronic Arts to be “stripped” of the Star Wars license began after Battlefront’s release in 2015, but reached fever pitch in the weeks after Battlefront II’s launch. There was even a petition that hundreds of thousands of folks signed to ask Disney to revoke EA’s exclusive arrangement. That went nowhere, of course – fan petitions never achieve anything – but is indicative of the strong feelings over EA holding the rights.
The well-received Jedi: Fallen Order and Squadrons, combined with updates and patches which greatly improved Battlefront II, led to a cooling-off period, and as of early 2021 cries for the Disney-EA deal to be somehow undone had largely abated. It was a surprise, then, when LucasFilm announced a new Star Wars game… published not by EA but by Ubisoft!
Ubisoft has been honing its style of open-world games for years, with franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and Watch Dogs. It seems, from the teaser announcement made yesterday, that the new title will be an open-world game in a similar style, though no mention has yet been made whether it will be a single-player title like those in Ubisoft’s other open-world series, or a multiplayer “live service.” From my point of view I’m hoping for the former!
The game itself may be several years away, though Star Wars does have a recent track record of announcing games closer to release – that’s what happened with Squadrons last year, for example. No release window has been suggested as yet, and in fact we know precious little about the game itself beyond the publisher responsible.
The upcoming game is just one part of this story, though. Most industry watchers agreed that Electronic Arts had a couple of years remaining on their deal with Disney, which raises the question of how and why this Ubisoft game has been able to enter development. It’s possible that the original contract was incorrectly reported, in which case it may simply have run its course. Or there may have been clauses regarding a number of titles, profit made, etc. that Electronic Arts didn’t live up to, allowing Disney to open up Star Wars to other companies. We don’t know the details – and unless someone senior breaks ranks to tell us, we likely never will!
Exclusivity arrangements can be difficult, and the Disney-EA deal over Star Wars is pretty much a textbook example of why. An exclusive contract like the one Disney offered EA effectively gives that company a monopoly over the license, and anyone who knows anything about basic economics can tell you why monopolies are a bad idea in practically every industry.
Having a monopoly meant there was no threat of competition, and this allowed EA to sit on the Star Wars license, cancelling titles that senior executives didn’t think would bring in “recurring user spending” and not feeling under any real pressure to develop or release anything. They could afford to be complacent because no one else was contractually allowed to even pitch a concept for a Star Wars title.
This attitude was changed when Electronic Arts saw the scale of the backlash to Battlefront II. The effects of that debacle are still being felt, and the game opened the eyes of parents, journalists, and even politicians to the shady practice of in-game gambling. But we’re off-topic. Too late, EA shifted focus away from cash-grabs, putting out the single-player Jedi: Fallen Order and following up with the space-sim Squadrons.
Fans had been clamouring for a single-player story-driven Star Wars game for years, and while Battlefront II had a creditable single-player campaign, it wasn’t until Jedi: Fallen Order’s release in November 2019 that the single-player itch was truly scratched for most fans. By then the damage had been done for Electronic Arts, though, and their earlier complacency and attempts to swindle players with truly awful monetisation came back to bite them.
Though Electronic Arts will continue to work on Star Wars titles – most significantly the upcoming sequel to Jedi: Fallen Order – they will no longer be the only company Disney trusts with their incredibly expensive, incredibly lucrative license. The Ubisoft game may be the first of several upcoming Star Wars projects to be taken on by other companies, and hopefully what results will be a broader range of genres and styles of game.
In December 2020, LucasFilm announced half a dozen or so upcoming Star Wars films and television shows. There will be a lot of Star Wars content to come over the next few years at least, and while not all of the shows and films will be suitable for a video game adaptation, some may be. Disney and LucasFilm need to ensure they have access to the broadest possible range of talents in the video game industry if they hope to make the most of Star Wars.
I wasn’t especially excited by the film and television announcements made last month, to put it politely. Too many of them seem to be spin-offs, prequels, and deep dives into uninteresting side-characters rather than expanding Star Wars beyond its original incarnation. But even so, several of these projects seem ripe for video game tie-ins, and the end of the Skywalker Saga of films coupled with this expansion into new films and television projects may have been a contributing factor to Disney ending or not renewing its exclusive arrangement with EA.
For my two cents, I see the ending of this kind of exclusivity deal as a good thing. Monopolies are problematic for consumers for precisely the reasons the Disney-EA arrangement shows, and in future it could even be used as a case study for why these kinds of deals are a bad idea. Opening up Star Wars games to other companies allows for different points of view, competition, and hopefully what will result at the end of the day will be better games. Not necessarily more games. But better ones.
It is worth noting that Ubisoft is a company that hasn’t exactly escaped controversy recently. There have been serious problems within the company, including sexual harassment accusations against senior executives, and the accusation that the company itself tried to cover this up and cover for abusers. Company culture and institutional problems count against Ubisoft, and while Star Wars fans are rightly excited to learn that the franchise will be moving away from the EA exclusivity deal, it’s worth noting that Ubisoft has issues – and Disney should also be aware of this. The last thing the Star Wars brand needs right now is further controversy, yet a team-up with Ubisoft risks precisely that.
So that’s it. The end to Electronic Arts’ monopoly over the Star Wars license. Now if only someone would make a Star Trek video game…
The Star Wars franchise – including all titles mentioned above – is the copyright of Disney and LucasFilm. Star Wars: Battlefront, Star Wars: Battlefront II, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and Star Wars: Squadrons were published by Electronic Arts. Some screenshots and promo art courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the story mode prologue missions of Star Wars: Squadrons. Further spoilers may be present for other iterations of the Star Wars franchise.
It’s a rarity these days for me to pick up a new game the day it’s released, but that’s what I did for Star Wars: Squadrons. I remember with fondness titles like Rogue Squadron, which I played on the Nintendo 64, as well as the spaceflight sections of the first Battlefront II, and I’d had Squadrons on my radar (pun intended) since it was shown off at EA Play in June. I don’t pre-order as a rule, but when the game was released I picked it up on Steam. My slow internet connection meant that I had to leave it overnight to download and install, but I got up the next morning eager to jump into the cockpit!
First, Squadrons needed me to download and install the latest Nvidia graphics card driver. It’s been a while since any game insisted on something like that! But that didn’t take too long and I was ready to go – only to be confronted with a strange graphical issue when the game booted up. I have a 4K display, and for some reason Squadrons had cut off the majority of the display, only showing a small portion stretched out to full-screen. If anyone else encounters this issue, here’s how I fixed it: pressing Alt + Enter to exit full-screen mode. From there, I was able to access the graphics settings and change them from whatever bizarre resolution Squadrons thought I wanted to a standard 1080p full-screen experience.
When the game restarted I got the proper experience. I appreciate that Squadrons offers a range of options for colour-blind players; though I’m not colour-blind myself my brother-in-law is, and I know some titles can be almost inaccessible for people with visual impairments. Any accessibility features like that are a welcome addition.
Despite being marketed as a game with a multiplayer focus, Squadrons insists that you first play the prologue of its campaign. It’s also recommended to complete the campaign, but after the prologue is complete it’s possible to jump into multiplayer. As someone who isn’t big on multiplayer gaming I was planning to play the campaign anyway, but it’s worth knowing that it isn’t possible to go straight to multiplayer if that’s what you’re buying the game for. All told, the prologue took less than an hour to complete, so it isn’t a huge time-waster for people who want to dive right in.
The campaign has an unusual format in that players are assigned two playable characters, one on each side of the conflict. The main setting is post-Return of the Jedi, looking at the conflict between the remains of the Imperial forces and the New Republic, but the prologue takes place years earlier, just after the destruction of Alderaan (as seen in A New Hope). This narrative choice won’t be to everyone’s taste, and I’ve already seen criticism online from players who wanted to be able to pick a side and stick with it all the way, but I don’t mind that. It’s different, interesting, and it gives a more rounded view of events (as well as allowing players to fly both Imperial and Rebel/New Republic ships).
The character creator is rather basic. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it a “creator,” rather there are a dozen or so pre-created faces and two body types (male or female) to choose from. There are a few different voices, and although the player character doesn’t seem to talk much, that’s a nice touch. The game is played entirely in first-person mode, so perhaps a character creator is unnecessary. You do get to choose your character’s name, though, and there’s a “randomise” option if you want the game to generate a Star Wars-sounding name.
The voice options and the name are the more important points. The voices are good, and although there are only a few types, they are all clearly different from one another. Names will be shown in subtitles (if you have subtitles enabled; I always do). After customising the two characters, the prologue began, and it was a moderately interesting story surrounding a convoy of refugees fleeing Alderaan. The Empire tasks a squad of TIE fighters with finding and destroying the convoy, and the Rebels task a group of X-wings with defending it.
The game begins with the Imperial mission, and this is where I got my first taste of gameplay. Squadrons is not a cakewalk, and it takes time to get the hang of the controls. I’d say it’s closer to a simulator experience than an arcade-style game such as Rogue Squadron, so be prepared for a learning curve.
I’m someone who prefers to play with a gamepad, but even so I didn’t find the controls easy at first. The control pad is mimicking – in a very basic way – a HOTAS or dual-stick cockpit, with the left thumbstick used to throttle up and down and the right for turning. I found this counterintuitive at first; most games use the two triggers – right to accelerate, left to slow down or reverse. Using the thumbstick for this takes some getting used to.
In that sense, players who use a proper HOTAS setup – which Squadrons does support – may find it easier and more immersive. I have seen reports online that it takes time to calibrate a HOTAS for Squadrons, but I think that’s true for many titles, and as someone who doesn’t have a HOTAS I can’t verify that. However, if I find myself getting really into the game, perhaps getting that kind of setup is something I’d consider.
Squadrons gives you plenty of time to acclimate to the controls, though. The first few minutes of the mission consist of gently following the lead TIE fighter around the fleet, and from there the action amps up slowly rather than dumping you right into a huge battle. This is not only greatly appreciated, but arguably necessary! Perhaps the most ardent combat flight sim players don’t need this level of hand-holding, but I’d suggest that most gamers will.
The prologue offered an interesting – if somewhat predictable – story of an Imperial pilot (not the player character) who defects to the Rebel Alliance. During the aforementioned mission to chase down a fleeing fleet of refugees from Alderaan, the TIE squad’s captain chooses to defect, and after a firefight and a chase, the action then switches to Rebel forces. This is the dual narrative at work.
I did die once during this section; Squadrons will automatically destroy your ship and force you to respawn if you fly out of bounds of a given section of a mission, and I chose to investigate a tunnel before it was time. The tunnel would turn out to be where the refugees were hiding, and where Captain Javes would defect, but the linear narrative doesn’t want players straying from the course laid out, which is fair enough. There’s a short timer to give you a chance to turn around before having to restart.
I’m not sure whether this applies to all the different classes of starfighter – I assume it does – but it’s possible to be out of weapons range. Even when a target appears to be relatively close, the game will designate it “out of range” unless it’s within 1000 metres (or whatever the Star Wars galaxy’s equivalent of metres is!) Again, once you get the hang of this it’s fine, and targets all have floating distance numbers when locked-on to tell you how far away they are. 1000 is a nice round number that should be easy to remember!
After the defection, the action switches to Rebel forces, and I got a chance to pilot an X-wing! This was great fun, and both ships have incredibly detailed cockpits. I’m sure the other vessels that can be played will also be created in such stunning detail too. The visuals in Squadrons are truly impressive and offer an immersive Star Wars experience as a result. I know some people will insist that “graphics aren’t everything,” and while this is true, there’s no denying that a title like this works exceptionally well when it offers players the best visual experience possible.
After another “fly around the fleet and get used to the controls” section, the X-wings are called into action to assist the refugee fleet that we’d been pursuing as the Empire moments earlier. These missions work well back-to-back, and I enjoyed the different perspectives. Both the Rebel and Imperial missions offer a lot to do, with different objectives to complete in addition to dogfights against enemy fighters.
Captain Javes, the defecting Imperial pilot, is welcomed into the Rebel family and provides information that helps the Rebels defeat the Imperial forces and protect the refugee fleet. It was a fun sequence to play though, and while I feared for the defector’s life, he appears to have survived the events of the prologue!
There was a great sequence which involved attacking a Star Destroyer at close range. After defeating a handful of TIE fighters, the Imperial defector insists we need to take out the capitol ship’s ability to track the fleeing refugees, otherwise they’ll just follow and catch up to them later. I believe that this is the first taste of Squadrons’ “fleet battles,” in which players team up in multiplayer (or against the AI) to take on larger fleets. Each ship has several weak points that have to be knocked out. Here in the prologue we just had to destroy one before retreating with the rest of the Rebel forces.
Overall the prologue serves as a great starting point for what seems to be a fun title. Its control scheme and semi-simulator style will mean it isn’t to everybody’s taste, and players looking for a more casual experience may be disappointed. There’s only one viewpoint: a first-person, in-cockpit view. This means you can’t switch to get a third-person view from behind your spacecraft, and again this is something that won’t be to everyone’s taste.
Electronic Arts has shown a great deal of respect for the Star Wars brand here, not only by avoiding microtransactions, but also by pricing the game below the standard “full price” of £55/$60. I almost certainly wouldn’t have picked it up on release at that price, but for £35 it feels fair and a reasonable purchase. The short campaign (estimated at around 6 hours) may have a bearing on that, but as we’ve seen recently, some other titles – such as the remake of Resident Evil 3 – have been content to try to charge more for campaigns of a similar length. Credit to Electronic Arts for not doing so.
Squadrons is a simple game with complex gameplay that will take time to master. But it’s fun! I had a great time earlier in the year playing through Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and this looks set to be my second fun Star Wars experience of the year. Even while I’m writing up my first impressions I’m itching to jump back in and have another go at piloting an X-wing or a TIE fighter and having my own crack at being a pilot in the Star Wars galaxy.
For this price, it’s hard not to recommend Star Wars: Squadrons if you’re someone who enjoys this kind of gameplay. If you aren’t, but still want that Star Wars pilot experience, there’s always Battlefront II, which has a starfighter mode, or you could even go back and look at older titles like Rogue Squadron.
Star Wars: Squadrons is out now for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Star Wars: Squadrons was developed by EA Motive and published by Electronic Arts. The Star Wars franchise is the copyright of Lucasfilm and Disney. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Mass Effect series.
It’s been eight-and-a-half years since Mass Effect 3 was released, rounding out the original trilogy of Mass Effect games. Since then, the franchise has put out a single new title – Mass Effect: Andromeda – which was underwhelming to say the least. For the last six months or more, rumours have been floating around of an impending Mass Effect remaster, and while I was disappointed not to hear any official mention of it at June’s EA Play event, the rumours haven’t subsided. Is something going on with the Mass Effect series?
I have absolutely no idea. But that doesn’t make it any less fun to speculate and fantasise!
After Andromeda’s weak launch led to mediocre reviews, memes, and poor sales, EA put the franchise “on hiatus” and Bioware moved on, focusing on the ultimately unsuccessful Anthem. To many of us that sounded ominous – especially given EA’s history of shutting down game studios and killing brands – but if it’s true that a remaster really is in the works, I have a wishlist of things I’d like to see included.
For the record, because I know people like to get excited: I have no idea if a Mass Effect remaster is even being worked on, let alone if any of these ideas or concepts will be included. This is a wishlist from a fan, not “insider information”. If anyone tells you they know something for sure about an unannounced or unreleased project, take it with a grain of salt. With that caveat out of the way, let’s look at my wishlist, which is in no particular order.
Number 1: Delay the project if necessary.
This may seem like an odd one – why talk about a delay to a game that hasn’t even been announced? Well there are two reasons: Anthem and Mass Effect: Andromeda. Bioware’s two most recent titles launched before they were properly finished and polished, resulting in lacklustre sales, mediocre review scores, and online mockery. I’ve said it before, but the memes hurt Mass Effect: Andromeda’s sales far more than review scores. It’s a shame, because the most egregious visual bugs and glitches were fixed in a patch within days, but by then it was too late – the damage had been done.
Andomeda’s development was difficult, and the final build of the game was – at least according to reports – put together in mere months, despite the game having been in development for five years. The reason why I’m saying to EA and Bioware that one of the things I want from any potential Mass Effect remaster is a delay, if necessary, is because I want them to learn from that mistake. The “release now, fix later” concept doesn’t work, and if the game launches to mockery, memes, and mediocrity as Andromeda did, there’ll be no salvaging it – or the franchise, quite frankly.
Number 2: 4K resolution and 60 frames-per-second.
The whole point of remastering a game is to improve its graphics and the way it looks using newer and better technology than was available to the original development team. But the second and third Mass Effect titles in particular still look decent today, and as I keep saying, graphical improvements get smaller and smaller with each new generation.
One thing that has improved in the last few years, however, is the frame rate games can run at. 30fps was commonplace in the Xbox 360 era, when Mass Effect debuted, but now we have 60fps as standard, and on higher-end machines we can push frame rates way further. The bare minimum for a big-budget game in 2020 is 4K resolution at 60fps. If the Mass Effect remaster can’t manage that, a lot of people will wonder what the point of it is.
Number 3: Rework Mass Effect 1 to use Mass Effect 2 and 3′s gameplay.
Mass Effect 2 offered massive gameplay improvements over its predecessor. Gunplay was faster and more fluid, the complicated inventory system was streamlined, and many more quality-of-life improvements made the second game way better than the first. If a Mass Effect remaster is going back to the drawing board to rebuild the games from the ground up, it would be a great opportunity to update the first game to be in line with the second and third.
Aside from making the first game more enjoyable to play, this would also standardise the remastered trilogy, making it an easier experience to go from one game to the next, especially for new players. Mass Effect 2 and 3 don’t really need much improving from a gameplay point of view, but the first title could do with an update.
Number 4: Include all three games – plus all of their DLC – in one package.
No special editions. No deluxe editions. No console exclusive characters or missions. No paid DLC for a thirteen-year-old game. All of the content for all three games should be available in one package. While I’d prefer to see the full trilogy released all at once, one possible option is to follow the trail blazed by Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC and release the first game, then the second, then the third. But regardless, one price should get players all three games plus all of the DLC.
The Mass Effect series has been poor in this regard. Both Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 had day-one DLC – which is industry slang for cut content that they could sell separately for more money. Some of the expansions were great, but others added what felt like content that should have been part of the main game, or felt like small additions for the asking price – like adding a single character. Javik, the series’ first Prothean character, was only available as DLC – despite the fact that he played a pivotal role in Mass Effect 3. It’s a good opportunity for the series to put all of that behind it and release the entire story in one package.
Number 5: If the game needs microtransactions, save them for multiplayer.
Mass Effect 3 and Mass Effect: Andromeda had multiplayer modes. I only knew about Mass Effect 3′s multiplayer because failure to participate had an impact on your “war score” or “galactic readiness” during the single-player campaign, which was incredibly annoying. But both games enjoyed moderate success with their multiplayer modes, so I wouldn’t be surprised if EA crams multiplayer in to a Mass Effect remaster too.
If there is a multiplayer mode, this is the place to dump DLC and microtransactions, not in the already-complete single-player story. As someone who doesn’t play a lot of multiplayer, having DLC and microtransactions here will have no impact on my enjoyment of the campaign. If EA has to include in-game monetisation, the least they could do is keep it away from the story.
Number 6: Tweak Mass Effect 3 to at least pay lip service to more player choices.
I’m not asking for Mass Effect 3′s ending to be fundamentally rewritten; that will never happen. What I think could be done to massively improve the final third of that game is to add in some more cut-scenes, animations, and lines of dialogue recognising the choices players made across all three titles. One of the most disappointing things about Mass Effect 3 for me was that during the climactic final act, many accomplishments from earlier in the game and in the series went completely unacknowledged.
To give an example I’ve used before: if players followed a specific path across all three titles, it’s possible to save both the Geth and Quarian species when it looks like it would only be possible to save one or the other. Having both powerful fleets instead of just one feels like it should have a huge impact on the war against the Reapers… but it didn’t. A few extra “war score points” and two words of dialogue confirming that both fleets had arrived for the final battle was literally all you got for all that effort, and it just felt so hollow and disappointing. That was almost worse than the actual pick-a-colour ending.
Bringing back a few of the voice actors to record a few extra lines, creating some new animations to represent different combinations of fleets, soldiers, and survivors, and overall just tweaking and adjusting the final portion of Mass Effect 3 would go a long way to negating this issue, and if the game is being massively overhauled anyway, why not put in the extra effort? Fans may still be disappointed in the ultimate finale, but if the journey there were improved, it would be a better experience as a whole.
Number 7: Set the stage for a potential Mass Effect 4?
I don’t know if this is really something I want – hence the question mark. But I can only assume that a Mass Effect remaster would be seen by EA and Bioware as a stepping stone to a potential new entry in the franchise, and after the disappointment of Andromeda, surely the only way that could happen would be a fourth mainline entry in the series.
Andromeda’s fundamental problem, beyond the animations and glitches and bland characters, was that it felt like an overblown side-quest. The entire game felt like the B-plot of a better story, and I think that feeling would have persisted regardless of how well-built it might have been. So how could a fourth Mass Effect game work? That’s a huge question, because the ending of Mass Effect 3 was simultaneously so final yet so transformative.
An idea I’ve been kicking around for a while is this: in the aftermath of the Reapers being defeated, a past race that had survived a Reaper harvest re-emerges or returns to the galaxy, looking to reclaim what they see as “theirs”. Shepard comes out of retirement, perhaps fifteen or twenty years after the end of Mass Effect 3 (which would allow time for the galaxy to have rebuilt). The new enemy would be tough and would be just as much an existential threat as the Reapers had been – keeping the stakes high and avoiding the sense of the new fight being anticlimactic.
But that’s just one fan concept, and there are myriad ideas for how a fourth mainline game could work. However it may happen, the Mass Effect remaster will have to set the stage for a potential fourth game – perhaps by adding an epilogue.
As we’ve recently seen with The Last of Us Part II, some stories don’t need sequels, and when a decision is made to make one anyway, what results can be disappointing to fans. There’s definitely an argument to be made that the Mass Effect trilogy was so special and unique that a sequel is unnecessary – or even unwanted.
Number 8: More customisation options and a better character creator.
For a game that released in 2007, Mass Effect’s character creator was okay. But even by the time Mass Effect 2 and 3 were released, the limitations of the original game’s character creator were apparent. Games today can offer so much more in terms of building a unique face for a player character – from hairstyles to tattoos to beards and so much more. The Mass Effect trilogy is jam-packed with cut-scenes which show off Shepard, so making him or her look good is important! The default faces are fine, but a roleplaying game needs some degree of customisation, and the outdated character creator definitely needs an overhaul.
And while we’re at it, let’s have more cosmetic options for armour and weapons. The first game was noticeably lacking in this department, but the second and third titles did have pretty solid armour and weapon customisation. I’d like to see this expanded with a variety of cosmetic options for customising Shepard’s appearance and outfits, including his uniform when not in armour as well as individual weapons. While it may be tempting to turn this feature into a microtransaction marketplace, as mentioned above let’s try to keep that just for multiplayer!
So that’s it. A few things I’d like to see from a potential – but still unconfirmed – Mass Effect remaster.
Fans of Star Trek: Picard who haven’t played through this fun sci-fi game series will note some similarities in the broad strokes of the plot: an ancient race left behind a beacon, warning of the dangers of a race of synthetics who will come to wipe out all sentient life in the galaxy. Sounds familiar, right? While Star Trek: Picard took a very different approach to this story outline, the similarity in premise is something I thought at the time was noteworthy – I even referred to the unnamed faction of super-synths in that show as the “Mass Effect Reapers”.
Is it the right time for a Mass Effect remaster? That’s a good question. The stink of Andromeda is still pretty fresh for a lot of gamers, and the trilogy only ended in 2012. I could absolutely entertain the argument that it’s something best saved for five or ten years’ time rather than something the gaming world needs in 2020 – but I’m not the one making those decisions! If there is a remaster this year or next, I have no doubt I’ll take a look to see what it has to offer. I’ll be curious to stack up a remastered version of Mass Effect 2 or Mass Effect 3 against the original to see how much better it could really look. As I’ve said before, in a lot of ways I’d be happy with a game that has Mass Effect 2′s visual effects even if it were released today, so any remaster will have to go above and beyond to wow me with the way it looks.
Still, I’ll take any excuse to revisit a beloved series. In December I put Mass Effect 3′s ending on my list of entertainment disappointments of the decade, and I stand by that. It was a let-down then. But time is a great healer! Although I’ve replayed the trilogy several times I haven’t touched it in five or six years, so it will definitely be nice to jump back in – assuming the rumours are true and there really is a remaster in the works!
I hope you’ll check back soon for more sci-fi and gaming articles!
The Mass Effect series – including all titles discussed above, as well as potential new titles – is the copyright of Electronic Arts and Bioware. Some screenshots and promotional artwork courtesy of press kits on IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the entirety of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, including its ending. There may also be spoilers for other iterations of the Star Wars franchise.
At the end of July I completed Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. If you missed it, I documented my playthrough of the game, and you can find the entire series by following this link. However, that won’t be required reading for this piece, which will serve as a review/summary of what I thought of the game as a whole. So let’s get started!
My recent history with the Star Wars universe has been complicated. Due to disability, I haven’t been able to go to the cinema in person for several years, meaning that the most recent Star Wars films had been spoiled for me, and I was aware of their basic storylines before I could sit down to watch them. The last film I got to see unspoiled was 2016’s Rogue One. I enjoyed that film a lot, and at the time I enjoyed the first and second parts of the sequel trilogy – The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, despite its controversial nature. Solo was okay, I guess I’d call it average. But I didn’t enjoy The Rise of Skywalkerat all, and I found The Mandalorian to be bland and uninteresting, as well as a show that struggled to break away from the franchise’s past.
Enter Jedi: Fallen Order. I’d been very much looking forward to the game since Electronic Arts announced it at E3 2018. It had actually been a long time since I played a Star Wars game when I first heard of Jedi: Fallen Order – though I would subsequently play the Star Wars Battlefront II campaign in late 2018 or early 2019. The only thing I was concerned about with the game before I played it was its difficulty; any time something is described as “Souls-like” (a reference to the Dark Souls series) I tend to think it probably isn’t something I’ll enjoy. However, the subsequent revelation that the game features an easier mode made me feel better. I bought Jedi: Fallen Order when it was on sale on Steam in the spring of 2020, a few months after it was released. Unfortunately around that time my PC was having issues, which meant I couldn’t play it immediately. I ended up replacing my graphics card – though the whole machine needs an overhaul at some point soon – and I was finally able to sit down and play.
I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from a game described as a “linear, story-driven, action-adventure” title, and from a gameplay perspective Jedi: Fallen Order was more or less what I was expecting. Cal had a lightsaber that he used as his only weapon, and a handful of Force powers that could be used both in combat and for puzzle-solving. As strange as it sounds when discussing a video game, I wasn’t particularly interested in the gameplay side of things. I wanted it to function correctly with no major bugs, and of course I wanted it to be an enjoyable and not-frustrating experience, but my real reason for playing the game was its story. As long as the gameplay didn’t get in the way of that I expected to be at the very least satisfied with the way Jedi: Fallen Order played.
My playthrough lasted 19.8 hours according to Steam – though a few minutes of that was taken up with the first-time setup, connecting to Origin, and a couple of updates that needed to be downloaded before I could play the game. Having looked it up online, the average seems to be around 20 hours, so I think my 19.8 hours is pretty much bang on what you could expect. I only died a handful of times (thanks in part to playing on the aforementioned easiest difficulty setting), so players who go for the hardest difficulty and end up having to respawn a lot more frequently than I did may find the game takes a little longer.
In my 19.8 hours I feel I accomplished as much as I could. I completed the game’s story, and there weren’t really side-quests of the type that many modern titles have, so the only things I could have done that I didn’t were collecting more cosmetic items and finding a few more “secrets” on each of the levels. These secrets mostly seem to be Force echoes – Cal can use the Force on certain objects or at certain locations to sense the past, and this would usually play out in an audio clip and perhaps an entry in the game’s databank. In short, as someone who isn’t a completionist who has to visit every last cave and open every single chest, I got as much out of the game as I reasonably could have. Backtracking simply for the sake of a few short audio clips and perhaps an extra outfit or lightsaber hilt colour doesn’t hold much appeal to me – so I didn’t.
Let’s talk about backtracking, because this is one of the few complaints I’d have about Jedi: Fallen Order. The game consists of seven planets – each planet forms one “level” for the purposes of our discussion. The first planet, Bracca, is a tutorial level, it’s very scripted, and within the first hour or so, Cal has left and there’s no option to return. Two of the other levels, Ilum and Nur, are relatively linear and compact, and may only be visited once. That leaves four levels: Bogano, Dathomir, Kashyyyk, and Zeffo. These are where the bulk of the game takes place, and they’re larger levels with some degree of exploration required to progress. However, the game’s story takes Cal from one planet to the next… then back to the previous one. This formula plays out for each of these four worlds, and frankly it got repetitive. I’m not averse to the idea of Cal revisiting the same planet – in the context of the story it made sense. But what I think would have worked better is if the levels had been broken down into two smaller chunks, with Cal visiting one location each time. This would have avoided the feeling of repetitiveness while still allowing the game to make use of many of the same assets for terrain and the environment.
The downside of bigger levels is that they can be confusing to navigate. Jedi: Fallen Order does provide an in-game map, but I found it difficult to get the hang of, especially on those bigger levels where a map would’ve really come in handy. The map is 3D, it’s entirely in shades of blue which made identifying any features difficult, there was no way to see the entire level all at once without completely losing my bearings, and generally the map was unhelpful most of the time. It was useful for seeing things like blocked doors and unnavigable passages, as these were usually highlighted, but for finding my way around a level and getting from point to point I have to give the holo-map a failing grade.
Because Jedi: Fallen Order didn’t offer many shortcuts or ways back to the beginning of the level (i.e. where Cal’s ship was) after completing the level’s objectives, having a good map would have been very helpful when it came to backtracking through each of the levels. This was definitely something I found to be frustrating – with the mission over, I was keen to get on with the story and having to spend twenty minutes or more finding my way back through a level I’d already completed wasn’t a lot of fun. I can’t think of many games that do this – at least, not ones I’ve played – and it feels like padding. With the objective complete and the mission over, having to waste time going back through an already-completed level can hardly be described as anything else.
At a couple of points, Jedi: Fallen Order felt as though it was trying to present itself as a game that offered me a choice of things to do when really no such choice existed. In the worst example, after completing the tutorial level and visiting Bogano for the first time, Cal had a choice of two planets to visit. I chose to go to Dathomir, as I thought it may contain a side-mission and I didn’t want to miss out on it if the story moved on too quickly. The game didn’t make clear that there was absolutely no point in going there – Cal would be unable to progress in any meaningful way on that planet until far later into the game. This fact wasn’t even acknowledged while at the section of the level where Cal was blocked from progressing. In short, Cal needed to jump across a gap in a damaged bridge, but the gap was too wide. After trying and failing once, he says to himself something like “it’s too wide to jump.” After saying that once, that was it. It took me looking up a walkthough online to realise that there was no way at all to progress further on that level, and that’s just something which shouldn’t happen.
This ties into a much bigger theme that was present throughout the game – there were many points where an extra line or two of dialogue would have gone a long way to improving the story. In the case of Cal failing the jump on Dathomir, we needed more explanation than a single ambiguous line, something to make it clear the way was shut. But at numerous other points the same issue was present. While I wouldn’t say the story was confused as a result, there were a number of places where it wasn’t as clear as it could’ve been. I pointed these out as I found them, and it’s something I seemed to say often in my playthrough posts!
While Jedi: Fallen Order had one main story – Cal’s quest to find a Jedi holocron – it made an attempt to introduce a B-plot involving the Stinger Mantis’ pilot Greez and a faction of bounty hunters. But this storyline was not properly developed and seemed to be abandoned toward the end of the game with no conclusion. A sequel to Jedi: Fallen Order is in the works, and it’s possible it may come back at that point. But the storyline didn’t feel like it ended on a cliffhanger. One minute Cal was captured by bounty hunters, a few minutes later he’d escaped. For the rest of the game bounty hunters would periodically show up – even in places where it seemed illogical to find them – but they never said anything or did anything of consequence. They were just slightly annoying enemies to fight. The storyline just fizzled out, and as of the game’s finale felt like it had been abandoned; it wasn’t even mentioned once during the final couple of hours of the game.
There were a handful of moments which I felt were immersion-breaking, where Jedi: Fallen Order stopped feeling like an unfolding Star Wars adventure and started feeling like just another video game. I looked at these moments as they happened, but the worst one was the escape from Ilum. After Cal retrieved his lightsaber crystal from the old Jedi temple, it was a race back to the Stinger Mantis with Imperial reinforcements on the way. Cere jumped on the radio to tell Cal to hurry – Star Destroyers were inbound! But when Cal made it back to the ship, Cere and Greez just stood there. And I had to walk Cal over to the galaxy map to choose the crew’s next destination. What should have been a daring last-second escape turned into a horrible anticlimax and completely robbed what had been a great part of the story of much of its dramatic effect.
As a whole, however, I liked Jedi: Fallen Order’s story. The idea of chasing a hidden holocron in what was a kind of archaeological/historical puzzle felt like something Jean-Luc Picard would have done in Star Trek: The Next Generation! As a history buff myself, I felt that the galactic history angle was fascinating and added a lot to the story. As far as I know, the Zeffo are new to Star Wars; they were certainly new to me. And in that sense, the story really did feel mysterious much of the time – I was never quite sure, especially early in the game, just was I was going to discover.
The characters all felt real and added to the story, too. Cal himself is perhaps the least-interesting of the main characters, but as someone who has to be the “everyman” protagonist that’s fair enough. And he did have a backstory – a padawan who survived Order 66. Cere and Greez were interesting too, though as mentioned part of Greez’s story – his gambling debt and the trouble with the bounty hunters – feels incomplete. But perhaps my favourite character was Trilla, the Second Sister.
When she was first introduced near the beginning of the game, Trilla felt rather flat. Slightly over-the-top and leaning into being evil meant that there didn’t seem to be much depth to her character; she felt like she could’ve ended up being one-dimensional. But the subsequent revelation that she had been Cere’s padawan, and had turned to the dark side after being tortured by the Empire, was not only a fascinating story twist that rivalled some of Star Wars’ best (and far exceeded some of its worst), but one which transformed her into a character who was complicated and even sympathetic. Her death at the end of the game – when she seemed on the cusp of forgiveness and perhaps even redemption – was heartbreaking.
Though it worked well for me, I can understand why some players may have felt that the ending of the game wasn’t its strongest point. We can set aside the accusation of Darth Vader being a “deus ex machina”, because in the context of the Star Wars universe I feel it worked. But Cal and Cere’s mission, for the entirety of the story, had been to retrieve the holocron for the express purpose of using it to track down and train the Force-sensitive kids. The setup of the story strongly implies that this has been Cere’s quest for a long time – perhaps even years. Cal’s decision to renege on that, and to destroy the holocron instead, didn’t exactly come from nowhere, but it was a story point that was less developed that it could’ve been. His motivation for doing so comes from Merrin, but they only had two very brief conversations on the subject before the pivotal moment – one of which was an optional conversation that would have been easy to miss. So I can understand why some fans will have felt that the ending was unsatisfying.
However, I’d like to explain why it worked for me. Firstly, Cal changed a lot over the course of the game. He came to realise that putting Force-sensitive kids through Jedi training would lead to them being hunted by the Empire. He lived much of his life since Order 66 in hiding, and having experience the Empire’s Jedi-hunters firsthand was not content to see other kids go through what he went through. Secondly, the vision on Bogano showed him how training the kids could go wrong and lead to them being captured or killed. And finally, the conversations with Merrin were what pushed him over the edge and convinced him to destroy the holocron rather than keep it. For me, he has more than enough motivation from his background and his recent experiences to feel that destroying the holocron makes sense – and from out perspective as the audience, keeping the kids safe from the Empire is still a huge victory.
Finally, let’s look at a couple of minor things that I didn’t like in terms of gameplay. Firstly, Jedi: Fallen Order was not as polished as I would have expected from a major release. There were a number of bugs and glitches, which mostly consisted of the environment or characters behaving incorrectly – characters would float in mid-air, stand on an invisible ledge, fall through the scenery, etc. The worst two glitches involved Cal getting stuck in the environment. At one point he was unable to cross a narrow beam because the game didn’t register where he was stepping correctly, and on another occasion he got stuck in the scenery after climbing an invisible wall. If I found these issues in a standard playthrough, QA testers must have spotted them during development. Between the game’s release and when I played it there were eight months in which a patch could have been rolled out; it’s a shame that these things were there in the first place but there’s been more than enough time to fix them.
There were a couple of gameplay features that I wasn’t wild about either. Both of these were creative decisions and not glitches or bugs, so I respect the decision to include them. But from my point of view, they didn’t work very well. The first is the checkpoint system. I haven’t played a game since the ’90s that had fixed checkpoints instead of allowing players to save freely, and even though it wasn’t something I had to make use of all that often, it’s not my favourite way to play. In the past it was a limitation of computing power that games had to get around because there was no alternative; in 2020 that isn’t the case. It’s a creative decision, one which aimed to bring Jedi: Fallen Order in line with titles like the Dark Souls series, and I respect that. I just don’t like it.
The second point wasn’t something I disliked per se, it’s just a feature that got old pretty fast: sliding. In the first level, the brief sliding section was wild and very fun. But the feature was repeated multiple times throughout the game and honestly it lost its appeal. Where it felt unique and fun the first time, after several mandatory sliding sessions the novelty wore off. Not to mention that several of these sections required milisecond-perfect button presses which could be very difficult.
On the plus side, Jedi: Fallen Order gave me what might just be my favourite ever experience in a Star Wars game: piloting an AT-AT. Unlike the sliding feature, which was reused multiple times, the game only gave me one shot at this, but it was so much fun. Cal and BD-1 stayed in the vehicle’s cockpit, and over a fifteen-minute section blasted their way through other AT-ATs, ground forces, and even Imperial ships on the surface of Kashyyyk. It was undoubtedly the most fun section in the game purely from a gameplay perspective!
Speaking of Kashyyyk, it was fun to revisit a planet I’d played through years ago in Knights of the Old Republic. Though on my first visit the level looked quite different to the Kashyyyk I remembered from the older game, the second mission to the Wookie homeworld definitely brought back memories, and at points felt like playing an upgraded version of that classic from the original Xbox era.
There were some great scripted moments in Jedi: Fallen Order. When Cal is dreaming while on the train on Bracca, there was a moment where the train was suddenly replaced with an Imperial ship. It was seamless and perfectly shocking. I liked the voice acting performances that the characters gave – at no point did I feel they misspoke, over- or under-acted a scene, or were anything other than competent throughout. BD-1, Cal’s droid, is absolutely adorable and I love him. There were some genuinely emotional moments in the story, such as where BD-1 encouraged Cal not to give up in the crystal cave. But above all, Jedi: Fallen Order was fun to play. I enjoyed myself most of the time, and came out of it with a renewed appreciation for the Star Wars franchise after the disappointment of the most recent film.
I’m not going to give Jedi: Fallen Order a score out of ten. Metacritic and others have plenty of numbered reviews if you need to put a score on it. What I’ll say instead is that I enjoyed the game, and it’s one I would recommend to anyone who either likes Star Wars or who likes Tomb Raider-esque action/adventure titles. Even non-Star Wars fans who like that style of game would find something to enjoy here, but obviously for a fan of the franchise the game offers a lot more.
Having completed the story, I’m in no rush to play Jedi: Fallen Order again. It isn’t a game which offers branching storylines or even a light/dark system to increase its replayability. However, I enjoyed my time with the game and definitely recommend it to anyone who’s on the fence about trying it. If you’re playing on PC and you’re on a budget, the game was recently discounted during the Steam summer sale, so I think there’s a better than average chance that in December, during Steam’s holiday sale, you might find it at a steep discount. I don’t think there’s any real advantage to be gained from buying the deluxe edition – it seemed to offer a couple of customisation options and nothing more, and given how many customisation options are picked up just from playing the game, unless you desperately want an orange lightsaber or yellow skin for BD-1, I’d say skip it and save the few pounds/dollars.
It was fun to document a playthrough in this way. I’ve already started a much more casual playthough of a second game – Disneyland Adventures. That series is ongoing and I’ll be updating it occasionally as we go through August and into the autumn. I haven’t decided what game in the style of Jedi: Fallen Order I might play next. I was initially considering Control, but after my recent bust-up with the Epic Games Store that’s not an option right now. I do have several other titles I’m considering, though, both modern and retro.
I hope you’ll check back regularly for more game reviews, gaming discussion, and articles about Star Wars, Star Trek, and the wide world of geekdom. Until next time… May The Force Be With You!
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is out now on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the copyright of Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts. The Star Wars franchise is the copyright of Lucasfilm and Disney. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order as well as for other iterations of the Star Wars franchise.
Welcome to the final part of my playthrough of Jedi: Fallen Order. Yes, that’s right – this session was the last one as I made it to the end of the game! This won’t be the final piece I write about Jedi: Fallen Order, though – I plan to write up a conclusion/review of the game as a whole at some point soon, so I hope you’ll stay tuned for that. Last time Cal had finally acquired the Zeffo Astrium in the tomb on Dathomir. He defeated Taron Malicos and brought a new ally – Night Sister Merrin – aboard the Stinger Mantis.
After loading into the game, I chose Bogano from the galaxy map on the Mantis and the ship took off. I wasn’t sure what to expect; it didn’t seem as though Bogano would be the immediate end of the game – though the story was approaching its climax – so I was wondering if something might happen en route or upon arrival (this is why I’ve usually been saving before setting course for Cal’s next destination!) Choosing to go to Bogano triggered a cut-scene between the Mantis crew. Cal set the Zeffo Astrium on the table, and Merrin, Cere, and Greez all had something to say.
The moment with Greez was very sweet – Cal and Cere both expressed their appreciation for getting them safely from place to place, and Greez seemed genuinely overwhelmed for a moment. Merrin piped up and offered her opinion on the holocron – is it fair to the children to force them to become Jedi when that will mean the Empire will hunt them the way they’re hunting Cere and Cal? Definitely something to ponder, but at the very least Cal says he needs to keep the holocron out of the Empire’s hands.
The flight was uneventful, as was landing on Bogano. After disembarking, Cere, Greez, and Merrin were all standing outside the ship, and optional conversations with each of them had a definite finality to them. “We’re in this together” was a phrase that came up a couple of times with Greez, and Cere warned Cal that there may be unexpected dangers in the vault. Merrin’s conversation was the most interesting, and in light of what happened later I think should have been a mandatory cut-scene instead of a chat which players could easily have missed or skipped. She asked Cal a very pointed question – whether the children whose names are in the holocron would have even been in danger had he and Cere not intervened. Merrin sowed doubt in Cal’s mind about what to do with the holocron and the children, and also suggests to Cal that taking them away from their families to fight as Jedi may not be their choice.
I liked these optional conversations, but they definitely had an air of finality to them, which led me to believe that the game might end soon after Cal arrived at the vault. Crossing Bogano to reach the vault was no issue, as practically all of the hostile creatures were once again absent, as they had been when we revisited Bogano in search of supplies. The only monster was the large three-eyed mini-boss near the entrance to the vault, but I chose not to fight it this time (that fight was annoying, and I felt Cal was already as levelled-up as I wanted him to be). It only took a couple of minutes, using the unlocked shortcuts and with abilities like wall-running and double jumping, to arrive at the vault.
One thing that surprised me (though it really shouldn’t have, since Cal is the only one who’s been here) is that no one bothered to re-seal the vault after Cal first opened it. Though it’s a tight squeeze to crawl inside, given that Trilla and the Empire are trying to get the holocron too, it might’ve been prudent to lock it down after Cal’s first visit. Inside the vault I was aware of how this large circular room would make for a perfect boss battle arena! I’d been half-expecting Trilla or a squad of Purge troopers to have been there, but to my surprise it was empty. I did take a moment to look around, just in case there was anything I hadn’t seen or any loot to grab, but aside from a spot in the centre of the room to interact with, there was nothing. Pressing the button led to a cut-scene in which Cal seemed to put the Astrium in a spot on the floor. This in turn caused the vault to move – Cal described the vault itself as being akin to a large holocron. Now this is something I don’t understand – for the first time while in the vault, Cal looked up, and there’s no roof! Cere made a huge fuss about accessing the vault, which appears to be just inside the door/crawlspace on the hilltop. Yet once inside, apparently it has no roof!
At first I thought the lack of roof may have been connected to the vault moving when Cal used the Astrium, but looking back that isn’t the case – it had always been open. Given that, I wonder why Cere needed Cal to access it in the first place. The entryway to the vault didn’t seem to be transporting Cal to anywhere other than a couple of metres along inside the hill, so presumably near to the vault entrance it should be possible for anyone to just jump into it from above. I guess I just found this to be confusing, and aside from Cere at the beginning of the game saying it needed the Force to open, there’s no real explanation of how the vault works. Is it cloaked somehow? Or hidden to anyone other than a Force user? Considering the Zeffo placed a record of their civilisation inside that they wanted someone to find, why would they hide it instead of putting it out in the open? Not for the first time I’m left thinking we needed a little more explanation of part of the game’s story. The vault’s movement opened up a mirror on the far wall, and Cal walked over to it.
Touching the mirror caused Cal to have a vision. Initially he was spoken to by a member of the Zeffo race, who briefly explained that they created the vault to serve as a record of their people, who for some reason were going extinct. I actually interpreted what this Zeffo leader had to say as being cult-like: he said his people had become decadent and strayed from “balance”, and that he would lead them “into the great unknown”, which sounds an awful lot like a metaphor for mass suicide to me. Did the Zeffo drink the proverbial Kool-aid? It wasn’t explained any further. I stand by what I said about the Zeffo looking at least somewhat similar to the Protheans from the Mass Effect games, though.
This vision was similar to the one Cal had of Master Tapal – it was very dark and cloudy, with characters and the environment being blurry and out of focus. This gave it an incredibly creepy feel throughout, and I was constantly expecting to be ambushed and attacked by someone – or something – hiding in the shadows.
Though the Zeffo leader only spoke for a moment, Cal’s vision wasn’t over. Progressing through this level led to Cal seeing the children he hoped to train. Initially he saw their progress as they called him “Master”, but the next section saw their home under attack by Stormtroopers. If this was a premonition of the future, it was bleak. But Cere had warned Cal that he would be tested, and perhaps this was part of the test. None of the characters could be interacted with, and none of the enemies could be battled; these scripted sequences played out as Cal walked through each area, but even if he wanted to he couldn’t do anything.
The vision grew bleaker as Cal progressed. I liked one section which saw him climbing up a wall – the scenery was designed to make it look as though, rather than climbing, Cal was crawling through a trench. It was very well done. Eventually he was confronted by a vision of Trilla, who drew her lightsaber. If Cal surrendered she promised to spare the children’s lives, so he knelt before her. Surrendering saw Cal fall into an Imperial facility of some kind, where the vision showed him the children imprisoned and a very dangerous-looking machine.
Walking further through the Imperial facility saw visions of Stormtroopers and other Imperials, and in this section Cal would walk toward an open doorway only for the door to slam shut. It happened several times, yet still managed to make me jump each time! Ultimately Cal ended up in a small hallway where the lights went out, leaving the screen black for a moment. Cal ignited a red double-bladed lightsaber, and had a vision of himself as an inquisitor, dressed in the same black uniform as Trilla.
After seeing himself in the inquisitor’s uniform, Cal was in a long hallway. At the end of the hallway seemed to be the mirror in the vault on Bogano. I approached it cautiously; there had been no enemies to fight in the vision yet, and I was expecting something at any moment. However, Cal made it back to the mirror, and seemed to stare at his reflection in a cut-scene. One thing that Jedi: Fallen Order has done that I really liked has been to always show Cal in whatever outfit I chose for him, even during cut-scenes. Yet at this moment, for some reason Cal was in his original outfit from Bogano, with no poncho. It kind of detracted from this moment a little, as it was supposed to show Cal – our Cal in the real world – confronting the dark vision of himself. Yet without those customisation elements it didn’t quite feel like our Cal, and the fact that the original outfit was a dark navy colour didn’t provide a great contrast with the black inquisitor uniform either. I would have liked to have seen Cal in the outfit I’d chosen for him in this moment, and because Jedi: Fallen Order has done that in every other cut-scene, I don’t know why it didn’t happen here.
Despite anticipating a boss battle of some kind during the vision, as Cal confronted his dark self the vision came to an end. Cal had apparently cracked the mirror, perhaps from hitting it or pressing on it while he experienced the vision. Behind him in the centre of the room, above the spot where he’d placed the Astrium, was the holocron. Cal approached it to pick it up… but this seemed too easy!
It was, of course, because the moment Cal collected the holocron, Trilla revealed herself. How long had she been here? Had she just been standing there watching Cal as he completed his vision? Seems a little voyeuristic… Regardless, she ignited her weapon and, in true villain style, thanked Cal for doing the hard work for her. She believed the holocron would “win her the Emperor’s favour”, presumably elevating her position among the inquisitors. A duel was inevitable, and compared to the earlier fight against her on Zeffo, I felt it wasn’t especially difficult.
Trilla had a few moves at her disposal, and as with the fight against Taron Malicos, the hardest part was getting her guard down long enough to land a blow. Cal’s Force powers were mostly useless – Trilla was immune to pushes and pulls, though some of the fancier moves, like the lightsaber throw, did work against her. I wouldn’t rank it as one of the game’s toughest boss battles, though – which certainly should’ve been an indication that this wasn’t the end!
Eventually I was able to grind Trilla’s health bar all the way down. I rather naïvely thought that the fight was over and that Cal could leave with the holocron! A cut-scene triggered which showed Cal knock Trilla’s weapon from her hands. He picked it up – at which point it was clear the fight was over. But Cal has the ability to sense Force echoes from places and objects, and touching Trilla’s weapon caused him to have a vision of what she experienced – all the pain and rage that her weapon had been through had left a powerful impression in the Force. Cal couldn’t control it, and while he was temporarily incapacitated, Trilla stole the holocron.
The Force echo – which we got to see in full this time, not just hear – was interesting. Cal witnessed Cere attempting to draw the Empire’s forces away from Trilla and another young Jedi, as well as Trilla’s capture and torture by the Empire. This culminated in her becoming an inquisitor, putting on her mask for the first time in front of Cere. The vision also showed the beginning of Cere’s escape from Imperial captivity. One thing that was interesting was Trilla’s helmet – it doesn’t allow a very wide field of view (as we might’ve guessed from looking at it). While aesthetically that might look “cool” (if the Sith care about coolness/intimidating looks) it’s hardly very practical to purposefully limit the vision of some of their top soldiers. In addition, the mask seems to give everything she looks at a red hue, which may be useful in dark environments but again can’t be practical most of the time.
When the Force echo was over, Trilla was nowhere to be seen, having fled the vault. After Cal regained his composure he headed back outside, as there was nowhere else to go from here. I took advantage of the meditation spot in case another big fight was looming, and while there was a squad of Stormtroopers outside, they were very easily avoided as Cal retraced his steps to get back to the Mantis. The Stormtroopers were busy anyway; the large monster had also spawned and as Cal snuck past the troopers were engaged in a fight against it.
Once again this had a very “video gamey” feel to it, and the story didn’t seem to have a natural flow. The Mantis was sitting a few hundred yards away, out in the open, yet no Stormtroopers were bothering the ship and crew. In fact, the small squad immediately outside the vault were all the troops that the Empire had bothered to send to Bogano. Trilla had successfully got the holocron, but if the Empire still wanted to capture and/or kill Cal and Cere, they missed a golden opportunity. As it is, Cal was able to gently stroll back to the Mantis, and talk to those on board before taking off.
Despite the fact that Cal had fought Trilla again, and that she had stolen the holocron, the Force echo seemed to be another hint at her possible redemption – a theory I’d been tossing around since she was given a name and backstory when Cal faced her on Zeffo. Upon returning to the Mantis Cal apologised to Cere, not only for losing the holocron but for not understanding what she’d been through.
Cere told Cal that Trilla is her responsibility – she still felt responsible for allowing her to be captured and turned into an inquisitor. She knew where Trilla would take the holocron – the inquisitor’s home base: Fortress Inquisitorius. To me that name sounds like it comes right out of the Warhammer 40K universe, but that’s okay! The fortress was where Cere escaped from, and is where the inquisitors take Jedi and other Force-sensitives to turn into more inquisitors. She was very anxious about going back, but seemed to snap out of it pretty quickly. She used the Force to pull Trilla’s lightsaber to her, and in a scene reminiscent of the knighting of Brienne in the final season of Game of Thrones, knighted Cal, making him officially a Jedi.
This was a real emotional moment in the story for me – Cal had come a long way from hiding out amongst the scrap and dead ships on Bracca. Even though the Jedi Order was all but gone, he had managed to become a Jedi Knight. Cal had been a great protagonist thus far, definitely channelling some of the same energy as Luke Skywalker in the original film. Cal’s journey in some ways parallels Luke’s – a young man from an out-of-the-way planet, thrust into a galactic adventure by events outside of his control. Yet at the same time, Cal’s background as a padawan, his deliberate decision to stay in hiding, and his willingness to confront his own guilt and past make him very different from Luke – and taking steps away from the original films is something Star Wars as a brand needs to do if it’s going to survive and be successful. But we’ve strayed off-topic! After the knighting ceremony, to my surprise I had control of Cal again. At the holotable on the Mantis, all the previous planets – Dathomir, Zeffo, Ilum, and Kashyyyk – were available to travel to. There was also a new destination: Nur.
Nur had two Star Destroyers in orbit on the galaxy map, which looked pretty intimidating! But there was no point going anywhere else. The story had reached its climax; Nur was surely the game’s final level. The galaxy map shows as a percentage how much of each planet has been explored, and how many secrets and hidden chests have been discovered. For every planet I was between 85-90% explored, which I think is pretty good, and I’d found over half of the secrets and about two-thirds of the hidden chests (which contain cosmetics like lightsaber parts, Mantis and BD-1 paint schemes, and ponchos for Cal). As someone who isn’t a 100% completionist, I consider all of that to be pretty decent, especially for the first run through a game. With all that in mind, I selected Nur and the Mantis headed out.
Upon arriving in the system, two Star Destroyers were present in orbit of the moon. Greez told the crew that their usual methods of avoiding detection would not be good enough, and worried about how they’d be able to get to the surface safely. Merrin had a solution – using a spell to cloak the ship. Despite Greez’s initial unease, this worked perfectly, and the ship disappeared from view.
With the ship safely cloaked, approaching the moon wasn’t an issue. Cere and Cal would both be going; Cere planned to disable the fortress’ scanners and defences while Cal retrieved the holocron. This reminded me of Luke and Obi-Wan splitting up during their mission aboard the Death Star, and I didn’t expect Cal to see Cere again. However, it also felt like Cere had finally overcome her fear of using the Force and had embraced her Jedi nature once again, which has been a very satisfying character arc to see play out.
After using the Mantis’ escape pods to land on the moon – which is covered by an ocean, at least in the vicinity of the fortress – Cal was on his own, though Cere would check in by radio. After Cal’s pod splashed down, the area immediately outside the pod was not well-laid out and was confusing to swim through. There was no obvious path through the water, and no landmarks to allow me to get my bearings. Cal also couldn’t swim to the surface, despite the surface being visible only a few metres above his head. And finally, during swimming sections the holo-map can’t be used, all of which contributed to a very confusing few minutes of blindly swimming around.
The fortress itself is apparently constructed largely underwater – the idea being that sections or even the whole thing could be flooded if necessary to prevent Jedi prisoners from escaping. In the aftermath of Order 66, this is the facility the Empire used to hold Jedi, torture them, and turn the survivors into inquisitors. As a concept I quite liked it; it definitely seems like a tactic the Empire might have used. Though it raised the question of how Cere was able to escape a facility with such a permanent and deadly failsafe!
After eventually figuring out where to swim to, Cal made it into the fortress via one of its underwater airlocks. This section contained a few Stormtroopers and little else. In fact the base as a whole – except for the latter areas that we’ll come to in a moment – was mostly uninteresting. There were a few hallways, some of which had windows to the outside underwater environment, but aside from a single puzzle (one of those connect-the-power-cable ones we’ve seen quite a few times) there wasn’t much of note.
Over the radio, Cere made contact to tell Cal she’d succeeded in disabling the fortress’ shields. Cal flooded this section of the base and then swam to the next – fortunately this swimming section was less of an issue than the first. After entering the next dry section of the base, Cal found himself at a training dojo where a couple of Purge troopers were practicing. This room would soon become a battle arena, with several waves of all kinds of Stormtroopers and Purge troopers to defeat – by far the largest fight in terms of numbers in the whole game.
One part of the floor of the dojo opened up to reveal a pit, and though the troopers weren’t hard to fight one-on-one, as with the zombie Night Sisters back on Dathomir, in numbers they were a challenge. The pit in the middle of the room created an additional danger, but was also useful for Force pushing troopers into – a favoured tactic of mine throughout the game! Eventually Cal prevailed, and a meditation spot emerged as a reward. I checkpointed my progress here before heading further into the fortress.
The next room was the prison – though it was lacking any prisoners, as presumably there are fewer and fewer Jedi for the Empire to hunt down these days! Cal also had his first run-in with Cere since arriving at the base, opening a blast door for her and seeing a pretty cool scripted sequence as she defeated several Purge troopers using Trilla’s lightsaber.
Cere was able to unlock a route for Cal to leave the prison and get to the holocron, which was being kept in the heart of the fortress – the interrogation chamber. For some reason – it wasn’t clear why – the fortress was built atop a lake of molten lava. Makes you wonder why the Empire is always doing things like that! It gave this part of the level a weird aesthetic: a mixture of Star Wars’ Empire with a Bowser’s Castle level from Super Mario! One thing I thought as we arrived on Nur was that the fortress (or the part of it above the water, anyway) vaguely resembled Darth Vader’s castle in Rogue One – his castle is similarly built above molten lava on Mustafar, the planet where he lost the fight against Obi-Wan.
The route to the interrogation room was eerily deserted. Cal noticed a turbolift and suggested to BD-1 it could be an escape route. Otherwise he was walking across a long, open-sided bridge that led from the prison room to the interrogation chamber, but there were no troopers or enemies of any kind. Two large, intimidating gun-turrets were silent too; I wondered if Cal would have to battle them on the way out!
After entering the interrogation room, Cal was confronted by Trilla. He made an admirable attempt to get through to her, offering her a chance at redemption and a return to the light, but she attacked him and a duel began. This was the hardest battle in the game, no question. Trilla was 10x stronger than she had been in the earlier fight on Bogano, and landing even a single hit on her required jumping, dodging, parrying, and split-second timing.
Trilla was a difficult opponent, and Cal needed to use most of his stim-packs to survive the fight. The duel also included a couple of quick-time events, which involved mashing the X or B buttons to survive as Cal and Trilla locked blades.
Eventually, however, Cal was able to grind down her health bar, defeating Trilla and ending the duel. As the fight ended, Cere arrived. She spoke to Trilla, telling her that the fight was over and to try to let go of her pain and anger. For a moment, it seemed as though she’d got through to her former apprentice, and Trilla listened, expressing her regret for holding onto her hate for Cere for so long. Before the two could fully reconcile, however, Trilla was paralysed. Out of the smoke behind her, a familiar mechanical breathing could be heard…
I couldn’t believe it at first! Surely we weren’t going to see Darth Vader himself! In a way, it makes a lot of sense that he’d make an appearance. Not only for the story, but because it’s a Star Wars game and players love to face off against one of the biggest villains in the franchise. But I wasn’t expecting it at all, so it was a genuine surprise. The mechanical breathing grew louder, and then Darth Vader himself emerged from the smoke. “This can’t be good,” remarked Cal.
Unlike Palpatine’s return in The Rise of Skywalker, Darth Vader’s appearance here worked very well. It was a genuine surprise – a shock, really – and in the context of the story facing off against a bigger, badder foe makes sense. I can understand why some people may feel that Vader’s arrival at this point in the story seems like a deus ex machina, and perhaps if the game was detached from the Star Wars brand, the sudden arrival of a new supervillain at the last moment could be seen that way. However, this is Star Wars, and given the game is taking place during the years before the original film, when Darth Vader was the Empire’s second-in-command, it doesn’t feel that way to me. Darth Vader, and original trilogy characters in general, can definitely be overused in Star Wars; I would suggest that Vader’s scenes in Rogue One didn’t really add anything to that film’s story, for example. But here it really did succeed, and not just because of a sense of nostalgia. Vader is a terrifying opponent, especially for someone like Cal who barely scraped through the fight against Trilla!
One point I want to mention just before we go on: there was something ever so slightly “off” about Vader’s appearance. The best way I can explain it is that he looked to have the wrong proportions, being slightly broader and – for want of a better word – chunkier, than how he appears in the films. His helmet, too, seemed slightly different, perhaps squashed or just a fraction different in its scale. None of these factors really bothered me in the moment, nor dragged me out of the story, but I thought it worthwhile to mention. I daresay any such minor issues were a result of the game being, well, a game.
The first thing Vader did upon arriving in the interrogation chamber was kill Trilla, whose last words to Cal and Cere were “avenge us!” I’d like to think that, had she survived, Trilla was on the cusp of redemption and a return to the light. Her conversation with Cere seemed to be moving in that direction, and it will be a tragedy for both Cal and Cere that they never got to find out, nor to save Trilla from Vader’s blade. Cere shouted at Cal to run, before making a leaping attack on Vader. Using the Force, he casually threw her aside and she toppled over the edge of one of the platforms – seemingly to her death.
The next part of the game was initially confusing to me, as Vader grabbed Cal with the Force. Though I was in control of Cal, I couldn’t see any way to attack Vader (Cal couldn’t ignite his weapon, nor move) and after being held in the Sith Lord’s grip for a few seconds, Cal was dead. I was initially worried that I’d respawn before the duel with Trilla and have to do the whole thing all over again; luckily this wasn’t the case. On the second go around I figured it out – Cal used the Force to throw a large barrel or tank at Vader, and in the momentary lapse in the Sith Lord’s concentration, made a run for it.
Darth Vader was an unstoppable killing machine – Cal had nothing in his arsenal that could even come close to matching the Sith Lord’s power and abilities. All he could do was run – sprinting back along the bridge toward the turbolift as Vader literally tore the bridge itself apart with the Force. This sequence was the most tense in the whole game, as Cal had mere seconds to run and jump across each gap and over each obstacle, lest Vader would catch him and it would all be over.
Vader gave chase – but at a slow pace, and Cal was able to leap across the wrecked bridge, making it to the turbolift. After bashing the controls to make the lift move, it seemed as though Vader had caught up to him, but despite the Sith’s lightsaber cutting through the doors, the turbolift moved and Cal made it to an upper level of the facility. With the holocron safely in his possession he signalled the Mantis – informing Greez of Cere’s death and requesting extraction. Running down a hallway led to a locked door, which Vader came crashing through!
I loved this next part. As Vader and Cal briefly crossed blades, little BD-1 hopped up onto the Sith Lord’s shoulder. Using the skill he’d acquired earlier in the game he tried to slice (hack) into Darth Vader’s mechanical suit! For a second it seemed as if this might’ve worked, but then Vader grabbed the droid. It seemed like the end of BD-1…
Cal, who had been knocked off his feet, tried to use the Force to retrieve his lightsaber. Vader demanded that Cal give him the holocron; Cal of course refused. Using the Force, Vader held Cal’s lightsaber out of reach, but then activated it and stabbed Cal through the abdomen. The wound didn’t go all the way through, and while wounded, Cal wasn’t dead yet. Things looked grim, however. BD-1 beeped at Cal to get up, but it seemed like Vader had the pair thoroughly beaten.
But that just goes to show that in Star Wars – and in these kinds of stories in general – you shouldn’t trust that a character is dead unless you see their corpse! Cere came roaring back out of nowhere, attacking Vader! Though still outmatched by the Sith Lord, her intervention saved Cal and BD-1. Vader told Cere that her strength with the dark side would have made her an excellent inquisitor. The pair duelled for a moment, before Vader disarmed Cere.
Cere was able to use the Force to paralyse Vader, using a move that looked like he was being crushed. Cal intervened before she could go too far, and by breaking a window in the underwater facility, the trio were able to escape. Vader, whose mechanical suit is – I assume – vulnerable to water, was left holding the torrent back with the Force, unable to pursue.
Cal gave Cere his breather (the small device that allows for breathing underwater) and attempted to swim to the surface. A combination of his wound and exhaustion meant he was struggling, however. At the last moment, Merrin intervened, diving into the water. The screen went dark…
Cal awoke aboard the Mantis to see Greez looking over him. Cere was fine, he was told, and so was BD-1 (thank goodness!) After struggling to his feet, Cal joined the others in the Mantis’ main cabin. Cal and Merrin shared a hug and a touching moment – a budding romance, perhaps? Then he sat down with Cere to look at the holocron.
Cere told Greez that her contract with him was up; Greez said he was planning on sticking around. This was another sweet moment, as the curmudgeon had fully softened after all of his adventures with Cere and Cal. The crew gathered around the holocron, and Cal opened it to access the list inside. Cere reiterated her mission statement from the beginning of the game: they should use this to rebuild the Jedi. She did note, however, that doing so would forever change the lives of the children as the Empire would hunt for them.
Cal had other plans. Evidently swayed by what Merrin had said about the children having no choice, and that Cal may have been the one putting them in danger, as well as the visions he had on Bogano of their capture and torture, he suggested that the fates of the children “be trusted to the Force”. Implied in that is that if their destiny is to be Jedi, they would be found and be able to train. If not, they should be left alone. With a silent Cere seeming to give her blessing with a look, Cal destroyed the holocron, preventing the Empire from ever finding the children.
This was the end of the game. Cal asked the crew where they should go next, and then the credits rolled. I have to say that I liked this ending, and the idea of trusting the will of the Force and not forcing the children into a life on the run. However, I think it will be controversial with some fans. The objective Cal and especially Cere had was to use the list to find Force-sensitive children and raise them to be a new generation of Jedi. Even at the last moment, this was Cere’s hope. Cal had one mandatory conversation with Merrin in which she sowed a seed of doubt, and one further optional conversation. He also had the vision in the vault. Those two things changed his mind, and while it was more than enough motivation from my point of view, and I regard keeping the list out of the Empire’s hands as a solid victory, it wasn’t the original mission which had been at the heart of the game for most of its runtime, and for that reason I expect some fans may not have enjoyed the ending.
So that was it. Jedi: Fallen Order. As with many games, it took me a little while to get around to playing it – it was released in November last year – but I’m glad that I finally did. After a very disappointing experience with The Rise of Skywalker, it was nice to genuinely enjoy a journey in the Star Wars universe again. And this is also the first Star Wars project since Rogue One that I went into unspoiled. I got to enjoy the story as it unfolded, allowing the surprising moments to be genuine surprises, and that was a good feeling too.
Cal’s journey has been amazing, and it seems as though the ending of the game has been careful to leave the door open for a potential sequel. Rumours abound that it may even be scheduled for a 2022 release – but we’ll wait and see on that! All in all, Jedi: Fallen Order took me just shy of 20 hours to complete – and having looked online that seems about average. I enjoyed myself for most of that time – though there were a couple of frustrating sections and some unnecessary fluff. As I mentioned at the beginning, I’ll be doing a retrospective/review of the game at some point soon, before my memories fade too much, so I hope you’ll come back to see that. For now, all that’s left to say for those of you who’ve been following this playthrough is thank you! I hope you enjoyed this format of a written playthrough illustrated with screenshots; I certainly feel like I learned a lot since I made my first entry in this series, and I’m keen to try again with another game. I already have several possibilities in mind!
So until next time… May The Force Be With You!
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is out now on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the copyright of Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts. The Star Wars franchise is the copyright of Lucasfilm and Disney. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order as well as for other iterations of the Star Wars franchise.
Welcome to the next part of my playthrough of Jedi: Fallen Order. I had a couple of other things I wanted to write about over the last couple of days, including Star Trek’s Comic-Con @Home event, so I apologise to those of you who were waiting for this! After the last play session had some interesting story elements, but was let down by frustrating gameplay and a long section that felt like it was simply there to pad the game’s runtime, I was hoping for something different and exciting – and I definitely found it! After Cal broke his lightsaber in the tomb on Dathomir following a confrontation with a dark vision of his old Master, Cere took him to a strange snowbound planet – the first truly new location since our first visit to Kashyyyk way back in Part 6 of this playthrough. Cere handed Cal her own lightsaber, and he was ready to set off into the snow in search of something to repair or replace his broken weapon…
Speaking with Cere aboard the Mantis revealed that this planet was called Ilum – a name I vaguely recognised from the Star Wars galaxy. After looking into it, it turns out that Ilum was the planet that the First Order would ultimately convert into Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens, though in this era (remember that Jedi: Fallen Order is taking place about fifteen years before the original trilogy) there was no sign of the famous laser! Ilum was a wintry environment, similar in some respects to Zeffo but with much more snow and ice. After being initially excited at the prospect of visiting a wholly new planet for the first time in ages, the terrain was actually quite samey. If you’ve ever been in a strong blizzard you’ll know it can sometimes make the environment seem like it’s monochrome – and Ilum definitely had that feel to it as Cal set out from the Mantis.
Ilum has a Jedi Temple, and getting there through the blizzard was Cal’s objective. It felt like the task he was to complete was a little vague at first – yes he had to fix his lightsaber, but how? And what did he expect to find on Ilum to help him with that task? A few extra lines of dialogue would have fixed this – and it’s not the first time I’ve said that during my playthrough. With the new climbing ability that he’d acquired on Dathomir, Cal was able to scale ice walls, and climbed to the top of a large frozen area. In this section was a Force echo of a former Jedi Master. It turned out that the Jedi came to Ilum as part of some kind of trial or ritual, as well as to gather kyber crystals – the mysterious objects that power lightsabers, and which would later be co-opted to power the Death Star’s weaponry.
Inside the entrance to the Jedi Temple – which was little more than an icy cavern, really – was a puzzle to complete. The archway leading further inside had iced over, and there were three doors that had to be opened letting in “magnified light” which had to be refracted through a large crystal in order to melt the ice and gain access. This puzzle wasn’t too hard, but it took me a moment to realise that the doors – which had to be opened by pulling a chain – didn’t need to be permanently opened; Cal simply needed to hold the chain long enough to melt the ice.
I don’t think the giant crystal in this area was supposed to be a kyber crystal (which I always want to spell Khyber, with an H, like the mountain pass and region of Pakistan) if it was, Cal could’ve just broken a piece off and been on his merry way! Cere made a big deal of giving Cal her lightsaber, so I expected to be traversing this region armed. However, Cere’s lightsaber doesn’t work – another thing that a line or two of dialogue should have explained – so Cal remained unarmed despite carrying two weapons. The in-game databank said that Cere sold parts of the weapon to pay for Greez’s gambling debts, and I guess that could also explain how she’s been able to keep him on the payroll for what seems to be a long time, which was a question raised earlier in the game for me.
Melting the ice wall let Cal explore further into the Temple, and as I said this was really just a cave with a few statues in it. It seems like the Jedi offered up some pretty tough challenges – this cave was meant to be traversed by apprentices and children, but it seems like a difficult task for them! There were a lot of sheer drops, and several places where it took a moment to figure out what was the right path. Just inside the entrance to the Temple was a meditation spot, and I’d been saving up Cal’s skill points – spending three meant that BD-1’s stim-packs now totally refill Cal’s health no matter how low it gets, which seems like it will be a very useful upgrade! The ice cave on Zeffo – which is actually fairly similar to this section in appearance – contained a number of monsters to fight, and with no lightsaber I was wondering what this cavern would throw at Cal and how to avoid it. So far, though, there had been no enemies at all – just silence. Cal came upon a section of water to swim through to access the next part of the cavern.
This was quite cleverly done – there were several hydrothermal vents which obviously explained how there could be areas of liquid water in an otherwise-frozen environment. But Cal must’ve got very cold swimming through this water! The next area of the cavern contained a shocking and ominous revelation – probe droids were present on Ilum! Luckily BD-1 had acquired the skill to hack into them some time ago, and Cal was also able to use Force pull and Force push on them to defeat them – but how had the Empire found him here? A radio call to Cere and Greez led to the two of them worrying that the Mantis was being tracked.
There were a number of statues in the cavern, and these were kind of creepy – hooded and faceless figures in Jedi robes. They reminded me of the statues seen on Jedha in Rogue One, which similarly had a ghostly vibe. Perhaps this is because – as Cal says at one point – knowing that the Jedi are gone makes it feel like being surrounded by ghosts. Any hooded figure with a shrouded face plays on deep-rooted cultural and historical fears of figures like the Grim Reaper, or even the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and I think that’s part of why they felt so haunting and eerie in this section of the game. Credit to the developers for achieving that sensation – it made progressing through the caverns very tense indeed, something that married well with Cal being essentially unarmed and defenceless.
After heading deeper into the cavern and defeating another couple of probe droids, Cal spotted a glittering object. While making his way through a narrow crevice, the ice below him gave out and he fell into another pool of water. Clearly freezing cold (and suffering from hypothermia) he had a vision of his younger self leading him out of the water in what was a very strange, ethereal moment in the game.
Inspired by the vision, Cal forced himself to climb out of the icy water and collapsed – but the kyber crystal was close. He stumbled his way toward a large crystal formation and plucked the tip from one of the pointy shards – this was the glimmer that he’d seen that led him to this part of the cave. As he held the small piece of crystal in his hand it broke in two. Cal broke down, believing he’d failed and that his quest was over. And at this point perhaps someone knew more about Star Wars’ wider lore or expanded universe (the stuff not included in the films) might’ve known what was happening or why Cal became so dejected… but I didn’t.
There was a line earlier in the level about how the “crystal chooses the Jedi” and not vice versa (kind of like wands in the Harry Potter series, I guess). So perhaps Cal was upset that the crystal that chose him was broken. But he’s sat in a cavern literally surrounded by giant crystals, and with a small amount of effort could have broken off another piece using the Force or even just with his bare hands. So I don’t really understand this moment, and just taking what we know from the game without interjecting with lore from other Star Wars properties, it didn’t make sense and didn’t feel sufficiently explained.
Are the other crystals in the cavern not also kyber crystals? What happens if a Jedi chooses his own crystal instead of using one which chose him? Cal has been using Master Tapal’s lightsaber (containing Tapal’s crystal, presumably) very effectively for the entire game up till now, so it doesn’t seem like it’s the case that crystals are somehow bound to one Jedi. If a Jedi is chosen by a crystal but then loses or breaks that crystal, can they come back and get another one? And since Cal is literally still in the cavern surrounded by other crystals, can’t he just take another one – or wait for another one to choose him? I feel like this moment, which was the most emotional in the story so far, needed more explaining. Luckily, what came next washed a lot of that disappointment away and cranked up the emotion.
As Cal sat feeling sorry for himself at the foot of the crystal formation, Master Cordova’s voice could be heard. BD-1 had made it to the cavern and Cal was very pleased to be reunited with him – having told BD-1 not to follow him as he fell into the icy water a moment ago. BD-1 played a recording from Master Cordova in which he discusses failure. Master Cordova sensed “the doom of the Jedi Order” – perhaps this was the moment of Order 66. He locked BD-1’s memories with an encryption that could only be broken if the droid made a trusted connection with someone new; BD-1 has chosen Cal, and told him (in beeps and trills, of course) that he believes in him.
Inspired by this, Cal gets up. It isn’t over yet! Somehow – and again I’m not sure how – he pressed and squished the two shards of the crystal back together, forming a single, working crystal. This next part was fun – I had eight different colour options for the fixed crystal. I chose pink (or magenta as the game calls it) and after a short cut-scene, Cal had his weapon back.
This can be customised later at a workbench, but I see no reason to change from pink. Orange had been fun up till now, though! Cal used parts from Cere’s lightsaber and Master Tapal’s to form the new weapon. In addition to being double-bladed, it can now also be pulled apart and duel-wielded, giving Cal a new kind of attack – one that looks pretty darn cool too. I took this opportunity to further customise the weapon before leaving the cavern, including giving it a shiny red colour for the hilt.
In addition to blue and green, which are available in the base game, and orange, which I had from buying the deluxe edition, the colours now available for Cal’s weapon are: purple, pink/magenta, yellow, a pale blue or teal, and a darker cobalt colour. The weapon can be symmetrical, looking the same at both ends, or each end can be different. I haven’t unlocked anywhere near all of the options yet, and there must be hundreds of possibilities for how the finished saber can look.
After tinkering with the saber for a while, I was satisfied and ready to get back to the ship. But of course it wasn’t going to be a simple case of backtracking! The probe droids we’d seen earlier weren’t the only Imperials on Ilum – the Empire had a whole base here with legions of troopers. When the probe droids spotted Cal they presumably scrambled their forces, and on the way out, Cal ran head-first into an Imperial mining facility! There were a number of troopers to defeat here, and more kept dropping in by ship. Cal put his new weapon through its paces, and eventually prevailed!
In this area, the Empire seemed to be digging a long, deep trench. Given that Ilum would later become Starkiller Base, I wonder if this trench is meant to be the beginnings of that. In The Force Awakens, Starkiller Base had a huge trench that cleaved the planet in two, and this was where the super-laser was mounted. I think these two things are connected, and if so it was a great little reference to the sequel trilogy. Beyond the landing pad was a doorway that BD-1 was able to hack. Inside was a whole squad K2SO-type security droids – the ones I’ve had trouble with on other levels.
Thankfully they didn’t all attack at once, and after a long fight Cal was able to take them out. Off to one side, in some yellow storage containers, BD-1 and Cal found huge numbers of kyber crystals – the Empire is mining them. He reported his findings to Cere back on the Mantis, and she and Greez got the ship ready for takeoff. The only accessible door in this room led back into the cavern, and from here Cal was mostly backtracking to get back to the ship – though the cavern was now packed with troopers.
Cal had to battle his way through the cavern, which contained probe droids, K2SO droids, Purge troopers, and a variety of regular troopers too. It was a hard fight, not so much because of any one individual opponent – this wasn’t a boss battle, after all – but because of the numbers Cal was up against. On the radio, Cere checked in to tell Cal that the Empire was bringing in reinforcements, including by Star Destroyer from neighbouring systems. Though this part of the level wasn’t timed (at least it didn’t seem to be) it was still a very tense sequence as Cal raced back to the ship!
After surviving the cavern, Cal was back at the archway where we’d melted the ice earlier. There was a meditation spot here which I used before progressing – though Cal had no more skill points to use. Unless more options open up on the skill tree, by the way, I think I’ve chosen all of the ones that seem useful to me. Perhaps that’s just because we’re entering the latter part of the game. Before exiting the temple and getting back to the surface of Ilum, there was a Snowtrooper! These guys were seen in The Empire Strikes Back and it makes perfect sense that they’d be here on another snowbound planet. It was a great little bit of nostalgia.
Back on the surface, the blizzard had almost fully cleared. It looked like a straight shot back to the Mantis, but from behind a rocky outcrop came not one but two AT-STs. They attacked Cal in tandem, and it was difficult to separate them long enough to attack one without getting blown up or blasted by the second! Eventually I brought the first one down, and from there the second one was less of a challenge.
Cal sprinted back to the Mantis – Imperial reinforcements were inbound and if he didn’t get back before the Star Destroyers arrived it might’ve been impossible to leave the planet! All that tension and buildup… was kind of spoilt by Greez and Cere just standing there on the Mantis when Cal arrived. I even had to walk over to the holotable (Cal can’t run on the Mantis) and manually choose a destination. After Cere had been so jumpy, rushing Cal to race back to the ship before they’re all blown to smithereens by the Empire, this was just anticlimactic and completely snapped me out of what had been one of the most exciting parts of the story so far.
The gang even had time for a chat as Cal boarded the ship. He told them about BD-1’s memory wipe, and expressed his thanks for believing in him. It was a sweet moment – or it would have been had the timing been different. I expected a cut-scene like the escape from Dathomir, with the Mantis pulling away as Stormtroopers chased Cal, escaping the system in the nick of time to avoid the Star Destroyers… but none of that transpired. If Cere hadn’t been on the radio telling Cal to run because of how imminently doomed they all were it would’ve been fine – but the rapid switch in tone from “run, Cal, run!” to “we’ve got loads of time to stand and chat” was incredibly jarring.
The obvious destination was Dathomir. I saw no point in any more backtracking, and I wanted to resolve the situation there to continue the story. With the course laid in the Mantis took off and arrived at Dathomir moments later. After a short bit of banter with the crew, which included the revelation that they’re on the bounty hunter guild’s most wanted list, Cal headed out. With the climbing gloves, he could climb up the ramp I noticed last time and use that as a shortcut to get back to the bridge leading to the dark tomb. There were a few zombified Night Sisters to battle en route, but nothing Cal and his new weapon couldn’t handle.
At the entrance to the temple was another bounty hunter ambush. A hunter and a droid were both present and again this was an annoying fight. Eventually, however, Cal was able to get the better of both of them (apparently Force pushing over a cliff still works if you use it on a guy with a jetpack…) and enter the tomb. There were no enemies to fight inside, and Cal used the meditation spot before re-entering the dark vision he had of Master Tapal.
Master Tapal began by taunting Cal again, and then the duel was on. Once again I was expecting a difficult boss battle, yet once again I was wrong. Though I had control of Cal during this sequence, he had no health bar and nor did Master Tapal. After a brief duel it became obvious that the only way out of the vision was to take it peacefully – not fighting back or trying to strike at Tapal.
By choosing the peaceful path – which is, of course, the Jedi way – the vision of Tapal relented and ended the fight. Cal told his former Master that he would honour his teachings and remember his sacrifice, letting go of his guilt. The vision of Tapal then disappeared, and the pathway to the next part of the tomb finally opened.
Having completed the vision-quest, Cal was able to access the rest of the tomb. He had beaten the darkness in the tomb – and within himself. I’m never sure with things like this whether what transpired was taking place in Cal’s head, whether it was something more real, something based in the Force, etc. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter, it’s just something to ponder. I tend to assume for a vision like this that it’s in his head, perhaps amplified by the Force, but not something tangible.
Beyond the doorway were several Night Brothers. They weren’t particularly difficult to dispatch, and it was nice to try the duel-wielding move on them. Seeing Cal pull his double-bladed weapon apart and use both pieces independently is very cool. It’s certainly not something I’ve seen in Star Wars before. The Night Brothers in this area had a marking painted on their chests – the same one we saw as a scar on Taron Malicos. Interestingly, when I went back to look at screenshots of the previous visits to Dathomir, the Night Brothers all had that same symbol – though many were faded. The paint on those in the tomb was much fresher.
After entering this area, the Night Sister appeared. Her name is Merrin. Instead of just attacking this time, she spoke to Cal, which gave him a chance to reason with her. Malicos lied to her, he said, and the Jedi weren’t conquerors who would have wanted to wipe out her people.
The two realise they have something in common – Cal may be the last Jedi, and Merrin may be the last Night Sister. Malicos had promised her revenge in exchange for sharing the secrets of the tomb, but instead he became corrupted by the dark side. The two formed an alliance (albeit one of convenience) to take down Malicos. Cal didn’t have far to go for this confrontation. Down a wide hallway, Malicos was waiting. He stood on a circular platform which had a sheer drop into red mist on all sides – it reminded me so much of the Bowser fights in Super Mario 64… and that’s the third thing in Jedi: Fallen Order which seems to draw on that game, after the slides and the underwater chests! I never expected to get even one thing in a game like this to remind me of Super Mario 64, let alone three.
After crossing over to the arena, Malicos seemed happy to see Cal return. He tried once again to convince Cal to join him, and talked at length about how reviving the Jedi Order would be a waste of time – the Order failed, he said, stifled by tradition and its own past successes. As with Luke in The Last Jedi who said similarly critical things of the Jedi Order in its last days before the rise of the Empire, Malicos isn’t exactly wrong. The whole story of the rise of the Sith in the prequels is on the back of Jedi hubris, believing themselves to be better than they were. Regardless of how I may feel about the Jedi, Cal rejected everything Malicos has to say. And it’s clear, of course, that Malicos’ idea of a replacement for the Jedi would put him firmly in control. He had been wholly corrupted by the dark side after years on Dathomir. A duel began.
I said way back in Part 4 of this series, when Cal first met “the wanderer” – aka Malicos – that I was sure they’d end up fighting. It’s nice to be right sometimes! This was a difficult fight – up there with the duel against Trilla on Zeffo. Malicos had a number of Force powers at his disposal, but more than that it was very hard to land a blow on him. He kept his guard up, and hitting him required split-second timing. He was also immune to things like Force push – which of course makes sense.
Merrin showed up during the duel, and at a couple of scripted moments used her magic to attack Malicos. When Cal had finally ground his health down, Merrin stepped in and used her magic one final time, entombing Malicos in the ground in a cut-scene that reminded me of a horror film called Drag Me To Hell.
With the battle over, Merrin and Cal had another chance to talk. Interestingly, Merrin is unaware of the Empire – or any galactic affairs beyond what was happening on Dathomir. Cal explained that he’s searching for the Zeffo Astrium, an object which will help him access a list of Force-sensitive children. He told Merrin he wants to save them from the Empire, a cause she can get behind. The Astrium wasn’t far away, and after jumping over a couple more platforms, Cal finally found it.
Merrin returned as Cal found what he was looking for. She was very happy for him, as the Astrium may be able to save the children and revive the Jedi Order. But she is still alone; nothing can revive her people the way the Astrium and the holocron might for the Jedi. Cal and Merrin connected over their shared experiences as the last of their kind. Cal also referenced what Prauf said to him at the beginning of the game – in the aftermath of the Master Tapal vision he’s also taking on board what Prauf told him too. To my surprise, Merrin said she would join Cal on his mission. I don’t think she will be a constant companion as Cal goes on quests – Jedi: Fallen Order isn’t that kind of game – but she will perhaps hang out on the Mantis, be available to talk to, and participate in cut-scenes.
Merrin told Cal she’ll meet him back at the ship, leaving Cal once again to backtrack through the level. Fortunately this tomb was small compared to the two on Zeffo, but there were no shortcuts to get back outside. A couple of large monsters had spawned in the tomb, and Merrin sat to one side as Cal took them on alone. In these moments, Jedi: Fallen Order feels like a typical game and not an interactive Star Wars experience, and it can make suspending my disbelief more difficult. However, taking on the monsters wasn’t a huge challenge this time.
I like that we can see Merrin’s face now that she’s taken down her hood. It humanises her – despite the ash-grey skin – and we can see her more emotive and expressive. I still think she reminds me of Visas Marr from Knights of the Old Republic II, though! Merrin apparently didn’t tell her zombified Night Sisters that she and Cal are allies now, as several attacked him on his way back to the ship. However, these fights weren’t particularly challenging. Back aboard the Mantis, Cal introduced Merrin to the crew. They were standoffish at first, and they don’t trust her – but they do trust Cal, so Merrin was welcomed aboard. The next destination is Bogano – back to the vault. But I chose to save my game at this point and save Bogano for next time. Exploring two planets is enough for one session!
So this was another long one! Repairing the lightsaber was great, and despite Ilum being kind of bland, it was nice to finally get to see a different planet after hopping between the same three worlds for a long while. The emotional moment with BD-1 in the cavern was incredibly sweet, and I’m even more in love with the cute little droid than I already was. In fact the story of this entire section was great – the only part I didn’t like was the kyber crystal breaking and the lack of explanation for why that was an issue.
I feel certain the trip to Bogano won’t go smoothly – but join me next time to find out!
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is out now on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the copyright of Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts. The Star Wars franchise is the copyright of Lucasfilm and Disney. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and for other iterations of the Star Wars franchise.
This section was a long one, even by my standards, so I hope you’ve got a drink at the ready as we could be here for a little while! Last time we left Cal and the gang on Kashyyyk, having determined that the next destination was Dathomir. Cal had defeated the Ninth Sister, befriended a shyyyo bird I named Buckbeak, and after listening to another recording of Master Cordova, had made it back to the Mantis. Upon loading into the game, Cal was standing outside the ship and got a couple of lines of dialogue from Cere and Greez, mostly just discussing the situation on Kashyyyk. At the galaxy map I was all ready to set course for Dathomir when Greez suggested we backtrack to Zeffo – he thought there might be some loot worth getting in the wreckage of the crashed ship. Despite wanting to get on with the story, the return to Bogano last time proved very fruitful so I decided to go along with it.
The flight to Zeffo was uneventful, and after landing at the usual spot, Cal spoke to Cere and Greez again. It turned out that Cere had once been a Jedi seeker – using her skills to locate Force-sensitives for the Jedi Order. Teaching Trilla what she knew led to the latter becoming a particularly successful Jedi-hunter. Cal headed in what I hoped was the direction of the Venator’s wreckage. At one point I got turned around in the ice caves, and it took a little while to find my way out. Another duo of bounty hunters beset Cal near the entrance to the first tomb, and this was another tough fight.
I didn’t go back into the tomb; I’m not even sure if the tombs were still accessible, but even if they were there’s no point. Eventually Cal made it to the wreckage of the Venator-class ship, and to be fair there was a lot we hadn’t explored here. Last time Cal basically looked over about 10% of the ship en route to the Imperial excavation site, and after escaping Trilla and the tomb was captured by the bounty hunters, precluding a return to the crashed ship. This time, I ignored the route that led to the dig site and proceeded deeper into the wrecked ship. The ship is sitting in a large body of water, and now able to dive below the surface, Cal found a hidden chest. An ice slide then led further into the ship, seemingly through one of its engines. The ship still had some power – during the slide Cal had to avoid some dangerous-looking electrical columns and vents.
Inside the wreck, Cal spoke briefly to BD-1 about his earlier life. As a Jedi padawan he lived aboard a Venator-class ship with Master Tapal; demolishing them as a scrapyard worker on Bracca was hard for him. There were several Force echoes amongst the wreckage, telling the story of a Jedi Master and her apprentice who were attacked and killed during Order 66. Cal eventually found their remains.
Also in the wreck were a number of troopers, including a Purge trooper. Once again, I have no idea how the troopers got to be in the parts of the level where they were. For Cal to get there took a lot of climbing, swimming, swinging, and using Force powers, so it kind of makes no sense that Stormtroopers would be able to be in these hidden areas in my opinion. There was another bounty hunter to fight in the wreck too, and I’m increasingly convinced that the bounty hunter attacks are not scripted and their locations are random. As usual I found the bounty hunter fight difficult, but was eventually able to prevail.
The reward for half an hour’s worth of exploration was meagre – a few customisation options, which were mostly lightsaber parts, and a single new stim for BD-1. Additional stim-packs are useful, there’s no denying that. But Zeffo is a large level and the Venator wreck took time to navigate; I was hoping for something more, I suppose. After collecting the stim-pack upgrade there was also the matter of making a safe return to the Mantis which was all the way on the other side of the level.
While exiting the Venator wreck I spotted a smaller area off to the side of the main crash site that I also explored. Inside was a holo-recording of a Clone Trooper commander, and another bounty hunter to fight. These guys definitely have it out for Cal! This section was thankfully smaller and took less time to explore, but also contained nothing of value. A couple of Force echoes added to the story of the Jedi Master and padawan, but that was it. I headed back to the Mantis via the ice caves as I remembered that there was a cable-car in there.
Aside from one annoying puzzle which involved moving a box, wall-running, and jumping to cross a gap, the Venator wreck was an easy enough level. And it was a nice change of scenery from Jedi: Fallen Order’s previous levels, as well as being somewhat reminiscent of Rey’s exploration of the wrecked Star Destroyer on Jakku in The Force Awakens. After backtracking through the ice caves and fending off a few more Stormtroopers, Cal made it back to the Mantis. Cere piped up, suggesting another diversion back to Bogano, but as I’m fairly confident I got everything worth having last time I decided to ignore her and go to Dathomir this time. I was itching to continue the story – even if I wasn’t excited at the prospect of battling those Night Brothers again!
After landing, Cal spoke to Greez and Cere. Greez was frightened of Dathomir and insisted on staying aboard the ship, but Cere was standing just outside. Greez told Cal to go easy on Cere following the revelation about Trilla, and in this conversation dropped a nice little easter egg about a “castle on Takodana” that makes great cocktails – a reference to Maz Kanata from the sequel trilogy. Outside the ship I spotted a rock formation that I hadn’t seen last time – it looked like it could be a shortcut into the level but there was no way to climb it. Before heading off to get back to the crumbling bridge that thwarted Cal’s first attempt to explore Dathomir, Cere wanted to chat. She basically warned Cal to be careful, and in an optional conversation they spoke about Cal healing his connection to the Force. Despite their differences, Cere appears in this moment to care for Cal and act as his mentor.
The path through Dathomir to the bridge was familiar to me after having spent time here earlier in the game. After that debacle, I was half-hoping that the double-bladed lightsaber upgrade Cal acquired on that trip would prove itself useful at some point. Unfortunately it didn’t; aside from a single special move that Cal could learn (throwing the double-bladed weapon around him in a wide circle) it seems to make no difference, and Cal could have stuck with using the single-bladed variant. That first visit to Dathomir was thus a complete waste of time, and detracts from what has otherwise been a decent story. The wanderer Cal met last time is still standing on the bridge in the same spot, and it’s as if no time has passed at all. As I said previously, I’m happy with a linear game that requires me to take a specific path. Jedi: Fallen Order is clearly this kind of game. But with that being the case, the game should not have presented itself as one with optional routes – pretending to offer player choice where none exists is clearly an attempt to mimic more open titles (like the older Knights of the Old Republic games as well as modern open-world ones) but without the substance to back it up. Instead of Dathomir feeling like an intimidating place to visit at this point in the game, it ended up feeling like yet another backtrack, and the first part of the level’s layout was very familiar as I’d spent a lot of time scouting it out looking for a way across the bridge.
I had unlocked a couple of shortcuts on my first visit to Dathomir, and it only took a few minutes to get back to the bridge. The wanderer was still there, but as we’d exhausted the conversation options last time, he had nothing left to say to Cal. Double-jumping across the gap that halted his progress last time led to Cal being confronted by three Night Brother archers, and after taking them out a cut-scene triggered which saw another Night Brother attack a wooden platform on the bridge, sending it and Cal crashing down. This next sliding section has to be the worst in the game so far, and seems to have a major glitch or bug. A short slide after the cut-scene ends with Cal needing to double-jump across a gap to continue sliding, but for some reason this jump proved impossible. No matter how many times I tried, aiming Cal was impossible. He’d end up leaping off to one side, and the rare time he didn’t the double-jump wasn’t enough to clear the gap. At one point Cal even got stuck on a branch above the slide, unable to move or progress further.
This slide was way harder than it needed to be. And the double-jump feature is to blame – for some reason, what was happening was that Cal would jump up from the slide and immediately double-jump, despite the fact that I was only pressing the button once. This meant he lacked the momentum to clear the gap in the slide, and pressing the button a second time did nothing as the game believed he had already double-jumped. I tried switching over to the keyboard and mouse input, but the same issue occurred. I quit the game and re-loaded my save file, but the issue persisted. I was eventually able to clear the gap and continue down the slide, but it took over thirty attempts. Luckily, as I’d seen while stuck in the scenery, there was a meditation spot near the bottom of the slide. After checkpointing, I was tempted to take a break after all the fuss with that stupid slide, but I decided to press on as I was curious to see more of the story and we hadn’t actually done anything of consequence on Dathomir yet. Around the next corner and through a gap in the wall, the Night Sister who confronted Cal last time was back.
The Night Sister reminds me of Visas Marr from Knights of the Old Republic II, something about the hooded robes and mysterious Force abilities, I think. But that’s incidental. She is furious at Cal, as she believes it was the Jedi who attacked her people (as I think we covered last time, I think this was something included in the Clone Wars television series, but I haven’t seen it). She said she wants to exact revenge for the attack, and used her Force-magic to raise a number of zombified Night Sisters to attack Cal.
These Night Sister zombies weren’t hard to defeat one-on-one, but as is often the case with zombies in video games – and in the wider genre of zombie fiction – en masse they were much harder opponents. The Night Sister is able to raise several at a time, and over the next section of the level Cal would be beset by multiple groups of these non-sentient enemies. Despite the fact that the game’s databank describes them as “mummified”, they absolutely behave like typical fast-moving zombies, so that’s what I’m calling them.
This section of the game, as Cal tackled the lower levels of Dathomir, felt once again like the game was being padded out. Nothing in this area contributed to the story; there were no major puzzles and only one boss fight. Cal’s journey across the game has had several of these moments – detours which neither added to his personal story nor the overall story of the game. The entire objective of this section – which probably took a good hour to complete – was to get back to the section of the bridge where Cal fell and thus access the tomb. While it was at least a new, unexplored area and one that didn’t involve a lot of backtracking, it wasn’t particularly interesting, and the enemy types thrown at Cal were the same two Night Brothers – the melee and archer variants – and the zombified Night Sisters.
I mentioned a boss fight, and this was a big one. Earlier, Cal had spotted a large creature flying around, and after progressing as far as possible through the lower levels, eventually ended up facing a room that was very clearly a “boss fight arena”. It even had a meditation spot directly preceding it! On the far wall was a dead Night Brother and what looked like a section Cal would be able to climb. While investigating, the winged monster Cal had spotted earlier arrived – this must be its nest. The fight was difficult as the monster had a number of moves at its disposal, including unblockable attacks and a screech that could temporarily stop Cal from moving. It could also fly quickly from one side of the arena to the other, and its size meant its attacks had a broad range, making them hard to dodge.
The creature – which I thought resembled a giant owl – was hard to take down. Eventually, when its health bar was around three-quarters depleted, it fled the area and Cal thought he’d won. He’s clearly not a gamer, because if he was he’d know that the monster was sure to be back! The Night Brother that Cal had begun to examine before being interrupted turned out to have special gloves that made it easier to climb walls – but only walls with a certain pattern, of course. Cal was thus able to climb out of the arena and on to the next part of the level. I found these gloves worked very well, but at several points there were glitches where Cal was able to use them to climb invisible walls. One time this led to getting stuck in the scenery and I had to again quit the game and re-load my save.
The monster did eventually come back, and in a scripted sequence grabbed Cal and took off flying through the air. This section saw Cal and the monster fight in the air, with Cal having to jump onto its back several times – these moments required split-second timing and perfect accuracy, neither of which are my speciality, so this section took multiple tries! Eventually the monster and Cal crashed back to the ground, and the monster was finally dead. As an aside, I often find myself feeling sorry for creatures like this in games – it was just minding its own business when Cal showed up, after all. It’s for this reason that I was never interested in games like Monster Hunter World – I just don’t want to harass and kill monsters for no reason!
With the boss defeated, this section didn’t have much more to offer. Cal had to make his way back up to the surface, and some Night Brothers stood in the way, as did a long, winding, and complicated route. There were a couple of Force echoes which seemed to imply that the wanderer had crash-landed here in a ship and was taken prisoner by the Night Brothers. There were also a couple of customisation options in chests.
At one point Cal entered what was described as the Night Brothers’ village. This section contained another slide – thankfully an easier one than the one that led here from the surface – and a number of enemies to battle. Presumably being a Night Brother is more fun than it first appears if the way around their village is by slide. Cal was finally making his way up, back toward the surface, when he had a very ominous conversation with Cere on the radio. Apparently Greez, who has locked himself aboard the Mantis, insisted he’s seen something or someone snooping around the ship. This wasn’t an optional conversation; it triggered automatically as Cal made his way through the level. I was sure that this would lead to consequences later! In a chest in this area I unlocked another paint job for the Mantis. Despite enjoying its yellow design, I chose to apply this mostly-black variant just for a change of pace.
The climb up from the Night Brother village overlooked the Mantis, as you can see from the screenshot above. But this was still a long way from where Cal needed to be, and I was beginning to get frustrated with this incredibly long detour. Fortunately, however, Cal did eventually make it back around the level, unlocking a shortcut back down to the lower level (as if I’m going back there on purpose) in the process.
Back at the bridge, the wanderer was gone and the three Night Brother archers had respawned. Defeating them was not particularly difficult, but one of them fired an unblockable shot that, because of where I was standing in that moment, knocked Cal off the bridge and back onto the glitchy slide. Well there was no way I was going through all that again, and after failing to jump back up to the bridge, I re-loaded the game for the third time in this session. Luckily there was a checkpoint in the area just before the bridge – but I’d loaded in here three times now, and the same three Night Brothers appeared each time as the game always loads the same enemies in the same areas. I wondered to myself how many darn times I’d have to complete this one fight! This time I made it across the bridge without falling and to my surprise there were no enemies in the area. It was a straight shot from here to the entrance to the tomb.
There were two paths available, one which led directly to the tomb and one off to the side. Off to the side was only a chest, and after picking up another customisation piece I headed into the tomb. To my surprise, there was nothing in here. In a large room, Cal walked to the back where there was a wall or door that contained carvings – these looked like the Zeffo script we’d seen elsewhere. But as Cal “interacted” with the wall, nothing seemed to happen.
An audio log from Master Cordova provided a little more information – the Night Sisters allowed him to access the tomb, which he described as hidden and secluded, but he felt it was a dark place. Checking the holomap confirmed that this door was blocked, and with nothing else to see inside the room I turned to leave. There was a meditation spot right by the blocked doorway – strangely I hadn’t seen it on the way in. I decided to make use of it before heading outside to see what I’d missed, though Cal didn’t have any points to use. However, exiting the meditation spot didn’t bring me back to the tomb – it was another flashback of Cal in his youth!
I absolutely love the way this was done. Jedi: Fallen Order has used one of its most basic features – the checkpoint-save – to pull a complete surprise on players. As Cal knelt down to meditate I had no inkling of what was about to transpire! When I got over the initial shock, however, it seemed obvious that in a place of darkness, Cal was going to see a very dark vision – could this be the day of Order 66? Unlike previous flashbacks, where Cal was in a bland grey training room, he first appeared in a cabin aboard a ship, and curiously I could see what looked like a Jedi holocron (just like the one we’re chasing) on one of the beds.
Where previous flashbacks had been fairly short, designed to show Cal a new skill (or rather, to re-learn an old one), this section was long. It also contained the first difficult puzzle since arriving on Dathomir – in the training room Cal had to use all of his skills from wall-running to double-jumping to get from the ground to Master Tapal’s location in a room high above. And my goodness was this just the dumbest puzzle! It wasn’t bad per se, it was just not at all obvious where to go at one point. Cal had to jump from a floating platform and hang onto part of the wall of the room, but the wall was grey and the hand-hold was also grey, meaning it wasn’t obvious where to jump or what to aim for when Cal reached that point. The jumps between platforms and especially at the wall-running section were also right on the limit of Cal’s abilities, meaning each jump had to be timed perfectly to avoid Cal falling to the floor and having to repeat the whole obstacle course. On the plus side, I got a taste of what it must be like to be a Jedi padawan… suffice to say I would’ve failed padawan school.
After eventually completing this obstacle course, Cal arrived in the upper room where Master Tapal was waiting. Here it was revealed that they’ve been on or in orbit of Bracca for some time – presumably why Cal went there during or after Order 66. Bracca had been secured – presumably from forces loyal to General Grievous and the separatists – and the ship was getting ready to move to another destination. However, the Clone Trooper in the room received new orders, and we heard the familiar line from Revenge of the Sith: “Execute Order 66”.
Despite being momentarily overwhelmed by sensing the deaths of many Jedi through the Force, Master Tapal was able to defeat the lone trooper. He encouraged a frightened Cal to make his way to the escape pods, promising to rendezvous there after taking care of business. The next section of the game saw Cal make that journey, and he had to fight Clones who had been his friend moments earlier.
The Clones were no harder to defeat than Stormtroopers; despite being young in this sequence, Cal was armed with a lightsaber (blue this time) and just as capable of standing up against the troopers as he has been in the rest of the game. Making it through the ship was thus not an issue from a gameplay point of view – in fact I expected Cal’s youth, and the lack of BD-1 to carry stims – to make it harder than it was.
A particularly cool sequence saw Master Tapal take out a whole squadron of Clones in a corridor below Cal, who was using the ship’s Jefferies tubes to avoid detection en route to the escape pods. Escaping the ship, while it posed no real challenge from a gameplay perspective, was one of the most tense and exciting in the game so far. It really felt as though Cal had mere moments to get away from the ship and the violent Clones, and his own shock at was happening came through in the animation and voice performance perfectly. At one point Cal had to climb through a turbolift shaft and lost his lightsaber – this explains why he uses Master Tapal’s saber instead of his own.
Upon reaching the escape pods, we saw Cal witness his Master’s death. A squadron of troopers blasted away at Master Tapal, and though Cal was able to open the escape pod and help him inside, it was too late and he died in Cal’s arms. His last words to Cal were to wait for a signal from the Jedi Council – despite everything that transpired, Master Tapal still had hope that some Jedi would survive and be able to help Cal. The escape pod launched, and Master Tapal had his revenge as the ship exploded – this is perhaps why we see an exploding Venator-class ship on the game’s title screen.
The escape pod was presumably bound for Bracca, or else ended up there shortly after, as we know the ship was in that system. How Cal came to hide out, where he landed, and other questions are unanswered, but perhaps we’ll learn more later in the game. However, none of that really matters – this moment is the heart of Cal’s backstory. Order 66 led to the death of his Master, and he feels a great sense of guilt. Not only survivor’s guilt, but that he couldn’t do anything to save him, that he wasn’t quick enough or skilled enough. As the flashback ended, a new vision began. In a dark, shadowy arena, Master Tapal confronted a fully-grown Cal, saying that it was his fault he died, and that he was weak and a traitor. Cal duelled the vision of Tapal, and unfortunately this serious moment was somewhat spoilt by a silly visual glitch – Master Tapal’s head seemed to twist unnaturally.
The duel between them was short; I expected a boss battle but it was really just a couple of blows. As Cal struck his Master with his lightsaber a cut-scene triggered. Cal plunged his blade into Tapal, who says that his blood is on Cal’s hands, as it always had been. This is a representation of Cal’s feelings of guilt, amplified by the dark side of the Force – or at least that’s how I interpreted this vision.
Snapping out of the vision, Cal realised in the real world that he’d been holding his lightsaber tightly – and crushed the crystal inside in his hands. The weapon was now broken; regular button-pressing wouldn’t activate it. With no way into the tomb, and now unarmed and unable to defend himself, a dejected Cal left the tomb. The wanderer was waiting outside, and revealed himself to be a former Jedi. Just as I was wondering how I’d be able to fight him with no weapon, the Night Sister appeared.
The wanderer – whose real name is Taron Malicos – seemed to be armed with two lightsabers. Either that or he has a very ornate belt buckle! I wondered if Cal would be able to steal one or might even be given one, but it turns out that years on Dathomir have turned Malicos to the dark side. He even controls at least one faction of Night Brothers. He attempted to recruit Cal into whatever cult he has going on, which angered the Night Sister as she believed all Jedi need to die as punishment for the attack on her coven. After a brief conversation, the Night Sister raised another group of undead, and the race was on for Cal to make it back to the Mantis!
I didn’t see what happened to Malicos in all the confusion. He may have escaped – and it seems like, from a story point of view at least, Cal will still have to deal with him somehow. My immediate concern, however, was that Cal was unarmed and now being pursued by the largest group of zombies seen so far. These zombies can jump, meaning crossing the bridge provided no safety. More zombies appeared as Cal raced back through the level, barking at Greez and Cere to prepare the Mantis for takeoff. The ramp I spotted before was a shortcut – and I was able to utilise it to return to the Mantis with the zombies in hot pursuit!
Cal made it back to the ship in one piece, and though a number of zombies tried to climb aboard, Greez was able to take off and flee the planet. Cere and Cal sat down for a heartfelt conversation, as Cal revealed his broken lightsaber to her. Cal was sure he could have saved Master Tapal – all the guilt he’s felt for years came spilling out. Cere responded by telling Cal that she cut herself off from the Force because in order to escape the Empire she gave in to the dark side. The pull of the dark side is something every Jedi will have to deal with, she says. Learning about the holocron snapped her out of her rage and anger at the Empire and at herself – providing her with hope that there could be a brighter future.
What will happen next is unclear. The Mantis flew to a snowy location that I initially thought may be Zeffo, but now I’m sure is not, and after landing Cere told Cal it was time to build himself a new lightsaber. She offered him her own, and he took it. This planet may be some kind of Jedi training ground – Cere was a former Jedi seeker, after all. After landing on the snowbound planet, I checkpointed my progress and stepped away from the game.
So this was a very long session, with some quite frustrating points but a great story. Jedi: Fallen Order has taken Cal – and me along with him – on a rollercoaster ride so far. Conquering his fears and guilt seem to be the key to entering the tomb – but first Cal will need to rebuild his broken weapon. Hopefully the Zeffo Astrium will be worthwhile when he finally gets it. I’m assuming that won’t be our final visit to Dathomir. Not only does Cal need to access the tomb, but both the Night Sister and Malicos need to be confronted to conclude that section of the story satisfactorily.
Join me next time and we’ll see what happens next – and where we are!
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is out now on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the copyright of Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts. The Star Wars franchise is the copyright of Lucasfilm and Disney. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and for other iterations of the Star Wars franchise. There is also a spoiler for Game of Thrones Season 8.
Welcome back to Jedi: Fallen Order. After avoiding the Second Sister’s forces on Zeffo, and escaping imprisonment by a gang of gambling-obsessed bounty hunters, Cal and the gang got a lead on the location of Wookie chieftain Tarfful. I was all set to head back to Kashyyyk when Cere suggested a return to Bogano in search of hidden caches of supplies. At the end of the last part of this playthrough, we had just landed on Bogano, so that’s where we’ll pick up now.
I haven’t exactly been wild about Jedi: Fallen Order’s style of sending me back-and-forth between the same levels. Returning to a previously-visited level is fine for completionists who have to unlock every last item, but generally speaking I’m here for the story. However, the chance to acquire some new loot was enticing enough to convince me to backtrack, and I’m very glad I did. After landing, Cal spoke with both Greez and Cere – these were basically continuations of the chats he had with them last time. Cere expressed her regret at not telling Cal about Trilla and her past with the Empire sooner. Greez had a line that I found interesting: Cere is the one “paying the bills” for their expedition; he’s literally just a hired pilot, though they have become friends. This raised a question for me that may be wholly irrelevant, but I can’t help wonder where Cere got the funds for all this star-hopping. Though the economy of the Star Wars galaxy has always been suitably ambiguous, Cere must be reasonably wealthy to be able to afford to keep hiring Greez and the Mantis. Yet as an ex-Jedi and fugitive from the Empire, where did she get her money?
At the landing site there was a ramp that led down into a small chamber. Inside was a little fox-like creature; Cal rescued it and it will now have a home aboard the Mantis. Also in this area was another sphere-and-socket puzzle, which upon completion opened up an area containing a chest. We’d found one of these chests during our first visit to Zeffo, and inside was an upgrade for BD-1, allowing him to carry one more stim (health pack). This alone made the trip worthwhile, and after thinking I wasn’t going to spend much time here in my rush to get to Kashyyyk, I was suitably buoyed by gaining an extra stim to revisit more of Bogano in the hopes of finding more loot!
Outside of this area were a few more of the fox-creatures, but the hostile enemies that we encountered on Bogano the first time all seemed to have vanished. I used the holomap to try to scout out unexplored areas and places where previously-blocked paths were now accessible. In what had presumably been Master Cordova’s camp – where Cal met BD-1 for the first time – was a surprise, though! A large droid was waiting for Cal, and seemed to speak with a human voice as if being controlled remotely. After defeating it, it turned out to be affiliated with the bounty hunter collective that Cal escaped last time. This felt like a bad sign: was Cal being hunted by two groups now?
After collecting a couple of lightsaber components, Cal faced off against another large monster. We fought one of these after exiting the vault on Bogano the first time, and more recently in the bounty hunter’s arena. It was a tough fight, but Cal received a great reward – another new poncho. This one is my favourite: it’s pink! Unless he later finds one covered in sequins or rhinestones I doubt I’ll be changing outfits for the rest of the game. Cal looks like a pretty princess.
There were a couple of other things to see on Bogano; at one point Cal and Cere spoke on the radio about her time as Master Cordova’s apprentice. They enjoyed playing holo-chess together, which was a cute little story adding to Cere’s background. There was one final unexplored area left, and to my great surprise when I got there I found another chest with a stim upgrade. This means BD-1 can now carry five stims as opposed to the two he was equipped with at the start of the game. This obviously helps a lot, as a couple of times Cal has run out of stims during particularly difficult sections. After retrieving this second stim I was content that I’d picked up as many of the supplies as I was going to find, so back at the Mantis I set course for Kashyyyk.
I wasn’t sure what to expect on Kashyyyk. Mari – the resistance fighter Cal befriended last time – had said the Empire’s counter-attack led to them taking back control of the facility we attacked last time. It always felt like the resistance was fighting that kind of engagement; expecting them to keep control of an Imperial facility didn’t seem feasible. However, their situation appears grim. With Saw Gerrera having retreated away from Kashyyyk, it wasn’t clear who would still be there, or even where the Mantis would be able to land. As it turned out, the Mantis was able to land at the same Imperial landing pad as last time – though given the Empire is now in full control of this area, I’m not exactly sure how or why that was possible other than “because it’s a game”. As I said before about Zeffo, given that we’re going to be taking a different route this time and exploring a different area away from the Imperial base, I’d have preferred to see the Mantis pick a new landing zone. Splitting Kashyyyk and Zeffo into two wholly separate levels for the two visits Cal had to make to each would have gone some way to making these sections feel less repetitive and less like backtracking.
There were no enemies to fight at the landing pad, and though both Cere and Greez were stood outside the ship, neither had anything to say. Presumably we’d used up their dialogue on the jaunt to Bogano. There was evidence of a battle on the landing pad, as Cal sensed a Force echo from a discarded resistance fighter’s helmet. Trilla had been here in search of Cal, and had killed the resistance fighter while looking for him. Cal felt very guilty at unleashing the Jedi-hunters on these resistance fighters; while they would have had a hard time holding out against the Empire, they were no match for Trilla and her Purge troopers.
Also at the landing pad were Mirienna and Choyyssyk – Mirienna was the woman from Zeffo who Cal met; her husband had been killed by the Empire. Choyyssk was a Wookie who Cal freed from the prison; he was the one who set up the meeting with Tarfful, the chieftain we’re here to meet. Tarfful wasn’t here, though, he was at a rendezvous point in Kashyyyk’s Shadowlands. After a brief chat in which Mirienna revealed she too is leaving the planet, Cal wished them well and headed out. I was excited at the prospect of heading into the Shadowlands. I mentioned this area on our last visit to Kashyyyk as I’d played through it in Knights of the Old Republic. Compared to that game, the presentation of Kashyyyk in Jedi: Fallen Order was quite different; less like a massive forest with kilometres-tall trees and more like a dense jungle. However, all that was about to change!
A cable-car took Cal to the Imperial facility’s rooftop, where last time we’d defeated the AT-ST and listened to Saw Gerrera’s speech. From here, the only way forward was to take an elevator into the facility and find a way out into the forest from there. I had a bad feeling about the elevator – last time Cal rode one the doors opened to reveal Trilla! And this time was almost as bad: Cal arrived in the Imperial facility only be confronted by two bounty hunters. This was one of the hardest fights so far in Jedi: Fallen Order for me. Both bounty hunters had a variety of weapons and stun-gadgets at their disposal, including flashbang grenades which turned the screen white, blinding Cal temporarily. However, after focusing on one opponent at a time (and using a couple of stim-packs) Cal was able to defeat one of them, before a well-timed use of Force push sent the second falling to his death. Thank goodness for enemies who choose to fight on ledges and platforms!
I can’t tell if the bounty hunters are always in this location, or whether their appearances are somewhat random. However, one thing is clear – having encountered the droid on Bogano and now these two, the bounty hunter guild is hunting Cal. Surprisingly this wasn’t mentioned at all; I wondered whether Cal might’ve told Greez what had happened, but he never did. After this fight there were several Stormtroopers and a Purge trooper to defeat, before BD-1 was able to take down a forcefield allowing Cal to exit the base and head into the forest.
After exiting the base, Kashyyyk finally started to take on a similar feel to how I remembered it from Knights of the Old Republic in the early 2000s. At points, Jedi: Fallen Order’s Kashyyyk Shadowlands felt like a visually-improved version of the level from the older game, and I absolutely adored the nostalgia trip of exploring this dangerous forest floor. Gone were most of the jungle elements that Cal saw on the route to the Imperial base last time, replaced with a dense forest. I have no doubt Kashyyyk’s wroshyr trees are based on California’s giant redwoods, and while I’ve never seen those for myself I’ve seen photos and at least one documentary! A short distance from the base were several Stormtroopers armed with rocket launchers in a treehouse-platform, and credit to the game’s designers here because the platform looked just like the ones seen in Revenge of the Sith. Yoda was in such a treehouse when Order 66 occurred.
From here a zipline led deeper into the forest, and there were a variety of animal and plant(!) enemies to battle. Tarfful sure picked an out-of-the-way location for a meeting! But that makes sense as he wouldn’t have wanted to get any closer to the Imperial base than necessary. There was a Force echo in this area which showed Saw and Mari arguing – believing Kashyyyk lost, Saw has withdrawn as we already knew. But Mari insisted on staying behind to help the Wookies in their resistance to the Empire. I’m still hopeful Saw will reappear in the game, as Cal’s story with him doesn’t feel complete. This section contained several giant venus fly trap-like plants, which are more than big enough to eat Cal! Luckily there’s a couple of seconds between stepping on one and it snapping shut, which is enough time in most cases to jump off before having a problem.
After battling a few more troopers, Cal was able to advance deeper into the forest. Another Force echo saw Cal learn about the resistance’s retreat from the Imperial base; at one point they were overrun and a number of soldiers were killed. After climbing through a cave, Cal dropped down into a body of water called Origin Lake, and was getting closer to Tarfful – whose rendezvous location was marked on the holomap.
There was another Purge trooper to battle in this area as well as the standard troopers and monsters, and Cal had some swimming to do to get out of the lake. Climbing up eventually led to a couple of vines, and after swinging across like a fabulously pink Tarzan, Cal made it to the meeting with Tarfful. For some reason Choyyssyk was there too, having apparently raced there from the landing pad. Having a companion during this section of the game could have been interesting, and it could have been fun for Choyyssyk and Cal to journey through Kashyyyk together. The meeting itself was a complete let-down, as Tarfful basically says that he once told Master Cordova to climb a large tree – the Origin Tree. And that was it. No big reveal or useful information, and the conversation with Tarfful and Mari was over in a couple of minutes. At least there was a reason for Cal to head to his next objective, though; you’ll recall my complaining several times at the game dumping objectives and map markers on Cal with no explanation given!
I was really expecting something more substantial from Tarfful, especially after all the buildup to meeting him. Even if he’d still given Cal the same basic information and quest, the conversation at the meeting could have been so much more than it was. It wasn’t even a cut-scene, as Cal stood there stoically while Mari translated Tarfful’s Wookie growls. Mari gave Cal a breather – the device used by Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan in The Phantom Menace – to allow him to breathe underwater, as the way in to the Origin Tree will require a lot of swimming. As an aside, Electronic Arts, who published Jedi: Fallen Order, have an online store/game launcher called Origin. Is it just a coincidence that the Origin Tree and Origin Lake share its name? Probably. An optional extra chat with Mari revealed that before taking up arms against the Empire she was a cartographer, making maps of backwater planets. Little moments like this go a long way to humanising characters and making them feel like real people. While I expect we’ve seen the last of Mari, this moment was sweet and it showed how the rise of the Empire affected people across the galaxy.
After the anticlimactic rendezvous, Cal set off in search of the tree. Equipped with the breather, he can now dive underwater and seemingly spend as long under the surface as he likes. Swimming is something many games struggle to get right, and unfortunately some of the same issues that have plagued other titles are present in Jedi: Fallen Order. I’ve already spoken several times about the game’s relatively clunky controls, and in a three-dimensional underwater environment, Cal controls like a drunk hippopotamus. It was very difficult to get him to navigate even the widest of caves and openings, and the fact that Kashyyyk’s murky water doesn’t allow for great visibility when swimming made these sections of the game frustrating to play at points. However, there were several chests underwater which contained various lightsaber parts, which was nice. And for the second time while playing Jedi: Fallen Order I got a Super Mario 64 flashback – opening the chests while underwater felt so much like it does in that game to me!
Surprisingly – and thankfully, given how tricky it was – the swimming sections contained no underwater monsters or aggressive piranha-like fish to fight off or escape from, and after uncovering a couple of chests, Cal made his way to the next area of the level, which was presumably the base of the Origin Tree (though nothing appeared in-game to confirm this). There were Stormtroopers in the area as well as plenty of monsters; the large spiders being perhaps the most difficult to fight as they could immobilise Cal with their webs (think what happened to Frodo in Lord of the Rings!)
The ascent was slow-going in places, and I debated taking a break. But there were no meditation spots in the vicinity, and I wasn’t keen to have to start all over again from the bottom. By the way, how many games in recent years have this kind of old-school “checkpoint” system instead of letting players save their progress on the fly? Though I’ve never played the Dark Souls series, I think this is something those games brought back as a way to increase the difficulty, and it’s something Jedi: Fallen Order mimics. It definitely has the desired effect, and while the ability to freely save would be nice, I can’t criticise the game for sticking to this model. Cal did eventually make it to the point the holomap was sending him to.
This turned into an ambush, however, as the Ninth Sister – another Inquisitor who we briefly saw on Bracca – appeared in her ship! I thought she was going to jump down and duel with Cal, but she remained aboard and started blasting at him, triggering a long sliding sequence as he escaped. This was particularly annoying, as the sliding sections have difficult controls and require perfectly-timed button presses and perfect aiming to complete jumps and avoid Cal falling to his death. This was even worse than the ice slide on Zeffo and took many attempts to get right. At one point Cal was propelled through the air by several well-placed bouncy plant-things (I know that’s a horrible description, sorry) in a sequence that reminded me of the barrel-cannons from the Donkey Kong Country games. The Ninth Sister’s ship was eventually taken down by one of Kashyyyk’s huge animals, though it seemed clear that wouldn’t be the end of her.
Luckily there was a meditation spot shortly after the sliding section, which I took advantage of. I opted to improve Cal’s Force push ability; it will now affect groups of enemies, provided they’re standing close enough to one another. This has the potential to be very useful, as I’ve found Force push to be one of my most frequently-used powers during combat. As Cal had slid back down to the forest floor, it seemed as though he’d have to climb back up the Origin Tree to find whatever he was looking for up there, but it wasn’t long after he began the climb that he had a flashback to his time training under Master Tapal. This time Cal was able to learn the “Jedi flip” that he needed to get across that bridge on Dathomir, and after the flashback was over, Cal states that he’s finally re-learned the skills Master Tapal had taught him; he’s “back to where he was” before Order 66 and the rise of the Empire brought his Jedi training – and the whole Jedi Order – to an abrupt end. As previously mentioned, the Jedi flip is basically a double jump, allowing Cal to cross wider gaps and stay in the air longer.
Re-learning these skills means that Cal unlocks more upgrades when meditating, but of course having just used the only two skill points he had on the Force push upgrade, the next meditation spot was only used to checkpoint my progress climbing up the Origin Tree. A Force echo showed Cal that Master Cordova had been this way – so at least we were on the right track! There was also a Clone Wars/prequel era ship that had crashed partway up the tree, prompting Cal to talk about how the war on Kashyyyk never truly ended, and how the last few years have been rough for the planet and its people.
The creature that had taken out the Ninth Sister’s ship was back. I hadn’t really seen it clearly earlier, but it turned out to be a large bird with strangely translucent wings – a shyyyo bird. The fight against the ship had injured it, and Cal found it laying down partway up the tree feeling sorry for itself. Like something from an old fable, Cal was able to remove a piece of debris from its wing and heal it with a stim-pack, becoming fast friends with the creature in the process.
The bird was grateful for Cal’s help, and flew away from the area where it had been resting. There was another chest in this area that unlocked a different colour scheme for the Mantis, but I like its yellow “space banana” hue so I didn’t apply the new one this time. The shyyyo bird was waiting for Cal, and in the most wholesome and adorable cut-scene it let him climb on its back and flew him higher up the Origin Tree. This scene was reminiscent of the final sequence in the film version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where Harry soars through the sky on Buckbeak the hippogriff!
I was in love with the shyyyo bird – and very worried that it was going to be shot out of the sky like Rhaegal the dragon had been near the end of Game of Thrones’ final season! As you may remember I’m easily swayed by cute animals in films and games, and despite its gigantic size, the shyyyo bird definitely qualifies. After the cut-scene Cal dismounted, and the shyyyo bird left. This area was fairly small and contained the remains of Master Cordova’s camp, as well as a workbench. I took this opportunity to customise Cal’s lightsaber once again – you know I like to play with the various customisation options, and we’d unlocked half a dozen or more lightsaber options since the last time I was at a workbench.
Thanks to the shyyyo bird, Cal was exactly where he needed to be. Just beyond the area with the workbench, BD-1 played the next recording from Master Cordova. When he passed this way he was able to acquire a Zeffo Astrium – the macguffin Cal is chasing that he hopes is the key to accessing the vault on Bogano.
Unfortunately the Zeffo Astrium that was here is long gone – Master Cordova will have taken it with him, but who knows where it ended up. However, he gives Cal his next destination – Dathomir contains another Astrium, but this one is trapped in a tomb that Master Cordova described as being “dark”. Surely this means the dark side of the Force, though what exactly Cal will find when he heads back is unclear. Master Cordova had tried to find the Astrium on Dathomir without success; Cal must now accomplish what a seasoned Jedi Master could not. A tough task indeed.
Immediately beyond the area where the recording played was a meditation spot. Then the shyyyo bird returned to fly Cal back down the tree. However, after landing the Ninth Sister’s ship was back and shot the poor bird! It looked like the end for the shyyyo – which was pretty devastating – and then the Ninth Sister herself jumped down for a duel with Cal. And she’s a big lass.
Apparently the Second Sister (Trilla) considers Cal to be “important”, though the Ninth Sister can’t figure out why. She’s content to just cut Cal down, and after a brief conversation in which Cal tells her she will no longer be able to terrorise Kashyyyk, the combatants draw their lightsabers – the Ninth Sister’s has a handguard like Trilla’s – and engage in a difficult duel. While the fight against the Ninth Sister was hard, I actually found the battle against the bounty hunters earlier to be trickier. The Ninth Sister has a few tricks up her sleeve, but nothing as bad as paralysing weapons or flashbangs.
The fight went on for a little while, as Cal had to frequently dodge and parry the Ninth Sister’s powerful attacks. At several points the game would jump into a quick-time event, where mashing the X or B button was required to stop one of the Ninth Sister’s strikes. However, after persevering and striking at her whenever possible, Cal gained the upper hand and ground down her health bar.
Eventually Cal was able to damage the Ninth Sister’s helmet and – in true Star Wars style – eventually cut off the hand she used to hold her weapon. Despite this she tried to continue the fight, but a final strike from Cal sent her over the edge of the platform. Did she fall to her death? Unclear. Cal definitely believes that this was the end of her, but without seeing a dead body I’m not 100% convinced! Star Wars villains have a tendency to pop back up, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Ninth Sister makes a return.
Regardless, the Ninth Sister’s demise ended the duel, and Cal stood for a moment in shocked silence at having beaten a full-fledged Inquisitor. While wounded, the Ninth Sister told him something interesting – she used to be a Jedi! Like Cere, she was captured and tortured by the Empire, and while Cal still hasn’t fully forgiven Cere for not telling him everything about Trilla and the mission, he now has a better understanding of what she must’ve been through. Despite the way it was presented, I must admit I find this a little ominous; if the Ninth Sister and Trilla were both converted, and we know that Cere used the dark side too in that moment, is she really someone Cal can trust? The shyyyo bird – Buckbeak, as I’m calling it – survived the Ninth Sister’s attack and returned to fly Cal back down the tree.
After disembarking and bidding farewell to Buckbeak, Cal headed back to the Imperial base, which wasn’t too far from where he’d been dropped off. The troopers had all respawned, but it wasn’t too hard to cut through them and make my way back into the base.
I was worried that the bounty hunters would have respawned too, but aside from a lone Purge trooper, there were only regular Stormtroopers to worry about as Cal made his way back to the Mantis. En route Cal found the body of a Wookie near an empty tank, and a Force echo over his or her corpse led Cal to realise that the tanks of brown liquid were a toxic byproduct of the Empire’s refinery on Kashyyyk – this would have been great to know on our first visit to Kashyyyk as it would have explained why Cal instantly died if he touched the liquid. But never mind, at least now we know! It wasn’t too difficult to get back to the cable-car, and from there it was a short ride back to the Mantis.
Despite the fact that the Empire is in full control of this area, neither Greez nor Cere seem particularly bothered or on alert. The Mantis is sat on an Imperial landing pad – presumably illegally – and after what happened on Zeffo I have to assume that the Empire knows Cal is using the vessel. Could they be ignoring it on purpose to track it? That’s one possibility. Greez and Cere were sitting down to eat lunch, and Cal joined them to explain what had happened. Neither seemed especially impressed at his defeating the Ninth Sister, but he informed them of their new destination – Dathomir.
Cere apologised again for the business with Trilla, but Cal tells her – in a rather standoffish manner – that it’s okay. After his duel with the Ninth Sister he has a better understanding of what it must’ve been like, and was impressed that she didn’t end up joining the Inquisitors even if she sacrificed Trilla. Though there’s still tension between the two of them, they have at least arrived at an understanding, or at least that’s the way it seems for now. When the lunchtime conversation was over, I used the Mantis’ meditation spot to checkpoint my progress before taking a break.
So this part of the game was pretty good. The Tarfful scene, which had a lot of buildup, was kind of a miss for me, but I absolutely adored soaring high above Kashyyyk on Buckbeak the shyyyo bird, and returning to a massively-upgraded version of the Shadowlands that I remembered from Knights of the Old Republic was a nostalgic treat. Cal accomplished his mission and seems to have possibly defeated the Ninth Sister to boot, which if true is great news. The Mantis has a new destination – albeit a planet we’ve already visited – so it’s next stop Dathomir! Come back next time when we’ll confront the darkness in search of a Zeffo Astrium.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is out now on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the copyright of Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts. The Star Wars franchise is the copyright of Lucasfilm and Disney. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order as well as for other iterations of the Star Wars franchise.
Welcome back to the next part of Jedi: Fallen Order. The previous section of the game was absolutely wild as Cal returned to Zeffo. Exploring an Imperial base, a crashed Republic ship from the Clone Wars/prequel era, and an excavation site culminated in a duel against the Second Sister – and a shocking revelation about her past with Cere! That moment might be my favourite in the story so far, providing a great twist and raising the stakes dramatically. When we left Cal he’d escaped the Second Sister – who had seemed to be on the cusp of defeating him – and made it to the second Zeffo tomb.
Before we go inside, I just wanted to update you on one point from last time. I mentioned the game’s title screen depicts a damaged starship – having looked at it a little more closely I’m wondering whether it’s a Venator-class ship, like the crashed one on Zeffo. If so, it may be a representation of that very ship! Perhaps there’s more to the crashed ship than we know so far. On his approach to the tomb – which looks to be a whole building constructed inside a large cavern – Cal gets another “bad feeling”. His last one was building up to the fight against Trilla, so this can’t be anything good! At this point it felt like Cal’s real objective was to escape; exploring the tomb was incidental as he tried to make his way back to the Stinger Mantis. After all, if Trilla knew he was on Zeffo, she might know about Greez, Cere, and the ship too.
Cal made an attempt to radio the Mantis, but instead of Greez or Cere it was Trilla who replied! She explained that Cere is an expert at hacking comms, and she learned the skill from her. I liked this exchange, as not only did it set up Trilla taunting Cal during his exploration of the tomb, but it had a believable explanation as to why she could do so, as well as giving some background as to why Cere was able to hack Imperial communications so easily earlier in the game. This section of the game, similarly to the first tomb, will involve a lot of platforming and puzzles, and the way in was no exception, as Cal had to jump, run on walls, and swing on vines to make his way inside.
Squeezing through a narrow gap led Cal to a room where a couple of Stormtroopers had triggered a Tomb Guardian – the laser-wielding mechanical golems left behind by the Zeffo. The troopers were easy prey for the automaton, but here’s where I began to have an issue with the level’s layout and how it related to the story. Jedi: Fallen Order has a great story – one of the better Star Wars offerings in recent years – yet it’s too often undermined by sacrificing logic and consistency for the sake of giving the player more enemies to fight. This tomb, for example, has multiple areas that are blocked off behind walls that Cal needs to break with the Force, or small platforms that need to be accessed via complicated jumps and climbs, yet the whole place is crawling with Stormtroopers. How did they get there? In some areas, perhaps it makes sense that they came in via a dropship, as indeed we’ll see. But other areas are wholly inaccessible. This room could only be accessed by the narrow passage, yet it had two Stormtroopers inside, for example. Of course Jedi: Fallen Order is a game, and games need enemies to battle a lot of the time. But I’d rather see that done in a way that made a bit more sense.
Beyond the Tomb Guardian was a large room. Similar to the previous tomb, this one had a divot in the floor – one of those huge metal spheres lay broken a few metres away. Great… another one of these puzzles! The previous tomb had been at least slightly annoying with its “put the sphere in the hole” puzzles, and I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of repeating that all over again. However, there was no intact sphere at ground level to interact with, so I kept exploring. At this point I encountered another visual bug, as Cal climbed on a pile of debris in the middle of the room and seemed to levitate in mid-air, his feet nowhere near what he should have been walking on.
A room off to one side of this large circular chamber prompted an audio recording from Master Cordova – apparently the tomb has some areas that can be magnetised, which he says may be part of an ancient ritual. This was interesting, and of course will be important for puzzle-solving later. However, this room also contained something which had no explanation at all – an ongoing theme in Jedi: Fallen Order. A staircase is blocked by some vines or tree roots, and Cal’s lightsaber and Force powers have no effect on them. As a concept that’s fine – it means Cal will need to figure out a way to destroy or get around them. But… why was there no explanation at all of what these vines were? Even if something had popped up in the databank to read that would have been enough, yet there was nothing. An arbitrary video game barrier/puzzle piece dumped in Cal’s path with no explanation. There have been too many points where the game has not offered any explanation for what’s going on, these roots or vines are just the latest example. Cal is a Jedi armed with a lightsaber – weapons which can cut through almost anything. I feel these vines needed some kind of explanation – even a single line of dialogue – to explain why they’re lightsaber-proof.
The vines (as I’ll stick to calling them) can only be destroyed by fire, as it turns out. And luckily this tomb has a neverending supply of what are described as candles but which I’d probably say were closer in appearance to old-fashioned oil lamps. Activating a switch in this room caused three of these to shoot across the room – propelled by the magnets in the wall – and set the vines ablaze. The unlocked pathway led up a staircase to the upper level, and there was a meditation spot (but Cal didn’t have any skill points to use). A doorway led into a hallway that contained an inactive Tomb Guardian – I’m used to these things waking up when they spot Cal, so I’m not sure why this one didn’t; it just stood there silently. Another doorway led to the upper level of the main circular chamber, where a number of Stormtroopers were present. These were easily taken care of.
Trilla came back on the radio, telling Cal that her men found an “artefact” of interest in the tomb. They recovered it for her to study, but Cal tells her he doesn’t need it in a conversation that got uncomfortably close to Cal telling her the nature of his mission with BD-1! Trilla knows how to push his buttons, that’s for sure. A few moments later she was back on the radio, threatening Cal with sending more soldiers into the tomb. At this point it began to feel as though Cal was trapped – or walking into a trap. However, with the way behind him shut (and presumably under heavy guard) the only way to escape was to continue to go forward. After climbing up and defeating a couple of larger monsters, there seemed to be two routes – one across a bridge where a squad of troopers stood, and one that seemed to go into a smaller room. As someone who likes to explore as much of a level as possible (as well as grab more customisation items) I chose to explore the small room – but this led to a series of pathways that took me deeper into the level; I saw the bridge in the distance when I’d gone a fair way beyond it!
The next area of the level was a large chamber. Switches activated another of the magnets that Master Cordova talked about; these platforms would have to be moved forward and back a few times to allow Cal to cross over to the next part of the level. Several troopers – including a Purge trooper – were present in this area. Shortly after Cal arrived, an Imperial dropship appeared. At first I thought it was going to be a boss to fight, like the AT-STs had been, but it only dropped off some troopers before departing.
One part of the magnet-platform puzzle was very annoying, as it required pressing a switch then immediately sprinting to grab hold of the platform before it moved. Split-second button presses aren’t exactly my area of expertise, but to make matters worse, both buttons that needed to be pressed on the controller were the thumbsticks! The right thumbstick is used as an “interact” button for things like switches, and the left thumbstick needs to be clicked before Cal will sprint. Needless to say, this puzzle took several attempts. The level’s lone flame trooper was present in this area, but easily defeated. Cal pressed on into the tomb, when Trilla came back on the radio. She said Cal was too late – she’d taken the important artefact to her ship and was leaving. At this point I was worried that the level had been secretly timed and I’d have to do it all over again! Luckily that wasn’t the case, and I have to assume that no matter how fast Cal might’ve raced through the tomb, this conversation would always play out the same way.
After a lot more platforming and a few more enemies, Cal made it to the room indicated on the holomap. A meditation spot was here, which I took advantage of as Cal had lost some health. There were a couple of options to choose from for levelling up, and I put Cal’s lone skill point into an upgrade to his Force regeneration – granting him faster recovery of Force points while in combat. Like a bad smell, Trilla was back again – this time claiming to have lured Cal to the central burial chamber to “dispose” of him. There were a number of troopers on a platform up ahead, but it didn’t seem like an impossibly hard fight. However, partway through the battle the dropship from earlier showed up and started blasting!
The battle transitioned from gameplay to a cut-scene perfectly smoothly once again. The dropship’s firing had caused the chains holding up this platform to break, sending Cal and the troopers falling into the pit below! Cal dropped his lightsaber and seemed to be reaching out with the Force to grab hold of it when he heard Master Jaro Tapal’s voice. In the flashback that followed, we saw a young Cal learning to use the Force to pull his training lightsaber toward him, with Master Tapal’s encouragement. Drawing on this memory, Cal re-learned Force pull, and was able to retrieve his lightsaber.
Cal found himself hanging from the platform in the tomb, and using Force pull on one of the candles was able to destroy some of those indestructible vines to clear a path out of the burial chamber. Trilla immediately learned of Cal’s survival, and said she had a backup plan in case the trap failed to kill him. But as we’ll see on the way out, the backup plan basically consisted of sending a few more troopers into the tomb. The only way out was back the way I’d come, as was the case in the first tomb. Jedi: Fallen Order has a lot of backtracking and repeating areas, and while some of these sections bring in different opponents or new puzzles, sometimes it can feel repetitive, and as I mentioned last time, as if the game’s runtime is being artificially padded out.
Upon escaping the burial chamber and returning to the large main part of the cavern, Cal was confronted with a fairly large group of enemies. In typical video game fashion they stood in a line down a wide corridor, and while I don’t hate that as a concept – though it’s hardly original or particularly immersive – what was annoying is that at the back, behind a cadre of Stormtroopers and probe droids, was a Tomb Guardian just standing there. Elsewhere in the tomb, the Tomb Guardians had fought Stormtroopers, yet this one seemed to be allied with them waiting for Cal. It would have made way more sense to make the mini-boss at the head of this group a Purge trooper instead of a Tomb Guardian. The whole effect kind of ruined my suspension of disbelief for a moment, and made the whole thing feel very much like any old video game instead of the immersive Star Wars story I wanted to enjoy.
From a gameplay point of view this section was fine; the wide hallway had a couple of bottomless pits that Cal could send troopers tumbling into with his new Force pull ability, which was kind of fun. After defeating the various enemies, Cal was back in the main circular room, and in another random objective given to him with no explanation, was tasked with “raising the spire” of the tomb. Once again I’m left asking how Cal knew he needed to do that, where he got the information from, and all of the questions we’ve already covered when one of these seemingly-important parts of the story is unceremoniously plopped on Cal with no explanation. A line or two of dialogue – or even just an entry in the game’s databank – would have made this so much better. This puzzle was particularly annoying. Cal needed to move a chain – using Force pull – into a socket. That part should be simple, but for some reason when Cal was holding the chain, the camera became locked at a weird low angle, making it impossible to see where to go. I thought this was a bug unique to this area, but this chain-to-socket puzzle would be repeated later and the camera was locked then too.
It took a little while to figure out what to do next. The objective was to move one of the candles in the wall over to a chain which has vines wrapped around it – this will cause the chain to break and the sphere in the ceiling to fall. The sphere can then be moved into the socket on the ground floor. But the tomb is wet and there are torrents of water gushing from the ceiling – the candles are extinguished if they touch it. I spent ages messing about in a side room getting a candle through a small gap only to find that route was a dead end that only led to a Force echo! Eventually I figured out the solution – there was a magnet switch on one side of the room, and the casings of the candles are metal, meaning they’re attracted to it. It was a simple case of activate magnet, Force push a candle into the magnetised area, retrieve it, and then send it into the vines with Force push. Once again, Jedi: Fallen Order’s clunky controls let me down, and it took several attempts to launch the candle into the right place on the chain, but eventually I managed and the sphere fell to the floor. After Force pulling it into the socket, a room opened up.
Entering the room which had risen up from the floor led to BD-1 to display a recording from Master Cordova. He talks about something called a “Zeffo Astrium” which Cal describes a a key. This object will allow a Force user to “perceive the mysteries of the vault”… whatever that may mean! Whatever it does exactly, this Astrium seems like the key to gaining the holocron stored in the vault on Bogano – perhaps it will allow Cal to see something else in that large empty room. This small room was also the way out of the tomb – the spire that needed to be raised.
Once back outside, Trilla told Cal that she wanted him to raise the spire, claiming it was all part of her plan. I thought her plan had been to trap Cal in the tomb and kill him, but there we go. Unable to contact Cere and Greez on the radio, Cal urgently said he needed to head back to the Stinger Mantis. Presumably the artefact Trilla pilfered from the tomb is this Astrium, but that wasn’t confirmed at any point. This section led back into the Imperial base, and on the way BD-1 received another upgrade, this time allowing him to hack into probe droids. Not sure how useful this will be in combat, unless there’s a particularly large group of enemies, but it may have other uses. I also took this opportunity at the workbench to change Cal’s lightsaber from its orange colour to green for no other reason than I fancied a change.
Aside from the Scomp Link and the ability to climb zip-lines, BD-1’s upgrades appear to be optional. This workbench was along the main route back to the Mantis, but I think it would be possible to walk past it without getting the upgrade at this point. Perhaps that means it won’t be essential to the story. Back inside the Imperial base, and most of the troopers had respawned. Cal was able to defeat them, though, and backtracking through this area was uneventful.
I’m not sure if you remember from our last excursion to Zeffo, or from earlier this time as I kind of blitzed through it to get to the story, but the way to access this part of the level from the Stinger Mantis involved one of those Super Mario 64 ice slides. Climbing back up that was a no-go, but there was an alternate path by jumping on rocky outcrops that overlooked the ice slide. It was a hop, skip, and a jump back to one of the shortcuts that led to the village.
After jumping across the final gap near the top of the ice slide, I spotted the doorway leading to the shortcut. There might be a few more troopers en route, but other than that it seemed as though Cal was home free… until he was beset by a new enemy, someone named Atticus Rex. This vaguely Boba Fett-like character had a jetpack and a variety of weapons at his disposal. Regardless, Cal was doing well hacking away at him and using Force powers to wear his health down.
I liked this moment, as the appearance of a new enemy from nowhere was a surprise. Jedi: Fallen Order has handled surprises very well, and as this is my first playthrough, I was expecting an uneventful backtrack through the level to see what was happening on the Mantis. This fight came out of nowhere and I like that! Despite Cal seeming to have the upper hand, the fight ended in a scripted moment where Atticus Rex used a gadget to render Cal unconscious…
Having only died a handful of times so far in Jedi: Fallen Order (not to brag, I’m playing on easy mode after all) I couldn’t remember if the screen displayed on Cal’s death said “reawaken” or something similar. However, after seeing it for a moment, it was clear that a cut-scene was playing. Cal woke up in a prison cell, unarmed, and missing BD-1.
It turns out Atticus Rex was a bounty hunter, and because of Greez’s gambling, the bounty hunter guild came to know about Cal. Earlier in the game during one of the flights between worlds, Cere reprimanded Greez for his gambling, and this moment is a consequence of what Greez did. I like this as a story point, and as we’ll see later, it has the potential to bring Cal and Greez closer together. But as a gameplay section, this prison was a complete dud. Rescuing BD-1 was easy, he was in another nearby cell. After that, Cal ascended to an upper level on an elevator, where he found himself in an arena. The chief bounty hunter or head of the guild pitted Cal against a variety of the game’s monsters while a crowd of spectators looked on and – presumably – bet whether Cal would win or lose. Almost all of the monsters encountered so far were present in the arena, and after defeating several waves, Atticus Rex returned for round 2. Rex was relatively easy to defeat, but before Cal could do anything else – like break out of the arena and take on the other bounty hunters, the Stinger Mantis arrived and rescued him. The whole section took about five minutes to complete from waking up in the cell to defeating the final boss, and as a result it just felt like something completely tacked-on.
I know I’ve complained about Jedi: Fallen Order reusing levels and sending Cal back through areas multiple times. And I stand by those criticisms, as they often feel like unnecessary padding. However, this new section managed to feel like unnecessary padding too – unless Cal’s escape and killing of Rex leads to some as yet unknown consequence, this sub-plot with the bounty hunters just didn’t do much of anything. It was a minor interruption to the story – and actually if anything it got in the way of Cal learning what happened to the Mantis on Zeffo and how Greez and Cere were able to escape the Empire. Overall, I feel it was kind of a waste of time, and particularly a waste of development resources put into such a short and unnecessary section of the game. I’m also not sure why Atticus Rex was given a name – he never spoke, and aside from his presence in two short fights appears to be dead and no longer a part of the story. It’s possible he might make a comeback later, but it doesn’t seem like it right now.
The one good thing to come out of this is that Cal and Greez got some genuine development in their relationship. We saw last time Cal thank Greez for his safe piloting, and this time it’s Greez who speaks up, expressing his regret that his gambling addiction put Cal in danger. Seeing the characters develop is a key part of any story, and this section – while bland and uninspired – did at least have a positive effect on Cal and Greez’s relationship.
Speaking of interpersonal relationships, once safely aboard the Mantis, Cal jumped on Cere, telling her what happened with Trilla and asking her if Trilla’s accusations are true. Before they could really get stuck into what happened between Trilla and Cere, they were interrupted by the resistance fighters from Kashyyyk. Tarfful, the chief Cal needed to meet, has been located, but Saw Gerrera left the planet following an Imperial counter-attack. I’d hoped to get more time with Saw, but it may be that the first time on Kashyyyk was his only appearance; we’ll have to wait and see. With Tarfful found and no further information to go on, Cal plans to head to Kashyyyk.
When opening the galaxy map, however, Cere piped up and suggested that Master Cordova may have hidden supplies on Bogano, and says it could be worth a trip back there to take a look. This was presented as an option rather than something mandatory; Cal could have chosen to go straight to Kashyyyk. However, the thought of more loot – and perhaps more customisation options – was enough to entice me and I opted to to to Bogano. The Mantis dropped out of hyperspace and landed back in the same place as last time. Before ending this section of the playthrough, I used the Mantis’ meditation spot to use the skill points Cal had acquired – this time spending two skill points to further increase his maximum health.
So that’s all for this time. The tomb was partly interesting, partly frustrating. I liked that Trilla was able to hack Cal’s radio and be present throughout the exploration of the tomb, as it elevated the tension during that section of the game. From a story perspective, we’ve learned that we need to acquire a certain artefact – the Astrium – which may or may not be in the hands of Trilla. Perhaps the excursion to Kashyyyk will reveal a path to finding another one. Either way, it seems as though this artefact may be essential to gaining the holocron in the vault.
Next time we’ll take a second look at Bogano to see if we can find anything of use, and probably head to Kashyyyk too. So swing by then for the next part of the adventure!
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is out now on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the copyright of Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts. The Star Wars franchise is the copyright of Lucasfilm and Disney. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and for other iterations of the Star Wars franchise.
Oh my goodness! This section of Jedi: Fallen Order was tense, dramatic, and incredibly exciting. I’m having a great time with the game so far, and aside from getting to drive an AT-AT last time – which is now one of my all-time favourite experiences in any Star Wars video game – this might be the best section of the game so far. From a story perspective it was a wild ride! Last time we defeated an Imperial force – including another AT-ST – on Kashyyyk and freed a number of Wookies from slavery. However, the tribal leader Cal and Cere wanted to meet was nowhere to be found – though one of his friends promised to get in touch when they located him – and after Cere picked up an Imperial transmission regarding Project Auger, Cal and the gang were about to return to Zeffo.
I haven’t talked about this before (because I hadn’t really noticed) but the game’s title screen depicts a ship that seems to be destroyed or severely damaged. I can’t tell exactly, but this looks to be some kind of Star Destroyer or similar Imperial craft. It clearly isn’t the Stinger Mantis, but I’m not 100% sure what it is. While I doubt it’s some kind of massive spoiler, I’m sure the title screen is depicting an image related to the game’s story.
Before setting off I took a moment to look around the Stinger Mantis. There are a couple of doors which don’t open, as well as a ladder that looks like it leads to a second deck below the main one, and I’m curious if we’ll ever get to explore those other rooms and areas. I know I bring up Knights of the Old Republic a lot in these playthrough posts, but in that game the player’s ship – the Ebon Hawk – was able to be fully explored.
The galaxy map offered Dathomir and Bogano as destinations, but I can’t see any point going to either of those at the moment. While the option still technically exists, Jedi: Fallen Order feels like it’s corralling me down a specific path. I don’t mind games with a linear story, but it seems as though Jedi: Fallen Order is trying to give itself the appearance of allowing more freedom of choice than it really has – in addition to the travel options we’ve seen a couple of optional conversations and a couple of conversations where dialogue choices pop up, yet none of these things really feel like they make a difference. The journey from Kashyyyk back to Zeffo was smooth; with the Empire on Cal’s tail I keep expecting the Stinger Mantis to come under attack, yet nothing transpired. The ship landed in the same spot as before, though this time Greez and Cere were standing around outside on the landing pad.
The defeated AT-ST was still on the landing pad – though not in the same place as before, but that’s probably just how the game works – so I assumed no one else had been here since the Mantis’ last visit. It isn’t very clear how much time has passed in-game – Cal was rescued from Bracca, and aside from getting some rest on the Mantis while en route to Bogano that first time, he hasn’t taken a break. That would seem to suggest the action has mostly taken place over one day, unless Cal spends hours at a time meditating at the meditation spots. It doesn’t really matter, I suppose. During a conversation with Cere on the landing pad, another dialogue option popped up. As mentioned, these don’t really do much as there’s no in-game reputation system nor relationships with characters to build up.
Last time I said that the return to Zeffo could be disappointing if there was a lot of backtracking and retreading old ground, and when I saw the Mantis approach the same landing zone I thought that seemed like a bad sign. Unfortunately I was right – in order to get to the new Imperial excavation site, Cal has to follow the same paths as on his first visit. Having previously opened up a couple of shortcuts some of this wasn’t so bad, but with most of the enemies (troopers and monsters) appearing in identical spots to last time, it feels like this back-and-forth planet-hopping that Jedi: Fallen Order has us engaged in is, at least in part, a way to pad the game’s runtime. I don’t think it would have been too difficult to break up Zeffo into two or more smaller levels – most of the same assets could be reused, but in such a way as each visit would feel unique and different, with the Mantis landing at different locations each time.
While battling troopers en route to Cal’s destination, I encountered two more glitches. The first one was fairly minor – as a trooper climbed up onto a ledge he seemed for a few seconds to be standing on thin air on the wrong side of the ledge:
The second one was worse, however. Cal was engaged in a fight when all of a sudden the trooper disappeared through the floor, before shooting up a couple of seconds later way above Cal’s head in a weird kind of “rubber-band” effect. As I mentioned previously, Jedi: Fallen Order is less polished than I expected; even if these issues couldn’t be fixed before release, there have been months in which to release a patch.
Being back in the abandoned village, Cal was able to use Force push on that drawbridge we saw last time – the one with the red “aura” that I thought could be interacted with. Deploying the bridge provided an alternate (and slightly less time-consuming) route through the level. After retreading more old ground, including an ice slide, Cal had arrived at the spot on the map that he’d been pointed towards – a large Zeffo monument. This was an area we passed by last time, but armed with his new Force push, Cal was able to get inside.
At several points in Jedi: Fallen Order so far, I’ve felt that an extra line or two of dialogue explaining what was happening would have gone a long way to filling in some gaps. The story is great – but at several points now, Cal seems to be doing things for no reason other than “game says so”. Inside the monument, the objective was declared complete and the holomap updated with a new location to reach – yet none of this was even mentioned. Was there supposed to be some dialogue here that didn’t trigger because of another bug? Why is Cal suddenly supposed to make his way to a crash site? The crash site wasn’t on the map until now – did Cal even know it existed five minutes ago? It wouldn’t have even needed a cut-scene, literally a couple of lines of dialogue could have played during gameplay explaining what was going on. As it is, Cal found a workbench to upgrade BD-1 further – this had slightly more explanation, as Cal at least acknowledged he’d found a part he could install in BD-1. Obviously BD-1’s new upgrade will come in handy momentarily, which is why Cal was pushed to go to this location – yet with no acknowledgement or explanation it feels so arbitrary and not like a natural moment in the story.
I had expected that entering this area would have marked the beginning of taking a wholly new path through Zeffo, yet after climbing a short way up and defeating a handful of troopers, Cal was back outside. A zip-line took him back to the same area as before, but at least there was a meditation spot; Cal had a skill point to spend, and I chose to allocate it to increasing his maximum Force points – allowing for more uses of Force powers while in combat. With BD-1’s Scomp Link repaired, the way in to the Imperial base that was sealed on our last visit to Zeffo was accessible. It wasn’t too far from the meditation spot, so Cal and BD-1 hot-footed it there and were able to enter the base with ease.
After taking out a small group of troopers in the area immediately inside, I stopped to look around. There was an elevator that didn’t work – presumably another shortcut to unlock for later – a room that BD-1 could open with his new skill, and a staircase leading outside to an area that looked like it could be climbed. The room contained a Force echo – something about a lost artefact from the Imperial excavation – and another meditation spot, which I took advantage of to checkpoint my progress. Jedi: Fallen Order has really captured the aesthetic of Star Wars’ original trilogy perfectly, and though it’s a minor detail, I loved the look of the computer screens in this part of the Imperial base. They just seem so “Star Wars”, with their clunky ’70s design and retro-future graphics.
After leaving this area, the only way to go was to climb up on a series of ledges. Cal worked his way up to the landing pad where we saw the Project Auger ship take off the last time we were on Zeffo, and after making it to the top, one of the large ice monsters we defeated in the caves was on the platform battling a group of troopers. Rather than jump in the middle and battle two kinds of enemy I left them to it and climbed around the outside. At one point there was another visual glitch, as Cal’s body clipped through a hanging hose or cable. After climbing onto the landing platform, there was only one way to go and that was back into the base. Immediately inside the door was another group of troopers, including a couple of the more difficult variants, but they were soon taken care of.
This part of the base contained a few other troopers, and there were a couple of platforming sections and sections where Cal needed to use both of his Force powers (push and slow) in order to make it through. None of it was particularly challenging or noteworthy, until we encountered another Purge trooper! These are the specialist anti-Jedi troopers that are new to me and haven’t appeared in any other Star Wars games or films, but they didn’t debut in Jedi: Fallen Order; apparently they made their first appearance in a comic book series. The Purge trooper was a difficult mini-boss, but a well-timed use of Force push sent him falling to his demise from the bridge where he fought Cal.
The area beyond the Purge trooper was uneventful and a door led Cal back outside. A short ice slide (these keep bringing up happy memories of Super Mario 64!) led to another meditation spot, and then we arrived at the crashed ship that had been unceremoniously dumped onto the holomap earlier. It was a Venator-class ship – the kind used by the Republic in the prequel films. The sight of the crashed ship, and seeing how massive in scale it is, was comparable to seeing Rey in the Star Destroyer on Jakku in The Force Awakens, and whether intentional or not, I liked that little tie between two different parts of the franchise. These ships are massive, and exploring it will take some time. A couple of monsters near the ship were easily dispatched, and then there was a sweet moment between Cal and Greez as Cal spotted a smaller crashed vessel. He told Greez he appreciated his piloting and how he always got him safely to the surface, and it was a very wholesome conversation between the two of them. Greez has been a little standoffish at times, and seeing the characters get closer together over the course of the story is great. Hopefully this doesn’t mean something horrible is about to happen to Greez!
Other than the monsters, the main enemies Cal encountered at the crashed starship were probe droids. These floating robots debuted in The Empire Strikes Back, where one was used to find the Rebel base on Hoth, and we also saw one briefly at the beginning of the game. They made the same noise that they did in the films, and I appreciated that! I speculated early on that the probe droid may have been how the Imperial Jedi-hunters were able to find Cal so quickly after his one brief moment of Force use, and I think that seeing them here and having Cal comment about being “watched” may not 100% confirm that theory – but it certainly lends it more credibility.
The probe droids are particularly annoying enemies. They fire standard blaster bolts at Cal, which can be reflected back, but when they become damaged they go into a kind of self-destruct mode and chase after Cal in a kamikaze attack. These proved difficult to outrun and dodge, and several exploding probe droids wounded Cal in this section.
Inside the wreckage, Cal found a Force echo. This one felt very ominous, as it seemed to show a Clone trooper who was aboard the ship being killed by someone with a lightsaber. This could, of course, be something that happened during Order 66 or even earlier, particularly as a Clone trooper was mentioned, but it could also mean there’s a Sith or other Force-using opponent somewhere. Whether they’re still in the wreckage – which has presumably been here for years – is unknown. Cal made his way down a couple of zip-lines, and at the bottom BD-1 received another upgrade – this time allowing him to climb up zip-lines, opening up different areas and allowing for backtracking. This area contained two of the K2SO-type droids, which I find to be among Jedi: Fallen Order’s most difficult enemies. Taking on two at once was a challenge; Cal ended up needing to use a stim-pack.
Another Purge trooper was at the excavation site, and this fight was another tough one. These troopers are great at blocking and dodging, and often have unblockable attacks. These mean an instant button-press is required to dodge, and that can be difficult for me to get right! Occasionally, Jedi: Fallen Order shows what I guess I’d call a “finishing move” when Cal defeats an opponent. These stylised death-blows often involve acrobatic jumps or throws, killing an opponent in style – like something you might see in an old-school fighting game! I was finally able to capture one of these using the game’s photo mode, and I think it looks pretty darn cool!
This next section involved a fair amount of platforming as Cal had to jump, climb, swim, and run along the cavern walls to get further and further into the dig site. There were no troopers along the way, which was very eerie! On the way here in the cable-car, Cal said to BD-1 that he had a bad feeling about what he was going to find here, and the music in this area was perfect. It was incredibly tense and ramped up the apprehension. After arriving at a meditation spot, I wasn’t sure where to go next. There was a zip-line, but Cal couldn’t reach it, and there was a locked door. Eventually I found an elevator, and after stepping inside it began to descend. When it reached its destination the doors hissed open only to reveal… the Second Sister!
I knew Cal had a bad feeling about this second leg of his journey on Zeffo, but the fact that it was the Second Sister herself – the game’s biggest villain – was a surprise! I was expecting some kind of tomb-related enemy or perhaps to learn who wielded the lightsaber aboard the crashed ship. The Second Sister knew Cal’s full name, but more importantly she knew about Master Cordova. Cal ignited his lightsaber.
The Second Sister had been unbeatable – by design – in Cal’s first encounter with her back on Bracca, and the reason I was so surprised to see her on Zeffo at this point in the story is that she’s the game’s main villain, or at least the most significant villain so far. Defeating and/or killing her only partway into the story didn’t feel right; this had to be setting up something else! This was the toughest boss fight in Jedi: Fallen Order so far, way worse than the Tomb Guardians, Purge troopers, or even the AT-STs. The Second Sister is a powerful Force user – I assume some kind of Sith apprentice too – and wields a red lightsaber. She can perform many unblockable attacks as well as use Force powers – including the ability to leap great distances and sprint at Cal.
The duel was long, and every time Cal seemed to get the upper hand or reduce the Second Sister’s health, she’d come at him with a new attack or dodge the next one, making it hard to land more than a couple of blows on her at a time. Her health meter at the top of the screen was slowly ticking down with each strike, but by the time it was hovering around the halfway point, Cal had already used two of his three available stim-packs! I was getting nervous – this was difficult! When the Second Sister had lost a little over half of her health, she grabbed Cal using the Force in what looked like a Vader-style Force choke, before throwing him across the arena.
The transition from the duel to this scripted moment was seamless; a perfect blend of gameplay and an inevitable moment, and it seemed for a second as though she was simply using a new Force power that would make the fight more difficult! However, as Cal crashed through the side of the arena, a cut-scene triggered. The Second Sister approached, lightsaber in hand, and it seemed as though Cal was doomed! But in an instant, BD-1 saved the day by activating a forcefield between the two combatants. This undoubtedly saved Cal’s life!
With Cal safe behind the forcefield, the Second Sister opted to try to sway him and break his resolve through talking. And she had a lot to say. She’s looking for the list of names of Force-sensitive children that Master Cordova hid on Bogano. It didn’t seem possible she could know about it, until she revealed something truly shocking – she used to be Cere’s padawan! When Cere was captured by the Empire, she betrayed her padawan so she could escape, choosing to save herself instead of Trilla – the Second Sister’s real name. She removed her helmet revealing a young woman who couldn’t be much older than Cal.
Star Wars has had some great unmasking moments over the years! Seeing Darth Vader as a scarred, broken man in Return of the Jedi was an amazing moment, and the reveal of Kylo Ren as a young man in The Force Awakens was pretty good too. I liked this moment with Trilla, as it fits a pattern that goes through other Star Wars titles. As I’ve said before, these moments make Jedi: Fallen Order really feel like I’m taking part in an actual Star Wars adventure.
Unable to get past the forcefield, Trilla had a warning for Cal – beware of Cere. Not only did she choose to save herself, betraying Trilla, but she used the dark side of the Force. Though Cal seemed dismissive at first, I’m sure these accusations will stick in his mind and we’ll eventually see him confront Cere with what he knows. I’m positive she knows who the Second Sister really is – but if she doesn’t that could be a shocking revelation for her. This scene, where Trilla accused Cere of being a dark side user, reminded me of the revelation in Knights of the Old Republic II that Kreia is similarly a dark sider. Both characters have taken on similar roles – mentor figures to the protagonist – and both seem to have a dark secret. Though Trilla may not be the most reliable bearer of information, the game wouldn’t bring up something this significant only for it to turn out to be a lie. Right?
After escaping the situation, Cal was clearly very shaken. I was surprised that he didn’t immediately radio Cere and Greez – but perhaps he needs time to process what Trilla told him. Is it true about Cere? Was Trilla really her apprentice? She can’t be telling the whole unvarnished truth – there are two sides to every story, and I think we deserve to here Cere’s side. After all, if nothing else she did save Cal’s life on Bracca. Cal paused to thank BD-1 for saving his life with the forcefield, and this was a touching moment.
Escaping Trilla has led Cal to the entry to a new tomb, and there was a meditation spot nearby which I used to restore Cal to full health and replenish BD-1’s supply of stims. Though the forcefield stopped her temporarily, Trilla is still on Zeffo, and if her mission is to kill Cal I feel like we haven’t seen the last of her. There must be another way into the tomb, after all. After checkpointing my progress, I decided to step away and save the exploration of the tomb for next time.
Wow. What a wild ride it was this time! At first I was disappointed to be covering so much ground from earlier in the game – and I still feel this aspect of the game could have been handled better. But when the second mission to Zeffo got going it really got going! The crashed starship was a sight to behold, we’ve uncovered several mysterious story threads, upgraded BD-1, and then of course, the climax of this part of the story was the duel with the Second Sister.
Learning her identity was an amazing reveal, up there with Star Wars’ best. And if what she said is true, that Cere is a dark side user, then that sets up a potentially very interesting and exciting conflict later in the game. At the very least, Cere has some explaining to do! Something about the way Trilla presented herself, particularly the twinge of sympathy at learning what she’d been through – being betrayed by her Master and captured by the Empire – leads me to wonder if she has a path to redemption and a return to the light side. Whether it happens or not, the fact that the possibility seems to exist is enticing. And I absolutely love that the Second Sister wasn’t another standard evil-for-the-sake-of-it enemy. She has a story – a betrayal, a kidnapping, and a fall to darkness. All of this makes her infinitely more interesting than a lot of villains, and I hope we get to explore more of this fascinating character before the game is over.
Sorry that this part took a couple of days to write up! I hope you’ll stop by next time to see Cal investigate the second Zeffo tomb.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is out now on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the copyright of Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts. The Star Wars franchise is the copyright of Lucasfilm and Disney. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and for other iterations of the Star Wars franchise.
We’re making good progress in Jedi: Fallen Order after a couple of longer gaming sessions this week. Last time, we left Cal and the gang on Zeffo, about to depart and head to the Wookie homeworld Kashyyyk in search of a chieftain who was friends with Jedi Master Eno Cordova.
Before we battled the AT-ST last time, Cere had informed Cal on the radio that the Empire had identified him as the Jedi who escaped them on Bracca. I was half-expecting the departure from Zeffo to trigger some kind of attack on Cal, perhaps involving the Second Sister (the Imperial Jedi-hunter who attacked Cal and who seemed to get to Bracca impossibly fast at the beginning of the game). That’s why I ended the last part of the playthrough before leaving the planet! However, no such attack transpired, and the Stinger Mantis was able to depart Zeffo with no issues.
The crew chatted a little en route to Kashyyyk, but nothing particularly important came up. It was nice to see the surface of Zeffo receding from the Mantis’ cockpit, as well as seeing the jump to hyperspace. Being free to move around during takeoff is one of my favourite things about these sequences. The hyperspace flight was very short – and I’m not sure if that’s just because it’s a game and people don’t want to sit through long flight sequences, or if hyperspace flights in general are short. However, in other Star Wars media – including most of the films – hyperspace wasn’t presented as allowing for near-instantaneous travel, so I assume it’s the former. The Mantis emerged from hyperspace and was immediately surrounded by Imperial Star Destroyers!
Cere calmly explained that the Mantis is “transmitting Imperial codes”, and they were able to enter Kashyyyk’s atmosphere with no trouble – though at least one Stormtrooper seemed to look at the ship as it flew in. As I guessed last time, the Empire is on Kashyyyk at least in part to capture and enslave Wookies – we saw this in Solo: A Star Wars Story and also in Knights of the Old Republic. However, there is resistance to this attack, and while the Mantis looked for a landing spot, a group of resistance fighters came under attack by AT-AT walkers. Cal believed he could sabotage one, as he worked with AT-ATs on Bracca, so with Greez bringing the ship in low, Cal jumped out to take on the AT-ATs.
After confirming both he and BD-1 survived the fall intact, Cal set out swimming after the AT-ATs which weren’t too far ahead. They were moving fairly slowly, so catching up to them wasn’t too difficult. One of the AT-ATs was covered in vines, meaning Cal was able to climb up the legs. For the first time, I really got a sense of the scale of an AT-AT. For the most part, we’ve seen these giant machines included in large-scale battle sequences, even in their debut in The Empire Strikes Back. This was the first time I can remember getting up close to an AT-AT on foot, and it really did feel massive and intimidating for Cal to take on by himself with no support. Credit to the way the AT-ATs were designed and included in Jedi: Fallen Order; this section really gave them a sense of scale that I hadn’t experienced before.
Climbing the vines was fun, and after making his way around the outside of the AT-AT, Cal got to the roof. A scripted sequence saw a ship swoop down and kill a Stormtrooper (it may have been the Mantis but it was so fast I didn’t see) and from there, Cal was able to make it inside via a hatch. After dispatching a handful of Stormtroopers, Cal and BD-1 made it to the AT-AT’s cabin (the “head” at the front) and in a moment of slapstick comedy, took out the two pilots by bashing their heads together!
This next section is one of my favourites – not just in Jedi: Fallen Order but in any Star Wars game I’ve ever played. Cal took control of the AT-AT and got to pilot it, using it to attack Imperial forces. The first target was the other AT-AT targeting the resistance fighters, and after that came crashing down in a fireball, Cal turned his attention to ground troops and Imperial turrets. This was so much fun! I’m not sure if this is the first ever Star Wars game to let players pilot an AT-AT, but it’s the first time I can remember having the opportunity to do so. Not only that, but the camera stayed in the cockpit and didn’t switch to a less-personal view outside the vehicle. The AT-AT’s cockpit felt small and cramped, and despite being elevated high above the battlefield, it felt like a vulnerable position when the blaster bolts started firing!
Marching the AT-AT from the lake through the wilds of Kashyyyk was amazing, and despite taking a number of hits, the vehicle held up. Group after group of Imperial troopers fell, and before long we saw a familiar face: Rogue One’s Saw Gerrera, the leader of a group of resistance fighters. I’m using the term “resistance fighters” as opposed to “Rebels”, by the way, because in-universe the Rebel Alliance was formed much closer to the events of A New Hope. While there was resistance to the Empire at this time, it was mostly smaller-scale, like Saw’s band of fighters that we’re about to meet.
Actor Forest Whitaker reprised his role from the film, which must have been a strain on Jedi: Fallen Order’s budget! His presence and performance were amazing, though. Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of Rogue One, and having this tie-in to one of the best Star Wars films was absolutely amazing to see. Saw’s band of rebels were attacking an Imperial facility and landing pad, and he asked Cal to lend a hand. This meant more blasting away at ground troops, and I even took the opportunity to destroy a couple of docked TIE Fighters – I was worried if I didn’t they’d take off and attack the AT-AT!
Eventually a large ship took off from the landing pad, and a boss fight commenced. The AT-AT had both regular blasters and some kind of heavier explosive-based cannon at its disposal, and after pounding away at the ship for a while, Cal was victorious. However, the ship crashed into the AT-AT, bringing it crashing down in front of the landing pad. After a cut-scene Cal was fine, and he and BD-1 escaped the wrecked vehicle. Cal said to BD-1 he was “never doing that again” – but I hope he’s wrong because that section of the game was outstanding!
After a dressing-down from Saw for wrecking the AT-AT – the resistance group could have found a use for such a vehicle – the Mantis landed at the Imperial facility with it now being under resistance control. Saw and Cere had a short chat, explaining who Cal was and what their objective was on Kashyyyk. Bad news – Tarfful, the Wookie chief Cal is looking for, is in hiding as the leader of another resistance band. But someone may know where he is – there are a group of imprisoned Wookies who Saw plans to rescue, and one of them knows Tarfful. With the Mantis here, I took this opportunity to go back aboard and use the meditation spot. Cal had several options this time while levelling-up, and I chose to make stims (the health packs BD-1 can dish out) more potent, meaning each stim will recover more health. I also had Cal change back into his blue-and-white outfit from earlier, as well as giving BD-1 a similar blue-and-white paint job that made him look like a cute R2-D2 wannabe. I do love customisation options!
At the landing pad, Cal stopped to briefly talk to a woman who mentioned leaving Zeffo. This was the villager whose partner had been killed during the Imperial attack on the village – Cal sensed echoes of his life and death through the Force while exploring that world. He was able to give her the news of his death, which only stiffened her resolve to fight harder against the Empire. In an area beyond the landing pad, BD-1 received an upgrade at a workbench. Unlike on Dathomir, where Cal found a workbench and silently upgraded his lightsaber, a line of dialogue preceded this, giving it a little more explanation. BD-1 can now “overload” certain types of circuits, which can do things like turn machinery off and on as well as open doors and activate lifts. It will come in handy, as we’ll soon see!
After upgrading BD-1, Cal was immediately attacked by a giant spider-creature in Jedi: Fallen Order’s first jump-scare. And I have to confess, it did make me jump! The creature came out of nowhere, and it had an unblockable attack that required some serious button-mashing to escape from in a quick-time event. Cal was able to defeat it, however, and I then took advantage of the presence of a workbench to make some changes to Cal’s lightsaber. We’d picked up a few different lightsaber pieces on Dathomir and particularly on Zeffo, meaning many more customisation options were now available. I don’t think these have any impact on gameplay; they aren’t upgrades, just changes to modify the appearance of the weapon.
I kept the orange blade colour, because I think it looks fantastic, but I changed almost everything about the hilt, including giving it a new copper colour that I think looks pretty neat in close-up shots. During normal gameplay it’s pretty hard to see the hilt – Cal’s holding it and it takes up only a small part of the screen. Leaving this area and making my way along a clearly-defined path led Cal back to Saw, who is planning his attack on the Imperial facility. Saw is aware of Cal’s status as a Jedi, and the two split up, with Cal being entrusted his own mission to rescue the Wookies while Saw leads the main assault. A little bit of platforming and jumping through the wilds of Kashyyyk led Cal to the Imperial prison.
Kaskyyyk, by the way, looks very different to how I expected. In Knights of the Old Republic the planet was densely forested and very dark – the wroshyr trees were several kilometres tall, with the Wookies living in treehouses in the upper branches. The forest floor was almost devoid of sunlight and was very dangerous. Here, the planet is presented more like a dense jungle – something akin to Vietnam or the Amazon rainforest rather than the tall-treed planet I remembered. While this isn’t a bad thing, I thought it worth mentioning.
Knights of the Old Republic was released in 2003, before Revenge of the Sith brought the mainline films to the Wookie homeworld for the first time – perhaps this explains the difference, as the version of Kashyyyk seen here is much closer to that seen in the final prequel film. After killing a few Stormtroopers, Cal made it inside the Imperial base. A black R2-D2-type droid was the first to spot him, but ran away as soon as he entered. A few more troopers were easy prey for the double-bladed lightsaber, and there was a meditation spot inside at which I was able to further upgrade Cal’s maximum health.
In the next hallway was a new type of enemy never seen before: a Purge trooper. Presumably related to the Jedi purge, this trooper was a mini-boss and was quite hard to take down. He was armed with a melee weapon, and was very skilled at parrying and dodging Cal’s attacks. He seemed to know who to expect, and I think these Purge troopers may be related to the Inquisitors we know to be pursuing Cal. However, after defeating him no entry was added about Purge troopers to the game’s databank.
There was another new type of enemy here, too. Flame troopers – Stormtroopers armed with flamethrowers, whose weapons can’t be blocked or parried, were a pain to defeat, especially in groups!
This Imperial base was large, and there were several indoor and outdoor sections – packed with different troopers – to navigate en route to the prison. Most of these sections were fairly straightforward, but one was rather annoying, and as I’ve said at a couple of other points in Jedi: Fallen Order now, an extra line or two of dialogue would have gone a long way to fixing it. Close to the part of the base where the Wookies are held, Cal comes across a large pit filled with what looks like dirty water or sewage. There’s no indication that stepping in this liquid will be a problem, yet it’s instant death for Cal. A single line saying something like “better watch out for that toxic waste” would have solved this problem, and I don’t really know why no mention was made of this. To make matters worse, I encountered a glitch in this area. Cal has narrow pipes to walk across to get over the toxic liquid, but on one of these pipes, Cal couldn’t find his feet. And no, this isn’t a feature of the game – other pipes and narrow walkways saw Cal find his balance, but this one behaved like it was normal ground, meaning any movement in any direction led him to fall straight into the liquid. I was eventually able to jump across this section, but it was a pain and bugs like that should really have been patched by now – we’re well over six months past the game’s launch.
Cal finally made it to the prison, but before he could free the trapped Wookies, a K2SO-type droid attacked him. This boss fight may have been the hardest so far, as the droid grabbed Cal and would bash him on the ground as well as attacking with its long arms. However, this was another great little reference to Rogue One, so it’s hard to be mad! I was able to prevail against the security droid – though it took at least one stim to survive the fight – and then Cal headed back to the prison console to release the captives.
So far, Jedi: Fallen Order has looked absolutely fantastic. I’m running it on its highest settings on my PC – albeit on a mid-range graphics card in an older machine. But here on Kashyyyk, we got a pretty major fail as far as the game’s aesthetic is concerned – the Wookies. They look horrible! Hair has long been a challenge for game designers (Cal’s hair isn’t the best part of his appearance, for example) and Wookies are covered head-to-toe in hair, so perhaps that was always going to be difficult to get right. But the chosen effect simply doesn’t work on them; the Wookies end up looking like they’re covered in brown string or rope, and while I admire the effort to try to animate some kind of hair, it would have been better to use a flat texture because they ended up looking truly awful. It’s a shame, too, because we’re on the Wookie homeworld and they’re such an iconic race in Star Wars. But when I think back to how older games handled it – Knights of the Old Republic, for example – I really feel that Jedi: Fallen Order didn’t make the right call here. Maybe after trying to get it right but seeing the end result, someone should have stepped in and made the decision to try something else.
While sneaking around the prison, Cal came upon another Purge trooper chatting to a Stormtrooper. The Purge trooper was itching for a fight with Cal, but as the two of them were standing by a ledge, it was too tempting to use Force push to send them tumbling over – so that’s exactly what I did! The base has a couple of unexplored areas that are blocked off behind locked doors, but otherwise, we did what we came to do and Cal then had to make it to the roof to reunite with Saw. On the roof, however, a huge battle was raging. After taking down some troopers, an AT-ST was dropped in by ship, resulting in Cal’s second one-on-one with these smaller walkers! Unlike the last fight on Zeffo, this one was much harder. There was nowhere to pin the AT-ST this time (on Zeffo I pinned it against the Mantis and hacked at it until it died) so it took a lot of jumping and dodging and a couple of stims to survive the fight and bring it crashing down!
Defeating the AT-ST led to a cut-scene in which Saw gave a rallying speech to the resistance fighters and freed Wookies. He offered Cal the opportunity to join his resistance group, saying they could use a Jedi to help in their fight against the Empire. However, Cal declined as he has the mission with Cere to complete – but I don’t think this will be the last we see of Saw! One of the freed Wookies does, as promised, know who Tarfful is, but doesn’t know where he is. I loved that Cal said he didn’t understand the Wookie language here – Han Solo was fluent, of course, but it always seemed like a tricky language for outsiders to learn! I thought we’d be heading off elsewhere on Kashyyyk to find him, but Cere has been on the radio to inform Cal that the Empire is doing something with Project Auger back on Zeffo – so our next destination is backwards to the planet we just left.
There was a shortcut back to the Mantis from the Imperial base, so Cal headed back to see what Cere had to say. For the first time, Jedi: Fallen Order gave me two dialogue options when speaking with Cere – though there’s no reputation or karma system, and I don’t think it made any substantial difference on the story. Cal informs Cere and Greez that they rescued a Wookie who’s now with the resistance. This Wookie and his resistance friends will hopefully be able to track down Tarfful, but for now the gang is heading back to Zeffo.
While Kashyyyk definitely wasn’t a waste of time, I’m not sure how I feel about hopping back-and-forth between levels! We’ll clearly have to come back to Kashyyyk sooner or later – whether that’s immediately after Zeffo or later in the game. And we’ve already seen the Dathomir mission be a total bust, meaning we’ll have to go there for a second time at some point too. As long as the story remains engrossing and fun, perhaps it won’t matter. But backtracking in a game doesn’t always feel great, and a lot will depend on where we go on Zeffo. If we land at the same point and take the same route through the abandoned village and the caves, that might feel like Jedi: Fallen Order is trying to pad itself out. If we go somewhere new and different, or if we find a transformed area with more enemies to fight, perhaps it won’t seem so bad.
I ended the playthrough here, before departing Kashyyyk, and we’ll save the return to Zeffo for next time – I wonder what will happen with Project Auger?
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is out now on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the copyright of Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts. The Star Wars franchise is the copyright of Lucasfilm and Disney. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and for other iterations of the Star Wars franchise.
Welcome back to the adventures of Cal Kestis in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Last time, after being unable to progress on the planet of Dathomir having been thwarted by a metre-wide gap in a bridge, Cal and the gang flew away and ended up on the Zeffo homeworld. After exploring the landing zone and a village the Empire forcibly evicted, we left Cal at a meditation spot near a dark and mysterious cave.
Before I started playing properly, I decided to have a bit of a look at Jedi: Fallen Order’s photo mode. By opening this mode the game pauses, and I have free movement of the camera to set up and take screenshots. This has potential advantages over just taking screenshots during regular gameplay, as many different aspects can be controlled – extra lighting, changing angles, changing what’s in or out of focus, etc. I’ve played games that had photo modes before – albeit not many – but this was my first real time messing around with the options and settings. While it may be useful at certain points in Cal’s adventure, I don’t see myself using it for every screenshot, as it’s rather fiddly to use. That’s no criticism of Jedi: Fallen Order, I think that’s just the nature of this kind of free-camera photo mode.
After my photo mode experiment, Cal headed into the cave to see what was inside. The darkness meant he had to once again use his lightsaber as a torch, and after finding a crate with another customisation option or lightsaber part (I forget which, we picked up several of each this time) Cal eventually managed to jump, climb, and tiptoe around the cave to find a switch that illuminated it. Exiting the cave – which was fairly small – led to a path overlooking the village we passed through last time. Here I felt there was some influence of the Himalayas on the design of Zeffo. The long flags, the mountaintops, and the ancient village seemed to give it a Tibetan or Bhutanese feel.
A lone Scout trooper on the path – who ignored Cal while I spent ages lining up the perfect screenshot – was no match for the double-bladed lightsaber. After defeating the trooper, I encountered a glitch. A mountain goat-creature charged at Cal, but fell partway through the path before it could reach him. At first I thought this was something scripted – perhaps a patch of quicksand to be avoided – but it was actually not intentional. The mountain goat remained stuck, and Cal was easily able to kill it as it had a hard time fighting back.
There have been a few bugs in Jedi: Fallen Order so far, and I’ve documented them as they’ve cropped up. The only really significant one was the camera getting stuck in that narrow hallway on Dathomir, the others – like this one – have really been quite minor. But minor issues can stack up in a game, and Jedi: Fallen Order is certainly not as polished as I might’ve expected it to be. Further along this mountain pathway, and after jumping across a couple of obstacles, Cal stumbled upon a group of oblivious Stormtroopers.
I suspect that if I cranked up the difficulty to one of the higher settings, Cal might’ve been spotted by the troopers sooner – it seems like that’s how the game should work anyway! The troopers put up a fight, but Cal got the better of them in the end and was able to progress further along the path. This section featured several rotating platforms that Cal had to use the Force on in order to jump on them, making this section of the game – and indeed Zeffo in general, as we’ll see later – much more akin to a 3D platformer than a standard action game. I mentioned in one of the earlier parts that the game is clearly inspired by titles like Tomb Raider, and I think this hits that point home.
Beyond the platforms were more mountain pathways (without the Force, how can the Stormtroopers get from place to place? Hmm…) and after a short walk, Cal stopped to look at a statue carved into a nearby mountain. This is supposedly a representation of a Zeffo – though I would’ve said it looked at least somewhat similar to the Prothean character from Mass Effect 3, particularly in terms of the shape of the head. Cal noted that the statue must indicate that he’s going the right way – and in a game which has occasionally been unclear about which way to go, confirmation I was on the right track was nice.
After a little more jumping and climbing, Cal battled a handful of Stormtroopers and a couple of monsters before sliding down an icy path to the next part of the level. The sliding feature seemed really fun and innovative when we first saw it on Bracca, but it’ll be used several more times on Zeffo (as well as at least once on Bogano) and as fun as it was that first time, it isn’t my favourite element of the game. Variety is good, but as we’ll see more acutely later, some aspects of Jedi: Fallen Order’s controls can feel very clunky and ham-fisted – pushing a stick a fraction of a centimetre should send Cal a short distance or make a minor adjustment, but both Cal and the camera swing around wildly, making aiming during some of these sliding sections difficult. Several of the sliding sections end with a sheer drop, requiring a perfectly-angled jump to hit the next path or to grab a vine, and with the clunky, inaccurate controls it’s too easy to mess up and see Cal fall to his death multiple times in the same place.
Beyond the ice slide, and past a few more hapless Stormtroopers, Cal witnesses an Imperial ship departing a facility. I liked the design here, it was reminiscent of the base used by Galen Erso in Rogue One. The Star Wars franchise has always been good at keeping a similar aesthetic across its titles, and this base could easily have been lifted from that film. Cal also passed a wall that had the same glowing red aura as the bridge we had to bypass in the last part of the playthrough – I was certain by this point that Cal was en route to a place where he could learn a new Force power!
Over the radio, Cere tells Cal that the ship is carrying “artefacts” bound for the Imperial capital of Coruscant. There’s a very ominous line in this conversation about the Emperor potentially being involved, though whether we’ll actually see old Palpatine appear in person isn’t clear! The level so far has been a fairly linear path, sending Cal more or less in one direction – culminating in the scene where the ship departs. On this ledge is a doorway that presumably leads into the Imperial base, but it’s sealed and there’s no way in. After backtracking and getting a little lost, I ended up pulling up the in-game holomap to find where to go.
However, I have to confess that I don’t find the holomap particularly easy to use. It’s necessary, given Jedi: Fallen Order’s large levels, to find some way to represent areas at different elevations, but the holomap is clunky and awkward to use, and its all-blue appearance doesn’t make finding things any easier. I also found out later on that opening the holomap doesn’t pause the game, meaning Cal can be attacked while checking the map.
Map issues aside, the next section of the level was quite fun. There was some more platforming to do, including balancing on a narrow ledge, and a variety of different Stormtroopers have now popped up. In addition to the standard blaster-wielding troopers, there are rocket troopers, who are unsurprisingly armed with bazookas, and heavy troopers, who carry a minigun with a small shield. The minigun blasts come at Cal very fast, but luckily only in short bursts. I found it was possible to deflect or block most of them most of the time. The rocket troopers were harder to avoid, however, as not only can their shots not be blocked or deflected, but they explode on impact, and even if they don’t hit Cal directly if they’re close enough they can still hurt him.
After the platforming came another short ice slide, and beyond that was a dark hallway. Inside, Cal found a computer console and played a recorded message from a Stormtrooper. Something called “Project Auger” was mentioned – I’m sure this won’t be the last time we hear about this secret Imperial mission! The story of Jedi: Fallen Order has been great so far, and Project Auger fits in perfectly with what Star Wars fans expect from the Empire. Moments like this make it feel like I’m taking part in a real mission in that galaxy far, far away.
Whatever Project Auger is – for now we still have no idea – it’s bigger than just this one site on Zeffo. If I were to speculate I’d say it’s something connected with tracking down Force-sensitive people, since that’s Cere and Cal’s overarching quest right now. But the trooper mentioned looking for data and artefacts – not people – so perhaps what they’re looking for are ancient relics connected to the Force? Something like a holocron, perhaps? I’m sure we’ll come to know more later, but I like to guess! Theorising is all part of the fun! After listening to the trooper, Cal headed back outside to an area where large platforms were rapidly moving in and out of the moutainside. Cal needed to use the Force to slow the platforms down one by one in order to make it across, but this was a relatively straightforward puzzle.
A meditation spot beyond the platforms made for a nice spot to rest and checkpoint my progress, but I wasn’t ready to stop playing. Cere jumps on the radio again to inform Cal his presence has been noticed by the Imperials – and to be fair he has cut down at least a couple of dozen by this point, so that’s to be expected. A dropship appeared in the area beyond the meditation spot, and a number of troopers jumped out. This fight was tricky, as there were a variety of troopers including two of the stronger Scout trooper commanders, but Cal was eventually able to prevail – and I’m kind of proud of taking on such a big fight without dying once!
Another icy slide after defeating the group of troopers led Cal to an underground area with a few monsters to defeat. Beyond that, we finally found what we came to Zeffo for: an ancient tomb. A storm swirling around the tomb hindered the Empire’s communications, but there were no troopers in sight, just a handful of monsters and a meditation spot. In fact, we wouldn’t see any more Imperials for a long time! The storm raged, swirling in circles around a single point. Cal was able to use his Force power to slow the storm and cross safely into its eye – an area containing a giant metallic ball.
BD-1 scanned some more ancient Zeffo symbols, then Cal stepped on a switch – revealing that the whole platform, ball and all, was a large elevator. The descent into the tomb was slow, but there was plenty to see on the way down, as well as another recording from Master Cordova to listen to. I stand by what I said earlier, though. Despite what Cere said about BD-1 being an “encrypted” droid, I bet a black market hacker could get Cordova’s logs out without needing to visit all of these places to see the recordings! The large ball/sphere in the centre of the elevator platform had the same red aura that we’ve seen several times on Zeffo, indicating it may be possible to interact with it in future.
The tomb was huge! I think it’s fair to treat the tomb and the surface of Zeffo as two different levels, despite them being connected. There was a whole new aesthetic for the tomb, different obstacles, and fewer enemies. Where the surface of Zeffo had some platforming elements and a lot of monsters and troopers to fight, the tomb is a maze of passageways with several puzzles and only a couple of mini-bosses. We could take a break here and split this into two parts, but as I played it all in one sitting I think I’m going to stick with writing up one play session at a time. So refill your drink if you need to, and let’s crack on!
After the elevator touched down, there were two paths. One was a dead-end, but the other had a weird exploding plant thing, which Cal and BD-1 agreed looked disgusting, and a narrow passageway to squeeze through. This led into the first hallway of the tomb. The lighting in this section deserves a lot of credit. We’ve seen pitch-black areas several times in Jedi: Fallen Order, and for short sections that can work well and provide mystery and a sense of danger. But as mentioned, the tomb we’ve entered is so large that despite it seeming logical to make it fully dark, I feel that would have made it far too difficult – some of the puzzles were tricky enough as it is! Instead of total darkness, Jedi: Fallen Order has turned the brightness down a little, giving everything a slightly washed-out blue-grey hue that I think did a good job conveying that this is a dark area but without being too dark to be enjoyable to play through. Things like this can seem minor – who cares about lighting in a game compared to the story, right? But they go a long way to making a level fun to play, and for me, Jedi: Fallen Order did this perfectly.
After a short section of jumping between platforms, Cal ended up going down another icy slide into a large room. There was one of those large metallic spheres that we saw on the elevator, and several switches on the sides of the room. Activating a switch caused a jet of air to shoot out of the wall. If the ball was in the way of the jet, it would roll around the outside of the circular room. The objective was to get the sphere into a clearly-marked cavity in the centre of the room (think like a ball-and-socket and you’re on the right track). The only way to do this was to activate the right air jets in the right order, but there weren’t many and this wasn’t particularly difficult. Cal acquired the second of three “Force Essences” for his trouble – getting the third would give him more Force points, which would mean he’d be able to use more Force powers in combat.
Leaving the circular room behind, Cal headed to a hallway which opened out into a large chamber. Opening another switch caused a jet of air to roll another sphere into a divot, which in turn caused platforms to rise from the floor. Climbing these led Cal into another hallway, and by this point I was getting excited! The holomap seemed to indicate that Cal was perhaps one or two rooms away from the objective, so I thought it would be a hop, skip, and a jump to the end of the level. But that didn’t quite turn out to be the case! Below the raised platforms I could see a statue that resembled the Zeffo carving we saw on the surface, only smaller. It felt like a trap, and I was right! As Cal got closer the golem sprung to life, shooting a laser from its chest and trying to stomp him! After dodging and wildly swinging the double-bladed lightsaber (which still looks awesome in its orange hue, by the way) Cal was victorious.
We’ve been seeing objects with a red glow or aura since last time, and I was sure Cal would eventually be able to interact with them somehow. Finally, in this next area, Cal re-learned the necessary skill: the trusty old Force push that every Jedi should know! After coming upon a wall blocking his path, Cal drew upon an old memory to re-learn the skill.
This took the form of what appeared at first to be a Force echo, but after appearing to get hit by a rock while using his ability to sense what had happened, Cal ended up having a full-on flashback to his time training under Jedi Master Jaro Tapal. We’ve seen one prior glimpse of this training – and I still think more effort could have gone into the training room used for these flashbacks, as it’s awfully bland. The training session consists of Cal using the Force to push a ball into a target, under Master Tapal’s watchful eye.
The flashback jogged Cal’s memory, and he’s now able to use the Force to push objects – even breaking weak walls or damaged doors in some places. And of course he can now push those spheres around too! Force pushing the wall caused it to break, finally opening up the chamber that the map has been pointing us toward this whole time. The chamber beyond contained a single tomb guardian (the golem things I mentioned earlier) who was difficult to defeat, but not impossible.
This chamber is the heart of the tomb, and it’s what Master Cordova wanted whoever came after him to find. BD-1 displays a recording of Cordova talking a little about the Zeffo and the tomb. However, from our point of view the key thing we needed to know was where to go next in this scavenger hunt/wild goose chase that Master Cordova has set up. He looked at the detail in one of the stone carvings and surmised it to be representing a wroshyr tree from the planet Kashyyyk – that’s right, Cal is headed to Chewbacca’s homeworld!
One thing that’s fantastic in any game is when optional cosmetic customisation options are reflected in cut-scenes. While a lot of games get this right – even going back to the early 2000s, where Knights of the Old Republic would show off the player character – some games to this day still have pre-recorded cut-scenes that show the player character sans any customisation. Jedi: Fallen Order shows Cal and BD-1 in whatever outfit and paint job is chosen for them, and the Stinger Mantis is equally represented in its takeoffs and landings, and I really appreciate the little extra effort it takes to make that happen.
You know those games where upon completing the mission or the level you’re taken to the next one straight away, maybe with a cut-scene in between? Or those other games where completing a long and complicated dungeon or level unlocks a shortcut back to the entrance to make it easy to get on with the story? Yeah… Jedi: Fallen Order is neither of those games. After listening to the recording in the tomb (and making sure the giant Zeffo sarcophagus wasn’t, in fact, another golem waiting to attack) Cal must make his way back to the Stinger Mantis from here.
Puzzles in games can be great fun. And in a tomb like this, ancient puzzles that are well-designed can make getting to the objective a challenge to enjoy and take pride in overcoming. But the driving force in a game like Jedi: Fallen Order is its story, and having acquired a new destination for Cal and the gang, I was keen to get on with it and get back to the ship. I didn’t want to spend more time in a tomb that I’d already completed, and if I’d been designing this level I’d have moved all of the next puzzles to before the Cordova recording, and provided an immediate pathway out – I think that would have made it more enjoyable.
Perhaps this is just sour grapes on my part, though! After using a meditation spot outside of the room with the sarcophagus, it took me about twenty minutes to figure out how to get two more of the large metal spheres and move them into the right spots on the ground to open a pathway out – if you recall, the way in was down an icy slide, and Cal can’t climb up those.
This puzzle was annoying in part because, as mentioned, the story on Zeffo (for now, at least) has concluded, meaning the only objective was to get back to the ship and continue the plot. It was also frustrating, though, because of how Cal’s new Force push ability works. In order to get the spheres into the right place (after locating them) Cal had to use Force push as the spheres are too large to do anything else with. However, while Force push is great on things like walls or for pushing enemies, when it comes to fine control and aiming, Jedi: Fallen Order’s clunky controls became a problem for me. The spheres were very difficult to aim and manoeuvre, and while the game allows a little leeway in getting them into place there isn’t a lot of room for error. This whole section felt like trying to play a bad game of mini-golf or something, and I found the puzzle to be more annoying than fun overall. While searching for spheres I found the third Force Essence and increased Cal’s Force points, which was a bonus.
After I did eventually get the balls placed correctly, it was a fairly smooth route backtracking through the upper levels of the tomb to get back to the elevator. After resetting the elevator and riding it back up, Cere jumps on the radio. She and Cal agree to go to Kashyyyk to speak to a Wookie chief who was a friend of Master Cordova. The elevator emerges back at the entry to the tomb, which is now crawling with Stormtroopers – has Cal led them there? And if he has, will they learn the secrets of the Zeffo too? It’s hard to see how the Empire can learn very much without BD-1 and the recordings from Master Cordova, but it’s possible that they’re looking for something else in the ruins, something connected to this Project Auger. It’s also possible that they’re hunting Cal!
After defeating the troopers, I was expecting to go back through the level and perhaps take advantage of one or two points where Cal could use his Force push ability to create shortcuts. There were also the shortcuts from the village to the hangar that we found last time. However, I’m not entirely sure whether I took a wrong turn or if this is the way the game sent me, because Cal ended up riding an Imperial cable-car thing into an ice cave where an excavation is taking place. There was another meditation spot here, and at one of these (I forget which) Cal was able to level up and learn a new skill.
This ice cave featured a very annoying ice slide. Most of the others have been fairly straightforward, even the one where Stormtroopers were shooting at Cal! But this one had a jump, a U-turn, and then a second jump that required perfect aiming to hit an updraft and a perfectly-timed button press to avoid Cal falling to his death and having to replay the whole slide over again. It took several attempts to complete, and all the while I was reminded of the snowy mountain level in Super Mario 64. Only the ice slide there was more fun.
In addition to a couple of Stormtroopers, the ice cave had a large monster to fight; another mini-boss. Though each of its attacks did a fair amount of damage, Cal was able to defeat it, and even severed one of its limbs with his lightsaber in the process. I’d seen Cal’s lightsaber bisect monsters before but this was the first time I’d seen it specifically take off a limb. Though it may be fairly gruesome, I felt overall it added to the immersion, as we know lightsabers should be able to do that, and we’ve seen it in the Star Wars films. I understand why they chose not to let this happen to human opponents, though!
While riding the next cable-car out of the ice cave, Cere tells Cal over the radio that the Empire has identified him as being the Jedi they encountered on Bracca. I felt sure this would mean the Second Sister – the Imperial Inquisitor who tried to kill Cal at the start of the game – would make an appearance, so I hot-footed it back to the Mantis. A shortcut opened up, finally allowing Cal to emerge from the caves near to the landing zone. However, there was a pretty big obstacle between Cal an the ship: an AT-ST walker!