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 Skywalker at 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.