Jedi: Fallen Order

TL;DR – I had a miserable time playing this game. I’m not even sure why I played it to its end. I’m not saying that this is a bad game; I’ll give the reasons for my reaction below.

Normally, I write my game reviews (as inconsequential as they are) in the order in which I play the games. Normally, that would mean that I’d next review Horizon: Forbidden West. But I had such a visceral reaction to Jedi: Fallen Order that I feel I have to discharge that energy before I move on to any other blog posts.

The game is set some years after the events of Revenge of the Sith. You play Cal Kestis, a scrapworker on a planet that chops up and recycles old starships. But it turns out (surprise!) that Cal is a Jedi in hiding. When he uses a Force power to save the life of a co-worker, Imperial Inquisitors come after him. He’s saved from pursuit by a stranger who turns out (surprise!) to also be a former Jedi, but one who’s given up her powers. They go off searching for a clue that might allow them to resurrect the Jedi Order.

It’s interesting that the beginning of this story is similar to the one on the Obi-Wan Kenobi TV series. Don’t expect any more originality from there. The game’s story devolves into the usual breadcrumb quest for something to do with the Force. This plot device didn’t work in The Rise of Skywalker and it isn’t any more convincing here.

Anyone with more than a passing knowledge of the Star Wars movies can figure out how the story will end. There are a couple of beats in the story, mostly towards the end, where I felt some connection to the characters. But for the most part, it’s the same old thing that I’ve seen in Star Wars video games since the 90s.

In the game, you travel between a few different worlds, either to explore or to move the plot. Each planet has a unique environment, and on the superficial level the graphics are very well done. But an aura of sameness quickly seeps in. You move through what amounts to a three-dimensional maze. To make progress, you often have to backtrack, searching for a path that will take you to your destination. Even though the game provides you with a 3D map of the areas you’ve visited, it’s likely you’ll find yourself trudging the same rooms over and over again, searching for some way to move forward. The plot of game requires you to visit most of the planets more than once, for extra bonus tedium.

However, the above is not the reason for my reaction to the game. It’s the gameplay.

Let’s start with the combat. As with many games of this sort, you can earn experience by defeating enemies or solving puzzles. That experience can be spent to improve your combat skills.

My problem is that most of these skills didn’t do me any good. If I learned a new way to parry or dodge enemies, somehow I could never get the timing right to actually dodge or parry them. If I learned a new form of attack against an enemy, they always seemed to parry my attack before it could damage them.

As in Ghost of Tsushima, it’s an issue of whether or not I could time my keypresses properly. Jedi: Fallen Order is even less forgiving than GoT.

If you lose a combat in Jedi: Fallen Order, you’re penalizing by being sent back to the last spot where you could save the game. I understand that this is like Dark Souls (a game I’ve never played nor ever shall). In Jedi: Fallen Order, there are “meditation areas” that serve the same purpose. If you are sent back, you’ll have to fight the same enemies again to get to where you were when you “died.”

To be fair, I think I only lost one or two combats during the course of the game. But that’s because I picked the easiest level of difficulty, as I always do. When I fought, I found there was little difference between trying to use all those advanced skills I’d purchased versus simply smashing the “Attack” button. Both the game’s tutorials and the various walkthrough web sites say things like, “Don’t just smash the ‘Attack’ button. Plan a strategy.” Yet there was no strategy I could implement that made any difference.

Combat was annoying. What drained my soul was the platforming.

Jedi: Fallen Order is filled with my ancient enemy: the timed platforming challenge. You have to press a certain set of buttons in a particular timed order to get through various obstacle courses that the game puts in front of you. Fail the obstacle course, and you’re placed back to the course’s beginning.

At some points, I was driven nearly to tears as I slid down a chute over and over and over again, trying to fulfill the game’s demands for a particular timed action, only to face another timed action immediately after that. It evoked what I judge to be the worst video game I’ve ever played: Batman: Arkham Knight. In that game, it was the Batmobile platforming that drove me crazy; here, every single platforming challenge tested my patience.

Mild spoiler: The worst, for me, was in the notorious “Dathomir flashback.” If you’ve played the game, no, it wasn’t the ledge challenge; that one I figured out on my own. It was the wall-running challenge immediately after that. I was driven to anger and anguish as I tried to push the controller buttons in exactly the right sequence. I actually cried in despair. If I were more mature, I’d have simply given up on the game, as I did with Batman: Arkham Knight.

With all that said, because I managed to get to the end of the game, I won’t rate Jedi: Fallen Order as the worst video game I’ve played. Next lower in my scale is still Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, followed by the aformentioned Batman: Arkham Knight.

Jedi: Fallen Order has a sequel that will be released next year: Jedi: Survivor; that was part of the reason I purchased the game. I’m glad I only paid $15 for it. I will not be playing the sequel.

I’m not necessarily saying that Jedi: Fallen Order is an objectively bad game. There are those gamers who thrive on precision controller keypresses. If you’re one of them, perhaps this game will satisfy you.

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