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Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Hands-On Preview

The single player experience Star Wars fans have been longing to see for nearly a decade.

by Dean James

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Even the idea of a single player Star Wars game has been difficult to get off the ground in recent years. Disregarding Disney Infinity and the LEGO Star Wars games, the franchise has not had a true single player focused game in nearly a decade since the release of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. Fans saw highly anticipated games like Star Wars 1313 and Visceral’s open world Star Wars game get cancelled, but finally one has made it through the cracks with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and we had the opportunity to go hands-on with the final build of the game to see if it could help lead a resurgence of such games. 

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order comes from Respawn Entertainment, best known for the Titanfall series to date. While a very different kind of game overall, the incredibly positive reception for the single player campaign in the second after not having a single player in the first game at all made them a very fitting choice for a series that hasn’t seen a single player game in awhile. 

The hands-on preview for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order started off with a tutorial of the game that taught most of the basics, including both the combat and platforming elements that are very important in this game. This tutorial did not start with a story cutscene, but rather placed us in this area so we could dive right into the gameplay first and foremost. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is far from your run of the mill Star Wars single player game where you’re just hacking and slashing enemies on a flat plane with minimal platforming. Instead, this game focuses on the platforming elements just as much as it does the combat. 

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After the opening tutorial, we were placed a little bit into the game on our ship known as the Mantis. While not as function oriented, this reminded me a bit of Mass Effect where you can explore your ship and perform certain tasks. The game offers you some choice in where to explore, with the game allowing us the option to go to Zeffo or Dathomir. This appears to be even more varied the deeper you get into the game as you get more planets. While not at the very beginning, we were still placed rather early in the game and had time to play through the entire planet of Zeffo, or at least for the game’s first run through of it.

There were some interesting cutscenes here that explained the mission and why protagonist Cal Kestis is trying to bring back the Jedi Order. We didn’t really get a chance to see the story unfold that much however, so it’s hard to really judge on how well the plot will deliver in the full game. Cameron Monaghan did a great job in the parts that we did see though, with it being no doubt he’ll put in a great performance like usual in this one at the lead character.

Definitely borrowing some inspiration from series like Uncharted and the Tomb Raider reboots, this game has multi-tiered environments for you to explore. This means jumping up ledges, climbing walls, and using ropes to get across ledges play a big part in this game. Having this really helped the game’s pacing, as many past Star Wars games have suffered from too much repetition due to offering nothing but hack ‘n slash gameplay and not much else.

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Respawn also took a page out of their own playbook by implementing wallrunning into the experience as well. At first I was wondering if this might be only used a little from the first gameplay segments we had, but it really become a vital part of the platforming the further into the hands-on gameplay we got. The wall running felt very natural here and it was a rush to jump back and forth between walls in more intense platforming sections. The only time it felt a little off was when transitioning from a wall run to a rope, but that just took some practice with the timing as someone that hadn’t played the game prior.

Each of these felt very natural and fluid, though sometimes the actual cliffside maneuvering felt a little questionable, whether it was landing from a jump or trying to fight too close to the edge. It was never a major problem, but you are likely to suffer a few deaths as a result. Thankfully these deaths are not quite as permanent as when you lose your entire health bar.

Falling down a lot will respawn you nearby with a little loss health as a punishment. Losing your entire health bar is something you’re going to want to avoid at all costs in the game though. When you deplete your health meter, you will be taken back to the last checkpoint, which are designated as Meditation spots. These spots let you replenish your health, Force, and stims that you use for healing in battle. That is not the most important thing you do at these Meditation spots though, as this is where you can unlock new abilities in the Skill Tree.

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While playing Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, you will notice a meter on the screen that will say 0 by it at first. As you defeat enemies, complete missions, and such, this meter will fill up and reward you with a skill point for use in the Skill Tree. From what we saw, it starts as a semi-circle, though I would assume this will branch out further based on the number we were able to unlock in the time we got to play. Like your usual Skill Tree, there are abilities, health upgrades, Force upgrades and such to be found here. The game did make an interesting design choice in that you can only use the Skill Tree at the Meditation spots, similar to how Tomb Raider limited weapon upgrades and such to campsites. It does add to the importance of the Meditation spots, but it also felt like it would have been better to let this be done from anywhere instead.

Also similar to Tomb Raider and the like are the puzzle elements found in the exploration as well. There was one in particular found in the tombs beneath Zeffo, where you have to find ways to move giant metal balls around to advance. This was a very well constructed puzzle that took some thinking to solve, while still not being too much of a hindrance on your progress either. It also was a natural way to implement the Force Push ability fairly early in the game after you got the hang of the other controls, which really allows Cal to open up entirely new paths upon unlocking it.

You can’t discuss a Star Wars game with Jedi in the title and not bring up arguably the most iconic weapon in movies, the lightsaber. There is the basic swing of the lightsaber attack, with many other abilities being unlocked through the aforementioned Skill Tree that you can use. Some previous Star Wars games have struggled with the actual lightsaber combat, but it actually has weight and you feel every move you make here. In some ways, it felt similar to the gameplay from the recent God of War in that it can be slow and deliberate at times, but also feels like it has a sense of urgency. This was especially seen in the battle with the 9th Sister that was demoed for us, where the boss fight actually went on for awhile and felt like a true duel between two saber wielders. The indication of unblockable attacks being highlighted in red is a little too immersion breaking in combat, but that doesn’t ruin what is a great combat system.

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Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order also appeared to have a lot of collectibles to be found for the completionists out there as well in the game. For every enemy you kill in the game, you can have your trusty droid BD-1 scan them for information that is then added to your menu. There are also other objects you can scan across the areas as well that provide a lot more backstory in the game. In addition, there are what are known as Echoes in the game that allow you to use the Force to hear past events that happened there. Seeing so much detail being put into the little things like this really bodes well for the game as a whole if this stays as important as it seemed across Zeffo. There are also lots of crates to be opened around the worlds that hold new color ponchos for Cal, skins for BD-1, colors for the Mantis, and plenty of lightsaber variants as well. These definitely aren’t necessary, but are a neat thing to keep people playing.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is bound to be one of the biggest releases of the fall when it comes out on November 15. Respawn Entertainment’s single player pedigree after Titanfall 2 was through the roof and it really does seem to show here in the game thus far. Even in only a couple hours of hands-on time, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was a really enjoyable experience with very few issues when we got to play it. It may seem like the game takes a lot of inspiration from other games, but that is very common in this genre as games find out what works and you see similar features being implemented across other games. Considering we only got a glimpse of the game in our play session, the big remaining questions now will be how impactful the story is and if the level of quality seen across planet Zeffo is maintained throughout the rest of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

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