The two worst things about Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order are the name and the architecture. The name needs some damn punctuation somewhere, maybe a colon or two, or at least the removal of the words “Star Wars” from the official name, since once you see the word Jedi and there are a bunch of lightsabers on screen you don’t really need the “Star Wars” part in the name because I’m pretty sure people are going to get it. I’ve been mostly calling the game Fallen Order, because that’s good enough, but my inner grammarian is deeply annoyed by how clumsy the title is.
That said, if that’s most of what I’ve got to complain about, and it is, we’re in pretty good shape. Folks have been waiting for a good single-player Star Wars action game since forever, and this one not only manages to fit the bill admirably but tells a damn good story in the meantime. Fallen Order is set just a few years after the end of Episode 3; Order 66 has been enacted and most of the Jedi are dead, but the Inquisitors are still out in force hunting down the handful who escaped. You play as Cal Kestis, a Padawan who got away by the skin of his teeth, losing his master and half his lightsaber in the process, and who has been working as a scrapper on a shipyard ever since. Some hell breaks loose, Kestis is forced to reveal his powers, and we’re off to the races, with him being rescued at the last moment by another fallen Jedi. The main narrative goal of the game is a Macguffin, more or less, taking the form in this case of a Jedi holocron filled with the names and locations of potential Force-sensitive children, and there is much talk about rebuilding the Jedi Order.
Now, this is interesting, right, because we know that ultimately they have to fail in this goal somehow, because by the time Luke rolls around there are legitimately only him, Yoda, and Obi-Wan left among the Jedi, and the Order very much does not get to be rebuilt. So the fact that the game starts off with the ending predetermined and still tells a great, compelling story is a serious plus in its favor. It’s beautiful to look at, particularly in its environments and any chance it gets to pull back and show some of the sheer scale of the ships and creatures in the distance (the initial shipyard level is really amazing in this respect) is going to be something really special. The characters are a highlight as well, especially Cal’s companion droid BD-1, who spends most of the game perched on Cal’s back and gets a number of upgrades over the course of the game to make him more useful to you.
The only weapon you get to use is your lightsaber; no initial period of running around with a blaster here unlike several of the older Jedi-focused Star Wars games, and while your powers take a while to open up (Kestis is a Padawan, after all, and he repairs his connection to the Force over the course of the game) once you’re firing on all cylinders the combat is satisfying as hell, with plenty of Stormtroopers around to mercilessly beat the hell out of along with a number of tougher enemies who will test your ability to block and parry. There are five major planetary environments and a few minor sub-areas, and the levels themselves are enormous, enough so that one of the game’s few non-technical shortcomings is that it really needed a fast travel system of some sort. There will be some glitches here and there, too, especially for those of us still on a regular PS4, but no bugs that prevented me from completing missions or anything like that. Kashyyyk in particular featured a lot of three- or four-second freezes during transitions through doors, as the game couldn’t get everything loaded up fast enough. There are enough little quibbles here and there to keep this out of 10/10 territory, but I’m perfectly content calling it a 9/10 or a high 8/10. The combat and the story (and the ending, my God) are more than enough to make this game one of the highlights of the year.
(What am I playing now? I brought my PS3 out of mothball status and hooked it up to the main TV, and I’m playing Demon’s Souls for the first time. I am perhaps a bit more excited about it than is reasonable.)