It’s a good time to be a “Stars Wars” fan.
The streaming service Disney+ was unveiled a few weeks ago, featuring the original TV show “The Mandalorian” and many other “Star Wars” properties, allowing fans to binge the space fantasy series to their heart’s delight. The Skywalker saga will come to a rousing conclusion next month when “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” hits theaters.
On Nov. 15, just a few days after Disney+ came out, Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) released the single-player, action-adventure game “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” on Microsoft Windows, Playstation 4 and Xbox One.
“Jedi: Fallen Order” takes place in the main “Star Wars” canon, five years after the events of “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.” The Jedi are all but wiped out after the Great Jedi Purge, and the Galactic Empire reigns unopposed.
The main hero of “Jedi: Fallen Order” is Cal Kestis (voiced and motion-captured by Cameron Monaghan) — a former Jedi Padawan who survived the Purge and is hiding out as a scrapper on the planet Bracca. After his Jedi powers are discovered, he has to go on the run, meeting former Jedi Master Cere Junda (Debra Wilson) and pilot Greez Dritus (Daniel Roebuck). Together, the trio, along with Cal’s droid companion BD-1 (Ben Burtt), go on a mission across the galaxy to restore the Jedi Order while Cal continues his abrupted Jedi training.
Ever since EA gained exclusive rights in 2013 to publish “Star Wars” games, its record has been spotty at best. The company had only released two console games since then — the much beleaguered “Star Wars Battlefront” in 2015 and its 2017 sequel, “Star Wars Battlefront II,” which suffered from a lack of a single-player narrative in the former and an overreliance on microtransactions in the latter. So, there was a lot of pressure on EA to get “Jedi: Fallen Order” right.
Thankfully, it (mostly) did. While the game has a few frustrating elements, the overall experience is quite enjoyable.
The best part of “Jedi: Fallen Order” is its story, which expertly captures the essence of “Star Wars.” It contains all the ingredients of a classic “Star Wars” tale — a ragtag group of heroes led by an inexperienced Jedi, fantastical environments with alien creatures to behold and the looming presence of a seemingly unstoppable Empire. But yet, the story still feels fresh, bolstered by the impressive performances of Monaghan and Wilson.
The pair play off each other well, compellingly portraying the complicated relationship between the haunted former Jedi and the powerful, yet uncertain Padawan she has to guide. Writers Aaron Contreras, Manny Hagopian, Matt Michnovetz and Megan Fausti do a fine job of making this generally formulaic narrative feel riveting, as Cal, Cere and the rest of the crew take their place among the iconic “Star Wars” heroes of old.
Where the game is inconsistent lies in its up-and-down gameplay. The highs of “Jedi: Fallen Order” are astronomically high. Cal moves well around the multiple open worlds of the game, as the player can use his Force abilities to move objects and create new platforms to leap across, making traversal entertaining.
When it clicks, the combat is exhilarating, especially as the player progresses through the story and Cal gets more powerful. Slicing through hordes of giant rats, using the Force to push Stormtroopers off cliffs and going toe-to-toe in lightsaber duels with Inquisitors are all immensely satisfying adventures.
But unfortunately, its lows reach frustrating, smash-your-controller levels at times. The platforming in the game can feel janky, as I found myself falling off ledges and ropes way too often because Cal inexplicably wouldn’t grab onto them. The in-game map is also confusing, as it can be difficult to tell where exactly to go next to complete your objective. Some performance issues, such as lagging, slow loading times and visual glitches also sprang up on the PS4 version.
And again, when you nail the combat, it feels great, but getting to that point is a chore. The parrying mechanic requires precise timing to block enemy attacks — timing that is hard to pick up even hours into the game. Part of that is because enemy types number in the dozens — each with different kinds of attacks and patterns to pick up on.
I pride myself in being pretty solid at video games, especially action-adventure games, but I struggled significantly with certain boss fights and enemy types, and I wasn’t even playing on the hardest difficulty. I hate to admit it, but I had to lower the difficulty just to make it through the game in a reasonable amount of time. There’s definitely something to be said for making the game challenging, as finally defeating an enemy who has killed you multiple times is satisfying, but the story’s immersing element was broken in many moments due to how hard it was.
Looking back, it feels like I have a lot of overly negative things to say about “Jedi: Fallen Order,” and I certainly do. But overall, this game was still deeply enjoyable. While not perfect, its positives far outweigh its negatives and make for a thrilling ride for fans of both “Star Wars” and action-adventure games alike.