Never has it felt more satisfying to strike down a stormtrooper with a lightsaber. I mean, in a game of course. At a recent hands-on event to preview Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, we experienced just how well developer Respawn has captured not only the power of the saber and the Force, but the tremendous amount of world and character building they’ve accomplished here as well. With a compelling supporting cast of characters, visceral combat, massive worlds to explore, and a relatable hero, Jedi is shaping up to be the game to play this holiday season on Xbox One.
You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned
Combat in Jedi rewards you for using all of our hero Cal Kestis’ abilities and punishes you for thinking you can get by otherwise. Gone are the days of swinging your lightsaber wildly at an enemy, or consistently using amped up Force powers to push foes around. Now you must think about how you approach an adversary and how your powers can complement your lightsaber combat abilities.
In our hands-on time with the game, which takes place just a few hours into the main story, Cal can use the Force power Slow to, well, slow down an enemy or an object for just a few seconds. This is helpful when someone (or something) is charging at you, allowing you to get behind them and land a few strikes. You can also roll-dodge away from enemies as well as parry a well-timed attack or redirect a blaster-bolt at a trooper.
Just a Bunch of Bullies
These enemies, from your average stormtrooper to ferocious planet inhabitants like the Scazz (alien rats the size of dogs), can be tough in groups and love to gang up on you with cheap shots and relentless attacks. There’s no waiting around and standing on the sidelines for these guys. If they have an opportunity to hit you, you better believe they’ll work hard together to deal damage.
In one such situation, I was battling a couple of stormtroopers armed with riot batons, two were on the ledge above firing down on me, and another one with a rocket launcher. So, I roll away, deflect back the blaster fire to dispatch the two above me, cast Slow on one trooper then attack him from behind, then roll away again to avoid an explosive rocket that lands just inches from my face. After that I was able to execute a parry with a sweet finishing move on the remaining riot trooper, then jumped up to the ledge above and cut the rocket trooper down. All in a day’s work for this Jedi adventurer.
Choose Your Own Adventure
These pockets of combat covered the expansive world of Zeffo, a new planet created for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. More specifically, it’s a settlement tucked away among lush green mountains. The Empire has taken this town by force as they search for… something (we can’t reveal too much). But in between these encounters, the level itself was quite large and well designed to have a healthy mix of combat, exploration, and a few environment puzzles to solve.
One of the great things we learned, at least with the planet Zeffo, is that the level design encourages you to go off the critical path and reward your curiosity as you explore hidden caves or high ledges with hidden items locations. For all achievement hunters, there’s sure to be plenty of dark caves for you to explore looking for extras (during our playthrough we managed to find a few alt-skins to change the color markings of our droid BD-1).
The primary Force power we played with was Slow (tied to RB on the controller). With a quick press it can be used on enemies and also objects in the environment. Like during this playthrough, a couple of environmental puzzles required us to slow a large windmill-like structure so we could navigate across it. Or move pass large pillars that were crushing rock into the side of the mountain. Both were nice change-of-pace moments in-between the battles with creatures and troopers, giving us a chance to catch our breath before diving into the next enemy encounter.
Later during our playthrough, we learned the ability to Push (RT on the controller) which again introduced another environment puzzle that involved both using Push to shatter through walls and move a large metal ball onto pressure plates; classic gaming puzzles also live in a galaxy far, far away it seems. Nothing that was too difficult to figure out, but again we appreciate that there’s more to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order than just combat, combat, and more combat. There’s also a healthy amount of exploration in store which is great to see.
Respawn and Reset
Your Force powers and combat abilities can be upgraded through earned XP in the form of Points which is granted by defeating enemies throughout the game. But here’s the rub. If you die at the hands of an enemy, be it a stormtrooper who lands a fatal shot or at the claws of a pesky Scazz, you will lose all of that earned XP and respawn at the last checkpoint — and all enemy locations have reset. You can, however, get all that XP back by tracking your way back through the level and landing a hit on the culprit who did you in.
These checkpoints can also be considered a rest point where you can spend your earned Points on ability upgrades, such as increasing the duration of Slow. You can also choose to meditate which will refill your health but also reset all defeated enemies in the level.
It’s fair to compare the level and discovery element to that of the classic Dark Souls series, in that the deeper you explore you can unlock shortcuts allowing you to come back later. And borrowing the idea of lost XP with a chance to earn it back by finding that one particular foe is great to see, especially as a fan of the Souls series. It’s a welcome challenge in a title of this caliber (and I don’t think I can ever tire of using my trusty lightsaber on stormtroopers).
A Rebel Band
In our short time with the game, it seems clear that we’re in for quite the epic Star Wars adventure when Jedi lands next month. It plays on many of the hallmarks that has made the universe such a compelling place to tell a story. Your crew is relatable, well written, and very well performed to help bring them all to life. From the wisecracking alien pilot Greeze, the stoic human Cere, and the adorable (and resourceful) BD-1 who accompanies you on your journey. I’ve only played for a few hours, but I’m already invested in this crew and the adventure that’s in store for all of them.
Speaking of your crew, your home base will be the starship Mantis whose design reminds me of a cross between the classic B-Wing and the Millennium Falcon. It’s from here you can choose where to go as Cal heads out on his quest to become a Jedi. That’s right – you pick the order in which you want to embark on your adventure. Planets like Kashyyk, Dathomir, and the newly created Zeffo were available to travel to in any order early in the game. This choice is another nice touch that helps immerse you in the world. And when picking a planet to fly to, it also affords for some nice character development while en route as you interact with the crew, bringing some additional emotional weight to the game.
With a stellar developer in Respawn, a rich combat system, and a seemingly large universe to explore, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order looks like it can deliver on a fantastic single-player, story-driven Star Wars adventure that we’ve been hoping for. Look for it to land on Xbox One November 15.