Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Preview
Earlier this week, I had the chance to check out the upcoming Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order at a preview event hosted by Electronic Arts. Admittedly, I did go into this event with a little trepidation regarding this new Star Wars, especially after what we saw when Battlefront II launched two years ago. So, when EA announced that Respawn Entertainment was working on a completely offline Star Wars game, the likes we haven’t seen since Force Unleashed II, I couldn’t help but get excited to experience another single-player Star Wars story. And after getting hands-on with it I can honestly say that I am more excited than ever to play the upcoming Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
First, some quick tech specs on the system I was playing on. We played on a PC but were asked to use the attached Microsoft Xbox One controllers to play the game. The rig itself was pretty beefy, sporting an RTX 2080 TI graphics card, intel i9-9900k processor, and 16GB of DDR4 RAM. The machine had no problem running Jedi: Fallen Order at the highest settings, dubbed ‘Epic’ in-menu, and I was even able to bump up the resolution to 4K without too many noticeable hitches.
Getting Started in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…
We started the preview just after the first few beginning missions in the Jedi: Fallen Order, after young Cal has already met up with a few of his team mates: BD-1, Cal’s most trusted companion droid, Greez Dritus, the gruff and scrappy four-armed captain of the ship Stinger Mantis, and Cere Junda, an ex-Jedi cut off from the force that becomes a mentor to Cal. Both of these characters seem like they’ll be supporting Cal throughout his adventure.
Cal has come to accept his Force powers instead of hiding from them after the Galactic Empire has executed Order 66, a call to purge the galaxy of the Jedi. We began on the planet Bogano after Cal discovered a relic in a skyscraper-sized vault off in the distance and has returned to the ship to share with Cere and Greez what he’s found.
The mission becomes clear: they must track down a means to help them to restore the Jedi Order and put an end to the Galactic Empire’s plot. But their next destination yet eludes them. Should they head off to the storm-ridden planet of Zeffo, a brand-new world created by Respawn and where the Storm Troopers have already invaded? Or should our rebel band of heroes venture off to the red planet of Dathomir, the “Rancor planet” and home to the Nightsisters?
I opted to go for the seemingly easier path and explore the planet Zeffo first. Aboard the ship, the Mantis Stinger, there is a holo-map in the middle of the ship that you can activate to pull up a projection that displays the different planets you can travel to. Here, you can inspect planets and select one for Greez to warp to while you wait in the cabin or buckle up in the cockpit. Unfortunately, you cannot fly the ship itself, which while understandable from a lore-perspective since I don’t believe Cal has undergone any pilot training, but still disappointing.
I suspect that the time you spend waiting in the cabin is secretly a loading screen while the game renders in the background, but I’m grateful that I can interact with different stations aboard the ship. There are several accommodations in the ship to help Cal on his journey, such as a meditation point to heal or increase your skills, or a workbench to customize your lightsaber with different color crystals, emitters, switches, sleeves, or materials that you find across the variety of planets to explore.
There’s even a terrarium to grow exotic plants from seeds you can find, although I’m not certain as to what purpose they might serve beyond being purely cosmetic. Unfortunately, I did not find any seeds during my play session either but I’m eager to see what effects, if any, having a terrarium full of space-plants might bring to the ship.
Upon arriving on Zeffo I thought the planet looked breathtaking. It felt very reminiscent of the highlands of Scotland, like a valley full of rocky crags and lush, green grass was raised up out of the ground and overlooked ravines and rivers that ran beneath, between the canyon walls.
The map started off feeling linear but as I explored, the more I found small winding paths that split off from the beaten road or unlockable shortcuts that could lead me back to my ship and save time. I encountered some Storm Troopers on this planet, seemingly searching for something else besides me, so I decided to cut their search short – and their lives.
Cutting Your Enemies’ Lives Short
Combat showcased in the Jedi: Fallen Order preview was fast-paced yet simple enough to grasp intuitively. I had a normal attack button and a heavy attack (that used up Force power so I couldn’t spam it repeatedly), the ability to block and - if I timed it correctly - to parry, and dodge and dodge-roll.
Additionally, I was equipped with a Force slow power that felt nostalgically like Dead Space’s Stasis module ability, where you could slow down objects or enemies. This power was useful during fights where I felt outnumbered, where I could Force slow one enemy to a standstill and have some time to focus on another.
The Force slow also came in handy to explore, like stopping spinning fans to pass through them in order to discover a treasure container. It was also handy for certain platforming puzzles, like stopping a spinning windmill blade to use it as a bridge and cross over to the other side.
Most simple Troopers could be taken out with one or two swings of my Lightsaber, but Commanders or Elite troopers had significantly more health and defense. As a result, I felt I had to change tactics and be prepared to block or parry instead of just mashing the attack button. I was able to deflect bolts that Storm Troopers shot at me by just holding the block button or even send them flying back towards them if I timed the block correctly.
More dangerous enemies, like the Commandos or Bosses like one of the Nightsisters, may even have attacks that aren’t block-able, but thankfully are telegraphed by the enemy glowing a bright red to give you a warning to dodge out of the way. A lot of the combat gave me vibes of God of War, which is no surprise given that the lead combat designer at Respawn happens to have worked on previous God of War titles.
Killing enemies, whether they be Storm Troopers or local hostile fauna, added to the experience bar I had displayed at the bottom of the screen. When I leveled up I would be awarded a skill point that could be invested into three different paths along a skill tree: Lightsaber, Survival, and Force. Lightsaber abilities seemed to focus on unlocking new combinations or moves to pull off in combat, like different attack chains or being able to quickly attack after a dodge.
This is the tree I invested the majority of my points in to since I was enjoying the Lightsaber combat most and I wanted to see all the new, cool moves that I could pull off. Having more options in a fight is always a good thing in my book.
The Survival path enhanced Cal’s health as well as allowed Cal to take less stamina damage from blocking attacks. For fans of Dark Souls’ combat that like to bide their time until the perfect opportunity presents itself, this is the path I would undoubtedly recommend investing into first.
Lastly, the Force path on the skill tree had skills that increasing Cal’s overall maximum Force as well as improving his Force powers, like extending the duration of Force Slow. Although I wasn’t able to see every skill, I was able to unlock a good chunk of skills during my play session. I think over the course of the game the skill tree can be completely maxed out, so I wouldn’t worry too much over which path you decide to take first – eventually, you should have access to them all.
Puzzles Mechanics and Blending of Genres
The Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order preview event allowed me the freedom to explore other planets and to go back and revisit areas when I had gotten stronger. Even before I was completely done on the planet Zeffo, I had gained intel that suggested I could get more answers from someone on Kashyyyk. Immediately upon learning this, I got a notification saying that Kashyyyk was now available to go and explore.
I could have dropped what I was doing on Zeffo to go check out the Wookies’ home-planet of Kashyyyk instead if I had wanted. However, there are a lot of Metroidvania elements in Jedi: Fallen Order. Sometimes you’ll come across locked chests or doorways that may require an upgrade to your BD-1 droid that you haven’t found yet.
When I visited the red planet of Dathomir, there was only so far I could go before realizing that I wouldn’t be able to progress any further without some other ability or Force power. I was defeated by a wall that was too high for me to jump, not one of the Nightsisters, surprisingly.
But how do you obtain new abilities? Well on Zeffo there was an underground ice-dungeon that felt influenced by the Legend of Zelda and plopped into a Star Wars setting. In the dungeon, I discovered these strange glyphs that unlocked the ability to use Force Push, a staple in the Jedi arsenal.
Using my new Force Push ability, I pushed these gigantic metal spheres onto pressure plates to activate switches - reminiscent of some of the puzzles seen in Breath of the Wild. In the dungeon were also wind channels that blew out strong gusts of wind in order to manipulate some of these spheres into hard to reach places, like up into the air and onto a higher platform.
I’m not going to lie, I definitely had difficulty during this part in the Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order preview but luckily the scrappy little droid BD-1 will offer assistance in the form of hints that help to figure out what it is that needs to be done next. I appreciate that the team at Respawn included this little assist for those that, like me, might struggle with these puzzle-mechanics.
Compared to this Zelda-inspired dungeon-sized puzzle, I really did have a blast with the platforming mechanics on display throughout my session. Traversing caverns by wall-running across chasms or sliding down frozen pathways to jump off and narrowly catch myself on the cliff-face adjacent reminded me of the Uncharted series.
Unfortunately, I felt like there were too many times where the focus was more on the platforming action/adventure mechanics rather than the combat. Personally, I would loved to have fought more enemies. I think that the combat gameplay feels so refined and responsive that it is more enjoyable fighting enemies than it is scaling a wall.
But it's these different systems at play that makes me all the more excited to see what adventures await me on planets as-of-yet unknown.
We don’t know how many planets there will be in total but counting the four during my playthrough as well as the previously announced Bracca, where Cal hides after Order 66 wiped out most of the Jedi, we can expect no less than five total planets. If I were to bet, we will have even more to discover beyond those too.
We were playing a final build of Jedi Fallen Order, so I expected graphical hitches, small bugs, and the like to at least make an appearance but thankfully I did not run into any significant problems while I was playing. My experience was seamless in transitioning from planet to planet or fight to fight, although I did experience a few stutters and frame dips, usually at random times and not during any particularly graphical intensive section, so I couldn’t pinpoint any noticeable cause.
Visually, Jedi: Fallen Order really gave me a sense of immersion into the Star Wars universe, especially the level design and the flora on each planet. The motion-capture used was excellent and I felt like Cameron was really there as Cal. The combat was tight and responsive, which is what I want from a Star Wars game. I was a bit disappointed I was not able to experience more Force powers, but I expect by the end of the campaign Cal will have grown into his role as a Jedi and will have more abilities at his control.
It'll be interesting to see how this all fits into the larger experience when Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order releases on November 15th. For now I'll keep my hype levels in check, but suffice to say I am looking forward to seeing the full experience when it's released.
Full disclosure: Travel and accommodations for this event were provided by Electronic Arts.