July Cover Story – Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

On May 25, 1977, Star Wars opened in cinemas and introduced us to a distant galaxy filled with wizards wielding light swords, space stations the size of moons, and more aliens and robots than scientists could possibly study in a lifetime. It was the pinnacle of science-fiction escapism that also touched us with a story filled with relatable characters we couldn’t help but root for. A good number of theatergoers who were there on day one never came back from that magical outing – they were transformed into fans for life.

After 40 years of cinematic magic, Star Wars’ stories are proving to be timeless. The big revelations and heartfelt moments from these films still resonate today and have become generational. Some of us grew up fearing the wrath of Darth Vader. The next generation got to know him as a young pod-racing star named Anakin Skywalker. And Vader is merely a legend for the newest batch of fans.

Story is everything for Star Wars, but that hasn’t been the case for most Star Wars video games. Since Star Wars’ inception, game developers have latched on to the clashing of lightsabers and hails of laser fire, not the mythology or stories. Sure, we grew quite fond of Kyle Katarn in the Dark Forces series, and were blown away by Darth Revan’s secrets in Knights of the Old Republic, but most Star Wars games are defined by their action and battles. Even Force Unleashed’s Starkiller, who was conflicted between the light and dark, ended up as a gray enigma and mostly a tool of destruction on the battlefield. Focusing on action is the right thing to do for interactive entertainment, but why haven’t we seen a game deliver everything that makes Star Wars tick? Why can’t a meaningful story be just as prominent as the action? KOTOR delivered story, but not the action or cinematic finesse. Despite dozens of attempts across 36 years, no game has successfully blended all of the Star Wars elements together.

That’s precisely what Respawn Entertainment could achieve with Jedi: Fallen Order, a single-player game that weaves almost everything we’ve come to love about Star Wars into the framework of a sprawling adventure. From the coming-of-age story of a down-on-his-luck character to how the orchestrated score becomes playful for a humorous moment, the ebb and flow of what we love about Star Wars appears to be strong in this game.

I spent two days at Respawn’s Los Angeles studio playing the game and discussing its design with the development team. In my play session and the footage that was shown to me, the spirit of the Star Wars movies is front and center – a driving force that delivers a continual sense of awe in its visuals and sound. At the same time, the Star Wars appeal doesn’t steal away from the gameplay and adventure, which are both equally exciting in ways I didn’t expect. Although Electronic Arts’ marketing teases the message “don’t stand out” for a game about a Jedi on the run, it isn’t a stealth game, and the player won’t be forced to duck into shadows or sneak behind enemies.

The lightsaber ends up doing most of the talking in Jedi: Fallen Order, but it isn’t used in the way you would think. You won’t be swinging it wildly at swarms of enemies, or even in lengthy combo sequences against just one enemy. The team’s vision for the lightsaber action stems from the words “thoughtful combat,” which equates to the player strategizing and looking for openings where the saber can be the most lethal. In a way, the combat dance is reminiscent of From Software’s Souls games, but not in a punishing way. Respawn wants players to succeed, but not without a little effort. The Force is also used to augment combat, allowing the player to mess with enemies in satisfying, clever, and powerful ways.

When the saber is sheathed, Respawn’s vision for the adventure has classic gaming roots and is inspired heavily by the Metroid series, pushing players to freely explore worlds, and come back to them later with new powers that can be used to reach different areas. Never once do players see a waypoint on the screen telling them where their next objective is. Respawn doesn’t want to hold your hand, and instead hopes you plot your own path through dangerous worlds that are teeming with just as much hostile wildlife as heavily armed Imperial Forces.

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Source: Gameinformer