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Jedi: Fallen Order’s rich, immersive story marred by technical issues

Jedi: Fallen Order isn't a “bad” game, but its challenging and not terribly responsive mechanics make it a difficult game to enjoy.

ELECTRONIC ARTS

By MIKE HUME | The Washington Post | Published: November 27, 2019

As a Star Wars fan, I always wondered why it was so easy for the Empire to simultaneously wipe out nearly the entire Jedi order. After all, these Force users are superpowered beings, capable of moving objects with their will or mind-controlling the average stormtrooper.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has helped clear up that mystery. Not every Jedi is Yoda. Some Jedi just suck. I am one of them.

In Jedi: Fallen Order, you play as Cal Kestis, a partially trained Padawan who — after years spent in hiding following the great Jedi massacre depicted in “Revenge of the Sith” — is no longer fully attuned to the Force. But it’s not his lack of prowess with the Force early in the game that makes Kestis/me such a sucky Jedi. Rather it’s his/my pathetic timing while fighting, frequent failure to properly gauge when and where to jump, and an unintentional, yet unceasing, need to fall off every precipice possible.

It’s common for a game like Fallen Order to require players to level up their characters before they become some omnipotent hero. In fact, it’s a big part of Luke Skywalker’s dramatic arc in the original Star Wars trilogy. But after playing through four levels of the game, it feels like Kestis is stuck in a perpetual awkward phase. Despite being cast from the game’s outset as a nimble athlete able to navigate a danger-filled salvage yard with ease, every movement feels a bit clunky. Whenever I released the left stick on my PS4, he’d often take at least another shuffle step or two, which, while realistic, feels imprecise and is hard to get used to. In a fight, my Jedi takes forever to swing his saber, usually giving my foe time to strike first. And with every blow, Kestis is staggered like a fighter with a glass jaw, giving other foes openings to attack.

The key, according to the game’s maker, is defense first. Once you get used to deflecting incoming attacks, you can then utilize a precisely timed parry to defeat your attacker. But if you’re facing more than one foe, it’s extremely tough to find a good time to release the block button for a parry or counter strike. Even playing on one of the game’s easier settings, it was maddening to try to parry each attack and then counter unless the enemies were staggered or slowed through Kestis’ force powers. I didn’t feel like a Jedi at all. I felt like a pinata.

Stormtroopers with stun sticks often tase me because I seldom know what movement Clumsy Cal will make when I mash the melee button. And so help me Obi-Wan Kenobi if I happen to be fighting near a cliff, because I will fall off — it’s just a matter of time.

Navigating the terrain in Death Stranding was a cakewalk compared to some running and jumping sequences in Fallen Order. The controls felt so sluggish that I often worried my momentum would carry me over a ledge. Even when it didn’t I’d freak out, overcompensate and accidentally jump off the cliff anyway.

This feels like a good time to talk about death, or more accurately, respawning. Rather than picking back up slightly before your demise, you’re brought back to the last time you saved, which you can only do when you discover meditation circles. There were times when I had to redo more than 10 minutes of the game after respawning.

When you’re in a meditation circle, you can choose to rest, which recovers your health meter and replenishes your stim sticks (which heal you between rests). Resting also respawns your enemies though, so there’s a cost that could ultimately put your health bar back in the red before you save again.

I will own the fact that I may not be good at this game. But I didn’t have this much difficulty learning Death Stranding. I didn’t have this much difficulty learning Spider-Man, which I loved. I could crush The Force Unleashed on the most difficult setting. To make any kind of headway in Fallen Order, I really needed to drop the settings down to “Story Mode.” Again, I’m a sucky Jedi.

Even in story mode, there remains the challenge of the movement mechanics. And while enemies appeared to die faster and Kestis’ health bar decreases only a small amount with each blow suffered, the timing of parrying and counterstriking remains difficult. Enemies will block your attacks if they’re squared up and facing you and if you telegraph your defense by holding the block button too soon, most of the time they’d launch an unblockable attack. At all levels, your enemies remain smart.

I won’t say Jedi: Fallen Order is a “bad” game. It’s just a difficult game for me to enjoy, which obscures many of the game’s high points. The story, a key part of any Star Wars property, feels rich and immersive and goes deeper and darker that the majority of installments in the franchise, movies and spinoff shows included. You’ll recognize some faces, visit worlds both familiar and foreign and wield some awesome weapons. And again, I haven’t finished the game. But given my time constraints, I’m not sure I will.

Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Online: ea.com/games/starwars/jedi-fallen-order

The mechanics of Jedi: Fallen Order are challenging. If you're battling near a cliff, you can assume you'll be plummeting off of it in the near future.
ELECTRONIC ARTS

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