'Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order' Review: Perfect Immersion and Lightsaber Combat Overpowers Familiar Gameplay

8.5

A chimera of several other games, the mechanics of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order are wholly familiar: combining Souls-like progression, Metroidvania maps, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice combat, Uncharted environmental puzzles and Mass Effect's ship-bound hub. But while there's nothing in the gameplay you haven't seen before, its perfect transplantation into the Star Wars galaxy and developer Respawn Entertainment's almost Nintendo-level of polish elevates Fallen Order, easily ranking it among the best Star Wars games ever released. It may be imitative, but it's hard to care when all of those moving parts are integrated so successfully.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Review

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The Second Sister, an Imperial Inquisitor, is an intimidating and deadly enemy. Lucasfilm / EA

Whatever the strengths of EA's Star Wars Battlefront series, its tactical shooter sheen has always suited the Empire more than the Rebellion (let alone the Jedi). Fallen Order is different, capturing more fully Star Wars' adventurous spirit and mythological grandeur. Its approach to worldbuilding and Jedi lore takes clear inspiration from sources beyond the Star Wars movies, particularly the work of Star Wars Rebels creator Dave Filoni (intended as a compliment: I had to look up, and was surprised to learn, he wasn't involved), whose stories have significantly expanded the mythology of the Force beyond the movie series' narrow focus on the Jedi and Sith.

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"Fallen Order" fills breaks in the action with exploration of the past. Lucasfilm / EA

From its opening, a peek at working class life on the Imperial scrapyard of Bracca, to insurgent campaigns on Chewbacca's home planet Kashyyyk, Fallen Order's immersion in the Star Wars galaxy is in perfect parity with its cinematic equivalent—not so much in the campaign's story (well-told, but hardly memorable), but in the breadth of its imagination. While many Star Wars games act as wish-fulfillment, putting you in famous scenarios from the movies or granting you the Force abilities of the Jedi, none are as well-realized as Fallen Order, which captures all the textures of the Star Wars galaxy.

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Using your lightsaber as a flashlight while exploring new areas never gets old. Lucasfilm / EA

Nothing quite captures the small pleasures of Fallen Order like how Cal Kestis (portrayed by Cameron Monaghan of Gotham) uses his lightsaber outside of combat. Fallen Order environments are loaded with objects to cut through, spilling red sparks from electrical cables or bisecting Imperial R2 units. With in-depth customization options available at periodic workstations, or aboard your ship (the Mantis), Kestis' lightsaber begins to feel like more than just a laser sword, embodying Obi-Wan Kenobi's description of "an elegant weapon for a more civilized age."

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You can unlock thousands of lightsaber configurations, choosing your blade color and multiple other components. Lucasfilm / EA

But none of these tiny details or major moments (many of which are too good to spoil) would matter if the gameplay in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order wasn't so perfectly tuned, with a winning combination of forgiving platforming and rigorous combat.

(You can, for example, fall down bottomless trenches as often as you like—with only a small hit to your health—but dying in combat will send you back to the last meditation circle save point.)

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Defeating enemies in "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order" is genuinely satisfying. Lucasfilm / EA

Rather than the involved customization of stances and strokes of the Star Wars Jedi Knight series (often named a high point in lightsaber combat), Fallen Order strives for combat balance, pushing the player to dance between reflecting blaster shots, parrying electrobatons and deploying the Force for advantage.

Fallen Order combat is most analogous to Sekiro, capturing a similar rhythm of precision, rock-paper-scissor tactical responses and balance between forbearance and quick reflexes. The progression system is also similar, with XP-earned skill points gradually unlocking expanded combos with interesting new tactical twists—one of my favorite demands a pause between lightsaber slashes, forcing consideration of each button press in rhythm with your enemy's assault. Achieve the right flow state and you become untouchable, charging through blaster fire and taking down hordes of enemies in a blur of motion and agility—this is what it feels like to be a Jedi. Lose your concentration and you'll take a blaster butt to the face instead.

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Some opponents, like the specially-trained, Jedi-killing Purge Troopers, can stand up to Cal Kestis solo. Lucasfilm / EA

While not quite as hard as From Software titles (the developer of Dark Souls and Sekiro), Fallen Order can be a serious challenge—forcing you to run gauntlets with multiple complex combat encounters in between each meditation circle—particularly on higher difficulty settings like Jedi Master, which narrows parry timing, while increasing incoming damage and enemy aggression.

Fallen Order judiciously balances your outsized power as a Jedi against enemies significantly weaker than you, not by littering its maps with over-powered Stormtroopers, but instead by stacking multiple enemy types against Kestis. In many combat encounters, you'll be dealing with club-wielding Scout Troopers, as Stormtrooper grunts dump blaster fire from the ridge line. Throw in some local wildlife (which will go after Imperials too), or maybe a security droid (like K-2SO of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) or a Flametrooper, and suddenly a mass of choppable enemies becomes a formidable tactical challenge.

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An in-game Tactical Guide offers tips on how to counter each enemy's strengths. Lucasfilm / EA

The game's exceptional narrative detail is on full-display in combat too, with Stormtroopers excitedly jabbering amongst themselves should they manage to land a blow, or psyching themselves up to come at you. Get unlucky and maybe you'll hear them bragging over your corpse.

Unfortunately, Fallen Order's impeccable lightsaber combat doesn't extend to the Force itself. While the ability to Force push, Force pull and other powers is as perfectly blended into the game as its other mechanics, it's also the area where Fallen Order feels most derivative. It's not the game's fault that Force basics like pushing and pulling have featured in so many other titles and video game contexts, but it does prevent Fallen Order from achieving the same sense of awe and mystery the Force takes on in the movies. With certain lightsaber combos also using up the Force meter in combat, deploying your Force powers too often feels like the one area of combat where you're worrying more about a meter than the smooth ballet of flashing blades.

The Force awakens most in platforming, as you navigate Fallen Order's multiple sprawling maps. Environmental challenges often require you to deploy several Force abilities in quick succession, sometimes while in midair. With new outfits, paint jobs for your droid, lightsaber parts and dozens of other collectibles to track down, returning to planets you've previously visited never feels like a chore. And since new Force abilities often open vast new sections of the map, it rarely feels like backtracking at all.

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Developed by "Apex Legends" and "Titanfall 2" developer Respawn Entertainment, it's only natural "Fallen Order" includes wall running. Lucasfilm / EA

Jedi: Fallen Order is perfectly emblematic of the best the Star Wars series has to offer since The Walt Disney Company's 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm. Sure, it may not be as original as George Lucas going Prequel Trilogy gonzo, but the degree of polish, characterfulness and attention to detail wins out over the sensation that you may have seen this before. This isn't modern Star Wars at its worst, like the miserable stream of pastiche, empty callbacks and lackluster action found in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Instead, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order transcends its familiar trappings by ensuring every element is its best self.

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