Star Wars fans haven't been given the greatest games in recent years, so to be skeptical about a new product isn't unfounded. It's this same reflection that led me to be wary of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, as I was unsure if there could be one title to save us from the Dark Side of game development. So to say that I was concerned prior to the preview event in Anaheim, California would be an understatement, but after spending three hours playing, I quickly came to realize just how naive these fears were.
Sitting down to play, I was briefed on the events that played up to the point I was about to be thrown in to. I was given a proper background on the new main character, Cal Ketis, as a Padawan survivor of Order 66 (the command that led to the annihilation of the Jedi) who had been on the run most of his life. He'd met up with a ragtag group of allies, along with his droid companion BD-1, and were now trying to fight back against The Empire. It's a standard set up to a Star Wars story, but Respawn Entertainment wasted no time in flexing its muscles from a gameplay perspective.
Right off the hop, I was given a choice of planets to fly to, the newly-created Zeffo or the pre-established Sith planet of Dathomir. I chose the former and quickly began to piece together just how large Jedi: Fallen Order truly is. Upon landing on the planet, I began running around the environment, almost immediately discovering a new paint job for BB-1 in a container that was tucked away on the map. These sorts of cosmetic items are scattered throughout each area and they provide a means of customizing both Cal and his droid buddy.
These hidden items are neat, but some of them building lore too. Other diary-like entries can be found through Force Echos, and they build up the planet around Cal in meaningful ways and showcase the horrible impact that The Empire has had on a planet. Best of luck finding all of these though, because the game feels as if it's fixing to be the largest Star Wars title ever made. That's to say, the environments are quite large.
Each environment is crawling with hidden items locked behind obstacles, some of which you can't get past until you have earned powers down the road. It's just as easy to walk right by these points given the scale of the worlds players can visit. Keeping in mind that there are a number of planets to explore within Jedi: Fallen Order, it's likely that this game will take countless hours just to 100%. Heck, it took me approximately three hours just to get through the narrative on Zeffo and I didn't even come close to finding everything on it.
These aren't just large-scale environments either, as each area is filled with unique characteristics and aesthetics that help it stand out amongst all the others. For example, Zeffo features caves, ice slides, an ancient culture filled with lore, and a number of different pieces of flora and fauna. The wildlife of the planet (in all of its hostile glory) was on full display during my playthrough, with most of it meeting a violent end–with the exception of those I decided to avoid.
That's right, it's possible for Cal to simply avoid combat or take a stealth approach to it at times. Walking into a squad of Stormtroopers can bring about a few options for various approaches on occasion. Admittedly, it's usually best just to wipe out the villains to gain experience and secure the area rather than full-tilt dash through it. I also didn't see much point in avoiding combat because it was so damn fun; executing parries, swapping between targets, and using the force is silky smooth. It's exactly what you'd expect from a Jedi Knight and it's a power fantasy that's well realized.
Plus, the areas will repopulate whenever players visit a Meditation Point–which was the only way to save my progress. These points in Jedi: Fallen Order act similarly to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice's save spots (the key difference being that enemies respawn after visiting these areas). Visiting them allowed me to heal Cal and even upgrade his stats through a Skill Tree that provided me with more and more options as I played. I was also able to rest and reset my health at these save points, which was a massive benefit because Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a very difficult game at times.
As I unlocked new abilities on Zeffo, I realized the scope of what was being attempted by Respawn. Jedi: Fallen Order is reminiscent of recent Tomb Raider games in the way it presents environments, collectibles, and traversal, but takes notes from other games like Sekiro in its combat and save point segments–and even draws from 'Metroidvania' in the way it gives incentives for re-exploring areas. It's a brilliant hodgepodge of some of the best mechanics in modern games and it's decked out in a Star Wars wrapping that already has decades of a pre-existing story to tap in to.
It feels like gamers are finally going to be getting their hands on the Star Wars game that they've longed for. And with everything else being teased by Respawn and EA during this event (specifically with the Sith Inquisitors), the only thing that I can say for sure is that three hours wasn't nearly long enough to spend with Jedi: Fallen Order. The game's release on November 15th isn't all that far, far away but it still can't come soon enough.