Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order hits all the beats for being a great Star Wars game, but its quality elements stop there. Once players move past its story, which is exceptional, they'll find a run-of-the-mill game that fails to push boundaries in any way, shape, or form, along with severe performance issues.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a terrific Star Wars game, but that distinction is important because, without the backing of the Star Wars brand and the sheer fun that comes from wielding a lightsaber, it's rather mediocre. Respawn Entertainment's Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the first story-based Star Wars game in years and it comes from one of the top first-person shooter studios in the industry at the moment. Given that, as well as the fact that an entirely new team was brought on to develop the game under the direction of God of War's Stig Asmussen, there was a lot of hype surrounding the title.
It has surely lived up to that hype in some ways, but in many other ways, it's failed where other Star Wars games, such as The Force Unleashed and the Knights of the Old Republic series, have succeeded. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order follows the Cal Ketsis as he goes on a mission to recover a holocron that would reveal all the Force-sensitive people in the galaxy. Finding that information would allow him and Cere to rebuild the Jedi Order and potentially bring down the Empire. But of course, a group of Inquisitors are on Cal's tail and want to kill him.
From a story perspective, this is exactly what the Star Wars franchise needed in video game form. It's a Jedi story that unites so many great elements from the movies as well as the old video games, and it does so in such a way that doesn't draw attention to what it's doing, which makes it all feel natural and unlike a gimmick. What's more, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order adds more than its fair share of emotional punches to its thrilling adventure story. Knowing that this takes place after the Jedi Purge is one thing, but seeing and experiencing the Purge through the eyes of a young Jedi Padawan is something else entirely. Its Order 66 sequence alone is worthy of recognition.
Practically everything about the story in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has been well-thought-out. It uses the overarching Star Wars galaxy to its benefit in increasingly smart ways, the twists and turns all have merit, and it constantly (and subtly) expands on the franchise lore - whether it's diving deep into the Nightsisters' backstory and powers or unveiling a new, ancient species tied to the Force. This level of consideration has become rare for Star Wars games, so it's something that can be greatly appreciated. Overall, story-wise, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is exceptional. It hits all the beats that it needs to, and more. But gameplay-wise, it's unfortunately unoriginal.
This console generation has become the golden age of open-world games. Players will find certain gameplay aspects in most - if not all - triple-A action-adventure titles and RPGs, and the same can be said for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Everything related to the gameplay works well, but none of it is unique. On the whole, it fails to push the boundaries of not only what video games can do but even what Star Wars video games are capable of achieving. Lightsaber duels are well done, but developers already perfected that art in the mid-2000s; wall running is a feature that Respawn Entertainment is known for, so seeing it in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order isn't surprising at all; and climbing the foliage has been a key component in most games since the first Assassin's Creed came out. There's no ingenuity here. Moreover, everything that players can do is limited in some way; this extends to how certain areas are accessed. And unfortunately, the gameplay concerns don't stop there.
In the Xbox One version, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is riddled with performance issues that may easily turn away would-be players. Right from the get-go, there are frame-rate problems in the prologue that are then exacerbated on the planet Bogano. (The worst frame-rate is perhaps most noticeable on Zeffo.) Some planets, like Kashyyyk and Dathomir, for example, are relatively fine in comparison, but the vast majority of the time, Xbox players will find the FPS dipping considerably in boss fights, cutscenes, and especially when traversing quickly around the map (namely wall running). What's baffling is that this is a fundamental problem on the Xbox; it's not something that happens on rare occasions but can instead be expected every time.
Going beyond that, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order appears to have problems across the board. Some animations aren't done properly; for instance, looting underwater will show the same animation of BD-1 shaking the container by searching through it, except BD-1 never leaves Cal's shoulder. Sometimes when sliding down a glacier or mud hill, the background won't render and the game will temporarily freeze. On top of this, loading times - which are at least 15 seconds and can go up to 30 - are awful. A triple-A game like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, especially one released in 2019, simply should not have loading times that are consistently that long.
But there are redeeming elements of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order that save it from being a failure. Too often, action-adventure and role-playing games tend to overwhelm players with their customization and skill progression systems, but Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order reins all of that in. In fact, those two features are perhaps the best aspects of the gameplay. Instead of giving players a wide range of skills to unlock straight away and the option to customize everything from Cal's socks to his lightsaber hilt to the ship's design, only a handful of items can be tweaked and a handful of skills acquired. By doing this, players can still have unique lightsaber builds as well as different looks for Cal, but customization never once becomes a key focus. Furthermore, tying the skill progression to the story - in which Cal gains the ability to acquire more Force powers and become better with the lightsaber after he remembers his Jedi training (and only after a story moment triggers those memories) - is genius.
All in all, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the Star Wars game that Star Wars fans deserved. Respawn Entertainment knew what they needed to do in order to meet expectations, but that's all they did. Jedi: Fallen Order meets but doesn't exceed expectations. Players will have seen better gameplay, better animations, and better graphics elsewhere, but it's the story that makes the 20+ hours worth it. On top of that, using the lightsaber in this game is truly satisfying and the difficulty is properly challenging, even playing on the medium mode (Jedi Master). There's a lot to admire in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, but if players are looking for a groundbreaking game to raise the bar, this is not the game they're looking for.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Screen Rant was provided with an Xbox One code for the purposes of this review.