A lot of games just do one or two things well and build around that. And that’s a fine and fair tactic; not everyone has the time, patience, resources, or whatever else necessary to reach broadly rather than deeply. But that’s where Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order stakes its claim. It does everything just pretty damn well.
As a necessity, this means there isn’t much it does at an exemplary level (outside of its undeniably superb map). Take, for instance, its combat. It takes obvious cues from Souls games, skewing most closely to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (though they are both from this year). Animation priority, pattern-based enemies, regen/respawn resource management. It is precisely that kind of game.
But it also doesn’t fully commit. Freely saving without triggering a reset removes a lot of the more dire stakes you lay on the table as payment for progress, erasing the trademark tension of Souls games. Generous blocking mechanics and parrying windows with huge enemy tells makes the learning curve a lot more palatable, turning the dozens of runs to get to the next bonfire just a single but occasionally fraught gauntlet.
It also doesn’t have to, though, because every part of the game’s design is built around these concessions. By loosening the strictures of the genre’s normally punitive gameplay, it abides a more Star Wars-like feeling. If you aren’t careful, you can still die in a mere handful of hits, but pay attention, and you feel like an unstoppable force of nature—a Jedi at the heights of their power.
Just running through run-of-the-mill Stormtroopers, deflecting every single laser blast, before driving your lightsaber directly through the chest of a droid bounty hunter is exactly what it should feel like, and that is good. They’re appropriately dumb but appropriately threatening in large numbers. The exploration is straightforward but broad enough to make the world seem bigger than it is.
All of it builds around this remarkably personal story, too. It brings heft and gravitas to one of the most criminally ignored portions of George Lucas’ prequel lore. And the way it presents the moment, filling you will simultaneous pride and terror and confusion, is one of the best story moments of the year, and far better than anything the Disney Star Wars endeavors have ever done (outside of The Last Jedi, shoutout to Rian Johnson).
The slow drip of the history between the Inquisitors and our stand-in mentor Cere Junda (Debra Wilson, who is having one hell of a year in voice acting) is fantastic. The hero of the prologue Prauf (JB Blanc) is a lingering and propulsive regret throughout the whole game. The tragedy of the seemingly malicious Nightsisters is shaped into a dire need for revenge.
The story does the classic Stars Wars thing of starting small and intimate before breaking wide into a galactic tale, but it changes things up by keeping that hyper-focus throughout rather than folding in interplanetary consequences. It never leaves the close quarters of the Mantis or the tender grasp of Cal Kestis (Cameron Monaghan).
Also I love my cold, weird goth desert witch. May she live strong and true.