Star Wars games often feel estranged from the franchise that spawned them. Video gaming have gotten very proficient at capturing the aesthetic of Star Wars–the cold metallic angles of Imperial architecture, the powerful hum of a lightsaber, the electric snap of a blaster bolt hitting home–but can battle to get under the surface. It is the rare Star Wars game that reaches beyond how Star Wars looks to explore what Star Wars is absolutely about.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the most recent game in the canon, is among the better offerings particularly since it tries to look beyond the trappings of Star Wars. It’s not simply another Jedi power fantasy, although wielding the Force with skill and resolve will surely cause you to feel powerful. Just like the best Star Wars games, it’s the one which increases the ideas of the films and other material, exploring new corners of the galaxy while concentrating on the core themes of the franchise: knowing yourself, fighting your own darkness, and braving adversity by making use of friends.

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Now Playing: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Video Review

Friendship is definitely one of the key drives of Star Wars, especially in the initial film trilogy, and it’s really the core of why is Jedi: Fallen Order work in both story and gameplay. The principal relationship of the overall game is between Cal Kestis, a Jedi padawan in hiding in the aftermath of the Jedi Purge that occurred in Revenge of the Sith, and BD-1, a droid entrusted with a secret mission by the Jedi Master that used it. Once Cal and BD-1 meet, they become inseparable, working together as partners to fix puzzles in forgotten ruins, navigate alien environments, and beat back the Empire.

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The pair work through the entire game to complete a scavenger hunt created by BD’s last companion, Master Cordova. Before he vanished, Cordova locked away a set of Force-sensitive children through the entire galaxy that may be used to resuscitate the destroyed Jedi Order and challenge the Empire. He left clues to how exactly to retrieve that list hidden in BD, requiring Cal and the droid to go to various worlds, following in Cordova’s footsteps to release BD’s encrypted memories.

Functionally, BD is Cal’s frequent companion as he rides around on the Jedi’s back, and Cal regularly talks with the droid because they explore Fallen Order’s planets. BD also serves several support functions in gameplay. Most of all, BD provides Cal with “stims” that allow him to heal himself in the center of Fallen Order’s often-oppressive combat. He may also work as a zipline, unlock doors, and hack certain droid enemies to carefully turn the tides of battle. BD is merely enough part of any given fight or puzzle you are always alert to his occurrence and his help, but it’s Cal’s frequent interactions with the tiny droid that basically build out their relationship.

You certainly need BD’s help and the upgrades you find for him during your journey, because Fallen Order could be punishing. It lifts several gameplay ideas directly from the Soulsborne genre; enemies tend to be tough-as-nails and will deal big damage if you are complacent, whether they’re Imperial stormtroopers taking potshots or two-foot rats leaping out of burrows to snap at Cal’s throat. Fighting isn’t only about wailing on everyone together with your lightsaber, but instead relies heavily on blocking and carefully timed parries if you mean to remain alive against even the most run-of-the-mill foes. You as well as your enemies likewise have a stamina meter to control, which dictates just how many blows you can reduce the chances of before you stagger, and adds a strategic factor to duels. To win a battle, you must whittle down an enemy’s stamina while blocking, parrying, and dodging to control your own. Since every blow you sustain could be devastating, combat becomes a thrilling, cerebral exercise in almost every case. You’ll spend lots of time not merely honing your parrying skills, but also making quick battlefield decisions about how precisely you can isolate dangerous enemies or use your Force powers to even up the chances.

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You can only just heal from a restricted number of stims or by resting at periodic meditation points, similar to Dark Souls’ bonfires, and with them respawns all of the enemies in the region, which makes being truly a smart combatant a lot more critical. Killing enemies and finding collectibles nets you have, which accumulates into Skill Points you can devote to new talents for Cal. But dying costs all of the experience you earned as your last Skill Point if you don’t will get and damage the enemy who bested you.

Though the factors of Fallen Order are Souls-like–it’s probably most closely much like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, in fact–on most difficulty settings, it’s miles less brutal than From Software’s games. Fallen Order could possibly be considered Soulsborne-lite, making make use of the same factors but to a new effect. It’s tough, even occasionally frustrating, however, not practically so much as the games that it draws its inspirations. That balance achieves a thing that feels necessary to Fallen Order’s identity: It certainly makes you a robust Jedi Knight, without turning you into an unstoppable Force-wielding superhero. Ratcheting back on the Jedi powers (and forcing you to unlock them as you sort out the story and manage Cal’s past) helps Fallen Order’s undertake the Star Wars universe feel grounded and believable–a place where persons could actually live.

Your insufficient overwhelming power also helps to make the ever-looming Empire a frightening threat, even while individual soldiers comedically call out their own ineptitude in almost every battle. Cal spends the complete game hunted by the Inquisition, a subset of the Empire’s forces especially tasked with exterminating Jedi. Because every fight is potentially deadly, running in to the game’s exclusively trained Purge Troopers is always a meeting, and you’re forced not merely test thoroughly your lightsaber skills and timing, but to consider all of the capabilities available to create it out alive.

All of those other game often is due to clambering around the surroundings and solving puzzles, not unlike Tomb Raider, God of War, or Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Navigating the world is really as much about using observation and problem-solving skills as your Force tools. Respawn’s Souls-inspired map design permits you to explore off the beaten path without ever really getting lost, and each planet is richly realized and fascinating to explore. The intricate pathways inspire you to wander off and visit each planet’s varied environments to see everything you might uncover, and Fallen Order constantly be sure you’re rewarded with somewhat of story, a cosmetic item, as well as an optional miniboss fight.

If you are between missions on planets, you’re hanging out with Fallen Order’s two other major characters, Cere and Greez. They’re the pair who have the ability to save Cal in the first hours of the overall game when his Jedi nature is learned by the Empire, plus they put him on the quest to get the set of Force-sensitives prior to the Inquisitors will get their practical it. Although story is just a little rough in the first going as Cal is thrown straight into the quest with little lead-up or explanation, Fallen Order’s story starts to excel around the halfway point as his relationships with BD, Cere, and Greez really commence to develop. Once Fallen Order starts to purchase the interpersonal dynamics and deepening friendships of its cast, it certainly hits a stride–and its quest feels less as an elaborate group of tasks to fetch a MacGuffin, and similar to an important addition to the ongoing Star Wars saga.

It can take Fallen Order some time to make it happen, though. The first few planets are a lttle bit on the dull side, rushing to get Cal on his quest through the galaxy without really establishing why you need to really care. Until it starts to click later in the overall game as you unlock more Force powers, combat could be a hassle, especially at certain boss battles or chokepoints, whenever your last meditation point is some distance away and you must navigate through the same chunks of the map again and again. And while parrying can be an essential section of the game, at higher difficulties, the timing can feel finicky and unreliable.

The game also wants to throw handfuls of enemies at you all at one time, which is often overwhelming, and combat against lower-tier enemies was created to lock you into finisher animations in a whole lot of cases. Rather than making you feel just like a cool, well-trained warrior, these usually just leave you available to some Imperial dork wandering up with an electrobaton and clocking you in the top. It’s only once you get enough Force powers to effectively control the crowds these occasions are more exciting than irritating. But through the entire game, there are always occasions when an enemy you couldn’t see as a result of the game’s tight targeting lock system gets in an inexpensive hit, forcing you to replay a good stretch of its large, interweaving maps.

But especially since it wears on, Fallen Order becomes possibly the strongest conception of what playing as a Jedi Knight must really end up like. It’s true that Fallen Order borrows liberally from other action games, but those factors interact with Respawn’s combat and environment design, and a tale that finds humanity in the Force and in its characters, to hone in on why is the world of Star Wars worth revisiting over and over. Despite having some rough edges, Fallen Order represents the most compelling game additions to the Star Wars franchise in years.