On May 25, 1977, Star Wars opened in cinemas and introduced us to a remote galaxy filled with wizards exerting light swords, space station the size of moons, and more foreigners and robots than scientists could possibly study in a lifetime. It was the spire of science-fiction escapism that also touched us with a tale filled with relatable characters we couldn’t help but root for. A good number of theatergoers who were there on day one never came back from that magical jaunt- they were transformed into fans for life.
After 40 years of cinematic magic, Star Wars’ stories are proving to be timeless. The big revelations and heartfelt moments from these movies still resonate today and have become generational. Some of us grew up dreading the fury of Darth Vader. The next generation got to know him as a young pod-racing star named Anakin Skywalker. And Vader is merely a legend for the newest batch of fans.
Story is everything for Star Wars, but that hasn’t been the case for most Star Wars video games. Since Star Wars’ inception, game developers have latched on to the clashing of lightsabers and hails of laser fire , not the mythology or narratives. Sure, we grew quite fond of Kyle Katarn in the Dark Forces series, and were blown away by Darth Revan’s secrets in Knights of the Old Republic, but most Star Wars games are defined by their action and combats. Even Force Unleashed’s Starkiller, who was strife between the light and dark, ended up as a gray enigma and mostly a tool of destruction on the battlefield. Focusing on action is the right thing to do for interactive entertainment, but why haven’t we seen a game deliver everything that builds Star Wars tick? Why can’t a meaningful tale be just as prominent as the action? KOTOR delivered story, but not the action or cinematic tact. Despite dozens of endeavors across 36 years , no game has successfully blended all of the Star Wars components together.
That’s precisely what Respawn Entertainment could achieve with Jedi: Fallen Order, a single-player game that weaves almost everything we’ve come to love about Star Wars into the framework of a sprawling escapade. From the coming-of-age story of a down-on-his-luck character to how the orchestrated score becomes playful for a humorous moment, the ebb and flow of what we love about Star Wars appears to be strong in this game.
I spent two days at Respawn’s Los Angeles studio playing the game and discussing its design with the development team. In my play session and the footage that was shown to me, the spirit of the Star Wars movies is front and centre- a driving force that delivers a continual sense of awe in its visuals and sound. At the same time, the Star Wars appeal doesn’t steal away from the gameplay and escapade, which are both equally exciting in ways I didn’t expect. Although Electronic Arts’ marketing teases the message “don’t stand out” for a game about a Jedi on the run, it isn’t a stealth game, and the player won’t be forced to duck into shadows or sneak behind enemies.
The lightsaber ends up doing most of the talking in Jedi: Fallen Order, but it isn’t used in the way you would think. You won’t be swinging it wildly at swarms of adversaries, or even in lengthy combo sequences against simply one foe. The team’s vision for the lightsaber action stems from the words “thoughtful combat, ” which equates to the player strategizing and looking forward to openings where the saber can be the most lethal. In a route, the combat dance is reminiscent of From Software’s Souls games, but not in a penalise way. Respawn wants players to succeed, but not without a little effort. The Force is also used to augment combat, permitting the player to mess with foes in fulfilling, clever, and powerful ways.
When the saber is sheathed, Respawn’s vision for the escapade has classic gaming roots and is inspired heavily by the Metroid series, pushing players to freely explore worlds, and come back to them later with new powers that can be used to reach different areas. Never once do players assure a waypoint on the screen telling them where their next objective is. Respawn doesn’t want to hold your hand, and instead hopes you plot your own path through dangerous worlds that are teeming with just as much hostile wildlife as heavily armed Imperial Forces.
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