Electronic Arts and Respawn Entertainment kicked off the EA Play event Saturday with a new look at the gameplay for the highly-anticipated Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The game, set to be released for the PS4, Xbox, and PC in November, follows Padawan Cal Kestis (Cameron Monaghan) as he struggles to survive as one of the last Jedi following Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith (2005). The game will be established within continuity, making it a key part of the ever-expanding Star Wars mythos alongside the films, novels, and comics. It’s been a long time ago, too long, since there’s been a Star Wars game that felt worthy of getting excited about. If the new gameplay is any indication Fallen Order could be the game Star Wars fans have been waiting for.
Announced at E3 last year, Fallen Order is the first third-person action Star Wars title to come from EA. Ever since Lucasfilm was purchased by Disney in 2012 and LucasArts was shut down, along with work on the game Star Wars 1313, Star Wars gamers, myself included, have been disappointed in how EA has handled the license. Star Wars Battlefront (2015) delivered on the graphics, but the lack of a campaign lessened its impact. And although Star Wars Battlefront II (2017), did give players a campaign the introduction of microtransactions proved to be a nightmare that damaged EA’s reputation. As the game company has seemingly become less and less interested in single-player experiences, and scrapped games have made us leery of their investment, the excitement for Fallen Order may prove just how valuable an experience that is.
The gameplay opens with Cal on Kashyyyk, the Wookie planet that was home to one of the last battles of the Clone Wars. The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Stig Asmussen, about the choice of the setting. Asmussen revealed that planets like Tatoonie or Hoth had been well traversed in the world of Star Wars gaming, and Kashyyk provided an opportunity to explore “something that was somewhat familiar but there’s a story to be told there that’s interesting and can be expanded on.” No confirmation if that’s Chewbacca at the end of the gameplay, but it certainly could be given the events referenced in Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto’s comic series Star Wars: Chewbacca and Chuck Wendig’s novel Aftermath. If I pull out my trusty Star Wars timeline, which I did, Fallen Order takes place about 18 or 19 years before the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope (1977). Han meets a captured Chewbacca in Solo (2018) 10 years before the Battle of Yavin. The Empire used Wookies as slaves, punishment for helping the Republic, and although Chewbacca was transferred from prison to prison, it’s very likely that he would be on Kashyyyk during the time of Cal’s adventure. It just goes to show how serious continuity is taken within the game.
On the subject of familiar faces, Saw Gerrera shows up. While he first appeared in the animated series Star Wars: Clone Wars, and latter in Star Wars: Rebels, Saw made his first live action appearance in Rogue One (2016) where he was portrayed by Forrest Whitaker. Asmussen was mum on whether or not any other familiar faces would crop up in the game, but given that this is Star Wars and part of the fun of these games are the Easter eggs, it seems like a safe bet that we’ll see more characters and references from the series. In the cave where Cal fights the giant spider, Wyyyscokk, we can spot a downed Battle Droid and a Clone Trooper helmet. Near the end of the gameplay, we’re teased with a battle between Cal and an Imperial enforcer droid, another reference to Rogue One and it’s reprogrammed enforcer, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). As for iconic faces, surely Lord Vader and the Emperor must sense the presence of another Force user. With the Second Sister, first introduced in Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli’s Dark Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith No. 19, serving as the game’s big bad, the Sith can’t be far behind.
Among Asmussen influences are The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. But there also seems to be a fair bit of influence from Uncharted and Prince of Persia given how Cal moves across the area. But there’s plenty here that provides Fallen Order with its own identity, including the lightsaber moves that the Stormtrooper armor is rightfully no match for. There’s an attention to the rules and physicality to world of Star Wars that creates a sense of realism within the world of the game. From the moments you need to use your droid sidekick, BD-1, to the ability to slow down blaster fire or enemy movement, there’s an internal logic that creates a sense of legitimacy and confidence in the project. Most exciting though is how the gameplay and liberal use of force abilities harken back to earlier third-person Star Wars games. I’m not just talking about Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, which also took place after Revenge of the Sith and opened on Kashyyyk. Fallen Order and Cal bring back fond memories of the Star Wars Jedi Knight series, and a hero familiar to many Star Wars gamers of that era: Kyle Katarn. If Star Wars: Fallen Order turns out as great as the gameplay is suggesting it is, Cal Kestis could be the Star Wars gaming hero for a new era.
Star Wars: Fallen Order will be released for the PS4, XBOX ONE, and PC, on Nov. 15, 2019