In addition to the gameplay released by EA last night during EA Play, Respawn also played a 30-minute demonstration of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order to the journalists present at the event; we were there and here’s what we saw!
The story of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is set after the fateful Order 66 of the Emperor Palpatine, which started the extermination of the Jedi. In a galaxy now tightly clutched by the Emperor, the very few remaining Jedi have gone underground. The protagonist of the game, Cal Kestis, is a Padawan, or an apprentice not yet reached the level of Jedi master. The young man is forced to hide from the Empire and earns his living in the outer ring as a resource collector, until his powers of strength are discovered forcing him to escape again.
The demo shown by the developers takes place on Kashyyyk, the home planet of the Wookie. Cal, for a reason unknown to us, finds himself immersed in a lake with his robotic partner BD-1, not far from a couple of AT-ATs that are attacking a rebel base. A few strokes and the young Padawan finally finds himself being able to climb on one of these gigantic armored vehicles, with movements that closely resemble the climbing sequences of Uncharted and Tomb Raider. Taking advantage of the algae that got caught in the middle, Cal quickly reaches the top, ready to stop the car. A short fight with the lightsaber, and the boy is quickly right about the soldiers inside the vehicle, leaving it completely at his disposal. Cal then decides to turn the Empire’s weapons against himself, eliminating another AT-AT still struggling with combat.
In a short time Cal arrives at a building where he meets one of the rebels, who catapults onto the porthole of the vehicle. It’s Saw Gerrera, a name known to Star Wars fans because it’s Jyn Erso’s mentor in Star Wars: Rogue One. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order’s Saw is more fit than what we saw in Rogue One, as the events of the game are prior to the film. Saw sees Cal as a valuable ally and urges him to continue up the valley to eliminate all the outposts of the Empire.
This extremely exhilarating and visually very successful game sequence has left us with some perplexity in terms of interaction in the game. It’s not clear if the game will allow you to conduct the AT-AT at will or if we can just fire: the movements of the vehicle in the demo were too perfect (but maybe it’s a demo repeated endlessly by the developer of Respawn). Soon there are no more enemies but the clash between the AT-AT of Cal and an enemy spacecraft results in a draw: the shuttle is destroyed but falling ends up against the means of Cal that is irreparably destroyed. Again on foot we meet with Saw and a couple of characters who seem to be part of Cal’s group. The young man is looking for a wookie leader, whom the guerrillas reveal to be a prisoner of the empire.
After being slow to talk with some characters that wander in the imperial base conquered we move on to action, but not before appreciating good animations and pleasant lighting effects on the armor of Saw and the other characters on the scene. Cal finally enters the enemy base, soon discovering that the road is blocked. Despite the abilities of the BD-1 robot, the little droid is not able to open the way; fortunately, not far away is what we need to enhance their capabilities. After consulting a holographic map, provided by BD-1, Cal heads to a room not far from the locked corridor. As soon as he comes forward, however, a giant insect attacks the padawan, testing his skills with the lightsaber between contact and distance attacks with sticky cobwebs. For the first time we see Cal’s powers in action: the boy can attract enemies with the Force at a distance to hit them or to throw them at other enemies. In short, the fight ends and BD-1 is enhanced with the power “Droid Overcharge”: the ability to provide power to systems and mechanisms.
Returning back, Cal can finally continue. A little further on we find the rebels who have located the captive wookie. While the bulk of the guerrillas will attract attention, it will be up to Cal to enter the prison and release the prisoners. Again, Cal uses force to break through a metal door to finally get to the imperial refinery used as a prison. As soon as they enter, some Storm Troopers attack with blasters, whose shots are effectively sent back to the sender by the protagonist’s lightsaber. Then begins a close battle: although you see 4 or 5 on the screen we notice that no more than two attack the player, while the others are content to stand aside, waiting for their turn (a mechanism perhaps still to be improved by Respawn). The combat system still seems fluid and has its own elegance, including shots fired with the lightsaber (which can be fired at an enemy) and use of force to push or launch enemies.
After the fight we notice a notification that announces to the player that a skill point has been earned, which can then be used to improve the characteristics of the character. A little further on, the fight resumes with an Imperial Elite Guard equipped with an energy stick. It’s a much tougher enemy, requiring the developer at the controls to use dodges and wait for the opening to attack (highlighted by a red aura around the enemy). A new power is shown to us: slowing down the enemy. In practice, Cal is able to slow down the movements of enemies and objects around him for a short time, so as to take advantage. The fight however sees Cal as the winner even if wounded. Fortunately, BD-1 seems to be able to provide healing items, so the adventure can continue.
Finally we get close to the goal but there are still imperial soldiers, some armed with flamethrowers. We note, however, that the soldiers are busy attacking a group of insects, not as big as the spider encountered before but still able to put men in trouble. Cal takes advantage of the chaos to launch himself into the fight, eliminating first the soldiers and then ending the insects. Probably it’s a scripted scene, so it won’t be possible to wait for the soldiers to be systematically liquidated by the local fauna, but in any case it seemed to us a good demonstration of the potential variety of situations that we will find ourselves in front of. We’re almost there: a short platform section on moving objects and a wall-run that seems taken directly from Titanfall takes us in a nutshell to the prison where the Wookie are held. The demo ends with a droid, very similar to Rogue One’s K-2SO, which attacks Cal intent on freeing the prisoners, in the most classic of cliffhangers.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order seemed to me a title with good potential even if, perhaps, a little too anonymous. There were no spectacularly exciting moments even if there were several not bad. The gameplay looks like a mixture of Titanfall, Tomb Raider and The Power of Force, but it’s very difficult to assess without actually playing in the first person. Visually very successful, the success of this game will, in my opinion, be dictated by the strength of its characters and the history of the game. Expectations are high because Respawn has been able to do great things with Titanfall 2 from a narrative point of view. We’ll see!