WARNING: The below contains spoilers for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
The latter months of 2019 truly were a treat for Star Wars fans. Disney+ launched bringing with it the first episodes of The Mandalorian, The Rise of Skywalker finally hit cinemas in December and, to top all of that, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: The Official Black Spire Outpost Cookbook was published (actually, some of the recipes look and sound unbelievable). The year’s end also saw the release of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the first true single-player game in the Star Wars galaxy for the best part of a decade.
Published by Electronic Arts in the wake of the Battlefront II loot box controversy and developed by Respawn Entertainment, the studio behind Apex Legends and Titanfall, the game was released on November 15th, 2019 to considerable critical and fan reception. Upon release, the game received a score of 81 from Metacritic, IGN awarded it 9/10, with GameSpot delivering a rating of 8/10 – factor in over 10 million units were sold and 20 million players having experienced the game, a sequel announcement seemed inevitable.
Alas, on January 25th, 2022 (somewhat later than anticipated), StarWars.com officially announced that EA and Lucasfilm Games were joining forces once again – the next installment in the Star Wars Jedi franchise was officially in production alongside Respawn with returning game director Stig Asmussen at the helm. Cue one very excited Star Wars Sessions co-host in the shape of me.
I’ve made it no secret that I adored Jedi: Fallen Order on many levels. The sheer scope of it is superb and visually the game is stunning. Its placement in the timeline sits in an era that is rich for storytelling – post-Order 66 as the Empire’s grip is suffocating the galaxy and the light seems to have been extinguished. To complement the strong story and visuals, composers Gordy Haab and Stephen Barton captured the tone perfectly with their beautiful, lush, sweeping score. Additionally, the level of detail (and easter eggs!) that was woven into the planets, level design, and Star Wars lore was breathtaking, and the characters that we follow all won me over immediately.
Our protagonist Cal Kestis, a Padawan survivor of Order 66, isn’t a fully-fledged Jedi with a grudge and a lightsaber that craves Imperial blood. No, he’s a survivor. A scared young man hiding from the Empire and the Force itself, one that reconnects with his training the further into the story he goes. Cere Junda, the one time-Jedi, is equally as intriguing as she struggles with the pull to the dark side having given her Padawan, Trilla Suduri, to the Empire under Imperial torture – Trilla would later become the Second Sister, part of Darth Vader’s Inquisitorius, because of Cere’s failure. The gruff, gambling, wise-cracking Lateran pilot Greez Dritus makes up the third member of the Mantis gang before Nightsister Merrin arrives late on to join the team.
Merrin herself has a story not too dissimilar from Cal’s. During the game, she recounts the tale of an armoured warrior brandishing a lightsaber massacring her people (a reference, of course, to General Grievous), and, since that event, has survived in isolation in the hopes of avenging her sisters. The two share a common bond and their connection provides a unique relationship and dynamic within the game and its story. Of course, no Star Wars story is complete without the ubiquitous droid, and, here, we have the wonderfully cute BD-1 to accompany us through the story like a loving hound.
The rogue’s gallery isn’t too shabby either. The aforementioned Second Sister being the main antagonist alongside secondary villains such as the frustratingly difficult Ninth Sister (first seen in issue six of the Darth Vader 2017 comic series), fallen Jedi Taron Malicos, the Haxion Brood syndicate (and Sorc Tormo, baby), the mighty Gorgara of Dathomir, and the ropes that you must swing to but invariably miss and plummet to your doom. It’s clear that a lot of thought and love went into crafting the array of characters in Fallen Order and the game was all the better for it.
A lot of thought and love definitely went into crafting the major moments throughout the game. Simply progressing through the skill tree and feeling more and more like a Jedi as the game thundered on was reason enough to be excited. Heading to Ilum (RIP) and crafting my own lightsaber though?! A DOUBLE lightsaber! Also, being able to choose the colour of my blade? Chef’s kiss. After seeing Cal fall to his lowest low on that planet, having him rise from the icy ashes with this moment was a major fist-pumping moment in the game. Who among us that played this game can say honestly they weren’t gripped by the harrowing Order 66 sequence and the death of Cal’s Master, Jaro Tapal? The growing, cloying dread as the realisation that something awful was about to happen was only hammered home further when ‘Anakin’s Betrayal’ began to blast out in tragic and almost celebratory fashion simultaneously. The devastating themes of loss and failure permeated these scenes in a sadly expert manner…
It’s the themes within the story that provide so much satisfaction for me and help to deliver more than just an OP-romp through a selection of Star Wars’ most-loved planets and characters. Akin to The Last Jedi, Fallen Order’s soul and nucleus revolve around failure. It’s about how the characters respond to their failures, how they evolve from them, and who they become because of them. The story of Fallen Order is one of physical, mythical, and spiritual journeys that also happens to have some jaw-dropping sequences and moments sprinkled in. By the time Darth Vader turned up to provide YouTube reactors with content galore, I was totally committed to the game, the story, and the Mantis crew. I wanted more.
As of this moment, my inner-Kylo Ren rages on as a disappointing lack of Fallen Order tie-in material continues to be the Way. The noticeable lack of figures, collectibles, and models stings more than a headbutt from a disgruntled Phillak.
Where are the S-161 “Stinger” XL luxury yacht models? (aside from admittedly impressive unofficial LEGO builds and 3D printing files). This guy right here would love to give his hard-earned money in exchange for the Mantis on display in my pad. 2019’s Triple Force Friday dropped Black Series and Funko figures of Cal Kestis and the Second Sister, but since then, relative silence. Sure, you can pick up Black Series Nightbrothers, Flame Troopers, and Purge Troopers but, c’mon, where are the figures for the…you know…main characters?
A Nightsister Merrin figure would slay, especially given the increasing popularity of her character in the years since the game’s release. Where’s my Greez? I need that Greezy money adorning my display unit. WHERE’S BD-1? Heck, I’d have the whole Mantis gang on my shelves IF ONLY Hasbro would deliver the goods. Maybe with the release of a sequel we’ll see a deluge of figures and collectibles released, now that the veil of secrecy over those characters has been lifted, surely there is no reason not to produce products to release alongside the sequel?
It’s to the sequel/follow-up where my attention now turns.
Assuming we are still following the fortunes of the Mantis crew – and all signs so far indicate that to be the case – where does the story go from here? The gang achieved their goal of securing the holocron with the information of all Force-sensitive children in the galaxy and then promptly destroyed it, leaving their destiny in the hands of the Force. The final words of the game are spoken by Cal, he simply says, “So, where to now?” – indicating there are more adventures in the future.
So, how do you follow a story that involved a small team trying to REBUILD THE JEDI ORDER? Well, that’s the million-dollar question. What would bringing the Order back achieve at this point in the timeline? Ine has to imagine that Jedi-in-hiding wouldn’t exactly come running to help you thus ensuring the inexperienced Cal would be the leader of the new Order. Could the crew be seeking out other surviving Jedi perhaps? (Not Mace Windu because he’s dead. Sorry.) Possibly Eno Cordova left extra breadcrumbs to chase down? Maybe it’s focused more on collecting further seeds and plants for Greez’s terrarium? (I actively searched and found all of them and felt a huge surge of pride at receiving my Green Thumb trophy)
The most important aspect to consider is Darth Vader will not be happy that a current and former Jedi are alive in the galaxy with both having the sheer temerity to escape him so you have to imagine Vader will be a spectre looming large throughout. Obviously, we know Vader can’t die at this point so would there be any real sense in having him as the big bad? This tantalisingly opens the door for new and existing villains to enter the fray. We never DID see the Ninth Sister die, so there’s already an immediate possibility of a returning baddie. The Second Sister was created specifically for the game so it’s safe to assume that we’ll be seeing a new major antagonist crafted specifically for this story – if they can be half as compelling as Trilla, we’re in for a win.
The character of Merrin could play a pivotal role in the follow-up. She shared a connection with Cal and her delight at his survival after the events on Nur hint that the pair have a close bond. Could there be a possibility that we play as Merrin for a part of the story? Depending on how Jedi-oriented a game titled ‘Star Wars Jedi’ is, the ability to play as a magick wielder could alter the direction and tone up in a refreshing manner. As we, the player, learn more Force sorcery (Forcery?), could we begin to flirt with the dark side? Maybe there lies some of the conflict for the follow-up. We know Cere struggles with the pull to the dark (Vader is all too aware of this too…), now we have Merrin on board as well – for all of her social awkwardness and desire to evolve, there’s a lot of darkness swirling around her…
It bears mentioning also that all of the Mantis gang survived the events of Fallen Order – yes, including that scrape with Vader – and it wouldn’t be out of the realms of possibility to see one or maybe more of the gang meet their end in the follow-up. Are we needing to brace ourselves for some emotional gut punches? If anything happens to Greez, I riot.
Of course, much also depends on when exactly the follow-up story takes place within the canon timeline. Fallen Order took place five years after the events of Revenge of the Sith which leaves fourteen years to explore before we hit A New Hope. That’s a vast amount of time that has been mostly untouched which could lead to some exciting canon revelations leading into the Original Trilogy and also allows for further visual transition from the Prequel era to the classic era. Aaron Contreras, narrative lead on Fallen Order, gave us a superb story the first time around so I have faith that he, alongside the Lucasfilm Story Group, can present us with another engaging and emotional chronicle once again.
In terms of gameplay, I was pretty satisfied with how the game felt and flowed – however, it must be noted that I am very much a casual gamer. I have heard many times that the game takes heavy influence from titles such as Dark Souls, The Legend of Zelda, Bloodborne, and Tomb Raider among others when it comes to combat and level design. I’ve also been reliably informed that all of the aforementioned games perform the borrowed aspects BETTER, though Fallen Order is a stronger game for cherry-picking the strongest elements of these titles and incorporating them together. The combat I found to be smooth and challenging at the same time which is totally OK with me. I want a challenge in my gaming, but I can realistically imagine lead combat designer Jason De Heras tweaking and adding elements to further improve the experience. Additionally, the ability to control and operate vehicles and ships would be a welcome inclusion and a further component in terms of shaking up the gameplay.
Likewise, lead level designer Jeff Magers has the unenviable task of delivering additional interesting planets to sit alongside Bracca, Bogano, Zeffo, Dathomir, and Kashyyyk. Bracca was a busy place compared to the other planets, so I would love to see a more populated location that requires a high level of stealth. I’d hope for another mix of new and existing planets and if the follow-up continues with the non-linear experience, that too will be a bonus. Maybe a cheeky little reconnaissance mission to Coruscant? If they want to continue with the exploration of planets that eventually get destroyed, let’s have an Alderaan level! Too soon…? (Note to Respawn: Don’t give in to the cries for fast travel! The ability to explore en route back to the Mantis was such a cool aspect of the game!)
According to the number one Star Wars insider, Bespin Bulletin, we may see our first glimpses of the follow-up at E3 2022 before further information is released on May 4th and a full trailer debut at Star Wars Celebration which takes place in Anaheim, California between May 26th-29th, 2022.
In a year that provided the first-ever live-action Star Wars series and the finale of the Skywalker Saga, it was Fallen Order that gave me the greatest satisfaction on every level. The possibilities and potential surrounding the Fallen Order follow-up are high and whatever the teams at Respawn, Lucasfilm Games, and EA serve up, I’m of the opinion that it will be on a similar level of quality to Fallen Order. I don’t envy their position, however. With so many incredible moments scattered throughout the first game, it’s hard to see the teams topping that but the Force moves in mysterious ways and maybe, just maybe, we’ll get something even greater. Star Wars does have precedence when it comes to sequels surpassing their predecessors…
What would YOU like to see in the follow-up to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order? Contact us and let us know!