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What are your thoughts on Star Wars: Fallen Order. (Gaming)

by Ragashingo ⌂ @, Official DBO Cryptarch, Friday, November 22, 2019, 21:16 (20 days ago) @ INSANEdrive
edited by Ragashingo, Friday, November 22, 2019, 22:01

A few thoughts from me, if you'll have them...

This game doesn't rise up into my best of the best list. It quite doesn't really reach the level of near perfection in combat or story that God of War did. It doesn't have the daringly, stunningly different visual style of Control. It doesn't have the amazing performance capture or emotion of Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. But I like it a lot.

What it does have is:

Very solid gameplay.

This is a Star Wars game in which you play a Jedi. You have your lightsaber as your primary weapon. You have force powers as supplements to turn the tied of a battle. And that's it. This isn't Jedi Knight II / III where sometimes the best option is to blast things with a Wookiee Bowcaster. You never once touch a gun in this game. And that's fine.

The basic combat loop is based on parrying and attacking with your lightsaber, and that loop is very good. The most basic enemy, a Stormtrooper holding a blaster, is almost no threat at all alone. You can very easily just block his shots as you walk up to him and kill him with a single swipe. Or you can easily hit block at the right time and reflect his blaster bolt back at him to kill him. But then you come across Scout Troopers with their electro staffs (like the one Finn took on in The Force Awakens). These guys you can sometimes catch off guard and kill in a single hit, but more often they will block your attack and try to counter attack. But you can block too. The game is set up around watching enemy animations and parrying or attacking at the right times. The animations are very well done with good attack tells and periods of vulnerability. For a Scout Trooper, a single parry and attack is often all it takes to kill them, often with a nice bit of added animation where you might kick them first, or flip over their backs or one of a few other things.

So, the game expands and expands on that. One Stormtrooper or Scout Trooper alone is basically not a threat. But, go up against two of each in a single space and now you're worrying about blocking melee attacks while avoiding fire from blasters. If you just block the melee attacks you might leave yourself open for hits from the ranged units. And you can't generally afford to block the blaster shots back at the ranged units because the melee units disrupt your timing. The game builds on that basic conundrum in a lot of fun ways. There's a wide variety of enemies (far more than just imperial troopers) some of which have multiple attacks or unblockable special attacks that need to be sidestepped or dodged. For tougher enemies, parrying them and attacking them depletes their defensive stamina which eventually gives you a more solid opening to get in good hits. Most enemies still go down with two to four solid lightsaber strikes, so the challenge is figuring out the best ways to defend yourself until you can attack an opening all while dealing with good mixtures of enemy melee and ranged units. Sometimes that means picking off enemies one by one when you can. Sometimes it means using a special attack to take out multiple enemies at once. There’s a fair amount of variety to the encounters that keeps you one your toes.

Force powers help. You can slow down enemies leaving them wide open to attack. You can throw them or pull them both of which can lead to neat attack opportunities. There are also a variety of force-assisted special moves. Powerful overhead swings. Unnaturally fast dash attacks. Flashy, twirly lightsaber combos. You don't start with all your force powers at once, but as you gain them and upgrade them you can use them to really alter the dynamics of a battle. Like, with the right upgrades, you can pull a bunch of enemies in close to you and then cut them all down with a lightsaber throw that hits everyone in a small circle around you. There are other neat combos too that come from combining force powers with each other or your lightsaber.

What all this means is you can’t just wade into a battle and button mash your way to victory. You have a decent amount of health, and can carry two (and later more) health stims that give you back ~40% of your health, and you can rest at save points scattered throughout a location to get your health and stims back, but you generally need to get through individual encounters without soaking up too much damage because you might find yourself in a battle of attrition as you try to get to the next save point. Or, you might find yourself low on health and stims when you come across an unexpected higher level unit blocking your path. It's a game that fights fair by having all the enemies have predictable, learnable patterns of attack, and a game that gives you ample tools to feel awesome fighting with you chaining attacks, and parries, and force powers together, but it's also a game that rewards you for getting things right and can punish you for button mashing or slip-ups. Some standard enemies have special attacks that can deplete half your health before they allow you to break free or block, for instance.

There are a few boss battles which can feel very punishing the first time around. I died quite a bit on my first play through while repeating multiple boss battles several times. I eventually dropped the level down to very easy (the story mode). But, it’s also the kind of game that you really can get better at. I was surprised during my second play through that I was able to beat every boss the first time on the normal difficulty. Learning that parrying attacks is more important than attacking your enemy helped me a lot, but just becoming better at the game felt very natural too and the difference in my skill was rewarded perhaps better than most games I’ve played. The boss battles themselves are very well done. They are flashy and strategic and require you to use a variety of skills. They are also well integrated into the story sometimes in clever ways that you won’t expect.

The other part of the gameplay is transversing the levels in a sort of Tomb Raider / Uncharted type way. You do a lot of hanging and climbing. You do some minor jumping puzzles and occasionally use your force powers (the time slow one in particular) to bypass obstacles. The levels are fairly big and there are several shortcuts you can open for yourself (like unlocking a door from the other side once you go the long way around) that reward you for paying attention. Transversing the levels isn’t super hard, and there’s perhaps not really enough to discover, but there were also times where I was impressed by how much there was to explore off the main story path. The only disappointment I had with exploring was that there is no particular in-game reward for doing so. Mostly, you get new patterns for your lightsaber or your ship or your clothes. But there are no special or upgraded abilities to find like the recent Tomb Raider games gave you for completing a tomb. I think this game could have used that.

Very Solid Story

The game tells a surprisingly good Star Wars story. It’s nothing crazy or really even unexpected, but it is true to Star Wars’ classic ideals of light vs dark, and of anger vs redemption. The game is set a few years after the end of Episode III. The main character is sorta a Luke Skywalker-ish Jedi in training who was forced into hiding after Order 66 saw most every other Jedi killed. You are discovered very early on by the Empire who immediately tires to kill you but are rescued by a small ship with a small crew who give you an intriguing task to help rebuild the Jedi order. The main character by himself isn’t super interesting, but his story and the way it aligns with the ongoing stories of the secondary characters and the main villain of the game is, again, surprisingly good. I wouldn’t say the story is clever, exactly, but it is self-aware and even gets around to asking if the task you have been given is even the right thing to do, which I found refreshing.

I think the best compliment I can give the story, is it is one of the few Star Wars stories that I felt really, actually belongs. I love A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. I thought Rogue One was very good but with some notable flaws. I like The Force Awakens. But the rest of Star Wars I could basically do without. The Last Jedi has some very good moments and ideas but also some very bad ones and overall kinda felt like a disrespectful slap in the face in a lot of ways. Solo was all around mediocre and not worth its ticket price, in my opinion. Episodes I, II, and III are just straight up not good on all levels. So when I say this story was solid. When I say that it felt like Star Wars. When I say I think it really belongs. I’m basically saying this game got things right where I think Star Wars for the past couple of decades has been getting things very wrong more often than not.

Overall

The game is not super long, somewhere between 10 and 20 hours, perhaps, and it doesn’t appear there will ever be more story or any kind of DLC, but the gameplay is engaging, the story is strong, and the visuals are very good with good use of effects and some vistas and skyboxes that rival Bungie’s best work on Halo and Destiny. I kinda feel like the game isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Perhaps it came out at a bad time. Perhaps it not having any one piece that is particularly mind blowing has fooled reviews and players into thinking it should be skipped. But, to me at least, aside from some frame rate issues here and there (but zero crashes on my end) the game rates a very solid 8 out of 10. And, since it is a Star Wars property backed by EA who has had a terrible track record with Star Wars games as of late (either canceling them or filling them with loot box insanity), I almost give it a 9/10 on principle alone.


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