Five Reasons to be optimistic about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
We know very little about Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order other than the title, its setting (between Episodes III and IV), and the fact that it’s a story-focused singled player game. But those three little tidbits are enough for me to get hyped about it. Let me explain!
I am a huge Titanfall fan. Moreso than any other game, Titanfall nails dual scale combat. There are many ways for the enormous robotic Titans and human Pilots to interact. Titans can stomp and punch Pilots to death, Pilots can rodeo Titans, Pilots can fire lock-on artillery-style weaponry at Titans, Titans can spout electric smoke to fry Pilots, the list goes on. These two scales of combat are very different, but they interact in deeply compelling ways. Battlefront 2, despite being a generally well-done game, had very little interaction between vehicles (particularly starfighters and AT-ATs) and ground troops. It was a tremendous missed opportunity, especially considering how many battles in the Star Wars universe take place on multiple scales.
Titanfall and Titanfall 2’s amazing dual scale combat combined with the fact that SWJFO will be a single player game, I’m hoping we can look forward to some terrific and cinematic combat scenes.
Also, Respawn has a terrific record for single player experiences. The last time CoD had a compelling single player story was Modern Warfare 2, before Jason West and Vince Zampella’s departure from Infinity Ward. And while the original Titanfall’s sorta-single player campaign left something to be desired, it was still an interesting, boundary-pushing experiment in combining multi- and single player experiences. Titanfall 2’s story took things in an entirely different direction and utilized a great time-jumping mechanic that created interesting puzzles and reflex challenges. This kind of stuff makes the most out of the possibilities of a single player game, and I can’t wait to see how Respawn might use their innovation and imagination in the Star Wars universe.
The multiplayer action market is vastly oversaturated with certain kinds of shooters right now. Overwatch, Fortnite, PUBG, Call of Duty, Battlefield, etc. Battle royale is the latest bandwagon that everyone is jumping on with their me-too releases that are almost certainly going to lose money and destroy studios in the process. By developing a single-player story-oriented experience, SWJFO is avoiding this trap.
They aren’t releasing an also-ran shooter - they’re releasing something that only they can offer - a brand new story in the Star Wars universe. This is what gamers want to see, and more importantly, this is the kind of thing that will keep studios solvent, developers employed, and the industry healthy. Note: I’m not claiming that this is some out-of-the-box thinking - we’ve been playing story-oriented Star Wars games for decades (Dark Forces, anyone??). But a refusal to play the me-too game is a good sign.
Themes and Story
SWJFO takes place between Episodes III and IV, which is perhaps the darkest time for the Star Wars universe. The Old Republic has been usurped by a ferocious Empire, whose power is only growing. The Jedi have been nearly exterminated, and whatever hope that our young padawan had for his/her future has been utterly dashed. You’re not a shining hero, helping keep peace in a grateful galaxy. You’re a terrified refugee, on the run from a government that wants you dead. In an age of resurgent fascism and open bigotry, this is a Star Wars story for right now.
From an in-universe point of view, there’s a long gap between these two episodes, giving the game writers a lot of latitude to invent new heroes, companions, villains, and problems. This is a large canvas upon which to paint, as opposed to something like Shadows of the Empire, which takes place during the fifteen minutes between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
You get to be a Jedi
Some of the best game experiences in the Star Wars universe involved playing as the Jedi. It’s a perfect fit for the progression systems of a video game. Did you level up? Time to buy some more Force powers, son! The setting has built-in reasons for you to manifest new powers at any time - hey, you’re just letting the Force guide you, man! Being a Jedi also means that you get a chance to wield a lightsaber, use Force powers, fire blasters, and engage in vehicle combat - all core parts of the Star Wars experience!
And the Star Wars universe is one of the few IPs wherein I will accept a somewhat simplistic, dichotomous morality system with a minimum of complaining and philosophical finger wagging.
Minimal EA Intrusion
While Titanfall 2 did have some microtransactions, they were generally aesthetic and not pay-to-win. You could pay to unlock weapons and gear early or you could just play the game and unlock it via progression, and it wasn’t disruptive to the core game experience. While Respawn hasn’t been totally immune to EA’s forceful hand, it seems to have resisted it better than Criterion and DICE did during the whole SWB2 debacle. I’m hoping that continues, and EA lets Respawn do what it does best.
It looks like 2019 will be a good year for Star Wars fans, with a new core timeline film and a single-player video game to boot!