RELEASED: November 15th 2018
DEVELOPED BY: Respawn
PUBLISHED BY: EA
DIRECTED BY: Stig Asmussen
PROGRAMMED BY: Jiesang Song
WRITTEN BY: Aaron Contreras, Manny Hagopian, Matt Michnovetz & Megan Fausti
ART BY: Ken Feldman & Chris Sutton
MUSIC BY: Stephen Barton & Gordy Haab
While speaking with Game Informer, Fallen Order director Stig Amussen laid out why the story focused around Cal Kestis, as opposed to a female or alien protagonist.
“We talked about different gender. We arrived where we were because at the time, Rey was the thing for Star Wars, and so it made a lot more sense for us to have a male protagonist. Ultimately we didn’t go with an alien race because we felt like – no pun intended – that would alienate a lot of people. We wanted to make sure there was a real human connection to that character we have in the game.”
It’s in these explanations that Asmussen unintentionally highlights what I believe to be the main problem with the game. The focus on avoiding similarities with the movies (which is a poor reason for why more female characters can’t be introduced into Star Wars) and giving the protagonist features that only 11.5% of the global population can relate to avoids the key reason that Cal Kestis is unrelatable. It’s not because he’s Male, Female, Black, White, Asian, Twi’lek or Zabrak. It’s because he has no character.
He’s dull as fuck.
Character’s aren’t relatable solely because of what they look like. That helps, of course, but the main way you make a character relatable is down to giving them relatable personality traits. Make them funny, make them stoic, make them friendly or cruel. Make them something.
Otherwise, you might as well let the player just create their own character.
And I’m not dissing Cameron Monaghan here. This isn’t his fault. At no point does it seem like his acting skills are lesser than that of his co-stars in this game. It’s just that his supporting characters, like Cere, Greez and even the droid BD-1, are far more memorable. I know Cere is a haunted individual who struggles with her waning faith and her past failures. I know Greez is a gambling addict who likes to cook and has a mixed relationship with nature.
As for Cal… he’s a Jedi? Having spent 20+ hours (I don’t actually have any idea how long this game took me) watching his story, I feel like I should have some bearing on him as a person. But instead, the only characters whose personalities I truly remember – who I can relate to – are the supporting cast members.
The focus on Cal holds this game back from greatness, but luckily the world he inhabits is far more interesting.
Fallen Order is a game steeped in Star Wars lore. It goes out of its way to create interesting new planets and races; factions and organisations, flora, fauna and Star Wars history that’s fascinating to delve in to. At times, this game is a real treat for Star Wars fans (although I do occasionally wonder if this game would get as much praise if it wasn’t a Star Wars game).
Furthermore, lightsaber combat can be quite enjoyable when you get into it. While I feel it’s not as strong as games with similar combat like God of War and can occasionally be a tad frustrating, those moments where you really get into the swing of things, clashing lightsabers, makes you feel, as the game intends, like a Jedi (crafting my own yellow-hued lightsaber was also pretty dope, not gonna lie).
It’s just unfortunate that those fights are rather sparse in the actual game, due to the fact that between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, when the game is set, lightsaber users are pretty few and far between for obvious reasons.
The graphics, while a bit touchy at times (I had to change the settings almost straight away because all the dialogue was out of sync with the character’s mouths) are generally quite good. They really bring the epic scale of the various planets to travel to alive, and the designs behind them are glorious. From the moment the game starts, you really feel like you’ve been transported to the ‘Dark Times’ of a Galaxy Far, Far Away… Crashed Venator cruisers on Bracca, the luscious greenery of Kashyyyk and the barren temples of Dathomir all exude that Star Wars feel. It’s just a shame that the game is quite repetitive in its level design (never before have I seen so many places with so many cliffs).
For those wanting to experience an entertaining slice of Star Wars where you control the action, this is definitely worth picking up. However, I feel there are several things that would have benefitted the first single-player only AAA game of the Disney Star Wars era.
Unfortunately, I do feel like such changes would mean this would be a different game. The focus on lightsaber combat seems a bit wasted when the majority of adversaries you fight are just local fauna (it gets rather tiring hacking away at space slugs and space spiders and space frogs if I’m being honest), and a story set in the heydey of the Jedi, where there are potentially more lightsaber foes, would have been perfect. Alternatively, switching perspectives so that you’re playing as one of the Inquisitors who are hunting down Jedi would also be welcome. The Second Sister, the main antagonist of the game, is yet another character who has more personality than Cal.
Which brings me back to my major grievance and other proposed change. Let the player choose their own character, because if you’re not going to give the protagonist any actual character, you might as well just let them be a blank slate for the player to do with as they wish.
The most interesting parts of Cal’s emotional journey don’t come until near the end of the story, and by that point I had become more entertained by seeing him get killed when I made a mistake than I did wanting to learn more about him.
Overall, this is an entertaining game, it’s just held back by the gaping vacuum that is Kestis’ personality.
Either way, I’ll be fair and temper my excessive criticisms of Cal, and say all-in-all, I give Fallen Order: