Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is Still a Big, Broken, Beautiful Mess

Fallen Order glitches are alive and well in 2021, but still mostly just funny.

Do you know what happens to a toad when it gets hit by a double-sided, magenta laser sword? The same thing that happens to everything else… It launches 96 straight feet into the air. Half-a-minute later it lands stiffly back on Bogano, the swampy starting planet of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. I stand there waiting for it the whole time, trying not to die of laughter before the alien frog, in turn, kills protagonist Cal Lightsaber Kestis.

I finally got back to Fallen Order, starting over on my very Naboo-like PlayStation 5, after a recent next-gen update. All the glitches I heard about at launch have suffered no disintegrations since, despite the patch. The worst was when I stepped outside an elevator on Dathomir, home world of Darth Maul and Asajj Ventress, into thin air. Cal proceeded to fall through the world which hadn’t fully loaded in yet. Fallen Order uses a Dark Souls and Bloodborne style of manual “bonfire” checkpoints, too. So I lost about 15 minutes of puzzle solving and monster battles past my last save.

Besides that, most of the bugs (and amphibians) land squarely in the comedy category. Enemies get stuck on individual blades of grass, Cal stands on thin air while botching his Jedi jumps, and stormtroopers jitter through reality. It very rarely interferes with the actual experience of playing. Which is still very good, I must say.

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My standards might be low after the unsalvageable debacle that was The Rise of Skywalker. But Respawn Entertainment also has solid history with video game stories featuring vanilla dudes and lovable robots. Titanfall 2 still sports one of the best first-person shooter campaigns of all time. And Fallen Order is much, much bigger — bigger than I thought it would be. Every time I “finished” a planet plucked straight out of Metroid Prime, the game would reveal a new power, effectively doubling the landmass with new areas to explore. Fallen Order only has four full-sized worlds to explore. But each feels unique in how you battle and leap your way through them.

Thanks to the size, there’s also room to rein in the bombast. Fallen Order is full of quiet moments and chances to catch up with your spacefaring crew. Rather than obliterate any kind of subtlety and the very concept of new ideas, like that goddamn movie, it uses supernatural concepts as a launchpad to engage with real-world ideas.

Order 66 is a traumatic childhood memory for Cal. His mentor, Cere, struggles with the “Dark Side” even after closing herself off to the Force — implying there’s no such thing at all, but simply the moral struggles we deal with every day. Life in the Empire, it’s explained, isn’t all that different than under the Republic for people living in the “core worlds.” It’s those on the fringes, living on planets nobody in power has to see or care about, who suffer even more than they did before. Remember how the Jedi were totally fine with slavery even during The Phantom Menace?

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These aren’t new concepts for the franchise. They’re just very poorly foregrounded in the earlier films. Fallen Order uses AAA game length to circle back on them. It looks damn good doing it, too. The next-gen update locks in a stable 60 frames per second. The parry, parry, cauterize combat feels better than ever as a result. And the lived-in feel of the world really shines at higher resolutions — especially in slower scenes of characters sitting down to dinner or sharing emotional burdens. The fabric on Cal’s boring-ass ponchos? It looks better than ever!

Actually, Cal still stands out as the weak link in the game’s narrative. His character is fine, but his nondescript look (seriously, those ponchos…) and a strangely wooden performance from Cameron Monaghan feel more out of place with age. The glitches feel like a consequence of Respawn and EA choosing not to delay a game that needed more time. A potential sequel will hopefully get it right. Bringing back Mr. Lightsaber as the central character is more worrisome.

For the time being, however, the added optimization was a great excuse to spend time with his supporting cast. There’s a real dearth of entirely new games on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X right now. Next-gen updates give me an excuse to use these overpriced boxes I bought (and not sit at my desk playing on PC all day). Warts and all, Jedi: Fallen Order is worth another look.