The Jedi Order has been destroyed. Five years after the Jedi purge, the few that still remain with the ability to use the force are in hiding or on the run from he Empire and their specialist: the Inquisitor. Former Jedi padawan Cal Kestis is in hiding, working in a junkyard on the planet Bracca. After a series of some unfortunate events unfold, Cal is uncovered and has to run for his life. Incredibly, he is rescued from death at the hands of the Inquisitor’s Second Sister by two new friends: Cere Junda (a human) and Greez Dritus (a Latero). Flying off planet aboard Greez’s ship, the Mantis, Cere tells Cal that she is a former Jedi and knew his Master, Jaro Tapal. She is counting on Cal to be the one to rebuild the Jedi order.
These are the stakes weighing on players as they begin their journey with the video game Jedi Fallen Order. The game borrows heavily from other popular titles such as Tomb Raider, Uncharted and even Zelda. Throughout the story, players are able to explore different planets, uncovering secret artifacts, memories and even tombs. Each world has its own aesthetic whether it be the jungle world of Kashyyyk or the barren, haunting wastelands of Dathomir. In the effort to reconnect Cal with the force, and thus gain more abilities, the game sets out challenges and puzzle to figure out- very much like other adventure games. While this may not be a new concept- it certainly is for a Star Wars game. To experience this universe in a slightly different way as opposed to just direct action and fighting the entire time, it allows players to feel like they are experiencing each world along with Cal instead of just taking a quick trip through it. Players can also upgrade and customize their lightsabers and abilities, which adds a level of personalization to the game. The tombs are a surprising treat, as it makes you feel as if you are discovering unknown corners of the Star Wars universe and traveling through ancient ruins.
The characters in the game all feel real, weathered, and have enough charm and mystery about them that you come away from each cut-scene wanting to devour any additional material that involves them. It’s worth noting that despite having yet another white male protagonist lead the story, having a black female as the face of a former Jedi who is essential to the story is very important. Cere Junda acts not only as a mentor, but as a driving force. If not for her involvement, Cal would have been killed or imprisoned by the Empire at the start of the game. She’s also the one who is determined to rebuild the Jedi order and fight back against the Empire. Her pain is raw and buried right beneath the surface. The fact that she has cut herself off from the force seems like an even more bittersweet and painful decision. It’s a part of who she is that she has chosen to walk away from. This makes it a big deal that she tells Cal to do the opposite of what she did and open up to the force even more. It’s no surprise she was given a prequel comic- Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order–Dark Temple.
Players also get to meet a Nightsister named Merrin, who discusses many of the losses she’s suffered. This includes a fellow Nightsister named Ilyana whom she was in love with, and hoped to one day be in a relationship with. While Cal does not react to her story with any kind of surprise, (which says a lot about what the writers of the game’s script are trying to say about the galaxy’s inclusiveness), his exchange with Merrin later in the game is worth noting. Realizing Cal’s quest to bring back the Jedi order, Merrin laments that though she is happy for him, nothing will bring back her people. This loss is not only that of a life and home but of the love of her life. The subtext is laid in their dialogue to show that Merrin is struggling with the sense of belonging that she had with the woman she loved- Ilyana. This is uncharted territory for the Star Wars universe which has barely had any LGBTQ representation. There have been few major characters within the novels of the new canon and most notably, Dr. Aphra, in Marvel Comics Star Wars titles, but none outright on screen. Cal’s chooses to share the story of his loss when the Jedi purge occurred, and how he locked himself away from connecting with other people. He offers Merrin some advice that was given to him: “A very good friend of mine told me to go out and find my place in the galaxy.” This is an incredibly important scene, especially for LGBTQ fans. It lets them know two things: That they have a place in the galaxy, and that it’s waiting for them. He adds that life has a funny way of forcing you on your path anyway- a path forward.
In terms of game-play, the game struggles with some mechanics issues while adjusting to the controls. While it’s fun to make Cal slide down a mountain, it’s also far too easy to fall off the side and die. Repeatedly. This carries into jumping for a rope or vine, attempting to reach a platform, or even some of the combat. Perhaps the controls and game-play are not as intuitive because the developer—Respawn Entertainment- wanted to set it apart from other Star Wars games. They definitely succeeded with that goal, even if it feels like other games that have been popular. Once the player adjusts to the type of game they are playing, however, it becomes a fun, mysterious, and often surprising journey through a galaxy far, far away.