BD-1 and Cal are on the tutorial planet Bogano. There’s some sort of ruin / temple in the distance, and Cal figures that’s where he’s supposed to go. We get the rest of our tutorials out of the way, fight some local wildlife, and do some extremely gentle puzzles.
These levels are interesting. While the traversal system is very much in the lineage of Prince of Persia / Uncharted / Tomb Raider, this game sets itself apart with its sheer verticality and complexity. The Tomb Raider games usually feature a linear path through an environment. They might branch a bit for cul-de-sacs with secrets, and sometimes you’ll climb up or down, but the main path can usually be visualized in a straightforward manner.
But here in Fallen Order, even the tutorial planet is thick with multi-level layouts and multiple criss-crossing paths. Your goal is supposedly to reach the mystery temple in the distance. At first it looks like you could just walk there. But then you see the entire landscape is sliced into tiny islands by a series of bottomless ravines. To reach the temple in front of you, you’ll need to go down, down, down through various layers of tunnels and narrow catwalks to reach the very bottom, then turn around and climb up a different way. Your path actually zig-zags up and down quite a bit, and more than once I climbed to the top of a cliff and thought, “Wait, I’m way over here? How did I get here without crossing that other path? I thought that slide would take me to that other zipline over there. But then where does this other one go?“
And this is the simplest (although perhaps longest in terms of distance) trip across Bogano. Later in the game we’ll come back here with more abilities unlocked and lots of new branches will be open to us, Metroidvania-style.
It’s not bad. (At least, not yet.) And I really appreciate how the game didn’t feel the need to coddle the player with a too-simple introductory zone.
Also, these constant up-and-down navigation moves serve an additional purpose. Whenever you climb up to ground level again, you’ll find the camera naturally frames yet another spectacular scene for you. Sometimes your ship will be framed in the distance. Or the temple. Or a gorgeous piece of scenery. The game doesn’t do anything crass like grabbing your camera; the angles just work out that way based on where the path leads you. This is clearly deliberate, and shows that the level / gameplay folks were working very closely with the scenery / artwork folks. It’s really impressive.
Anyway, let’s get to that temple…
The Temple of Exposition
Once we’re inside, BD-1 turns on a little holo-recording of Jedi Master Eno Cordova. He apparently recorded this message years ago, before the fall of the Republic. He doesn’t know who is going to see this message, but he assumes that you’re a fellow Jedi. He says he has a holocron – basically a thumb drive that only Jedi can use – that reveals the location of all of the force-sensitive youngsters in the galaxy.
His plan isn’t entirely clear up front, and it’s actually a bit muddled in places where the timeline doesn’t totally make sense, but in broad strokes he plan goes like this:
- Hide the holocron in a temple.
- The temple will be supernaturally(?) locked using a gizmo called an Astrum. So to get MacGuffin #1, you need MacGuffin #2.
- Create a bunch of holo-recordings that will gradually lead some future person through a series of alien tombs. Apparently Cordova went on a temple-hopping pilgrimage across the galaxy, reading old stone tablets of ancient Jedi shit, as you do. At the end of the journey, this future pilgrim will obtain an Astrum.
- Place these recordings into a droid with encrypted memory, so that the droid will only play back these recordings when it’s brought to the correct location.
- Place the droid on the same world where the holocron is hidden.
- Have the droid wait for a Jedi to show up and befriend it and go on the pilgrimage.
So we need to meet a droid to go on a journey to see recordings to find an Astrum to reveal a holocron to discover the identities of a bunch of force-sensitive children. But now that I’m thinking about this too much, are we really looking for kids at this point? Everyone in the story refers to the list as such, even though this would no longer be the case. We don’t know how old the list is, but we do know that it comes from the Republic era because Cordova hid this list based on a premonition of the fall of the Jedi order. That means the list is – at bare minimum – 5 years old, and is possibly several years older than that[How long was it between his premonition, his half-baked scavenger hunt idea, his pilgrimage, and the fall of the Jedi Order?]. I think a majority of these children would be teens by now, but whatever.
This process is supposedly to vet people so that the holocron doesn’t fall into enemy hands, but there’s nothing about this journey that performs any vetting. I don’t see any reason that Darth Vader couldn’t do this just as easily as a Jedi. Is the droid able to tell if you’re a Sith? If so, then the droid itself is the vetting mechanism and the pilgrimage is pointless.
Great plan, Cordova! Travelling to ancient temples and getting inside of them is definitely something a massive galactic Empire with unlimited resources would never be able to pull off! If the holocron can only be opened by Jedi, when why the rest of this faffing about? Is Cordova being an obstructionist jackass for no reason?
And hang on… can’t people hack / brainwash droids in this universe? It seems like getting this holocron would be hardest for a lone Jedi and effortless for the Empire.
All of this comes off as incredibly self-serving on the part of Cordova. He seems to be working from an assumption that there’s something inherently virtuous about his journey. He was really into ancient temples, and so he decided to make you do the same because he thought it would be good for you.
It’s like if I needed to create a test to see who is wise and worthy enough to possess some valuable artifact, so I decide that someone needs to write a 150,000 word book that exhaustively nitpicks every aspect of the Mass Effect series. Obviously I’m a wise and virtuous person, so only someone who is capable of my AMAZING feats of nitpickery is worthy!
This entire line of thinking reveals a lack of humility that borders on narcissism.
The Fallen Order
Having said all that, this setup actually plays into the ideas of nu Star Wars. As the prequels revealed, the Jedi order is comprised of – and entirely run by – a bunch of clowns that are deeply dysfunctionalThe scale on which they got collectively punked by Palpatine is incredibly embarrassing for a group of people that can supposedly see the future. Like, he wasn’t even subtle about it. It’s like he was trying to get them to notice and they couldn’t take the hint., frequently obliviousNot one of you noticed that Anakin Skywalker was a walking time bomb? You don’t even need the Force! Just LOOK at the dude!, morally compromisedQui-Gon Jinn’s never-ending chain of lies, cons, and rash promises., hilariously irresponsibleLet’s have hot young maverick Anakin go off on a holiday to space-Paris with hot young Padme even though it’s forbidden for them to hook up because reasons., and prone to violenceAren’t you people MONKS? When was the last time any of you meditated? How come we only see you stabbing shit? Why is the lightsaber your first answer to every problem?. In Traditional Star Wars, it felt like the fall of the Jedi was like the fading of the Elves in Tolkein’s Middle Earth: Something mysterious, comforting, and magical has left the world. But then Nu Star Wars reveals that it was more like a bunch of smug meddlesome pricks got punked by someone smarter. They’d lost their edge and were coasting on the reputation of their order, and as soon as they got in a real fight they got mowed down like chumps.
I’m not a fan of this idea, but that’s what the lore says. Fallen Order was designed to be consonant with the established universe. I can whine about that lore all day, but making the story fit extant lore is usually far better than throwing away the parts you don’t like so you can tell a different story. I’m going to grumble about it because I’m petty and I like Traditional Star Wars better than Nu Star Wars, but I want to concede that regardless of my feelings, there’s nothing incorrect about portraying the Jedi as a bunch of self-serving dumbasses.
Overthinking The Plan
Still, this is a hell of a convoluted plan, even by dumbass Jedi standards. Really, the whole thing falls apart if the Empire excavates the temple where the holocron is kept. And they might do that anyway in the process of looking for Jedi in hiding. Or they might do it just to be dicks.
Actually, I guess this planet doesn’t appear on any charts, so the Empire will never come hereWe’ll find out later this isn’t true, but that just opens up ANOTHER line of questions we don’t have time for right now. We’ll come back to this much later in the series.? But then why have all of these extra steps that involve going to other worlds? If only Jedi know about this world and only Jedi can read HolocronsActually, I suspect that any force user can read them, not just Jedi., then that should be more than enough security to keep these secrets safe. These extra steps about going on a pilgrimage just increase the risk of exposure. Really, the LAST thing anyone should do is embark on an adventure with BD-1 in tow, because he’s the one with all the secrets hidden in his databanks. He’s one good hack from telling the Empire everything.
Of course, this is a very trope-heavy plot. We’ve got your classic MacGuffin Hunt, which takes the form of visiting a bunch of planets to find clues. Star Wars is basically one big Movie Trope Extended Remix ft. Joseph Campbell, so you can’t fault any of this as being off-brand. In fact, the opposite might be true. I don’t know if it’s possible for a story to be too Star Wars-y, but if it is, then this game is guilty of it. The writer is clearly working hard to fill in their great big bingo card of Star Wars references, tropes, and plot devices.
So now we have a couple of leads. We can go to the planet Zeffo, which was the homeworld of the lost civilization that built these particular ruins, or we can go to Dathomir, which is some sort of spooky Dark Side place. Zeffo is the easier of the two planets, and the game gently suggests that’s the best place to start, so that’s where we’re headed next.
(Also, this is actually a false choice because Dathomir is a bit of a dead-end until we unlock a new power later in the story.)
There’s an important thing to note here about how we move from planet to planet. SWJFO is the first game since the original Mass Effect in 2007 to feature spatial continuity between planets. You can walk aboard your ship, choose a destination, take off, fly across the galaxy, land on a new world, and walk back down the gangplank onto the surface, all without losing control of our protagonist, going through a visible loading screen, or having your avatar abruptly change position. There’s usually a brief cut-away shot as we arrive at the new worldJust like the little Mass Effect animations where the Normandy flies through a relay., but when we cut back Cal is right where we left him.
The ship isn’t a pocket dimension hiding inside of a loading screen, and the ship doesn’t teleport from the surface of one planet to another behind a canned video. It really feels like you’re boarding a ship and leaving the planet.
I don’t know if anyone else cares about this, but I appreciate it so much. I can’t believe we had to wait 13 years for another game to pull this off.
 The scale on which they got collectively punked by Palpatine is incredibly embarrassing for a group of people that can supposedly see the future. Like, he wasn’t even subtle about it. It’s like he was trying to get them to notice and they couldn’t take the hint.
 Not one of you noticed that Anakin Skywalker was a walking time bomb? You don’t even need the Force! Just LOOK at the dude!
 Qui-Gon Jinn’s never-ending chain of lies, cons, and rash promises.
 Let’s have hot young maverick Anakin go off on a holiday to space-Paris with hot young Padme even though it’s forbidden for them to hook up because reasons.
 Aren’t you people MONKS? When was the last time any of you meditated? How come we only see you stabbing shit? Why is the lightsaber your first answer to every problem?
 We’ll find out later this isn’t true, but that just opens up ANOTHER line of questions we don’t have time for right now. We’ll come back to this much later in the series.
 Actually, I suspect that any force user can read them, not just Jedi.
 Just like the little Mass Effect animations where the Normandy flies through a relay.
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