We arrive on the spook-world of Dathomir. In the past I’ve said that SWJFO has a little Dark Souls in its veins. This place is the most Dark Soulsian location in the whole game. The enemies here are a little trickier and a little less forgiving in their attack patterns. The place is all mournful ruins, knotted roots, giant spiders, bones, and dust. Also the place is wall-to-wall with empty pottery that you can smash for no reason.
I’m not saying this part of the game plays exactly like Dark Souls. I’m just saying this is as close as it gets, in terms of trickier foes, the atmosphere, and general pacing.
So let’s talk a little more about the combat in this game. And to do that, let me introduce you to…
This Friggin’ Guy
This guy. This guy is a total bastard.
I wasn’t particularly comfortable with the combat in this game. Aside from my fondness for the Batman series, I don’t really play many games focused around third-person melee combat. I kinda missed the whole God of War craze, I didn’t play For Honor, and as I’ve said before I haven’t played more than an hour or so of Dark Souls.
I’m more of a shooter guy. Which means I don’t really have a broad perspective on this style of game and I can’t judge the execution of SWJFO as it compares to its contemporaries. So below is my reaction as someone who is still getting a feel for this genre.
I thought I had this game pretty well figured out by the time I reached Dathomir. Enemies tend to block head-on attacks. If you’re opening the fight, then you’ve got a few options for various lunge or leap attacks that don’t get blocked. If your target is a low-tier foe then this will usually kill them outright. However, you’re usually fighting groups of people. So once you’ve landed that first big hit for free, you need to settle down and duel your foes properly.
Since everyone is always holding the block button, your best option is to wait for your foe to attack and then block them. If you get the timing juuust rightOr if you’re playing on easy and you’ve lightly brushed the block button at sometime in the last three minutes., then you’ll parry their attack. This will cause them to visibly stagger for a second, allowing you to riposte. If you feel greedy, then maybe you’ll throw in a few extra hits on the end of that while their guard is down.
In any case, that’s the general rhythm: Wait to be attacked, parry, riposteAgainst storm troopers, a riposte is usually an insta-kill with a fancy finishing animation., and move on to the next enemy. If they use a power attackThey helpfully glow red during the wind-up to telegraph this. then you need to move out of the way or – if you’re feeling greedy – try to finish them before the attack lands. Try to maneuver around so you don’t get surrounded, and if your health gets low then dodge away and take a healing stim. As I understand it, this is all pretty standard for the genre.
So I figured this was a game about well-timed counterattacks.
Until I met this freak.
When you parry him, he seems to get staggered very hard. His arm bounces off of your lightsaberShrug. Whatever. and he even turns his back to you for a moment. Based on everything the game had taught me up to this point, I figure the game was saying, “NOW. STAB HIM IN THE BACK!” It seemed kinda obvious.
But then I’d hit the attack button and instead of hitting him, he’d hit ME.
What? What is this bullshit? I hit the attack button! I know I did!
I figured maybe I was too slow. So I tried again, and again, and again, changing up the timing and trying to figure out why hitting the attack button on a stunned enemy got me knocked on my ass.
This guy packs a huge punch. Unless you’ve been stacking health upgrades, this guy can kill you in two hits. I eventually gave up on that and tried rolling away, but his reach is so long that he’d often tag me anyway. This was infuriating. I’d parry him, and my reward was getting slammed with a (seemingly) unavoidable follow-up.
I spent a long time getting pancaked by this guy and swearing at my monitor. Mercifully, he’s right outside of your ship, so you don’t have a long hike for a rematch.
Shamus! You don’t even need to fight him. You can just run past him!
Yes, I did realize that. But then what if it turns out I have to fight one of these guys later on? What if I end up facing a boss version of this thing? Skipping hard fights seems unwise because the game is probably having you fight this thing for a reason.
Eventually I realized that you just can’t attack in these situations. Despite him being ostensibly staggered and having his back to you, and despite the rest of the game teaching you to attack staggered foes, that’s not what you do here. His “stagger” animation is apparently an uninterruptible wind-up for an even bigger attack. If you parry the second oneThe timing is different from the first, so it takes a little trial-and-error to discover and master the timing., then he does it yet again. If you parry the third one, then you get a quicktime prompt to insta-kill him.
So he feels like he’s cheating according to the rules of the game thus far, but once you know the trick he becomes completely trivial.
(The other way to beat him is to play hit-and-run. Lunge at him, nail him once, and then dive away from his counter-attack. This is very slow, a bit fiddly, and his long reach means you’ll probably take a couple big hits in the process. It’ll cost you a stim or two, but you’ll get him eventually.)
Maybe this sort of thing is normal in these kinds of games, but as a newcomer I found it frustrating, bewildering, and unfair. If the run-back to this guy had been longer, I would have ditched the game right here and never touched it again. Even with the short-ish run-back, I was boiling mad by the time I figured it out. And even then, I never got any satisfaction out of beating him. To me it feels like he cheats until I can beat him with an exploit. The whole thing was a miserable ordeal.
It doesn’t help that this thing is just massively more powerful than all of the other non-bosses in the game. He’s faster. He hits harder. His range is immense. His attack pattern is visually misleading and counter-intuitive. I feel like maybe some of these advantages could have been spread around a bit to the other foes, rather than stacking them all on a single guy.
Aside from this thing and a couple of other rare enemies, I eventually got to the point where I enjoyed the SWJFO combat. Nailing the parry timing feels pretty great. Getting through a me vs. 5 fight without taking a scratch was always good for a blast of dopamine. I loved fighting the various flavors of purge troopers, and the whole thing looks very sleek.
But still. Foes like this are what keeps me from really enjoying this genre. It feels unfair when he interrupts my counterattack, and it feels like I’m cheating when I use the intended strategy to beat him.
Dathomir is apparently run by the Nightsisters. They use the Force, but they’re not Jedi or Sith. Stylistically, their magic feels more like witchcraft than the Force, but whatever. The head Nightsister shows up and tells Cal to leave. He tries to explain, but she interrupts his pitch by summoning a couple of mooks. This conflict is mostly her fault for not listening, but I really want to dump a little of the blame on Cal for being so bad at explaining himself.
In any case, I feel like Cal was being a dick for sticking around once it became clear he was trespassing. She gave him ample time to back off. He could have accepted “no” for an answer and returned to the ship to make new plans with the others. But instead he sort of shrugs and begins carving his way through the locals.
See, this is where I just can’t stand the goofball morality of the Nu Force. Doing something while you’re angry is apparently this terrible sin, but trespassing and killing the locals who try to stop you is apparently fine. In my thinking, this ought to be an extremely Dark Side move, but nobody involved seems to regard it as such. According to the morality of Nu Star Wars, Cal would fall to the Dark Side if he were to throttle a Stormtrooper in a fit of rage, but chopping up natives defending their property is apparently okay as long as you don’t get too angry about it?
Yeah, yeah. It’s more about emotion and less about morality. I get it. But then people act like using the Dark Side is an act of unmitigated evil. This entire interpretation muddles the elemental good vs. evil idea the originals were based on. I know a lot of folks find the original moral simplicity to be off-puttingFans of KOTOR II in particular appreciate that title’s more nuanced view of the Force but I don’t think this moral incoherence is better than the black and white simplicity of the original.
I’ll pull at this thread again later in the story. For now let’s skip past the next stretch of parkour and murders to get to the end…
We meet a wild-eyed guy in a dark robe. He looks like a Sith Lord by way of Charls Manson, he’s got a creepy half-crazed hobo laugh, and he speaks in riddles. I don’t know if the writer could make him more obviously evil without just giving him a T-shirt that says, “ASK ME ABOUT THE DARK SIDE.” We have a little conversation with him that goes nowhere, and then Cal decides to ignore him.
Hobo guy mentions the Nightsister Cal met earlier. He says she was only a child “…when the war came to this world.” But wait, the purge was only 5 years ago, and the Nightsister is clearly more than 5 years out of childhood. Is this guy talking about the Clone Wars, or is this another case of the writer getting confused about how much time has passed between Order 66 and now? I suppose he could be talking about the Clone Wars. I know I’m often missing bits of context because I never watched the animated Clone Wars series.
Anyway, I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that we’ll encounter this guy again later in the story. For now let’s move on…
If at First You Don’t Succeed, Quit
We’re clearly supposed to cross a large bridge to the ruin in the distance, but there are gaps where parts of the bridge are missing. At this point in the game Cal can’t quite make the jumpThere’s a platform below the bridge, so you don’t plummet into the abyss when you come up short., so he shrugs and decides they’ll have to look elsewhere.
This is hilarious. Like, he’s less than a meter short. I understand that he’s lost some of his connection to the Force, but he supposedly knows how to use ROPE, right? A box? Maybe see if Darth Hobo will give you a boost? No? You flew across the galaxy to see this place but you’re going to give up because you’re half a meter short?
Of course, this sort of thing is incredibly common in Metroidvania games. I think the reason it sticks out here is because:
- The game is fairly photorealistic. This feels more like a movie than a cartoon, so having a planet-hopping hero give up because they’re a half meter short seems absurd. Dude! You came here in a SPACESHIP and we’ve already established you can jump out and survive arbitrarily long falls. Crossing a gap is not an obstacle for you!
- We already know we need to cross this gap. In other games, it’s not a big deal that you can’t enter the Red Castle until you find the Red Key, because you don’t currently need anything (that you know of) in the Red Castle. Batman unlocks gear when he needs it according to the story, and it makes sense that he wouldn’t want to lug around extra gear if he doesn’t currently need it. But here we clearly need to cross the bridge, and it seems like overcoming this obstacle ought to be fairly trivial for Cal.
It’s not a big deal. I just found it amusing when juxtaposed with his earlier tenacity. His mission is so important that he can’t give up, even if it means cutting down a few dozen natives, but then there’s a big gap and he just shrugs and quits.
Anyway, that’s all we can do on Dathomir for now. Next up we’re heading back to Zeffo.
 Or if you’re playing on easy and you’ve lightly brushed the block button at sometime in the last three minutes.
 Against storm troopers, a riposte is usually an insta-kill with a fancy finishing animation.
 They helpfully glow red during the wind-up to telegraph this.
 Shrug. Whatever.
 The timing is different from the first, so it takes a little trial-and-error to discover and master the timing.
 Fans of KOTOR II in particular appreciate that title’s more nuanced view of the Force
 There’s a platform below the bridge, so you don’t plummet into the abyss when you come up short.
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