You might remember that this was my Game of the YearAlthough that title doesn’t have the same weight here that it does elsewhere. in 2019I think it will actually count as a 2020 game on the big gaming sites. Either that, or this game was severely snubbed by the gaming press.. I really enjoyed it, and I was glad to have something that used a Dark Souls-ish combat system of timing and pattern recognition, but without the Dark Souls style punishmentEh. I’ll talk much more about this later.. I’ve played through the game four-ish times now, and I’ve enjoyed each playthrough more than the previous one.
Also: I played on the PC using an Xbox controllerI know I bitch and moan about Microsoft, but this controller is over a decade old and has held up like a champ. I should do a post about this thing someday., if you care about that sort of thing.
That EA “Magic”
I didn’t want to like this game. Maybe that sounds mean and petty, but after watching EA bungle the Star Wars license for so many years I was eager for them to fail hard enough that Disney would take their license back and look elsewhere for people to create Star Wars games. EA was given exclusive rights to make Star Wars titles, and their handling of it was relentlessly horrendous.
They canceled a single-player story-driven gameAnd OF COURSE they also shut down the studio. because they couldn’t turn it into a goddamn live service nightmare. Their handling of Battlefront II was ghastly, using the Disney license to peddle lootboxes / slot machines to kids. And on top of that, they could barely be bothered to put out Star Wars games at all:
So I had a huge chip on my shoulder when it came to the game. Ultimately, I don’t think that EA deserves to have success with the Star Wars franchise. I figured this game was going to be some tedious, cringy, phoned-in action game with a Star Wars paint job. During previews I derisively called it: “Star Wars: Jedi of Who Cares?” or “Star Wars Jedi Whatever”.
But here we are. It’s good. It’s a single-player character-driven story about a Jedi in the Star Wars universe where the main character isn’t some absurdly overpowered god who turns the lore and continuity into swiss cheeseAlthough, the main character IS pretty dang strong.. No this isn’t the Second Coming of Saint LucasAnd to be fair, I’m not at all convinced that Lucas was the one who put the magic in Star Wars to begin with. We’ll talk more about this later in the series., but it’s still really good.
This game plays things incredibly safe. The story is a calculated blend of dozens of other Star Wars stories. Nothing too new. Nothing radical. Just a few familiar story beats with a fresh coat of paint. You get a cute non-verbal droid sidekick, a distant mentor, a curmudgeon pilot, a spaceship covered in greebles, and a metric sithload of bad guys to chop up. The gameplay is Dark Soulsian, but more gentle and mainstream.
She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts.
So the game wound up being good. Safe, but good. I’d still prefer to see some Star Wars games from outside the EA Borg Cube, but this is what we got. I can’t pretend to hate this just to spite EA.
I know I already complained about this last year, but for the sake of completeness I need to reiterate my gripes with the title of this game…
The full name of this game is Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order EA™. It’s long. It breaks from the familiar STAR WARS COLON SUBTITLE format that we’re used to. Even the acronym SWJFOMy preferred pronunciation of “Swoo Jeffo” hasn’t caught on yet. Additionally, “Swoo Jeffo” is my X-Wing pilot name. is awkward and unpronounceable. I can only imagine how bad this name will get when they start making sequels. We don’t use numbers for sequels anymore, and instead we append phrases.
I get that Star Wars Jedi is the franchise / series and Fallen Order is the title of this particular entry, but Fallen Order is the short phrase people are using to describe this particular game. As in, “I hope they make more Fallen Order games”. Logic dictates that the next game should be Star Wars Jedi: Another Game EA™, but the dum-dums in marketing will want the more memorable Fallen Order in the name. Something like: Fallen Order II: Revenge of the Cameo or Fallen Order 2: Nostalgia Strikes Back.
Marketing and logic are natural enemies, and I can only imagine the colon-infused mess we’ll get in the next one.
A Galaxy of Lore
My first real gripe – as opposed to that petty bullshit about the title – with SWJFOEA™ is that the plot plays things so amazingly safe that it has almost nothing in the way of surprises. The game surprised me twice, and neither one was the good kind of surprise.
One of the problems with Star Wars is that the lore is starting to show its age. Like Star Trek, Terminator, Aliens, Dr. Who, and every other property that got enough sequels to cover multiple generations of sci-fi fans, the thing has been re-imagined so many times that the universe has acquired a great deal of cruft, contrivances, plot holes, and conflicting interpretations. This isn’t because all writers are hacks and nobody cares about qualityAlthough, there are always a few bad creators in a group this large., it’s just a natural byproduct of having a long line of people working in different mediums, producing works with vastly different budgets aimed at different age groups from different generations, all adding to a very large and complex world.
I’m a die-hard fan of the original trilogy. For me, the tone and rules of the universe were introduced in 1977 and canonized in 1983. Everything since then has felt like fanfiction to me.
Old and Busted vs. The New Hotness
To illustrate the difference between modern Nu Star Wars and Gen-X Traditional Star Wars, let me ask a series of really obvious questions…
Who are the Jedi?
The Jedi are peaceful monks that go largely unnoticed by society at large. They map fairly well to the tropes of Shaolin Monks in classic martial arts movies. They spend their entire lives gardening, studying, farming, or some other quiet hands-on activity. During extraordinary circumstances they might leave their remote monastery / hermit dwelling / cave to participate in conflict, but they dislike violence. A Jedi uses his powers only for defense, never for attack.
The Jedi are galactic fixers, sent out to galactic hotspots by powerful politicians to intervene in matters of state and bust some heads if bad guys cause too much trouble.
How do the Jedi Fight?
Jedi are quiet, observant, and patient. They avoid direct conflict if possible. If conflict is unavoidable, they’re willing to sacrifice themselves to preserve life. They fight with subtlety, subterfuge, and surgical precision. They kill only at great need and do so with regret.
The Jedi leap into massed armies waving their laser swords around and shouting quips at each other.
What is the Dark Side?
The Dark Side appeals to our base instincts. It favors the quick and easy solution. It takes your desire to do good and perverts it. It exploits existing personality flaws, pushing you to be a worse version of yourself. It’s not actually a malevolent force in itself, but simply an expression of human frailty and the idea that “power corrupts”.
The Dark Side is evil space mojo that mind-controls people into being violent assholes if they get too angry for understandable reasons, forcing Jedi to bottle up their emotions.
Who are the Heroes?
Our heroes are a scrappy group of nobodies. The Force works in mysterious ways, and common folks are sometimes swept up in extraordinary adventures.
The heroes are chosen by destiny and the galaxy is controlled by a small group of fantastically powerfulBoth politically and supernaturally. beings. Everyone else is just a background player in their ongoing power struggle. All roads lead to Skywalker v. Palpatine.
What is Star Wars?
If you’re an OG purist like me then you probably favor the first description of the things above. If you’re a younger person – or someone who came to Star Wars through the prequel trilogy / sequel trilogy / books / animated series / Disney Theme Park Ride, then you probably lean closer to the second interpretation for those elements.
I’m not saying that one of these is objectively more correct than the other. Both are equally valid interpretations of the material as it exists today. After all, this is an evolving fantasy story about space wizards, not a legal document or a religious textNot YET, anyway.. It’s fine if we have conflicting interpretations. Actually, I think it’s inevitable.
Ultimately, I think the Traditionalist view makes for a more interesting setting with more emotional impact and a greater sense of mystery. On the other hand, Nu Star Wars is a better setting for an ever-expanding franchise of movies, shows, games, toys, and animated shorts. It’s pretty hard to write never-ending adventure stories about peaceful isolationist monks. If they end up flying around the galaxy all the time and getting into swordfights with the villain of the week, then the “quiet monk” vibe becomes incredibly difficult to maintain. I like the original flavor better, but by its nature it creates a finite and self-contained story. If you want endless sequels, then Midichlorian Star Wars is the formula for you.
This game often leans into the Nu Star Wars view of things. That’s perfectly understandable and reasonable, but I’m going to occasionally whine about it anyway because that’s what I do.
Because of this, a lot of my criticism is going to be subjective and stylistic in nature. Stuff like, “I prefer chocolate over vanilla ice cream.” This is distinct from my usual style of criticism, which goes more along the lines of objective instruction like, “Gravel and paste do not belong in chocolate ice cream.” A lot of fans insist that critics draw a nice clear line between these two styles of criticism and subjective statements need to be prefaced with “In my opinion.” Screw that. It’s a gradient, and I’m not interested in gingerly sorting various types of opinions. I like to assume the reader is smart enough to tell the difference, and mature enough to not lose their cool if my subjective opinion feels a little too definitively objective in its presentation. You don’t need to agree with me for this series to work.
In that spirit, I have a lot of petty little gripes I want to get off my chest in the following 22 entriesAnd counting. As of this post, I’m still writing the end., and a few criticisms to make on this particular genre blend. I also want to point out a lot of smart things this game manages to accomplish and several pitfalls the designers managed to sidestep. Which means this series is going to be a little confusing, with lots of switching between criticism and praise. As always, I’ll be talking about “the writer” and “the designer” in the abstract singular instead of trying to point blame at real people on the team. This is supposed to be artistic analysis, not a call-out / personal attack.
When I write one of these long-form retrospectives, I’ll sometimes spoil the entire game up front. This particular game doesn’t have any overarching structural problems so I don’t need to do that here. I’m going to be spoiling as we go, which should give you lots of time to get through the game yourself if you want to play along.
One final note is that this series isn’t going to stick to the game. Instead we’re going to use the game as an excuse to go off on a bunch of tangents about Star Wars, movies, Disney, Dark Souls, and whatever other topics we end up crashing into. I think we’re even going to discuss The Last Jedi, unless I chicken out at the last minute. Either way I’m going to be all over the place, so buckle up.
This is where the fun begins.
 Although that title doesn’t have the same weight here that it does elsewhere.
 I think it will actually count as a 2020 game on the big gaming sites. Either that, or this game was severely snubbed by the gaming press.
 Eh. I’ll talk much more about this later.
 I know I bitch and moan about Microsoft, but this controller is over a decade old and has held up like a champ. I should do a post about this thing someday.
 And OF COURSE they also shut down the studio.
 Although, the main character IS pretty dang strong.
 And to be fair, I’m not at all convinced that Lucas was the one who put the magic in Star Wars to begin with. We’ll talk more about this later in the series.
 My preferred pronunciation of “Swoo Jeffo” hasn’t caught on yet. Additionally, “Swoo Jeffo” is my X-Wing pilot name.
 Although, there are always a few bad creators in a group this large.
 Both politically and supernaturally.
 Not YET, anyway.
 And counting. As of this post, I’m still writing the end.
Video Compression Gone Wrong
How does image compression work, and why does it create those ugly spots all over some videos and not others?
Let's ruin everyone's fun by listing all the ways in which zombies can't work, couldn't happen, and don't make sense.
Why Google sucks, and what made me switch to crowdfunding for this site.
The Biggest Game Ever
How did this niche racing game make a gameworld so massive, and why is that a big deal?
Batman: Arkham City
A look back at one of my favorite games. The gameplay was stellar, but the underlying story was clumsy and oddly constructed.