Jedi Fallen Order Part 21: The Slog

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jan 21, 2021

Filed under: Retrospectives 119 comments

Cal finally won a lightsaber duel against Trilla, but he managed to lose the holocron anyway. Since the holocron contains a list of a bunch of young force sensitives all over the galaxy, we can’t really let the Empire keep it. The Empire will round the kids up and stick them in the giant alignment-changing torture machine and turn them all into Sith.

Cere knows where Trilla went. There’s a secret Imperial base where they run their torture factory, and that’s where the inquisitors are based. So the only way to fix this is to assault the very heart of Sith power.

Sir Kestus

I'm not sure why this doesn't set Cal's hair ablaze. But then, I guess that's a problem every time a Jedi holds a lightsaber near their face. Still, I'd wet my hair before this ceremony just to be sure.
I'm not sure why this doesn't set Cal's hair ablaze. But then, I guess that's a problem every time a Jedi holds a lightsaber near their face. Still, I'd wet my hair before this ceremony just to be sure.

Cere decides that Cal has passed the test and should now be granted the rank of Jedi Knight. Being knighted in Star Wars apparently works just like being knighted in the United Kingdom, where someone needs to dab on  each shoulder with a sword. Although here you need to be careful to not touch their shoulders directly, since you’re using a friggin’ lightsaber. I really wouldn’t want that buzzing, scorching, limb-severing thing anywhere near my ears or hair. Personally I’d just as soon stay a padawan and coast through my twenties as an undergrad.

It’s a cool moment that solidifies the student / mentor relationship between Cal and Cere, as well as marking the end of Cal’s arc. Although, it also seems sort of hilariously inappropriate that Cere does the knighting using Trilla’s bright red Sith lightsaber. Maybe she finds herself thinking, “Say, where did MY lightsaber get to, anyway? I seem to remember lending it to someone.”

Sensing that perhaps it’s ridiculous to send Call off on this mission alone, Cere allows herself to reconnect with the force. She realizes that she can’t hide from her past any longer. She arms herself with Trilla’s lightsaber, and they decide to assault this massive Sith base together.

Sith Happens

Merrin uses her Force-based witchcraft to hide the Mantis so they can get past the bouncer. Greeze just needs to fly casually.
Merrin uses her Force-based witchcraft to hide the Mantis so they can get past the bouncer. Greeze just needs to fly casually.

It sounds like a stupid and futile idea, but then so was storming the Death Star to rescue Leia. Then again, the good guys were sort of forced into that position and they only escaped because the Empire let them. So I dunno. Who’s to say we aren’t going to run into the First Sister, Second Sister, and everyone down through Eighth SisterIf you remember, Ninth Sister recently lost a hand so maybe she’s on the injured reserve list. the moment we land? And are there numbered brothers as well? And maybe a thousand or so purge troopers?

And hang on, wouldn’t Trilla have opened the holocron by now? Why would she wait around for our assault? Wouldn’t that be the first thing she did once she got home and took off her cape and jackboots?

I nitpick, but it’s fine. Star Wars is filled with this sort of thing and you just need to roll with it. Still, I wouldn’t say no to a lampshade from either of our leads admitting that this is a suicide mission with no chance of success.

Fortress Inquisitorius

They might be a galaxy-spanning Empire of pure evil, but damn these dudes know how to build a cool-looking base.
They might be a galaxy-spanning Empire of pure evil, but damn these dudes know how to build a cool-looking base.

So we’re at the endgame. I hope you’re done rounding up collectible knick-knacks and lore items, because this is a one-way trip.

Merrin uses her Force-based witchcraft to hide the Mantis so they can get through the outer defenses. Then the Jedi dive into the water and swim to the base.

Like all AAA games, this one has a slog that sort of sucks a bit of momentum out of the story. If this was a movie, then the previous scenes where the bad guys obtained the holocron and Cal was knighted are the emotional energy reached a crescendo. The stakes have been raised, the conflict is both large-scaleSave the children. Save the Jedi Order. and personalSettle the grudge / conflict with Trilla.. Everything is on the line, all the good guys have reached their maximum potential, and now we’re ready for our final showdown. Normally a filmmaker would want to move from that scene to the final confrontation as quickly as possible to keep the momentum going. But this is a movie / game hybrid, so we need to pause our narrative crescendo so we can have our gameplay crescendo.

Nothing heightens narrative tension like pausing the story so we can hack through waves of disposable mooks.
Nothing heightens narrative tension like pausing the story so we can hack through waves of disposable mooks.

In a movie sense, imagine if Neo came back from the dead at the end, and then he spent twenty minutes effortlessly plowing through more military goons before he ran down the hall and destroyed Agent Smith. Or more hilariously: Imagine if Neo jumped back up, left the building, dicked around the city for six hours doing sidequests and gathering collectibles, and then came back for twenty minutes of mooks and then dashed down the hall to obliterate Smith.

The seams between gameplay and narrative are strange sometimes.

This problem is inherent to cutscene-heavy games, although I’d love to see what would happen if a AAA team skipped the slog. Would players complain that the ending felt “rushed” because they expected an hour of mook fights, or would everyone be cool with jumping right from the big emotional climax to the final boss fight? I don’t know if it would work or notIn this game, you really do need at least one or two brief mook fights as Cal comes in the door or else the base would feel tiny and empty., but I’d like to see someone try.

(I suppose you could argue they did this in Mass Effect 3. The game doesn’t really have a proper boss fight. All gameplay stops once you reach the beam. It’s hard to judge how well this worked, since the ending cutscenes are so controversial. Still, among all the many gripes I’ve heard over the years, I don’t think anyone complained about the lack of a huge gunfight at the end. Maybe the slog isn’t as necessary as game designers think it is, but I feel like we need to take a game with a GOOD ending and leave out the final mook marathon to see how people react.)

Cere fights with a blaster in her off hand. It's kinda cool.
Cere fights with a blaster in her off hand. It's kinda cool.

The slog in SWJFO is actually quite brief by AAA standards. This isn’t like climbing the tower in Mass Effect or hacking your way through cannon fodder for an hour in KOTOR. According to my footage, it’s about 15 to 20 minutes from arriving in orbit to reaching Trilla. Even better, that’s not all mook fights. We get some cool scenes in orbit, some cool vistas as Cal approaches the base, and a nice moment of catharsis as we get to see Cere unleash her powers and waste a bunch of troopers. She has a really cool fighting style where she uses a lightsaber in one hand and a blaster in another, and it makes for a fun show.

Basically, this slog isn’t bad, but there are definitely three or four rooms full of troopers that – in a narrative sense – didn’t need to be there. I’d be fine with skipping them, but I don’t know if journalists / mainstream gamers would accept that.

Second Sister, Fifth Round

Look, you can introduce Trilla with a cinematic. You can have our leads pose up a storm and trade insults. But STOP TURNING FIGHTS INTO MOVIES. Damn dude. Stay in your own lane.
Look, you can introduce Trilla with a cinematic. You can have our leads pose up a storm and trade insults. But STOP TURNING FIGHTS INTO MOVIES. Damn dude. Stay in your own lane.

Cal finally reaches Trilla, who still hasn’t opened the holocron for some reason. Technically Cere is on her way here. She took an alternate path through the complex and she’ll show up eventually, but you can’t exactly ask Trilla to wait for your backup to arrive. That’s bad news for Cal, but good news for the player who’s probably looking forward to settling up with Trilla after the last few fights got cut short.

Like I said earlier in the series, I’ve never spent any real time with this genre of melee combat and I was pretty uncomfortable with it at first. I had a hard time intuiting the proper timing of things and it took me a lot of trial and error to figure out what the game wanted from me.

Strangely enough, I was more prone to jumping the gun than missing my mark. The game actually gives you a nice long visual wind-up for the big attacks. You can tell you need to dodge, jump, or block at various points, but it’s not always apparent when you need to hit the button. I’d see the wind-up for (say) a big shockwave attack, immediately hit jump to go over it, and then land again before the attack started. I was way too early. Then the wave would crash into me before I could manage to jump a second time.

My biggest challenge was waiting for the right moment instead of reflexively smashing the button the instant the stimulus appeared. Batman was always about quick responses, so I’d never really cultivated the habit of letting a threat “cook” for a half second until the time was right. It was really hard to break the habit of jabbing the button too soon.

I hate when she jumps back and clears my target lock-on. I know she's evil, but this is downright unsporting.
I hate when she jumps back and clears my target lock-on. I know she's evil, but this is downright unsporting.

On my first trip through the game, this Trilla fight wrecked me a half dozen times. I wasn’t even close to beating her. If you fail, you respawn right outside the room and the game doesn’t attempt to show you the introductory cutscene again. You just appear outside, and then run through the door for another go at her. And yet, even with that very gentle failure I was still really frustrated during the process of learning to beat her. I hate failure and I hate not knowing what I’m doing wrong. I hate having to use trial-and error via death to learn the timings I need.

I had to leave the fight until the next day, and when I came back I just barely snuck through with a sliver of health and no healing stims left.

On my most recent trip through the gameFor the record, I’m still talking about a game on normal difficulty., I smacked her down with little fuss. I never needed to use a healing stim and I still had most of my health. It feels pretty good to overcome something like this and trivialize a task that used to feel impossible. This is one of the reasons I’m so glad this game exists.

If this fight had featured a Dark Souls style run-backs (or any run-backs at all, really) then this fight would have created an insurmountable frustration barrier for me. But the game designer didn’t just mindlessly copy the Dark Souls template. They kept the demand for careful timing and deliberate movement, but made sure every boss fight had a nearby point for respawning. That gave me a foothold in the genre and let me stick with it until I could “git gud” enough to really enjoy it.

Darth Redemption

Trilla is obviously having a fantastic time being evil. Being a cruel, heartless bitch is obviously the only thing that makes her happy. I don't want to take that away from her. Just let me murder her and move on.
Trilla is obviously having a fantastic time being evil. Being a cruel, heartless bitch is obviously the only thing that makes her happy. I don't want to take that away from her. Just let me murder her and move on.

Near the end of the fight, Cal makes an appeal to Trilla. He tries to empathize and encourage her to let go of her hate. This is a nice sentiment and a 100% cool thing for a Jedi to do. I love that Cal wants to do it, although as a member of the audience I had no desire to see Trilla repent.

There’s nothing in the story to suggest that Trilla was open to redemption, and there hasn’t been anything to make us want to see it. So far she’s been evil and loving every minute of it. She never expressed any regret for anything she did and she’s been brimming with hatred for everyone. She’s been nasty, irrational, mocking, cutting, vindictive, and hateful.

In the real world we’re always glad for any time a dangerous / irresponsible / damaged / person is able to repent and become a better person. In real life, salvation is heartwarming. But in fiction – particularly Star Wars style fiction – we want the likeable villains to repent and our detestable villains to stay evil so they can earn their righteous and appropriately brutal comeuppance. Trilla always felt like the latter sort of villain, and I didn’t want to see her redeemed any more than I wanted to see Palpatine repent and open a soup kitchen for displaced Ewoks. This is why the bad guys are space Nazis. It allows us to cheer for their horrible death and not worry that maybe we should have given them another chance. Sometimes we’re just here to watch the bad person fall down a big hole and explode for no reason.

We’ll see how Trilla responds to redemption next time.

 

Footnotes:

[1] If you remember, Ninth Sister recently lost a hand so maybe she’s on the injured reserve list.

[2] Save the children. Save the Jedi Order.

[3] Settle the grudge / conflict with Trilla.

[4] In this game, you really do need at least one or two brief mook fights as Cal comes in the door or else the base would feel tiny and empty.

[5] For the record, I’m still talking about a game on normal difficulty.



From The Archives:
 

119 thoughts on “Jedi Fallen Order Part 21: The Slog

  1. Joe says:

    Last I heard, lightsabres don’t actually radiate heat. As long as the blade doesn’t touch you, it’s fine. But that may have changed in current canon. Anyone know?

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      A lightsaber doesn’t normally set stuff on fire unless you wack it on some flammable object.

      1. Joe says:

        I thought as much. Thanks!

      2. Addie says:

        My concern is that things in liquid and solid phase don’t actually burn; they give off vapours that do. So you still wouldn’t want to wave your Magic Burning Stick™ near a big puddle of petrol, thinking you’re safe just because it’s not actually immersed…

    2. Thomas says:

      I still wouldn’t want someone to hover one by my neck!

      1. Asdasd says:

        “For services to the Jedi Order, I hereby dub thee… ah… ahh… ACHOO!

        “.. oh bother.”

      2. Chris says:

        Imagine some frail old jedi master is the one knighting you, his hands shaking from old age as he moves closer and closer with the lightsaber to your shoulder.

        1. King Marth says:

          Fear is the mind-killer… wait, wrong dynastic order of feelings-suppressing psychics.

        2. Vernal_ancient says:

          I feel like I remember one of the old book series (maybe the one about Obi-wan’s padawan days?) mentioning that lightsabers had different power settings, with at least one being safe(ish) to use on human flesh. Don’t know if that got carried over, but if it did I’d expect the safety setting to be used for these ceremonies

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            Eeeeh, lightsabers are horribly inconsistent in the old EU. They work underwater or they don’t, they cut through pretty much anything including spaceship hulls or they don’t, they can only be activated (not just effectively used) by a Force sensitive or by anyone… Personally I would still not want a lightsaber’s active blade anywhere near any flesh that I don’t intend to damage.

          2. Philadelphus says:

            I remember reading a book like that, where they have a lowest-power setting where they’re still solid beams of light and grabbing one hurts, but doesn’t actually cut (so if you’re, say, a scrappy underdog padawan, there’s technically nothing in the rules saying you can’t grab your opponent’s blade in order to get a hit in on them and win the tournament…).

  2. MerryWeathers says:

    Being knighted in Star Wars apparently works just like being knighted in the United Kingdom, where someone needs to dab on each shoulder with a sword.

    That’s actually a Clone Wars thing, not the 2008 version people usually refer to but the original 2003 cartoon by Genndy Tartakovsky.

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      Wait, they cut the padawan hairband string thing with their lightsaber? That’s way too close for comfort.

  3. Geebs says:

    “Purge troopers” just makes me think of a bunch of Middle-Ages flagellants hanging around eating hellebore and cupping each other.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      I think it has a Warhammer 40k ring to it. Fits in nicely with the garbled Latin in Fortress Inquisitorius.

  4. Henson says:

    But in fiction – particularly Star Wars style fiction – we want the likeable villains to repent and our detestable villains to stay evil so they can earn their righteous and appropriately brutal comeuppance.

    Pretty sure that’s how it usually works in real life, too.

    1. Smith says:

      I kinda see more people who want likeable villains to not be likeable, both IRL and when talking about fiction, because they don’t want to empathize with The Bad Guy™. In fact, I see lots of people who’ll make stuff up just so their hatred is justified, to the point where they literally complain about a newspaper article “humanizing” the bad guys.

      Reminds me of the time someone said Thanos shouldn’t have any depth whatsoever, because they apparently disliked the idea of a bad guy being a, y’know, guy. An actual person with understandable-but-still-incorrect rationales, instead of, idk, a moustache-twirling Dick Dastardly, or a psychopath like Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland (I’m paraphrasing the writer of the original book.).

      1. Grimwear says:

        My issue with Thanos (and also Ben Foster in Inferno which I just watched last week) is that their plan is to kill half of all life. And that’s not nearly enough. If life is at a point where there aren’t enough resources then killing half does next to nothing. For instance we’re at like 7.8 billion people right now. We had 4 billion in 1974. So you commit mass slaughter to create this correction and you buy…50 years. Not worth it at all. They should really be killing like 80% just to have a chance at not only recovering (though honestly can the world suddenly recover from losing so many?) and also have time to implement new plans for sustainability.

        1. Cubic says:

          World pop was about 1 billion in 1900 if memory serves, so that’s not a big reset either. Take it down to 100 million (1.3%) or perhaps 10 million (0.1%) and now we’re talking playing Civ for real.

          1. Thomas says:

            At the end of the day, cutting the population down does nothing. Thanos needed to concern himself with the rate of growth, not the final number. Plus he killed off half the resource consumers, but also a big chunk of their food sources.

            It’s a great popcorn motivation because it’s simple and striking enough to generate conversation, but total bunk as far as actual plans go.

            1. Grimwear says:

              So rather than Thanos what we really need is Mordin and the Genophage.

        2. Veylon says:

          Thanos is not called “The Mad Titan” for nothing!

          Though it feels like even he knows somewhere deep down that it won’t actually work. His plan afterwards is to disappear to a place where he can grow old and die without having his beliefs challenged by reality.

          1. Yarrun says:

            The problem with that framing is that Infinity War never pushes back against any of his ideas.

            We, the audience, knows that Thanos’s plan is, at best, logistically unsound and, at worst, ludicrous ecofascist propaganda, but the film treats Thanos as if his motivations make sense and that the primary argument against them is ‘killing sentient beings by the trillions is wrong, especially when some of them are fan-favorite characters’. We got a villain with a flawed plan more suited for a details-first story in a cinematic universe that is almost entirely drama-first. I wish we got the normal ‘Thanos kills because he literally loves Death’ motivation because that’s more suited to the sort of stories that the MCU is interested in telling.

            I am all for unpleasant bad guys with depth and motivations, but they still have to be well-written. A much better example would be ME1’s Udina, who’s a perfect foil for Shephard without being outright evil. He’s just trying to manage and advance human interests in a galaxy where humans are not the top-dog in the food chain. That just happens to conflict with this specific plot against the galactic government.

            1. Wangwang says:

              Exactly.
              The thing that make me hate Iron Man is that he’s always be a smart alec with his fellows superheroes. He belittle Captain America for being a science experiment and nothing more. He blame Captain America for not agreeing with his plan to register heroes and weaponize the entire earth. He finish the time travel method despite not being major in quantum physics. And finally he can build a glove that can withstand the infinity stones, while Thanos has to use an entire sun to make his glove.
              And yet with all his Gary Stu-est intelligience, not once did he point at Thanos and point out how stupid and juvenile Thanos’s entire plan is. He can smart mouth with his comrades but when it come to the enemy, all he can do is that “I am Iron Man” bullshit.

            2. kincajou says:

              Yes yhis is exactly it,
              I feel Thanos would have worked better if they’d actually espoused his superhero motivation rather than (i imagine) being embarassed by it and try to give him a paper-thin logic.

              And it is probably one of the most horrible things in the films that everyone (even cap) just goes along with it and never stops to even try to point out that it doesn’t make sense, implicitly the message is quite horrible.

      2. Vernal_ancient says:

        Thanos is a weird case for me, because I feel like his characterization and his actual plan are totally at odds. Like, he’s characterized as this smart, charismatic, nearly unbeatable leader… but his plan is just plain, textbook Stupid Evil with a weak justification (the idea of a Malthusian trap has serious blind spots – and even more in a universe where the Infinity Stones exist).
        I don’t mind the idea of villains being humanized in general… but if you want a humanized, reasonable villain, their plan or goal should match that characterization. Don’t mix humanized villains with cartoon villainy

      3. Tuck says:

        Or, you know, Idi Amin in real life.

  5. Steve C says:

    He tries to empathize and encourage her to let go of her hate. This is a nice sentiment and a 100% cool thing for a Jedi to do.

    It’s really not.
    Jedi are all about outright killing the person they think is evil. They don’t dick around with trying to empathize etc. That’s actually a Sith thing. We just collectively misremember because that’s what we think *of course* happens. However if you look back and go over a key moment checklist of Jedi actions, they really don’t want anything from the people they defeat.

    1. John says:

      Yeah, redeem the bad guy is a specifically Luke Skywalker thing rather than a Jedi thing, and even then it really only applies to bad guys who happen to be his long-lost father. In the Mos Eisley cantina, Obi-Wan Kenobi goes from zero to arm-chopping-off in under three seconds without even trying to talk to the goon he de-limbs. Similarly, Luke merrily murders his way through Jabba’s thugs without any kind of verbal encouragement to reconsider their moral frameworks or employment situations.

      But I assume that Shamus was talking about important, dramatically relevant villains rather than mooks. In that case, some kind of talking is probably in order. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a whole-hearted effort at redemption–that would only be sensible and appropriate if the audience and the Jedi had some prior grounds to believe that it might work–but a little bit of conversation that establishes character and stakes is usually a good idea–for the writer, if not the Jedi–in these situations.

      1. Joshua says:

        To be fair, Kenobi does try to talk the guy down first and defuse the situation.

        1. Vernal_ancient says:

          Even offers to buy them a drink, if I remember correctly

    2. Rariow says:

      I see this as another part of the Original Trilogy/Prequel Trilogy divide. Original Trilogy Jedi of course believe in redemption and all that good stuff – it’s a big theme that Luke believes in it and thus it’s a Jedi belief.

      Prequel Trilogy Jedi are a bunch of self-agrandazing, arrogant space wizards who appoint themselves guardians of peace and believe anything they do is justified as long as it’s in the name of the Jedi. They’re too busy thinking about how great they are to bother with the whole empathy and redemption thing.

      The idea of course being that by the PT the Jedi are in this state of decay and arrogance, too obsessed with their position in the galaxy to do any actual good, and Luke represents either a return to the values that (presumably) defined the order to begin with or a new beginning more focused on actually helping people. The problem of course is that the Prequel Trilogy was way too awful to make any of this clear and the Sequel Trilogy veered off in a direction that didn’t really follow from “Luke made the Jedi actually good”.

      1. Daimbert says:

        To be fair, though, in the OT both of the actual Jedi — Obi-Wan and Yoda — are firmly against trying to redeem Vader, and arguably lie to Luke to try to prevent any attempt at it. So it’s only Luke — who ends up being our image of an ideal Jedi — that’s focused on redemption, and for the most part only towards his father.

        That being said, Luke and the others are indeed focused on at least giving others a chance to do the right thing first before they go after them, unless circumstances made that impossible. Luke gives Jabba a number of chances to let Han go and negotiate before eliminating him, even though he makes it clear that he really, really wants to take Jabba down.

  6. John says:

    Merrin uses her Force-based witchcraft to hide the Mantis so they can get through the outer defenses.

    “Force-based witchcraft”. Ugh. I hate it. I hate it so much. I know that Fallen Order isn’t the only spinoff to engage in this kind of non-movie nonsense, that it was led down the path to perdition by the spinoffs that preceeded it, but that’s no excuse. Fallen Order should still have known better.

    Star Wars spinoffs need to stop turning the Force into boring generic arbitrary plot-device fantasy magic. There are ways, o spinoff writers, to contrive your plot, if contrive your plot you must, that don’t involve the Force. You need zombies? Star Wars is a nominally sci-fi setting. You can get zombies with alien parasites or mind-control microchips. You don’t need the Force. You need to make a spaceship invisible? Cloaking devices have been real actual movie-canon since The Empire Strikes Back. You don’t need the Force.

    1. GGANate says:

      Hasn’t the Force always been generic plot-device magic? What is capable with the Force has never been explicitly defined, and every movie/spin-off has introduced new abilities. One of the things I actually liked about the sequels was the expansion of what was capable with the Force.

      1. John says:

        I knew that someone was going to say this.

        No, the Force is not generic plot-device magic, which is one of the reasons that introducing new abilities with every spinoff is a problem. The Force is not a character, but does have a certain character, if you see what I mean. And that character is “generic and fairly limited psychic powers as commonly depicted in the 1970s”. When some spinoff suddenly decides that the Force is instead Dungeons & Dragons magic, complete with Create Undead and Improved Invisibility then that’s a drastic change in the depiction of the Force. It’s just like–and just as bad as–drastically changing the depiction of an actual character.

        1. Dreadjaws says:

          Is it, though? My impression with “Force-based magic” is that it simply uses the Force to kickstart other abilities, the same way you’d use, say, an electric socket to power your appliances. Just because you’re using electricity to power your blender it doesn’t mean you’re directly using electricity to make a smoothie. Electricity is still the same. It doesn’t suddenly transform into this magical thing that can cut fruit into tiny pieces.

        2. GGANate says:

          “generic and fairly limited psychic powers as commonly depicted in the 1970s” seems like a rather inaccurate definition of the Force, considering that by your definition, you’ve limited yourself to exactly one film (Empire came out in 1980; Return of the Jedi 1983). If you meant the original trilogy is the end all be all of the Force, then Return contradicts that definition with the Emperor shooting lightning out of his fingertips like a generic evil wizard. We only get to see three Jedi (if you count barely trained Luke) and two Sith in the first three movies, so I think it’s a little odd to think that whatever powers they show during their limited screen time is the extent that the Force is capable of.

          I’m a huge fan of the original trilogy, and I think that all the subsequent Star Wars media fails to reach the high standards it set, but Star Wars has expanded far past those films, and will continue to do so.

          1. John says:

            You misunderstand me.

            I’m not saying that the only permissible uses of the Force are the ones from the original trilogy. I’m saying that any new use of the Force should be (1) a reasonable extrapolation from one of those uses, (2) similar in character and power to one of those uses, and (3) drawn from the same well of inspiration as one of those uses, that well of inspiration being the depiction of psychic powers in all of pop-culture during the 1970s and, I suppose, the early 1980s, rather than simply Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. It is also better, I think, to use new Force abilities sparingly and to rely on non-Force plot devices whenever possible. The more random, arbitrary things the Force can do, the less compelling it is. I find stories that hinge on the ability Force Ass Pull inherently unsatisfying.

            1. Henson says:

              “Wedge Antilles suffers under torture of Force Ass Pull and becomes Darth Wedgie”

            2. Sartharina says:

              How do you get ‘shoots motherfucking Lightning Bolts from his hand” out of “can convince people these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” and expanded kinesthetic sense? Every movie introduced new powers out of nowhere.

              1. John says:

                You don’t and you don’t need to. These are rules for spinoffs, not for the source material.

            3. Syal says:

              (1) a reasonable extrapolation from one of those uses, (2) similar in character and power to one of those uses, and (3) drawn from the same well of inspiration as one of those uses,

              I disagree with these. Let the Force get wild, as long as the plot isn’t based on that. I linked Sanderson’s Laws of Magic below, but he makes the distinction between Soft Magic and Hard Magic, and the Force has always been Soft Magic*. This is too close to turning it into Hard Magic and choking it with rules and systems.

              It is also better, I think, to use new Force abilities sparingly and to rely on non-Force plot devices whenever possible.

              That’s the big part there.

              *(“I don’t believe it!” “That is why you fail.”)

              1. John says:

                The Force should very much not go wild.

                Regardless, I haven’t suggested anything like in-universe rules, systems, or mechanics for the Force. In-universe, the Force absolutely should be vague, mystical, and mysterious. What I’ve suggested are guidelines for prospective spinoff authors, which I regard as something else entirely.

                1. Syal says:

                  It’s an upper bound. One of the things I disliked about the prequels was how few new Force powers were introduced. The OT introduced new powers every movie, then the prequels with their exponentially more Force users introduced… was there anything? Very much makes it feel like the Force has run out of tricks.

                  And of course people want their character to stand out, so with an upper bound they’re just going to do bigger things with the same powers. Yoda picked up a starship? Well Rey and Kylo will pull one out of flight! That’s when stories start dying.

                  1. lawgnome says:

                    All told, I’m tired of space wizards in general. They have been the focus of so many SW stories for so long that they are no longer a draw.

                    That said, I definitely prefer it when they are expanding upon what the Force can do in a horizontal fashion, rather than a vertical fashion. So more towards “these are all equal uses of power”, rather than “zomg power creep”.

                    In the legacy novels, Jacen Solo had developed a skill called “flow walking”, which basically let him use the Force to see back in time. It is a great offshoot of existing powers – we know that Force users can get premonitions of the future, so why not use the Force to get insight into the past?

                    Horizontal power expansion makes the space wizard thing a lot more interesting than the “look at me! I am so special I can pull a star destroyer out of the sky!” power scaling.

      2. SidheKnight says:

        I always understood the Force to be more of a sci-fi psionic/telekinetic/telepathic force (pardon the pun) or energy field like gravity or electromagnetism, or like Biotics in Mass Effect. A purely natural phenomenon that can be channeled and controled by the minds of living beings (after all, thoughts and feelings are nothing more than electric impulses). Kinda like Jean Grey’s powers in X-Men.

        Perhaps this is why I never had much problem with midichlorians. But apparently I’m in the minority here, and most people do consider the Force to be actual “space-magic” (ugh..).

        1. John says:

          Midichlorians don’t bother me too much. I usually forget they exist. They’re a bad idea, yes, but they play such a minor and inconsequential role in the prequel films that it’s hard for me to get bent out of shape over them.

      3. Syal says:

        Hasn’t the Force always been generic plot-device magic?

        Magic yes, plot-device no. The only time the Force is plot-device magic in the movies is when Luke has to telegrab his lightsaber to deal with the Yeti. At no other point does the Force solve a problem for the heroes that couldn’t have also been solved in a mundane fashion. If R2 threw Luke his lightsaber in Jabba’s palace the rest of the scene would play out the same. If Obi-wan handed the Customs guard a twenty the scene would be the same. If Darth Vader had to walk to the carbonitization switch while Luke climbed out the scene would be the same.

        With cloaking specifically, Return of the Jedi shows the opposite; Force users can feel each other drawing near, it should be impossible for two Jedi to cloak their approach to a Sith base.

        1. The Puzzler says:

          I think it’s established that Force-users can sense one another but they can also hide their presence from one another. For example, in the prequels, Yoda and his buddies not noticing that Palpatine is a Sith Lord.

          1. Syal says:

            And I forgot about the Death Star (though that one still doesn’t make a lot of sense.)

            So, okay, it’s possible, but you still shouldn’t do it. Return used a stolen access code. They could have been disguising themselves as a transport ship or something.

        2. Nope! says:

          I mean, to me it always looked like force users only sense one another when they have some sort of connection to one another or said user is doing some powerful and/or twisted shit with the force.

      4. BlueHorus says:

        Hasn’t the Force always been generic plot-device magic? What is capable with the Force has never been explicitly defined, and every movie/spin-off has introduced new abilities. One of the things I actually liked about the sequels was the expansion of what was capable with the Force.

        I’ve always thought any efforts to define ‘Force abilities’ or ‘power levels’ or anything like that is doomed to failure. It’s the emotial connection to the characters, Force abilities as a metaphor or catalyst, that makes it.

        Example: Darth Vader fighting Luke in Cloud City. Vader throws some junk at Luke a few times, that Luke struggles to deflect. It’s not really about Vader having more skill with Force Push or whatever; it’s just a neat way to show that Luke’s out of his depth and Vader is toying with him.

        By contrast, one of the characters having a convenient ability to cloak a spaceship is just…convenient. That’s it. It gets you to the next plot point, but there’s no emotional weight to it.

    2. MerryWeathers says:

      Star Wars spinoffs need to stop turning the Force into boring generic arbitrary plot-device fantasy magic

      That’s what the Force was in the movies, space magic that was used as a flexible plot device to do whatever George needed it to.

      I really don’t mind the magick thing, it’s interesting to see how other Force-based organizations utilize the Force in unique ways. Nightsister magic is mysterious and mystical so it works. It’s certainly better than what the Midi-chlorians did where it turned a Force user into the Star Wars’ equivalent of an X-Men mutant.

      1. John says:

        I agree, in principle, that the Force can do whatever the writer wants it to do. That’s just how fiction works. I disagree, however, with the implication that the Force should be able to do whatever the writer wants it to do without regard for how the Force has been shown to work in the past. That’s just bad writing. As I said above, the Force has a certain character or flavor in the films. Depictions of the Force in spinoffs should be consistent with that character or flavor in the same way and for the same reasons that depictions of actual characters should be consistent with their depictions in the films.

        1. MerryWeathers says:

          with the implication that the Force should be able to do whatever the writer wants it to do without regard for how the Force has been shown to work in the past. That’s just bad writing

          That’s the thing though, it wasn’t that consistent, even in the OT. Yes, the Force was constantly used as telekinesis but then you also have super reflexes, imitate Krayt Dragon roars, shoot lightning as GGANate said, and literally transcend to another plane of existence (or just temporarily resurrect yourself, depending on how you view Force ghosts). All of those make the Force seem more like magic than just telekinesis.

          As I said above, the Force has a certain character or flavor in the films.

          I view that flavor as being mystical, the mysterious magical side of Star Wars. When it’s used mystically in side material, then I view it as being faithful/original to how the Force was used in the OT.

          For me, there are three ways to fuck up the Force
          1. Turning it into a hard magic system- trying to impose limits on what the Force is capable of doing just makes it less mysterious and extraordinary and trying to make it all very specific just makes it confusing.
          2. Turning it into a sci-fi element- as I’ve said before, Midi-chlorians turned Force users into Star Wars’ equivalent of X-Men mutants which undercut the mystique. In the OT, it was implied anyone was capable of harnessing the Force but some people like Luke had a natural aptitude for it.
          3. Power levels- Star Wars isn’t a shonen manga, a story shouldn’t revolve around Force abilities or mastering them. One of the things I loved about ROTJ was that Luke redeemed Vader by appealing to his humanity as a father and then Vader killed Palpatine by simply throwing him down a shaft. That’s the kind of stuff that made Star Wars genuine and grounded. Luke didn’t need to learn some specific powerful force ability nor did Vader and Luke team up to make a omega Force beam to take down Palpatine.

          1. John says:

            I think that there’s a difference between in-universe limits and out-of-universe limits on the Force, if that distinction makes sense. I guess I’m okay with there being no in-universe limits. If it’s technically true within the Star Wars universe that the Force can do literally anything, that’s one thing. But what I mean by out-of-universe limits is that it should definitely not be seen doing literally anything and everything. That effectively breaks the setting and I think it’s bad storytelling. Spinoff writers need to show restraint and good judgement.

            Otherwise, I think we are in broad agreement. I particularly like your point about power levels.

            1. Syal says:

              Time for Sanderson’s First Law of Magic.

              The really good writers of soft magic systems very, very rarely use their magic to solve problems in their books. Magic creates problems, then people solve those problems on their own without much magic. (George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice” uses this paradigm quite effectively.)

              There is a reason that Gandalf doesn’t just fly Frodo to Mount Doom with magic, then let him drop the ring in. Narratively, that just doesn’t work with the magic system. We don’t know what it can do, and so if the writer uses it to solve a lot of problems, then the tension in the novel ends up feeling weak. The magic undermines the plot instead enhancing it.

              1. The Puzzler says:

                Sanderson’s Laws of Magic argue against things like having Luke solving problems by Force-projecting an illusion on to another planet, if you haven’t already established that this is possible.

                1. Chad Miller says:

                  The movie actually did establish it, albeit barely. Namely, the scene where Kylo Ren mutters something like “What are you thinking? The effort would kill you.”

                2. Syal says:

                  Luke didn’t actually solve the problem, he just distracted the villains. Rey solved the problem with previously established powers, and as a culmination of her arc.

                  Although I’m not saying The Last Jedi is a good example of the Laws of Magic; I liked it, but it’s real messy.

    3. RamblePak64 says:

      Get ready for more of it. In a conversation with my buddy about The Mandalorian Season Two, the second-to-last episode (The Believer?) includes a reference to a battle that occurs in the single-player campaign of Battlefront II. I had commented previously that, from what I can tell, Lucasfilm is more deeply involved in continuity and characters than previously, where Cal and co. were likely cast from television and film acting so that they can pop up in a Disney+ show, should the need arise. It’s far more hands-on than George Lucas signing off on something that will keep the royalties rolling in, only to dismiss it all when he decided it was time to make the prequels (not that it was ever internally consistent anyway).

      So this Force-based Witchcraft is not only from Clone Wars, it’s official canon and Lucasfilm is trying to be careful with their cross-media properties so they can Avengers the crap out of Star Wars in ways that even The Avengers haven’t cross-media’ed.

      Whereas in the past only video gamers cared about, say, Star Wars: Republic Commando and therefore its place as canon was dubious (even if officially acknowledged), Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order and Star Wars: Battlefront II (and, presumably, Star Wars Squadrions) are just as much official canon as The Mandalorian.

      1. MerryWeathers says:

        In a conversation with my buddy about The Mandalorian Season Two, the second-to-last episode (The Believer?) includes a reference to a battle that occurs in the single-player campaign of Battlefront II.

        There were way more references in season two to the side material than just that one, aside from the obvious ones like Ahsoka and Bo-Katan, you have characters like Cobb Vanth appearing who was first introduced in the books five years ago to more obscure references like the Droid Gotra faction or the Tusken Raider fruit.

        1. RamblePak64 says:

          Oh, no doubt there were more references, but this was specifically in regards to where the video games stand in the overall canon.

    4. Henson says:

      I haven’t played the game myself, but wouldn’t this power simply be an extension of previously established powers? After all, we know that Force can affect minds, so it seems logical that you could use it to make the troops in charge of monitoring this sort of thing ‘fail to notice’ the approaching ship.

      Now, I would agree if your objection is that Merrin’s use of this power is too specific and too powerful to be believable, but the power itself seems plausible, based on what we’ve seen before.

      …Unless when Shamus says ‘hide the Mantis’, he means it literally disappears. THAT would be BS.

      1. Asdasd says:

        reminds me of Company of Heroes; specifically the PaK-38 unit response for activating the ‘stealth’ ability.

        ‘Sure, we’ll hide this.. giant gun…’

    5. Matt says:

      I don’t mind it because I think different cultures, especially idiosyncratic ones from isolated worlds not in the galactic mainstream, ought to have different interpretations of the Force. To a primitive people, it is essentially witchcraft. I think it’s a good idea for those different perspectives on the Force to occasionally manifest in different powers. Obviously, though, maintaining the feel of the Force is necessary. No one is throwing any Force fireballs or using Force Polymorph.

  7. GGANate says:

    The last base could have been longer in my opinion, but I understand from a story point of view that you don’t want the slog to last too long. I just enjoyed battling mooks in this game, and despite it taking me at least twenty hours on Jedi Master difficulty, I thought it could’ve been longer.

    I also wanted to comment that for the most part, Dark Souls usually puts a bonfire very close to a boss fight, especially in the later games. In the first game, I can think of a couple of instances where you have to run past people (Four Kings; that one sucked), and yeah, that gets old on your fifteenth attempt, but one advantage that Dark Souls has that Fallen Order does not is that you can always summon someone to help you get through. That’s basically how I beat the third game, since I don’t have the time anymore to spend an hour plus on a video game.

    1. Fizban says:

      DS1’s runbacks are pretty bad (and since Shamus never played the later games, yeah). Actually, really bad. I’ll vouch for them being runnable and learnable and just part of the game, but in DS1 they are neither close nor simple.
      -Bull demon or whatever: experienced players barely consider this a fight, but a new player will have to re-run essentially all of undead burg, over and over until they figure out either the special repeatable drop, learn to dive straight into crotches, or learn the exact range of its attacks for spacing. One of the worst runs in-context, and the first.
      -Gargoyles: most new players seem to find the church elevator and then fixate on the boss rather than discovering the blacksmith, so in addition to having no weapon upgrades, they’re sitting through the elevator ride from firelink every time. Then you need to go through the stairwell, and the skyway with a mob of potentially buffed hollows, then up like three more ladders. The knight on the stairs will backstab you like 50/50 if you don’t fight, and even runners can fail to slip the mob on occasion.
      -Capra Demon: one of the most infuriating bosses, especially for new players. The run is long, with distance and stairs, and even the back way from the shortcut is still guarded by enemies, just less of them.
      -Buttefrly: through an arena full of ambush plants and hard to kill golems. You can run past, if you figure out the right path and don’t stop or get stopped.
      -Sewer dragon: even if you find the shortcut, it’s still out and down and through and around and switchback stairs before the fog door, past slow but annoying enemies, easy to get turned around and frustrated.
      -Queelag: across the slowing poison swamp past bugs and rock throwing ogres.
      -Iron Golem: if you have the hidden bonfire, a fairly quick run and jump, but the elevator path requires running the entryway every time.
      -O&S: through a minimum of one elevator, then a hall of giant sentinels. You can find a path to juke around them, as long as you don’t want to wait around for summoning. Against probably the boss where people most want help.
      -Seath: even if there’s a shortcut further down, there’s still a run past fast and dangerous giant clams.
      -4 kings: the entire lower ruins, full of darkwraiths and even some ghosts from above, unless you can master just the right jump skip.
      -Bed of Chaos: this runback might as well be part of the platforming sequence of the boss, yeah.
      -Nito: from the last bonfire, only a couple casters must be juked or defeated. Which only makes the boss of Adds even more annoying.
      -Gwynn: a run down a path full of knights. You can learn to avoid them, but again, if you want to summon help for the final boss, you’ll need to clear some space.
      -Artorias: near enough a bonfire, but still not adjacent.
      -Manus: through part of the dark cave of weird damage entities.

      The only ones I’d consider convenient at all are Artorias and Iron Golem from the hidden bonfire, followed by Gaping Dragon and Butterfly. One is optional, one is optional dlc, and the mains are far enough in that players are either on board or long since bailed.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        I just wanna chime in for people that haven’t played Dark Souls 1 and thought “fast and dangerous giant clams” was some kind of typo: these clams will slice your shit up.

        1. Leviathan902 says:

          REAL clams will slice slice your shit up. Or at least oysters will I mean. Those things are RAZOR sharp, sliced the hell out of myself a couple of times on those. Do they sand the edges down off the ones you eat or something?

      2. Addie says:

        That off the top of your head? Nice work. You’ve missed:

        – Pinwheel, who is a complete balls to run to.
        – Sif, who is a complete balls to run to.
        – Kalameet, who is a complete balls to run to.
        – yon flying lion thing at the start of the DLC, who has a really convenient bonfire. Obviously an anomaly they were not keen to repeat.

        I think From were still learning from Demon’s Souls, which only has bonfires at the start of levels and at the bosses, which means basically every single boss in that game is a complete misery to run back to. They’d basically learned their lesson in DS2/3, where most of the bosses only have enough of a run to ‘think about where you went wrong’ before you get back to the boss again, with a couple of exceptions (Darklurker being a really bad one).

  8. Joshua says:

    “It sounds like a stupid and futile idea, but then so was storming the Death Star to rescue Leia. Then again, the good guys were sort of forced into that position”

    In retrospect, this was a very well done piece of writing, and I wonder if it was the first draft or someone edited in because invading the Death Star seems incredibly contrived. And then you have Rise of Skywalker where they do exactly that, and don’t even bother with subterfuge, just charging in and mowing down mooks. I’d say it kicked me out of the movie, but my investment at that point was pretty non-existent.

    1. RamblePak64 says:

      Yup, I was going to comment that the protagonists of A New Hope didn’t even expect the Death Star to be there, they expected a planet to be there. Getting caught by the Death Star wasn’t part of their plan, and before they figured out the Princess was on board they had one plan: figure out how to escape.

      As light-hearted and not-too-deep as the first film often seems, they certainly knew how to stitch this sort of logic together (even if some of it emerges only after cutting-room magic happens).

    2. Veylon says:

      A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back were films made under terror of failure. The scripts were agonized over in a way that none of the others were. Later films could be disappointing, but there was never the fear that they would flop so badly that the company would go bankrupt and everyone would lose their jobs if not their careers.

  9. Dreadjaws says:

    There’s nothing in the story to suggest that Trilla was open to redemption, and there hasn’t been anything to make us want to see it. So far she’s been evil and loving every minute of it. She never expressed any regret for anything she did and she’s been brimming with hatred for everyone. She’s been nasty, irrational, mocking, cutting, vindictive, and hateful.

    I guess you can Fanon the fact that Trilla was being such an ineffectual villain (storming the ice caves but directly waiting until right after Cal had built a new lightsaber before attacking, refusing to kill him once she got the holocron and Cal was paralized by a vision, not even bothering attacking his ship, not touching the holocron the moment she got it, not having any reinforcements with her so Cal would be forced to battle others alongside her, etc.) that she was secretly sabotaging herself. But, of course, this is never even hinted at in the game, it’d be giving the writer too much credit.

    The worst part is that Trilla doesn’t even have a direct connection to Cal. They’ve fought a bunch of times in the last few days, but that’s it. It’s as if instead of Luke it was Han Solo who tried to convince Darth Vader to renounce the dark side. So even if Trilla had shown any wish for Redemption, it’d still feel wrong to have Cal be the one trying to convince her.

    1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Perhaps my playthrough is biased by knowing the ending -but I did not see Trilla as irredeemably evil when Cal fought her on Zeffo. She is clearly very angry at Cere (not justifiably, but still very angry). Much of what she says to Cal is just projection of her own anger. She hasn’t embraced evil so much as she’s just drowning in anger and hate -which in Star Wars means she’s sucking on the Dark Side.

      The other day I used a narcotics metaphor, and I’m liking it more and more. Trilla was hurt by what happened during the purge, and the way she gets feeling good is by getting a hit of darkside power. Even her character design -the black and red eyes, the skeletal frame, sunken skin -she looks like a heroin user.

      And Cal could have ended up there, too. Early in the game he’s arrogant, he’s angry himself, he’s afraid. He’s cocky. He could be like the Joker -one bad day and all those traits would push him right into the Dark Side himself. But partly with Cere’s guidance -partly I think by Cordova’s (this is why I think Cordova wanting someone to follow in his footsteps before getting the holocron is not as crazy as it sounds) -he has become a mature Jedi knight. It makes perfect sense to me that he would see the dark mirror of himself in Trilla (especially post vision) and want to help her.

  10. Kaspar says:

    the holocron contains a list of a bunch of young force sensitives

    Does it, actually? You keep saying that Shamus, while also complaining that, surely, the list would be well out of date by now. I think it instead contains instructions on how to go about finding force sensitives, or even is a magical McGuffin that locates them for you.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Did you actually play the game? It says it’s a list. And just because Shamus’ complaint about it being out of date is perfectly valid, it’s still how the plot of the game goes.

  11. Christopher says:

    Arkham Asylum and Spider-Man PS4 both stuck a lot of their bosses close together at the end, so I feel like that’s what you get in one of these cinematic AAA/action games if you trim the stages but keep the climactic confrontations going. Metal Gear Rising similarly kinda just stops doing stages near the end and has you picking off the baddies in quick succession, though I get the impression that had to do with their dev time. Your mileage may vary, I suppose. Even Dark Souls 1 and 3 have the final stage be a straight line to the boss with few or no enemies, but it’s harder to judge where a narrative climax lies in a game with so little narrative.

    1. beleester says:

      Arkham Asylum didn’t have a “slog,” but I wouldn’t say the ending is particularly well-paced – Joker just figures the other villains have softened up Batman enough and says “Hey, come over here for the final boss fight, whenever you’re ready.” There’s not really a lot of narrative momentum pushing you into the final showdown.

      MGR had the military base before you fight Metal Gear Excelsus as its “final slog.” It’s a pretty quick slog, but it’s definitely just there to move you from Point A to Point B. It probably needs to exist, you can’t just drop the player into a giant robot fight with no context, but it’s definitely a weird hiccup in the pacing – “Hurry, get on the rocket ship and blast off to save the president! Now sneak around and stealth kill some mooks.”

    2. Fizban says:

      Even Dark Souls 1 and 3 have the final stage be a straight line to the boss with few or no enemies,

      And also 2? Depending on what you mean by final stage or narrative climax. The last phases of DS2’s main story have you:
      -Make your way up to the dragon shrine to get the memory entry ability, no boss.
      -Do some light backtracking to find the giant memory with the boss (shockingly it’s the one behind the endgame key door) you need to beat to reach the throne.
      -Go straight down the empty path to the final boss (who is preceeded by a pre-final boss).
      (Disclaimer: never actually finished the Scholar edition after I got it, don’t know where the Aldia fight falls in)

      The last area is effectively the dragon shrine. It, and the area preceeding it can feel like a slog if you just want to finish but are full of lore finally hinting at the Bad Stuff that went wrong (aside from wars of greed) and pretty vistas, making them more emotional on your first run. The Emerald Herald appears at the dragon shrine with new dialogue as you’re reaching the end of the journey. You have a clear break where you can wrap up loose ends, and you might decide to clear all the giant memories (or being maxed out, the dlc), but if you go straight to the obvious one it’s boss fight, one last bit of dialogue with the herald, then double boss fight and roll credits.

      It’s actually one of the better “break before the end” setups I’ve seen. The herald has been impressing upon you over time that the queen must be stopped, but she also seems to be on board with your timeframe/agency/drive and the giant memories aren’t going anywhere. So there’s a very clear moment where you can take as much time as you want tracking down any dead giants you remember (or other dead things, if you notice the item doesn’t specify giant), grinding to upgrade weapons, etc, without being told to. But if you’re maxed out and ready, there’s no reason to delay and you can just rush on to the end.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        If you meet the conditions for him to appear, Aldia appears directly after Nashandra, just as Nashandra appears directly after the Throne Duo if you meet the conditions for her to appear. Just as you don’t have to defeat the Throne Duo again if you die to Nashandra, you do not have to beat Nashandra again if you die to Aldia. Aldia is also a very simple fight, easier than Nashandra, who isn’t difficult either.

        It’s not a Friede situation.

      2. Addie says:

        I quite like the way that it shows you all of the remaining areas when you first meet Nashandra, so you think you’re very nearly done when you get to the dragon aerie. When in fact, you’ve still got a last 20% or so of the main game to go, and it then recontextualises just what you were doing 40-odd hours ago when you first explored the early game areas. Nice plot twist, without any cutscenes.

  12. RamblePak64 says:

    I feel awful because Bloodborne came to mind a few times while reading through this, and I really don’t want to be one of those fellows constantly comparing to the Soulsborne games.

    Regardless, it’s actually one of those games without a slog, though it technically has two optional final bosses. Once you vanquish the nightmare, you’re free to just march right up to the game’s conclusion. The final nightmare isn’t in a particularly “final dungeon” type location, though it certainly contains some answers… sort of… depending on how much lore you’re reading. It’s another zone like any other, and also has shortcuts set so you can head back to the boss if you die. But it’s not the final boss. Once you’ve vanquished the nightmare, you have the option of ending the game there, fighting another boss without having to progress through a level, and should you meet the right conditions, have the option to fight another boss after that.

    One of my favorite final levels was from Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, in part because it fit the tone of the property very well (and I have surely evangelized about it before on this blog). It’s only maybe thirty minutes, forty-five at most, and save for one segment, it’s a fast-paced battle that constantly bounces the player from robot to robot. You start as a Decepticon with unique mechanics, then bounce to an Autobot with different mechanics, then back to a Decepticon with their own mechanics, and then an Autobot specifically tasked with fighting the Decepticon you were just controlling, and finally culminates in a duel between Optimus and Megatron, allowing the player to choose which they’d like to play as in the final fight (doesn’t change the ending at all, just a bit of fun). None of it felt like a slog. If anything, it works so well because of how short it is. That breakneck pacing fits the spectacle-driven climax, and it feels appropriate in its length rather than being stretched out because “epic”.

    I don’t know if it shows how rarely games ditch the “long-and-sloggy final level” trope that I can’t think of many other examples off the top of my head. Halo also comes to mind, though only because I recall the early tone-setting wreck of Pillar of Autumn from the beginning of the level, followed by the manic drive on a Warthog to escape. No traditional final boss present, and it works dramatically… though the need to shoot a rocket into four different vents while Flood continue to spawn into the room every time was more-or-less typical video game fluff, and especially the worst part of the level (on Legendary in particular).

    I feel like the Yakuza games are susceptible to having unnecessary “final dungeons” themselves, though with recently released Like a Dragon it’s in part due to paying homage to the genre (and for its own reasons was better in handling some of those moments than other JRPGs, at least). However, they’re somehow able to combine cut-scenes and presentation with phenomenal music to help deliver the necessary emotional injection into the final boss fight itself, so it’s easier to forgive than other games.

    Personally, I wish more developers would try alternate methods of the “final dungeon”, something that either fits the tone of their game (I’d say Dishonored’s final map kind of fits this, though if I recall it had its own collectibles that take away from an otherwise focused level) or to just skip it altogether.

    My biggest challenge was waiting for the right moment instead of reflexively smashing the button the instant the stimulus appeared. Batman was always about quick responses, so I’d never really cultivated the habit of letting a threat “cook” for a half second until the time was right. It was really hard to break the habit of jabbing the button too soon.

    It’s interesting to read this segment from you. I think, over the years, I’ve forgotten some details about what you have and haven’t played (completely forgetting you played Final Fantasy X, for example, and therefore have been binging through your series on that game), and therefore have had a lot of assumptions about what is and isn’t your preference. This, however, seems to clarify your approach to action games, which is that Batman has been the pinnacle for you. When I think of “action game”, Batman may be one of the last titles on my mind, as it fits in more with the Assassin’s Creed combat (well, the original design) despite being more skill-based. Assassin’s Creed was designed to be friendly to non-gamers, but relying on counter-attacks made it too easy and discouraged players from learning the deeper mechanics. Batman, on the other hand, required a bit more understanding of the combat, even if it didn’t require the same mastery of rhythmic timing and use of tools.

    But it’s a very different kind of design than so much of the action genre, whose DNA is either influenced from Devil May Cry or, more recently, Dark Souls (and given the director of Fallen Order, a combination of both). The window changes from responding during the wind-up (the icons popping up over goon heads in Batman) to the moment of the attack (dodging just before the spear hits in Bayonetta in order to trigger Witch-Time, or dodging the moment the axe falls in Darksiders 3 to open up the opportunity for an arcane-charged counter-attack, or to hit the block button the moment the enemy’s blow falls in Darksiders to repel their strike and open their belly with a counter-swing). The wind-up isn’t the window to press the button, it’s the window to see the attack coming to prepare your defense.

    I wonder if this difference of preference has a major change in how one approaches a type of game. I recall mentioning it when you wrote about Marvel’s Spider-Man, but for me that game felt less Batman and more Devil May Cry. There were Batman elements to it, but for me it had a greater sense of “freedom”, I guess you could say, that I apply to Devil May Cry. Spider-Man not only felt more mobile to me than Batman, but more mobile because his movement was more in my control than that of the game’s (Batman is more likely to fly across the screen if you’ve established a good flow and are timing those critical strikes perfectly, but the second you get socked in the face the flow is gone and he’s no longer seeming to leap across the field. It’s actually something that I could never get a handle on in my recent replay of Asylum. How far he could reach seemed more dependent on how high a counter you had than any consistency in the action itself).

    I’m curious if, after having played Jedi: Fallen Order, you might approach a game like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry 5 differently than you would have if you played them after just having played Batman.

    For what it’s worth, some of the boss fights in Bloodborne have little-to-no jog should you die, buuuuut there are certainly some bosses that really have an annoying jog to make, should you die or choose to flee before dying. It’s weirdly inconsistent, though this was also one of the reasons I completely quit Sekiro. I got sick of the slog just to return to a foe that I had to defeat and was way too brutal to learn all his attacks.

  13. Matt says:

    This problem is inherent to cutscene-heavy games, although I’d love to see what would happen if a AAA team skipped the slog. […] (I suppose you could argue they did this in Mass Effect 3. The game doesn’t really have a proper boss fight. All gameplay stops once you reach the beam.

    They don’t have a proper boss fight, but they do have a giant slog on Earth, as I recall. Even after your heartfelt goodbyes to all your previous companions, I remember still having to fight through literal waves of banshees, husks, and brutes before the dash to the beam.

    1. Thomas says:

      That bits definitely a slog. Whenever I replay ME3 I always dread having to do those last fights. Especially as the final environment is atrociously dour and boring (another common feature of videogame final levels)

    2. baud says:

      The last firefight before the dash to the beam is particularly harrowing, with enemies coming from all the sides (so no easy camping behind a chest-high wall), and with a reaper that’s firing on the area (I don’t remember how precise it was), so I’d say this one counts as a boss fight. Though I think, for a TPS like Mass Effect 3, I prefer the boss fight being an hard fight against standard enemies instead of a boss that’s just a big HP sponge.

  14. GargamelLeNoir says:

    The “Slog” has a pretty big importance in games, it’s the moment where your build and skills are put to the final test against the normal challenges of the game at maximum intensity, that’s when you really feel how awesome you’ve become because the ennemies go all out on mooks and traps and everything they can throw at you outside of bosses, and you still crush them. That’s if it’s done well. In KOTOR 2 for example it was unsufferable because you just fight boring alien creatures, your party is split, and it only keeps you from advancing the plot. It’s not fun because it doesn’t feel like a final test of what you can do, it’s just an arbitrary obstacle between you and the resolution of the story.

    The final boss itself can’t provide that sense of end game awesomeness or the final test of your abilities because it has to be formidable by your end game standards and the demands of a boss fight won’t allow you to test many of your abilities (stealth, crowd control, sudden death abilities…)

    1. Asdasd says:

      Shamus does refer to it as the gameplay crescendo in the post. I guess the question is, ‘when is a slog not a slog?’ And as you say, the answer is, ‘when the devs do their job properly’.

      Sometimes rather than bringing all the gameplay elements together for a final challenge, the developers make the slog a pure moment of empowerment, such as HL2’s citadel gravity gun upgrade. Not sure I really prefer that myself; for me it really accentuated the theme parkiness of that game. And sometimes the slog is a complete gameplay curveball, like Xen in HL1 or the extended warthog section in Halo: CE.

      I don’t think I’d be OK with progressing from the narrative/emotional climax directly to the final encounter, because often, on a meta level, this is the point at which the player is sensing the imminence of their time in the game-world coming to an end. I suspect it’s important to provide a block some uncomplicated gameplay just to give them time to process that (assuming they’re reluctant rather than eager for the game to be over – in which case we’re back to, ‘did the dev do their job properly?’).

      An example of a great slog for me would be Ganon’s castle in Ocarina of Time. It’s bigger than you’d expect it to be, essentially a multi-dungeon with a small section revisiting each temple you’ve already conquered, a brief chat with its guardian, followed by a (symbolic) ascent of the tower, a confrontation with the villain, some story, a dramatic escape sequence, a final confrontation, and then the concluding cutscene and credit roll. That’s a comprehensive package, but each section serves its own purpose and the narrative and gameplay are interwoven well.

      1. Syal says:

        I can’t think of a game past the that did it, but it seems like a Boss Rush rather than a Mook Rush would perhaps fill the narrative role better. Something like Kill Bill Volume 1, where you’ve got Mace Girl and then The Horde and then The Final Boss. So have a few villains who are getting built up over the game, and then the final level is solely taking them all down in a row.

        1. Syal says:

          *past the NES*, that was supposed to say.

        2. Thomas says:

          As long as they’re new bosses. The Devil May Cry games would make you go through a pile of recycled old bosses before getting to the last boss.

          I’d do it as: one final playground – an open level with a lot of options and techniques that can be used to take on a reasonable number of enemies (but all in one go instead of chains of rubbish enemies) and one great final boss.

          1. Syal says:

            Yeah, I’m thinking story beat bosses. So if the final boss is Second Sister, maybe you open with fighting Fifth, Fourth, and Third.

            Actually Final Fantasy Tactics got pretty close to having a Boss Rush ending. The final sequence is two mook fights, then three fights against named villains you’ve seen before, then the final bosses.

      2. Joshua says:

        I was going to bring up HL 1 & 2, because IMO it’s an example of how not to do endgame. HL1 keeps the core gameplay, but adds in a bunch of jump and terrain puzzles, and it is indeed a tremendous slog.

        HL2, while brisker and more empowering as you mentioned, just turns into a different game. All of those weapon skills and tactics you spent like 14 levels refining? Forget about them, because now you just charge ahead and throw looks around or throw energy balls at things.

        1. baud says:

          Interestingly, I found Xen to be a fun segment to play through, mostly because the penalties for failing the jumps were usually minor, either fall in water or just load a save from 30 seconds ago (save anytime FTW).

      3. Sleeping Dragon says:

        As can be seen just from the discussion about the two KOTOR games this is clearly going to be a case of varying mileage. For example I personally know that I have very little patience for endgames, particularly of the “waves of mooks” variety, as I want to confront the boss and see the finale of the story. Oddly enough I don’t particularly mind longer segments or even grinding mid-game that much, to me it feels like a natural part of powering up your character, which might be something I’ve gotten accustomed to playing older JRPGs, but when all the story beats are done I want to be done too.

    2. Daimbert says:

      Interesting. While I haven’t played it as recently, I think I liked KOTOR 2’s better because it split away into your companions to give you a break from the slaughter, and KOTOR’s was just a constant slog where you were always in battle and so didn’t recharge your Force powers meaning that you couldn’t use the abilities that were most useful in those situations (Force Wave, Destroy Droid, Heal) without running out of power which turned it into even MORE of a slog.

      The suicide mission in ME2 is similar: an epic combat sequence, but split up into story relevant chunks before the final boss.

      But I suppose the difference is that I don’t see it and don’t want to see it as a test of my gameplay ability and abilities, but really want it to provide the backdrop to the end of the story. So something like Dragon Age Origins where you have to retake specific areas of the city and are able to call for aid from the factions you’ve recruited fits better for me as it maps the end game fight to the story parts, and not only the gameplay parts.

      1. John says:

        The end of the first Knights of the Old Republic rewards and requires melee combat in ways that the game mostly otherwise doesn’t. Everything on the Star Forge is much easier for a character who prioritizes melee combat over one who prioritizes Force powers. Prior to the final boss it is, as you said, because the constant combat drains Force points to the point where Force powers can be used only intermittently. In the final boss fight, it’s because the final boss’s saving throws are so good that offensive Force powers are mostly useless.

        In the second game, you still fight a lot of mooks but the mooks don’t come in unending waves. If you really need to, you can wait for your Force points to recharge a little before you open the door to the next batch. You shouldn’t need to, mind, because any halfway-sensible build is going to be absurdly powerful by the end of the game. I think, though I don’t recall specifically, that Kreia suffers from the same “resists everything” problem as Malak, however.

        That said, the second game’s ending is worse than the first game’s in that it’s obviously broken and unfinished. The restored content mod helps some, in that it gives you some idea where all your companions vanished to.

        1. John V says:

          Kreia has insane saves but the lightsabers she summons to attack you don’t. That way you can still use your fun force powers.

      2. Philadelphus says:

        I think my favorite sequence in KotOR II is assaulting the Sky Gate on Onderon to save/kill the queen. Since it requires you to do at least one planet in between your first time on Onderon, you’re going to be decently strong even if Onderon is the first planet you do, and if you put it off until later in the game you’re going to be properly end-game strong. You get to fight through a series of areas, with places to catch your breath along the way and get interjections from allies, fighting progressively larger groups of stronger enemies until you really do start to feel like a one-person army. It’s fun and empowering as you make your way towards the palace. I’m not sure if Obsidian could’ve replicated that feel for the ending given enough time (the ending has a very different feel to it overall), but it would’ve been neat.

        1. Thomas says:

          I liked the creepy isolated feeling they were going for in the last level, but it’s too broken to come together. When they reinserted a lot of the story beats in the climax that were cut, it felt more interesting.

  15. Mortuss says:

    I always thought that the knighting was done by cutting of the weird braid that padawanas have, presumably by a lightsaber, and Cere here just switched to different method since she didnt have anything to cut off.

    1. Aitrus says:

      Question: How does this whole braid thing work for non-humans who don’t have hair?

      1. Chad Miller says:

        This sounds like the beginning of a Robot Chicken-style comedy sketch.

        “I now dub you, Kit Fisto, Jedi Mast-”

        “AAAAH! WHY?”

        “What, isn’t that your hair?”

        “Son of a Sarlacc! No! There’s so much blood! We use these for balance!”

      2. Nimrandir says:

        I kind of imagine they just tape on a braid. Then the newly designated Jedi hangs on to it until assigned a padawan of their own.

        Not only does this save time wasted in waiting for padawans to grow enough hair for the braid, it’s also cost-effective!

        1. aitrus says:

          So it could be like, Bastila’s hair braid being passed down from generation to generation, eventually ending up on the head of Baby Yoda? Wow.

  16. Mark Ayen says:

    This problem is inherent to cutscene-heavy games, although I’d love to see what would happen if a AAA team skipped the slog. Would players complain that the ending felt “rushed” because they expected an hour of mook fights, or would everyone be cool with jumping right from the big emotional climax to the final boss fight? I don’t know if it would work or not, but I’d like to see someone try.

    Without getting too spoiler-y, The Outer Worlds had a pretty quick endgame; that is, the gap between “you can’t turn back from here” and “game over” was pretty short. I found the game pretty forgettable otherwise, but I do remember that. (That, and the Spacer’s Choice jingle, which will haunt me until my dying day.)

  17. A Gould says:

    I imagine the way to keep your plot and gameplay crescendos in sync would be to put the final “we’re about to do the ending, finish your chores” checkpoint *before* the final cutscenes. (So once you say Go, you get the knighting and then go direct to the finale).

    The downside is that you risk ending up in Kingdom Hearts.

    1. Or design your side stuff in such a fashion that it wraps up naturally well beforehand so you don’t have to REMIND people “go finish off your irrelevant side drivel”.

  18. Gautsu says:

    I suppose you could argue they did this in Mass Effect 3. The game doesn’t really have a proper boss fight.

    Marauder Shields(R.I.P.) would like to disagree

  19. The Rocketeer says:

    Sensing that perhaps it’s ridiculous to send Call off on this mission alone…

    It was ridiculous, undeniably. But Gus wanted to be buried in Lonesome Dove.

  20. John V says:

    According to the Rebels tv show, only light side force users can open jedi holocrons and only dark side users can open sith holocrons. The implication is that even though the empire can’t open the holocron right now, it’s only a matter of time before they figures something out. Probably by forcing a jedi to open it before sticking them in the torture machine.

    1. Asdasd says:

      Why wait around until you have a Jedi handy? Just take your Sith apprentice and put them in a massage chair for an hour, boom, instant Jedi!

      1. Nimrandir says:

        Don’t forget the cucumber water, or you may only end up with a Gray Jedi!

  21. Mephane says:

    I felt the part in the underwater base should have been longer, not shorter. But I generally don’t experience those kind of endgame sections as a slog, the more time I get to spend actually using all my powers and equipment when they are at their peak the better.

  22. Paul Spooner says:

    Ahhhhaha! You got me with:

    Sometimes we’re just here to watch the bad person fall down a big hole and explode for no reason.

    Nailed it. Man, they don’t pay you enough for this. Good thing for all of us that you do it for fun anyway.

  23. “This problem is inherent to cutscene-heavy games, although I’d love to see what would happen if a AAA team skipped the slog. Would players complain that the ending felt “rushed” because they expected an hour of mook fights, or would everyone be cool with jumping right from the big emotional climax to the final boss fight? I don’t know if it would work or not[4], but I’d like to see someone try.”

    Well, Dragon Age: Inquisition kinda did this, in that there’s no pre-fight to the big end battle. There’s sort of a slog leading up to the elven temple, but I actually found that enjoyable and well-done because you don’t really have to FIGHT the stuff yourself, instead you get to see the allies you picked up throughout the game fighting the stuff.

    To me, that’s about the best slog possible–that they have the waves of mooks but you can just run past them if you want to, or if you feel like it you can join your allies in a quick battle. Even better if some sort of reference is made to what you’ve actually done during the course of the game, which is not really what Inquisition did.

  24. One game that avoid the pre final boss slog is Chrono where you just warp straight to the final boss when your ready (or when your not at all ready)

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *