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It Came From Origin Premiere: Let’s Talk Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Boy what a ride.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the most video game-ass video game to come from the AAA sector in recent memory. It makes me a bit sad to recognize the fact that this is the first Star Wars game in over a decade that feels like it was made foremost to be a fun game and not to be a vehicle for disgustingly greedy microtransactions. In fact, the game doesn’t have microtransactions period. I know, right? From a subsidiary of Electronic Arts and in 2019 no less.
There are a lot of things that Fallen Order does not have. It doesn’t have a tacked-on half-baked multiplayer mode that would be dead within a month. It does not have shoddily-implemented RPG mechanics to artificially extend the game’s lifetime by forcing the player to grind for gear with incrementally higher numbers. There are no daily missions, no loot boxes, no weekly checklists or login rewards. No season passes or ridiculous cosmetics to give Vade pink armor. It’s like the developers at Respawn fell out of 1998 and said “let’s make a modern Star Wars game.”
Fallen Order is set shortly after the events of Revenge of the Sith. The Jedi are mostly wiped out, Yoda and Obi Wan are headed to their respective hidey holes for the next couple of decades, and the newly formed Empire is on the prowl wiping out the good guys wherever they may be hiding. Luke and Leia are probably just reaching the age of saying their first words, so don’t count on them for help. You are Cal Kestis, a name you’ll probably forget about two minutes after hearing it. Cal is living his life as a normal scrap miner (who would have thought) when his life is flipped turned upside down; the Empire knows he’s a Jedi. With the help of the mysterious Cere Junda (played by Debra Wilson) and space pilot from Space Bronx Greez Dritus (Daniel Roebuck), your goal is to rebuild the Jedi Order.
1. Exploration Is Encouraged, Not Forced
Exploration in Fallen Order tastes like Respawn made a gumbo using a 50/50 blend of Metroid and Uncharted. You’ll visit several planets over your trip that amount to a variety of open world locations with twisted, winding paths and a variety of local wildlife. Each zone basically amounts to taking the long way to your goal while simultaneously opening up shortcuts for when you come back. And you’ll come back, they always come back. After all, you’ll need to return to the planets you’ve visited (of which there are roughly half a dozen) to unlock new areas.
As you journey through the world, you’ll obtain new force powers, upgrade your BD-1 unit to access more areas of the map, and find more unlockables. The unlockables are wholly optional and amount to new cosmetics, bits of lore, and doodads that incrementally increase your max health/force. The map is also very handy for showing you areas that you can access and those that you can’t, so you’ll never be scouring an area for a frustratingly long amount of time wondering where to go next.
2. The Darkest of Souls
I am legally obligated to point out that Fallen Order is the Dark Souls of Star Wars games, and the analogy actually works this time. Let me summarize: Fallen Order is a game where your capabilities in combat are tuned around timing your strikes, parries, and rolling dodges. You come up against enemies, many of whom can strike you down within a handful of well-placed hits. Defeating enemies grants you experience that translates into skill points that must be spent at meditation points. If you die in battle, you lose your accumulated unspent points and must go back and strike the NPC that hit you to get them back. Meditating, dying, and leaving resets all enemies on the map. For healing you have limited stims (estus flasks).
For Soulsborne fans, I recommend playing on higher difficulties. Respawn’s difficulty system is rather ingenious in that it doesn’t change much. Lower difficulties make enemies hit for less damage and moderately increase the parry window. Regardless, this game will beat the crap out of you on pretty much any mode except for Story Mode. You are expected to die, and die a lot.
3. Artificial Unintelligence
That being said, Fallen Order can be cheesed by playing the game in ways that it was clearly not meant to be played.
Fallen Order’s artificial intelligence is fantastic in a very closed environment. Respawn manages to keep a tense atmosphere from start to finish by pitting you in a world where even the lowliest stormtrooper can knock you silly if you aren’t careful enough. Enemies parry your attacks, anticipate your movements, and generally fight like intelligent creatures with real experience.
Pull it out of that environment, and Respawn’s AI falls apart. I was able to get through several areas that should have been difficult simply by force pulling mini-bosses into adjacent rooms. The mini-bosses didn’t understand the layout and ignored me bashing at them with my lightsaber while slowly waltzing back to their zone. Mobs will often just stop pursuing you at the boundary point between rooms at which point they just sort of shut off and won’t acknowledge your presence until you walk back into their zone. Even worse than the dead-brain mode when getting pulled into other rooms, I found that some mobs will just hit a kill switch and die if they wind up on unfamiliar terrain. It kills the atmosphere when you pull a mini-boss on to solid ground and he just keels over for no reason.
When it works, it works. The few lightsaber battles you’ll get into with Fallen Order’s bosses are some of the best since the old Star Wars Jedi Knight titles. You’ll go from getting your ass completely kicked by a boss to doing better, then even getting an advantage, and finally you’ll be finishing the fight without taking more than a couple of hits. And you’ll know that you accomplished that on your own, not because you min-maxed or overleveled the game but because you paid attention and learned the cues.
4. I F*#@ING LOVE STAR WARS
My interest in Star Wars in general has been rekindled thanks to the impressive launch of The Mandalorian, and Fallen Order couldn’t come at a better time for the franchise. This game has a lot of what you’d want out of a Star Wars Jedi game. Customizing your lightsaber? You can do it, even though it’s a thing you don’t exactly see the details of when it is slicing through a stormtrooper. Your lightsaber works like a lightsaber should, cutting things in half with ease. The game does make tougher enemies take more hits which can pull out of the experience, but you have to make some compromises otherwise you’d be the One Punch Man of a galaxy far far away.
Fighting AT-ST’s? Check. Scaling the side of an AT-AT Walker? Double check. One of my favorite bits showcasing the attention to detail is in the stormtrooper dialogue. You can sneak up on stormtroopers and hear them chattering amongst themselves (“it’s your turn to fill out casualty reports!”) and it’s just jump up on a group of soldiers to hear them amping themselves up for the battle only to see that enthusiasm drop away as their comrades fall one by one.
The gameplay and story are compelling enough to make you almost forget that Cal is on a path of failure. Yea, Fallen Order takes place within the canonical universe of Star Wars. In case you hadn’t noticed by the end of Return of the Jedi, the Jedi Order is still not a thing. The ending isn’t clear until well after the three quarter mark, when you kind of get an idea as to how everything is going to summarize itself. It is a powerful ending and one that makes sense in the greater universe. After all, the future does not know who Cal Kestis is.
If I had to nitpick, I’d also point out that the game does absolutely nothing to explain or acknowledge the fact that Cal respawns at meditation points when he dies, or the fact that zones respawn when you meditate. In Dark Souls the mechanic makes sense, here it’s thrown in with no real connection to the world or lore.
5. In Conclusion
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is not an open world RPG but instead a mostly linear storytelling experience with some optional exploration sprinkled in. It tells a great story though, one that gives me hope for the future of Star Wars as a video game franchise (one which ironically was also killed by the same publisher). Fallen Order has great characters, a fantastic story, and combat mechanics that keep the game exciting from the moment you pick it up to the moment you put it down and the credits roll.
Finishing the main story without doing much in the way of exploring the optional mechanics took me roughly fifteen hours and some change. Your mileage may vary. That said, there is little in the way of replayability outside of going back and roughing through the game at a higher difficulty.
If playing on PC, I highly recommend just footing the month of Origin Premiere and playing through Fallen Order over the weekend for $15 and then spend the rest of the month doing whatever with the remaining library of games. For Xbox or PS4? Rent it from your local Redbox. It’s a fantastic game by all means, but I feel like most people will be done with it once the first playthrough is over with.
Rant: The Industry Makes Its Contempt For Consumers Public Once Again
I have to be honest with you folks: The AAA gaming industry has become such a contemptuous ball of greasy slime that I frankly no longer find it believable when companies do shady things and chalk it all up to human error.
I’ve spent the better part of the last six years shouting to the high heavens about how the gaming industry, specifically the AAA sector, has been meticulously and in many ways purposely building an increasingly hostile and bitter relationship with consumers. We’re talking about an industry that brings psychologists on board so they can figure out better ways to subtly manipulate people into spending more money than ever, an industry that is building massive databases of information and artificial intelligence so they can low-key manipulate your behavior all in the name of selling microtransactions. One where companies deliberately introduce problems in order to sell you the solution, where they can use every dirty tactic to get you to pay exponentially more for exponentially less.
Let’s talk about how Respawn is the latest developer to acquire EA’s venom for the public.
All of this hubbub began when Apex Legends released its latest update introducing solo mode and the Iron Crown loot box. The Iron Crown box is special because it costs $7 as opposed to $1 for the normal box, and contains limited time items that will only be available until the event ends on August 27. There are 24 items in the box and you can obtain two boxes by completing challenges. Nothing in the boxes could be bought directly, and you are guaranteed no duplicates. So all in all, you’re looking at being required (as there is no other way to get these items) to spend $140 USD to get everything.
I say required because Respawn is using the tactic where they know fully well that they are pushing this for completionists in the hopes that many will buy the whole set, while giving themselves the plausible deniability of “it’s all optional.” It leads into the Bloodhound’s Raven’s Bite axe, an item that must be purchased directly but can only be purchased once you buy all 24 items, and it costs 3,500 coins. All in all, you’ll need to spend at least $170 in bulk if you want these items. There’s greedy and then there is Electronic Arts greedy.
Naturally the community went in an uproar over the update because consumers don’t like being fleeced, and Respawn’s apology didn’t do a whole lot to assuage criticism by taking the loot box items and placing the skins on the store for individual purchase at $18 a pop.
“With Apex Legends it is very important to us that we don’t sell a competitive advantage. Our goal has not been to squeeze every last dime out of our players, and we have structured the game so that all players benefit from those who choose to spend money – events like Legendary Hunt or Iron Crown exist so that we can continue to invest in creating more free content for all players. This week has been a huge learning experience for us and we’re taking the lessons forward to continue bringing the best possible experience to all of you.”
An EA subsidiary not trying to bleed its customers dry? Sorry, I don’t buy it.
The folks at Respawn aren’t that stupid that they built up this very obvious and blatantly greedy cash event and had absolutely no idea how egregious it would be. Because the overall corporate structure at Respawn doesn’t give a damn if you’re unhappy with the product, just shut your stupid peasant mouth and open up that wallet to give them more money. This is a free to play game, you ungrateful putz, that means that instead of giving $60 up front for a few years of entertainment, you agree to spend hundreds of dollars over the course of a couple of weeks while shutting your trap and not questioning any of the business decisions that are made for you.
But it wouldn’t quite be a rant if I didn’t show you the absolute contempt that some of the Respawn devs have for their players, such as Drew McCoy who took to Reddit to call gamers “dicks” and freeloaders. This is what happens when bullshysters are called out on their schemes, they immediately go on the attack in order to hopefully divert attention away from why people are angry in the first place.
“Hey everyone – found the dick I was talking about. Guess what, I didn’t even read your comment except for the first sentence and last. This kind of garbage doesn’t warrant a reply – but lucky for you I already made a comment about this earlier. Go find it.”
“I think technically I was calling gamers dicks? I dunno. I had a spicy lunch, feelin’ it.”
“There is a wealth of data available on how monetization works in free-to-play games, and we ourselves have run tests by putting skins on sale in the store. The amount of people who spend is crazy low, most of ya’ll are freeloaders (and we love that!) and a change in price doesn’t move the needle.”
Drew goes on to act like the changes are because Respawn is such a benevolent overlord and honestly you freeloaders should be happy that they put the game out for free and are so magnanimous and charitable. Sure, Apex Legends released for free because selling it at a box price would be a financial disaster since the competition is free, and the whole point of releasing free to play is to forego a consistent amount of money up front distributed among 100% of the community in favor of the 15-20% of the community fronting more money and those free players adding more traffic to the servers so those paying players stay more engaged and end up spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars over its lifespan. As opposed to $60 plus maybe some small cosmetic purchases.
Stop asking questions and buy more product.
“Jeez, whats with the conspiracy theories? This event has been quite the success, and I can’t say that any clearer. We’re making changes that will most likely reduce revenue, but we’re doing it because its the right thing to do.”
Nobody tell Jayfresh that he can help avoid being called a liar by not being a liar.
But Respawn’s inability to handle criticism for its anti-consumer business practices is par for the course in the Electronic Arts family and follows in line from the “pride and accomplishment” statement regarding Battlefront II loot boxes to former CEO Patrick Soderlund telling customers that he doesn’t care if they don’t buy Battlefield. Apex Legends is stupidly successful right now, but I’m going to go back to what I said ten years ago: The model is only successful until it isn’t, and the gaming community turns on a dime with games going from overnight successes to overnight abandoned warehouses…overnight. The industry doesn’t turn that fast, and Respawn is
Sure, the developers at Respawn probably think they are invincible right now, but let’s keep one thing in mind: You work for Electronic Arts, a giant with a graveyard larger than a prepubescent Sims player who knows how to remove the pool ladder. Titanfall 2 sold below expectations and Mass Effect took only one game to go from massive success to studio-closing failure.
Game companies are not your friends, I can’t express that statement enough. They aren’t your buds, they don’t have your best interest in mind, and they will turn on you at a moment’s notice.
Otherwise I have no opinion on the matter. Oh, one more note:
“I’ve been in the industry long enough to remember when players weren’t complete ass-hats to developers and it was pretty neat,”
Dear Drew, that era was back when developers like yourself weren’t releasing $200 cosmetic events and formulating your game as cynical slot machines designed to get kids to spend as much of their parent’s money as humanly possible.
Apex Legends To Target High Risk Regions, Matchmake Cheaters
Cheating in Apex Legends is for ratfinks, and if Respawn has anything to say about it cheaters will be thrown into a pit where their only company will be other ratfink cheaters. In the latest community update, Respawn gave a list of plans on how it will deal with the cheating that has been going on. Plans include automatic detection and bans of cheaters, as well as matchmaking detected cheaters and spammers together.
- Using machine learning to create behavior models that detect and auto ban cheaters.
- Requiring TFA in certain regions on high risk accounts.
- Improving detection that identifies and bans new spam accounts before they are used.
- Ongoing work to adapt to new cheats.
- Matchmaking that matches detected cheaters and spammers together.
- Investigating how people party up for matches. Even if you are not specifically using a cheat, partying up with cheaters is still cheating.
- Increasing resources whether that be people or tech.
Don’t cheat in Apex Legends, or any competitive multiplayer game for that matter.
[Not Massive] Titanfall 2 Trial Coming Soon
Titanfall 2 is a fantastic shooter whose success has been hampered thanks to the poorly timed launch between Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. To bring more eyes to the game, Electronic Arts will be releasing a trial for PC and Xbox EA Origin/Access players on November 30th with the trial rolled out to non-subscribers on PC, Xbox, and Playstation on December 2nd.
Following the release of Titanfall 2, all post-launch maps, modes, and weapons will be absolutely free to all players, and that all starts on November 30th with the release of Angel City’s Most Wanted. Featuring the fully remastered fan favorite Angel City map from the original Titanfall, Angel City’s Most Wanted introduces additional free content including the Wingman Elite Pistol, six new Titan kits, and a brand new Pilot execution.
If you have some free time, check out Titanfall 2 on your platform of choice, providing you choose a platform that the game is available on.
(Source: EA Press Release)