While watching the EA Play presentation of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, I couldn't help noticing how similar it looked to a number of other action-adventure games, including Uncharted and Tomb Raider. But having spent the morning playing an early version of the game though, I'm now struck how strategic and meaningful the combat is. Nathan Drake can easily dispatch hundreds of grunts, but my personal Cal Kestis was still having trouble with Stormtroopers wielding flamethrowers.
While the second half of my demo was rooted in the actual adventure of Jedi: Fallen Order, showing Cal navigating the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk and meeting Rogue One's Saw Gerrera, the first half was meant to get me used to the ins-and-outs of combat. Jedi: Fallen Order definitely isn't The Force Unleashed again.
"We all loved the 'feeling overpowered' nature of [Star Wars: The Force Unleashed], but the story anchors this in a different sort of time. You're on the run. It's not the time to be flashy and use all the best powers," said Jedi: Fallen Order writer Megan Fausti, who walked me through the demo. "I think Star Wars as a franchise has sort of moved away from that as well, since the canonizing of everything and moving away from Legends. Trying to really ground it. Jedi don't feel like gods, they are people. People with amazing powers, but powers can only get you so far."
I'd say Fallen Order is closer to the combat in the recent God of War reboot. Fallen Order director Stig Asmussen worked on God of War, God of War 2, and directed God of War 3, but had nothing to do with the recent reboot, so it's interesting to see both studios having landed in a similar spot.
Cal retains Force powers, including the ability to Force Pull, Force Push, and even put enemies into a slow-motion stasis field at the press of a button. But those abilities won't win the battle, they're mostly about controlling the space. You can slow down rockets with a Force Slow, or send them back to enemies with a Force Push. Troopers with flamethrowers can be interrupted with Force Pull, sliding them right onto your glowing lightsaber blade.
Many of the basic Stormtroopers I ran into used energy batons to attack on melee range. You could simply block their attacks with your lightsaber or dodge to evade them, but it's far better to parry instead. Blocking drains your stamina meter, while dodging can sometimes leave you out of attack range. Parrying gives you the chance to immediately counter-attack, and a perfectly-timed parry opens an enemy up to an instant kill. Likewise, blocking blaster bolts deflects them in various directions, while timed parries sends the bolts back at their targets. Given that ranged attackers will harry you as you try to dispatch their melee counterparts, timed blaster parries is a key skill.
I also had the chance to face off against massive droids that looked like K-2SO from Rogue One, and the all-new Purge Trooper. The droid's attacks were slower, but it had an unblockable grab move that I had to dodge. The Purge Trooper had more complex attack patterns, stringing together larger melee combos with varying timing between attacks, alongside their own blockable attacks.
None of these enemies were particularly hard to understand, but Jedi: Fallen Order's difficulty comes from the mix-ups. Facing a Purge Trooper and two Flametroopers, alongside a floating droid pinging me from a distance meant that my combos and parries kept getting interrupted. Melee attackers don't wait and attack one at a time either, forcing you to dodge or time multiple parries. I fought the spider-like Wyyyschokk during the Kashyyyk mission, and while I had the alien's web-throwing patterns down, I kept getting shot in the back by a basic Stormtrooper on the fringe of the battlefield. It's very easy to get cocky and sloppy, only to find your yourself taking numerous hits.
While the traversal and exploration of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order definitely lean towards games like Uncharted and Tomb Raider, the combat is far meatier and more enjoyable. And unlike The Force Unleashed, you're not necessarily a monster simply destroying any enemies you come across. According to Fausti, the Cal I played in the combat demo was a relatively low-leveled version of the character, but the Kashyyyk was actually ahead in terms of skill tree progression. I was still occasionally running into combat situations that tried my skills, even with the leg up, which honestly speaks well of Jedi: Fallen Order.
We had the opportunity to talk to Respawn about Fallen Order a couple days ago, and we got some interesting info on how blocking was used to solve problems with lightsaber combat. The combat definitely seems like the best part of this game.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is coming to PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on November 15, 2019. Check out the rest of our E3 2019 coverage here.