Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker has been the hot topic as of late, but not for the reasons Lucasfilm was hoping for. Skywalker is ranked as the lowest live-action film in the franchise and of the three films in the sequel trilogy, lags in third place at the box office thus far. People are, typically, divided on the movie, with some seeing it as the saviour from The Last Jedi while others, myself included, were critical of the film’s script. While the film may have left something to be desired, it wasn’t the only narrative from a galaxy far, far away to come out in 2019 and it wasn’t even the best. In fact, the best narrative wasn’t even filmed technically.
Where the sequel trilogy, specifically for me The Rise of Skywalker seemed to miss the mark in terms of storytelling, Jedi Fallen Order, the video game from Respawn Entertainment did not. As there are fewer gamers than moviegoers, let me fill you in. The game is set five years after Order 66 and follows Cal (Cameron Monahan, Shameless), a Jedi Padawan survivor living as a salvager on a far off junk planet. He’s closed himself off to the Force and keeps his head down. That is until one day he uses the Force on reflex to save his friend on the job. Before you know it, the Empire, namely the Inquisitors, begin hunting for the survivor. He’s cornered and forced into a terrifying duel with the Second Sister but the out of practice Padawan is saved by former Jedi Knight Cere Junda and her pilot friend Greez Dritus. Oh, and who could forget the lovable droid BD-1?
Once the gang is set up, Cal begins searching for a Holocron that has the name of Force Sensitive children that could be used to rebuild the order to take on the Empire. Of course, we know this fails but failure is a running theme through the game. Cal has survivors guilt and believes himself to be a failure for not saving his master. Likewise, Cere is carrying her own failures with her, that of caving into torture at the hands of the Empire and causing the deaths of multiple padawans. Even Greez isn’t a white knight-he is a gambler who has wasted away his funds and gotten into serious trouble in his past. Even the villain, the Second Sister, has interesting revelations that I won’t spoil here.
The game, despite showcasing these flawed characters, is all about hope (cause of course it is). But unlike the grey zone the sequel films placed the Jedis under, Fallen Order shows us the inspirational power the Jedi can have on individuals. When not a victim of their own hubris, to quote Luke, the Jedi symbolized so much potential, hope and righteousness and Cal is fighting hard not just for a better tomorrow but to redeem himself-not someone else. He needs to validate his own story while his new friends do the same.
The story takes Cal to many locales, some new and some familiar to fans who have plunged deeper than the movies. Seeing Dathomir is a treat but Dee Bradley Baker returning to voice the clones in flashbacks is a joy for anyone who watched The Clone Wars animated series (which you should be watching anyway). It knows if you’re paying $59.99 USD, you likely know a thing or two about Star Wars and never plays it too safe with the lore, it just sort of assumes you know what’s what and finds a nice middle ground where if you didn’t, it would never injure the plot. I found the two of sequel films to be very safe but hats off to Solo for just tossing Maul back on the big screen without explaining it to casual fans. Likewise, Fallen Order tosses in references to Rebels, The Clone Wars and some new concepts and locations that we’ve never seen before.
The game does a great job of making you, the player, the conduit of a character who has been through so much fear and pain. We want Cal to succeed and we want to prevent the Empire from succeeding. We get to see, first hand, what it’s like on the receiving end of their relentless pursuit. As the walls close in around our heroes, a newfound sense of purpose takes hold, on that will resist the darkness. The game is full of hope and optimism, even when it’s at its darkest. Oh, and it’s a blast interacting with the detailed environments-being in Greez’ ship feels so right.
To think this game could have almost been cancelled is scary. EA, the publisher, was pushing for more multiplayer games and those that can be labelled as “games as service”. This game has no DLC, no season pass, no extra way to earn revenue and the publisher projected low sales for the game. As of this writing, the game has cleared eight million units, well above projected expectations. I daresay that Jedi Fallen Order is one of the best Star Wars stories to come around during the Disney era and one of the best in the entire canon. If you have the means to play the game, you should most certainly be playing this game. Sure, there are some bugs and texture issues, but at the core, it’s the story, the characters and the gameplay that make this so memorable and so right. This feels like Star Wars, this feels like more.