Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order hands-on preview: The Dark Souls of the Force

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the first single-player Star Wars adventure to come along in some time, but we couldn't help but notice a resemblance to a certain other type of game. Shacknews goes hands-on.


The Jedi Order is no more. Emperor Palpatine issued Order 66, directing the Republic's Clone Troopers to brutally execute any Jedi on sight, accusing them all of treason against the Republic. None of the Jedi remain, outside of a minuscule number that lay in hiding. Among them is all-new character Cal Kestis, who has found himself dragged into the conflict against the growing Empire. But Cal Kestis is no Jedi yet. He is a former Padawan, still learning the ways of the Force. Players must prepare to grow along with him in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, a new entry to the franchise from EA and Apex Legends/Titanfall creators Respawn Entertainment.

Like any good Star Wars hero, Cal has allies who help him journey across the galaxy. But Fallen Order is a single-player experience through and through, one that feels refreshingly new for a Star Wars game. But it's also one that will feel noticeably familiar to fans of a certain other single-player franchise, which I'll touch on a little bit later. Earlier this week, Shacknews had the opportunity for an extensive hands-on with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order launch screens

This hands-on is set early in the game. In fact, it's set earlier than the mission revealed in Fallen Order's first extended gameplay trailer. Players are given a chance to explore some of Cal's relationship with his close circle of friends. There's Cere, a former Jedi who has a more complex backstory and a more complex relationship with the Force in the wake of Order 66. There's also trusty pilot Greez, a four-armed alien who takes Cal across the galaxy aboard his ship, the Stinger Mantis. Cal's mission is to travel to the planet Zeffo (a new world in Star Wars lore) to explore and research the planet's temples, while dispatching any Imperial resistance. Without spoiling the story, Cal finds enough information to send him to his next destination, while also opening the door to learn more about Cere and the Jedi.

Zeffo's world is a wide open one, leaving ample opportunities for different 3D platforming mechanics. Sprinting, jumping, and climbing are a big part of the equation. However, there are many more advanced ideas at work here. Players will need to master wall running, sliding along icy slopes, going down ziplines, moving across wind tunnels, and sometimes a combination of several of those things at once. Some of these environmental-based platforming elements look to be unique to Zeffo, which leaves a question as to what other worlds will have to offer later in the game. Players will also need to navigate darker areas. Their sole light source will be their lightsaber, with players able to hold LB/L1 to hold the weapon over Cal's head to act like a flashlight.

Many areas will be closed off, which leads into some of Fallen Order's more Metroidvania-style elements. Sometimes, opening the path involves upgrading loyal droid BD-1's abilities. Cal will occasionally find workbenches where he can customize his lightsaber, but also upgrade some of BD-1's capabilities. For this hands-on, the little droid learned the ability to hack into Empire systems and open locked doors, opening up previously inaccessible paths.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order launch screens

Opening up paths also means that Cal will need to upgrade himself. Cal can pick up Force-based abilities as he goes, with Zeffo holding the Force Push ability. After picking this up, new areas previously gated off could be opened up by simply Force Pushing the walls apart or pushing loose catwalks forward. This helps Cal explore hidden areas, while also creating shortcuts so that players don't have to endure some of the more daunting platforming sequences, should they decide to return later with even more abilities.

The Force Push also plays a big factor in some of Fallen Order's puzzle mechanics. Zeffo's main temple is filled with massive orbs that must be moved around into their proper slots in order to trigger switches. There are wall switches that open up wind tunnels that can help, but these puzzles don't really get moving until Cal picks up the Force Push. After unlocking this ability, Cal can push these Orbs onto the right path that will lead them to their proper switches. There's one particular stretch near the end of the temple sequence where Cal has to place three different orbs onto their switches, making sure to Force Push them onto the right wind tunnels. Force Push is also helpful in combat, particularly against temple statues that come to life and are powered by their own orbs.

Let's talk about the combat, which is a major element of the game. Remember that Cal isn't a Jedi Master, so he's not going to be mowing down Stormtroopers left and right -- not without some work, anyway. The LB/L1 is more than a flashlight, it's going to be the player's most valuable tool. This is Cal's parry, which can be used just before an incoming melee strike to take his attacker off-balance and give him an opening to strike. Likewise, the parry can be used to deflect incoming blaster bolts, which is not only useful against Stormtroopers, but also against AT-ST walkers. Timing is critical, as button mashers will get punished frequently, especially against bigger enemies and bosses.

If this is starting to sound familiar, then it's time to tell a story. Fallen Order utilizes a series of save points throughout each world. They can act as checkpoints, as well as places to upgrade Cal's skill tree. Cal is also presented the option to fully heal and refill his Stim Pack counter, which is important, because there is no auto heal and there are no health pickups over the course of the entire game. While Cal has the option to heal, in exchange, all enemies will respawn and return to their previous spots. When I explained this to the Shacknews Slack, resident Soulsborne enthusiast David Craddock couldn't help but chime in, "That's a Dark Souls mechanic."

And indeed, at the risk of feeding the meme machine, that's where veteran Soulsborne players might see Fallen Order as the Dark Souls of Star Wars games. Between the timing-based melee combat and the save system, Respawn is taking influence from some of the best single-player games on the market. They're also looking to put their own stamp on the formula by adding four different difficulty levels. Lower difficulties will lower damage intake and increase the parry window, while the highest difficulty hopes to present a challenge on par with the best of the Soulsbourne games.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order launch screens

The Soulsborne influence is most noticeable in the one hands-off portion of the Fallen Order demo: the boss battles. The assembled media were treated to a clash between Cal and the bulky Ninth Sister. This is a true lightsaber battle, where Cal must carefully parry any incoming blows and find any possible openings. He must also avoid the Ninth Sister's powerful attacks, like her unavoidable spinning blade attack. Even after losing a hand, the Ninth Sister still proves to be a formidable challenge and one that doesn't go particularly fast. The impatient will not go very far here.

All of this is a small slice of what players can expect from the full Fallen Order package. There's lore all over the place, with Cal able to use a Psychometry ability to analyze little pieces of the world using the Force, in order to gather information. BD-1 can scan objects in the world to find hints. BD-1 can also explore boxes in different areas to find cosmetic lightsaber pieces or outfits. Cal at the start of the game likely won't look like Cal at the end of the game, given that players will earn the option to change his robes or change the color and grip of his lightsaber. Even by the end of the hands-on, I already had Cal wielding a Luke Skywalker-style green lightsaber.

It's increasingly looking like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order could be the single-player Star Wars experience that many fans have been craving. However, it's also looking to be something I wasn't expecting. It looks like it'll be a casual player's best introduction to the Soulsborne style of single-player adventures, hopefully encouraging more players to get into games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne. There's a lot to look forward to with this new game and it's almost here. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is set to release on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on November 15.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    October 17, 2019 8:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order hands-on preview: The Dark Souls of the Force

    • reply
      October 17, 2019 8:43 AM

      Sounds awesome. I know most of the Shack shit on this game at e3, but I think it will be pretty good. Respawn is part of EA, yes, but they know how to make SP games.

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        October 17, 2019 8:45 AM

        most of the shack shits on anything star wars these days

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        October 17, 2019 9:13 AM

        The Shack is pretty anti Star Wars and anti EA so that's a pretty deadly combo. The e3 trailer was also pretty terrible. I was optimistic because of Respawn and the extended trailer they released during the Star Wars event showed a lot more promise. REALLY excited about this game. I think it might be the only thing I'm excited about this holiday now that Doom was pushed back.

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          October 17, 2019 12:07 PM

          Me too, definitely may be one of my few titles I pick up for the holiday.

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        October 17, 2019 9:26 AM

        Respawn has put out just one SP campaign so far, and while it's a really fucking good game, it's also an FPS which is their bread and butter and what many of those devs did before forming this new company.

        This is something completely different for many of them, so I'm not entirely convinced it's gonna be a hit or anything, but it's definitely sounding like something more interesting and involved than what they showed off at E3. Even during or right after E3 when some more details were coming out from interviews, there was a collective "Why the hell didn't you show any of that stuff off??"

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        October 17, 2019 10:12 AM

        I am less concerned with what Respawn produces than I am with how EA EAs the shit out of it post-launch. I'm still cautiously optimistic, because it looks like it could be good fun if EA doesn't ruin everything after the fact.

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        October 17, 2019 12:05 PM

        Bah, still not getting push notiications on my iPhone :( Patch-e help!

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      October 17, 2019 8:49 AM

      very very very interesting map/gameflow design.

      They can act as checkpoints, as well as places to upgrade Cal's skill tree. Cal is also presented the option to fully heal and refill his Stim Pack counter, which is important, because there is no auto heal and there are no health pickups over the course of the entire game. While Cal has the option to heal, in exchange, all enemies will respawn and return to their previous spots. When I explained this to the Shacknews Slack, resident Soulsborne enthusiast David Craddock couldn't help but chime in, "That's a Dark Souls mechanic."

      this game does sound difficult and you cannot button mash through it. this can be a good thing to some audiences, and really bad to others.

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      October 17, 2019 9:16 AM

      I've done a 180 on this game and am now looking forward to it.

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      October 17, 2019 10:08 AM

      Those dark souls mechanics in the review have basically reduced my interest to 0. Was looking for another fun dark forces, not some grindy git gud game. I'm a bit too casual for that shit I guess

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        October 17, 2019 10:27 AM

        There will be a difficulty slider. I can't imagine this being any more difficult than Titanfall 2. They want to appeal to a broad audience.

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          October 17, 2019 11:23 AM

          You can also adjust the difficulty at any time in the pause menu.

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      October 17, 2019 10:25 AM

      If I'm not a fan of souls style gameplay, does that mean this won't be a game for me?

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        October 17, 2019 10:25 AM

        it sounds like the difficulty slider will make or break the game for that particular reason

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          October 17, 2019 10:50 AM

          Oh that's a fair point. As long as I can dial it down (if needed) I'd at least get to enjoy the adventure. Games like this I mostly just want to go along for a fun ride and explore some cool environments. Plus I still have hope Respawn's soul is still alive within EA, they deserve at least one chance for a single player game after Titanfall 2.

          But the souls combat style really isn't what I wanted to read about. Come on easy mode + awesome adventure!

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            October 17, 2019 11:22 AM

            yep, if it has single player pace and flow and RIGHT IN THE FEELS like titanfall 2, we're good. purchase.

            if it is a hamfisted homage to soulsborne gameplay and "hahaha get gud or use the slider" as its main gaming hook, then no purchase.

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        October 17, 2019 11:09 AM

        Lots of the previews are throwing around "souls lite" and "my first souls game" so it seems like it's similar, but far more approachable and forgiving. Watching videos of combat, there is lots of blocking and dodging similar to a souls game and it seems that individual enemies will need to be approached with different tactics. So I guess it depends on what part of "souls style gameplay" you don't like.

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        October 17, 2019 11:11 AM

        It's a mass market EA game. Gonna be easy AF

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          October 17, 2019 12:08 PM

          At least they will have a difficulty slider.

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        October 17, 2019 5:30 PM

        in the article it mentions that there's a difficulty slider, which no dark souls game has. i suspect the experienced *souls players will play on the hardest difficulty

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        October 17, 2019 8:10 PM

        No, it means you should play more Dark Souls until you become a fan.

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      October 17, 2019 12:19 PM

      Without reading the article yet the Dark Souls of Star Wars does not immediately bode well for me.

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      October 17, 2019 12:33 PM

      Awesome! My body is ready and this is going to be a day one for Me!!!

      \m/ :) \m/ , YES!

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      October 17, 2019 1:10 PM

      Is this canon? I'm wondering how many Jedi survived but based on TLJ's title I would assume they all ded.

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        October 17, 2019 2:19 PM

        Read the article, it takes place in the prequel timeline

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      October 17, 2019 5:06 PM

      Hey here's some gameplay from Game Informer

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        October 17, 2019 5:28 PM

        Hmm... cautiously optimistic...

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        October 17, 2019 5:36 PM

        Some takeaways from that.

        They say early on the player (video is provided from Respawn not a capture) is clearly not good at defense which is how you should play the game if you want it to be more like a souls game. At least this shows how it would play if you want to be anti-souls. The final fight sequence looks to be closer to playing it 'properly' with more parry/dodge action. Basically removes my fears of it being too hard and if anything it looks more fun to play it with finesse. Otherwise you look like a test dummy getting whacked around in battles if you just brute force through.

        Looks like you can not dismember storm troopers, but can for other baddies. Wonder if that is a Disney requirement?

        Way more exploration than i was expecting. Hard to gauge the fun factor of that in this video though. For me at least I rarely see that kind of fun in video form but while playing with epic sound score backing things I'm usually super entertained.

        I'm closer to just preodering on Amazon now (preorder is $50) but still think it needs a proper review. Even these dudes talking over it don't sound totally sold on it yet.

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          October 17, 2019 7:51 PM

          You can play it as an anti-Souls on the lowest difficulty, but you also have to keep in mind that there are enemies beyond Stormtroopers. I’m thinking of the temple statues from my hands-on and also the security droid from the E3 demo, but if you don’t play defensively on normal and higher difficulties, you’re going to get rocked.

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        October 17, 2019 6:41 PM

        Oof that's rough, the press guys sounded totally unimpressed

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      October 17, 2019 6:12 PM

      So what’s the best deal on this game? EA origin premier is $15 a month and will have it. Next best was CDkeys for $48.

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      October 17, 2019 6:53 PM

      Did they fix that run animation?

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      October 18, 2019 6:17 PM

      I think I'll try this one out. Singleplayer SW games have been pretty great.

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