Saturday, February 23

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – The next KOTOR or the next Battlefront II?

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So, I have a confession to make. Of all the Star Wars movies, cartoons, comics, books, graphic novels and everything in-between, the one medium I enjoyed this universe in the most has always been video games. Somehow, in my experience, they were the best at immersing me in the story and making me care for the story, epic lore, and characters. I can remember battling my friend 1 on 1 in Star Wars: Rebellion over dial-up, getting furious (letting the hate flow through me, as it were) at anyone picking up the phone and disconnecting our game 3 hours in, since we were never able to save and load properly. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic marked an era in my younger self’s life; I adored that game so much that I wrote about it in my journal, pasting cut-outs from gaming magazines on the pages of a little red notebook, like a teenage girl madly in love – Darth Revan is my all-time favorite character in the Star Wars universe. KOTOR 2, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy and Jedi Outcast were all staples of their own, allowing us to wield the Force like one of the great masters.

Lately, however, with the catastrophic failure called Star Wars: Battlefront II, and the dwindling enjoyableness (in my personal opinion) of the newer movies, I’ve become desensitized with the entire franchise, refusing to consume any more media for fear of them tarnishing my fond memories. I haven’t watched Solo: A Star Wars Story, and I’m this close to not even viewing Episode IX (I mean, I’ll watch it, obviously, who am I kidding). That said, a glimmer of new hope appears on the horizon – a brand new game hitting the screens late next year, and it has (gasp) the word Jedi in it. I’m talking about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, which was loosely announced a couple years back as a “new action adventure Star Wars game”, with no more information added. At this year’s E3, however, EA had a surprise for Star Wars fans – the first few tidbits of information about that game were floated at their press conference.

First off, let’s cover the negatives and potential fears before we delve into what I’m hoping will actually happen. The principal concern is, as with anything EA touches lately, that the gameplay will be ruined with loot boxes and microtransactions and paywalls and all those words that make a gamer’s skin crawl.  Hopefully, EA have learned their lesson with the overwhelmingly negative response from the community after Battlefront II. Also, it’s worth noting that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is being developed by an EA subsidiary called Respawn, and not by EA themselves, so the microtransaction fears could be unfounded after all.

Second, and much less important in terms of the effect it could have on the final product, is the way the game was announced. I’m all for function over form, don’t get me wrong, but it takes a liiiittle bit more effort to jumpstart the imaginations of most people (like most non-die-hard-fans) than just sitting in the crowd and giving a one-minute interview to a reporter that seemingly only knows the basics about Star Wars (if that). Well, unfortunately, that’s exactly what Vince Zampella of Respawn Entertainment did. No trailer, no cinematic, no gameplay snippet, nothing – he just verbally revealed the name of the game and a couple of other small pieces of information to a reporter who was at a loss as to what question she should ask (no, lady, you definitely won’t be able to hold a lightsaber in a Star Wars game with the freaking word Jedi right there in the title).

Even still, as underwhelming as it was, the presentation managed to get my heart racing as I started envisioning a game that might one day be called the next KOTOR or Jedi Academy, bringing forth all the elements that made those game great while improving on the technical aspects made possible by modern technology. What we know so far is that the game will be set in the “dark ages” between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope (or as the oblivious reporter called it, “a nice time”), and will follow a surviving padawan who somehow managed to evade the destiny most Jedi faced on the eve of Order 66. Maybe the game will start with him/her escaping from the clutches of a pre-Vader Anakin? What about an Obi-Wan or Yoda cameo? That would be cool! So far, there is not much at all we know about the protagonist – no name, race, gender or age are revealed, begging the question if we’ll have the option of customizing our character or if it will be already pre-set and bounded in lore right from the get-go. If it’s the latter, I’m personally hoping for a new character never before seen in the lore – if an existing character is selected, there might be issues concerning continuity and what-not. Even without those concerns, new characters are always a welcome sight in the Star Wars universe.

As for the gameplay, the game is set to be a 3rd person action adventure, which keeps the hopes for a new KOTOR alive. Other than that, and the obvious ability to interact with lightsabers, there’s not much revealed about the gameplay. I’m hoping for a story driven, open-world, RPG style of game, but we could see any number of features implemented, like some sort of multiplayer – the game could be an MMO, have an arena-style of combat, or a (god forbid) Battle Royale mode where 100 padawans fight each other while simultaneously running away from Anakin.

The game is set to be released during the Holiday season of 2019, so any time between November and December, but you never know with these types of games – delays are common and almost to be expected. Seeing as the devs had nothing to show us (or did they omit it on purpose?), the game’s release might as well be much farther into the future than we hope. Still, it’s better to release a complete and epic game a year late than a buggy, facial-feature-glitching, plot-hole-filled wreck of a game. Right?

I kept the best news for last, and they’re concerning the team of developers currently in charge of the game. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is being developed by Respawn Entertainment, a studio founded by Vince Zampella and Jason West. If you don’t know these names, they’re the guys behind Call of Duty 4, who later went on to make Titanfall and Titanfall 2, proving they can masterfully blend a good story with high-paced action, something I’m definitely excited to see happen in Fallen Order. The subject matter might be different (Force users are not exactly giant robots, although the Star Wars universe DOES have its share of mechanical monstrosities), but that should prove as no obstacle for the duo. Leading the project is Stig Asmussen, former Creative Director at Sony Santa Monica and the man in charge of the God of War trilogy. He has directed installments of the series and has created entire levels in GoW2 and 3. Fusing his cinematic eye and talent with the narrative capabilities of Zampella and West can prove a formidable… uhm… force in game development. Imagine a battle of GoW proportions in the Star Wars world? Spicy!

There you have it, so far this is what we know about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (notice the location of the colon in the title –  It’s Star Wars Jedi, not Jedi Fallen Order. An interesting tidbit, to be sure). I’m hoping we’ll get new information about the game soon, and a trailer would be good, thanks! We’ll surely get more (a lot more, with any luck) at next year’s E3, but I reckon there might be some small bits and pieces thrown around here and there even before. Until then, we can hope the developers will try to create the best game they can – but, as Master Yoda so elegantly put it – Do or do not. There is no try!

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