I will forever remember the first time I felt truly powerful like the Force was raging through me.

Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order closed gameplay demo at E3I halted a gigantic Star Destroyer, mid-flight in the stratosphere, and slowly, inevitably, with the power of the Force, I brought it crashing to the surface in The Force Unleashed. I feared that would be the last of such Star Wars gaming experiences, but as Jedi Master Yoda said when the Jedi first feared their hope was lost, “No, there is another.”

If I didn’t know it was impossible, I would swear I held my breath for the entire 35 minutes that Paul (@NextGenPlayer) and I were in the closed theatre gameplay presentation of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (J: FO). In those 35 minutes, I witnessed a lot of things I liked, a lot of things I wasn’t super crazy about, and a lot of things I straight-up freaking loved.

By now you’ve probably watched and pined over everything in the gameplay reveal, so I’ll cut straight to the things that really rang my bell, for better or for worse:

Quick facts we learned from the closed demo of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

It's the Jedi
  • Demo seemed to play at level four—you have a lightsaber and some force abilities at this point.
  • Definite ARPG, skill point-based power progression suggests skill trees and point spending.
  • Saber deflect is available and seems to be able to randomly deflect back at shooter.
  • Small finishers in combat.
  • Force abilities can be combined, like Force push into the air, then Force slow to suspend enemies in a slow fall—Force powers also play a part in puzzle-solving and environment.
  • Climbing, wall-running and drop attacks with simple button prompts.
  • Sneak and stealth mechanics and takedowns are options.
  • Multiple dialogue options and in-play random dialogue between actors—enemies can also chat with one another and can reveal plots/weaknesses.
  • Enemies heard to say, “It’s the Jedi”, suggesting you are THE target they’re looking for at this point.
  • Area map is 3D, fully scaled, zoom-able and viewable.
  • Companion droid is BD-1, facilitates interaction between player and environment, navigation and exploration.
  • BD-1 also seems to have its own skills, powerups and progression.
  • At least one instance of vehicle (AT-AT) control—possible story sequence limited.
  • Demo planet is Kashyyyk—Wookiee homeworld.
  • Icons, cameos and emblems place the game around the time of Rogue One and the Galactic Rebellion.
  • Forest Whitaker/Saw Gerrera cameo in this stage/setting.
  • No blood and low gore, which means this will likely earn a lower ESRB/PEGI rating for broader appeal.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Gameplay

The Force Unleashed
1. Combat and force abilities in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

I actually fought the knee-jerk reaction to compare a new title to things that have been done, but I feel like The Force Unleashed mastered the way it “feels” to be a Jedi, and J: FO really refines that feeling. As best I can tell, we were at level four in this demo, and it really felt like a fledgling Jedi who was experiencing enough power to make it work, but not so great at it yet that it felt silky smooth or easy like you’d see a Yoda, Obi-Wan or Anakin wield.

Additionally, there is a very tangible “weight” to the combat—I felt like the jolt of hitting armour, even with a lightsaber, was present. Landing from great heights felt like a shock to the legs and joints—not damaging, but still real. The grinding of metal and the effort to pull and lift an enemy with the Force all felt like it had to be worked on, which is exactly how I want to feel if I’m a young, roughly-trained Jedi.

…there is a very tangible “weight” to the combat—I felt like the jolt of hitting armour, even with a lightsaber, was present. Landing from great heights felt like a shock to the legs and joints…

2. Stealth, takedowns, climbing and terrain negotiation

I’m surprised I haven’t heard more sulking and thin claims about this being a Star Wars-skinned Assassin’s Creed revamp (which I’d be 100% here for, by the way). It definitely does feel like the climbing, prowling and stealth takedown inspirations that I thoroughly enjoy in Assassin’s Creed are in the fabric of this new title. To be clear, I see this as a very, very good quality, and it makes for great variety in deciding how you will deal with different situations and objectives.

3. When do you get a lightsaber in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order?

As mentioned previously, as best I could tell, we entered this demo at level four, during which Cal had his lightsaber. I hate it when I have to wait hours and hours into the game to get my glowstick, so I was happy that you seem to get your saber relatively early and feel pretty proficient with it. After all, Finn was only a level one soldier when he first got his hands on one.

4. Who is the droid in the Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order demo?

The mandatory love or love-to-hate companion. Thankfully, my first impression of BD-1 is that it will be a welcome addition to what is shaping up to be a lonely hero’s journey for Cal, the protagonist Jedi. I’m always very cautious when a new companion is introduced because we’ve seen it go sideways enough times. This one will be in the R2/BB-8 camp. There were few moments when I worried about this with BD-1 in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, but they quickly fell away.

Furthermore, the integration of the droid as a gameplay mechanic has me excited. From what we saw, BD-1 will be your “second character” more than an accessory, gaining skills and powers while being your conduit to navigating and interacting with the geography and environment around you—there is very much a team feel between BD-1 and I’m excited for that.

Three screenshot images from Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order video game

Things we learned about the story and feel of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Galactic Republic
1. When does Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order take place – timeline

The demo opens with the star and wings symbol of the Galactic Republic and this familiar circle pattern which I swear I’ve seen before. In any case, I wondered if the use of the Galactic Republic symbol would date the game—more on that in the cameos section later that suggests the game takes place around the time of Rogue One and clearly after Order 66 has run “all” of the Jedi out of existence.

…use of the Galactic Republic symbol and Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera cameo would place the game around the time of Rogue One, in the later years following order 66 (Ep III: Revenge of the Sith), but before Ep IV: A New Hope and the Rebellion.

2. The planet in the demo is the Wookiee homeland of Kashyyyk

I have always loved the Wookiee homeworld, but this version had a different beauty. It was visually stunning and that persisted through the entire demo. Flat out, it’s gorgeous. But it’s broken, ruined, industrialized and ravaged. The sound was rolling, like a gut punch every time a blaster impact grazed by or an explosion rocked the rugged landscape. The music was like an optimistic love letter to original composer John Williams. Thoroughly impressed with the overall audio, visual and sensory experience. Dangerous, beautiful.

3. Clean, minimal HUD with emphasis on the game’s beauty

The HUD in progression-oriented action RPGs can be really polarizing for players. It always seems either too much/bulky/distracting, or it’s too minimal and doesn’t give players the right feedback or input. I felt that the HUD for J: FO was very sleek and unobtrusive. Even when watching from the audience, I could tell what I was looking at, what info it was giving me and what each element meant, without ever touching a controller. Best of all, it gives way to the breathtaking visual experience and immersion of the game.

The in-game prompts for interaction, like climbing, stealth attacks, investigating, etc., are also minimal and intuitive, which supports the design tone here.

4. Seamless cinematics and flowing dialogue handling

I am always impressed as the transition between play and cinematic cutscene becomes more and more seamless. There is little shock in J: FO when the action moves from active play to cutscene. Additionally, I LOVE the passive conversations that Cal strikes up with BD-1 and other NPCs as you walk by or to them in the game world.

If you are more actively engaged in conversation with a character, the D-pad gives you access to several dialogue options, letting you drive the conversation more and more.

Things we learned about the story and feel of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Cinematics
1. Questionable cameo by Forest Whitaker

Okay, this is more subjective and possibly unpopular, but this demo featured a cameo by Forest Whitaker reprising his role as Saw Gerrera from Rogue One. I personally didn’t like him in that role and it actually made most of Rogue One unwatchable for me. I have always had a problem with most A-listers popping up in Star Wars films in general, but I really felt like Whitaker’s delivery of the character (in both cases) was very “modern Earth”-feeling and contrasted with the rest of the lore and universe around him. In turn, this broke my immersion and took me out of the story, just as it did with Rogue One.

It was like, “Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars—oh hey look, it’s Forest Whitaker—Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars.” Know what I mean? I think this will be a divisive cameo for players and fans, and I wonder what other cameos we’ll see.

And if I see Hayden Christensen as a holo, I’m flipping a damn table.

2. Will it play and perform well – optimization and stuttering

The game seemed to chug or stutter a little around in-game scenes that handled a LOT of particles and explosions at once. It was rare and momentary, but often enough that it suggests there may still be some items on the “to be optimized” list. It is worth mentioning, however, that the game was being demoed and split across multiple screens, all morning long, and there were likely other variables that may have contributed. I’m not too worried about it.

Final thoughts

The Force

To wrap it all up, however, the Force is still strong with this one and I truly can’t wait to get my hands on this title. I’m confident that, provided the game’s evolution stays on its current pace, we will have a satisfying and calm delivery of what could be the story-driven, action-packed, saber-swinging Star Wars gaming epic we’ve been waiting patiently for.

I think Respawn has gotten that message.

Stay tuned for more first impressions and hands-on reviews from E3 2019 with SwitchedON Gamer. The next few days are going to be doubly packed with announcements, interviews, and breaking news, so stick with us!