One of my earliest fantasies in life was becoming a wise and powerful Jedi. While wearing out the assorted VHS tapes we had the original Star Wars trilogy recorded on, I’d imagine myself engaged in death-defying combat featuring the greatest fictional weapon ever created – the lightsaber. There may have been an overwhelming likelihood of enduring a lost weapon and severed hand or two for most lightsaber users that not even a WiiMote strap could remedy (cc: Binge Mode), but an artificial appendage seemed like a small price to pay for an instrument so perfect. As science and my general clumsiness have not yet caught up to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, my only true outlet for lightsaber twirling Jedi-dom has been in the world of video games. Respawn Studios’s latest release, I
ndiana Jedi and the Temple of Miktrull Jedi: Fallen Order, is a glorious amalgamation of a multitude of game types ranging from Uncharted crossed with Metroid Prime-style exploration to Dark Souls style fighting. Almost all of the myriad facets come together for one of the most enjoyable games of the year, but, above all else, the true highlight of Fallen Order is how good it feels to wield a lightsaber.
Now it’s quite hard to get a lightsaber wrong, and there is a proud history of Star Wars games doing it quite well from the NES Empire Strikes Back letting you relive the breathtaking takedown of an AT&AT with a well place strike to blocking blaster shots in the underwhelming PSOne The Phantom Menace or clumsily clanging them together in the massive bomb Masters of the Teras Kasi. Fallen Order, however, surpasses all these previous incarnations of the resplendent kyber crystal powered weapon by seemingly nailing every aspect of what makes a lightsaber so freaking awesome, and I’m not just talking about the sweet “kkssshhh” sound they make when they hit each other.
You’re gonna want to go to about the 1:50 mark
Unlike many earlier Star Wars titles, you start the game with your trusty lightsaber instead of having to endure hours of blaster-based combat before you finally earn the privilege. This was a great decision as it intrinsically links the lightsaber to your journey. At the start, it’s your only real connection to your past as a Jedi and your skills with it are minimal. Hell, you even scare the crap out of the rest of your ragtag crew aboard the Mantis with how gracelessly you wave it in the ship’s confined quarters. As you progress, though, so do your skills until you’re essentially a super-powered samurai. Sure there are additional force powers along the way to highlight your growing attunement with the force, but the precision with which you flourish your blade by the end blows them all out the water.
The first time I noticed just how good the lightsaber feels was when I successfully reflected a blaster bolt back at the poor overmatched stormtrooper who sent it my way. Timing is key, and while it’s incredibly simple to just deflect a blast, there’s only a small, finely tuned window in which you can launch it back at your attacker. Your ability to do this is also not unlimited as your blocking meter will eventually deplete leaving you open to damage. While taking batting practice with blaster fire may be all fine and dandy for enemies taking potshots from afar, that same millisecond-level precision and thoughtful stamina rationing also holds when parrying attacks from the less cowardly units advancing toward you, providing additional thrills as you seek to maintain the courage required to leave yourself open to damage until the last possible instant.
As your infamy among the empire grows, you often find yourself receiving fire from numerous sources so quickly that you cannot possibly return them all back to sender, or at least so it seems. After unlocking the double bladed lightsaber, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the increased speed at which you can block successive shots including the ability to send multiple in a row back at once. The distinctions between the double bladed and single bladed varieties don’t end there. The more concentrated beam of the single saber makes its blows more powerful lending itself to one-on-one combat, while the speed of the double bladed variety makes it an ideal fit for crowd control type situations or trying to find the smallest opening in a relentless attacker’s pursuit. Even without these differences, it just feels good to get that shot of Darth Maul adrenaline every time you hit the button to reveal a second beam of destruction to your foes. Plus, there’s even a special move where you break the double bladed version into two separate swords, thus satisfying every single person’s particular lightsaber preference.
Had the lightsaber options simply ended there at the three constructs, it likely would have been enough to satiate even the most ardent fan, but the devs took it much further. Thanks to a robust customization system that allows you to modify every aspect of your lightsaber from the color of the beam base material, emitters, and triggers you also get the sense that the force loving sword is decidedly your own. Despite perhaps a little too large of an emphasis on finding random chests filled with cosmetics, I still got excited whenever I found a lightsaber part, wishing each time would yield my true heart’s desire – the fabled Mace Windu purple beam. When at last I was able to hear that satisfying “psshhew” and see glorious purple emerge from the hilt, I knew I had finally arrived as not just a Jedi but a BAMF.
Aesthetics aside, one final reason brandishing a lightsaber in Fallen Order feels better than any previous game is how visceral the clashing of two sabers together reverberates in battle. When facing off against a poor stormtrooper or a random creature, you feel like a complete Jedi Master knowing that they can’t possible match up against your lightsaber, but when you encounter a fallen Jedi or Inquisitor that all changes. Suddenly you find yourself hyper-focused on exploiting even the smallest opening or doing your best to deplete the opponents blocking meter so you can finally land a strike. The battles mature into incredibly tense affairs as you know the slightest mistake could be your last. You can feel the brutal impact of the collisions as the blades become seemingly intertwined, and it is by far the most exhilarating the game becomes. It’s just a shame there aren’t more lightsaber battles to be had, an issue I’m sure the inevitable and well-deserved sequel will remedy.
With each colorful spark flying through the air, returned blaster bolt, and scorched blast door, Fallen Order allowed me to come closer to my childhood dreams of being a true Jedi Knight. By absolutely nailing the look and feel of wielding a lightsaber that has taken up residence in my brain for decades, Fallen Order manages to craft one of the most memorable gaming experiences of the year. Most importantly though, it allowed all my limbs to stay joyfully attached to my body. Its almost insane to think that this was the first attempt with this engine for Respawn, and there seems to be almost no upper limit to the heights the next game and its lightsaber slicing ways will reach.