Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was revealed at Star Wars Celebration Chicago, and I still have questions. Sure, we know the game stars Cal Kestis, a Padawan on the run from Imperial Forces. We don’t know the finer details beyond it being an action adventure game set after Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. How open are the environments? Is there an option to play as a Sith Lord? Will Salacious Crumb be the real villain behind the mask?
I’ll openly admit to being disappointed by the lack of gameplay in the teaser. Afte rall, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the first story driven, single player Star Wars game in years. In fact, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, the most recent story driven solo Star Wars experience, is almost a decade old! This was EA’s and Respawn Entertainment’s first opportunity to strike us down with awe inspiring action — anyone who’s watched a playthrough of Titanfall 2‘s campaign knows Respawn can deliver those goods — yet the teaser kept the gameplay itself under wraps and focused on the narrative aspects of the project instead. The lightsaber and force power combat detailed in the game press release sounds exhilarating, none of it is in the trailer reveal where it would’ve given Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order a bit of extra flourish.
However, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order‘s soft reveal might be the best strategy longterm. Seeing as EA has so far fudged up their stewardship of the Star Wars franchise, a story-centric trailer is possibly what Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order needed after the disastrous rollouts of DICE’s multiplayer Star Wars Battlefront titles. The Battlefront games were notorious for housing EA’s most noxious games as a services policies. They were littered with microtransactions, loot boxes, and gutted content that made the games feel like empty husks. Yet with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, EA is promising the opposite. Per EA Star Wars official Twitter: “No microtransactions. No loot boxes. And no, we won’t be adding them. A single-player Star Wars story for those of you ready to become Jedi.”
EA’s journey to understanding the desires of its primary audience wasn’t painless. In addition to the negative receptions to Battlefront, the publisher’s reputation amongst Star Wars fans was further tarnished by the cancellation of major Star Wars titles. Visceral Games and its project codenamed Ragtag, a single player Star Wars project spearheaded by Uncharted creator Amy Hennig, were killed because they didn’t align with EA’s games as a service methodology. EA then flip-flopped on its commitment to live services in January 2019 when it axed Orca, an even bigger open world Star Wars project being developed by EA Vancouver, in order to focus on smaller scale Star Wars projects.
EA’s course correction feels like a bit of whiplash. Hennig speculated on EA’s turnaround. “There is so much change in this industry all the time,” Hennig said to Eurogamer. “Over the course of my time at EA, we were back and forth on what the actual publishing corporation wanted. Everybody’s trying to figure out what the right path is. I also think Respawn’s game has the benefit of being largely developed before they were acquired. It is a protected entity, and Vince [Zampella] makes very sure — because he’s part of the executive team at EA, he can protect the interests of Respawn.”
Hennig makes a good point. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order‘s focus on single player might have more to do with Respawn Entertainment’s game design philosophy than a change of heart at EA. Zampella’s most undervalued skill is in creating great single player content such as Titanfall 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order will either succeed or fail based on the merits of its campaign rather than its ability to endlessly generate revenue through a glorified gambling service.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order releases on November 15, 2019.