EA Play’s livestream is now in full swing, and events kicked off with one of the most anticipated titles for this year – Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Thanks to the 15-minute gameplay demo, we now know the playstyle blends elements of FromSoft combat, Uncharted wall climbing and Titanfall wall running (it is made by Respawn, after all).
But that’s not all EA wanted to show, and on the ground at EA Play we got to take a peep at an extended version of the gameplay which gave us a brief glimpse of the mechanics and how skill trees might be accessed.
So, here’s a brief run-through of the extra bits we got to see.
The extended gameplay demo was something of a prequel to the public livestream: turns out that before Cal starts swinging through Kashyyyk’s jungle canyons like Tarzan, he’s busy swimming through disgusting gloop while avoiding the attention of several AT-AT Walkers. After making his way over to one of the mechanical beasts, there’s an Uncharted-meets-Shadow of the Colossus moment where Cal uses vines to climb aboard the monstrous Walker and bop a Stormtrooper on the head.
After infiltrating the AT-AT and hacking through more Stormtroopers, surprise surprise, the player then gets to take control and have a go at wreaking havoc on the Empire’s base. There’s a pleasant amount of destructibility here, and using both small fire and larger explosive shots (which you have to build up a meter for) players can take out bridges, and eventually an entire spaceship. Oh, and Forest Whitaker shows up on your windscreen to say hi. (He plays Saw Gerrera in Rogue One, if you need a refresh.)
After an introduction in which Cal and Saw Gerrera figure out that they are both, indeed, fighting against the empire, there’s a scene displaying the player’s ship and the travel companions initially teased on the box art: the serious Cere, and a character who looks like a goomba (who I believe is called Grease), who generally seems unimpressed at having to be there. The overgrown goomba owns the ship, and a brief look at the travel options suggests it’s possible to journey back to past planets and adventures – so it seems you’re not limited to tackling one level at a time.
Before Cal got back to fighting, he took a moment to meditate at a glowing silver galaxy mark on the floor, which briefly opened up the skill tree menu. Unfortunately we didn’t get shown any of the abilities or the exact mechanics of the skill tree: however, it seems you can only unlock skills at certain meditation points within each level. There seem to be a couple of these per level, so it should be an option open to players fairly frequently.
Of course, the point of the skill tree is to unlock exciting Force combat abilities, and so far we’ve seen a fair few in the gameplay demos. There are some fairly basic mechanics such as parrying, deflecting and dodging, but there also appears to be a Force-dash ability, which Cal at one point used to slide under a giant spider, and later dodge out of the way of laser fire. It’s also possibly to slow down time (literally called “Force slow”), freeze laser shots, freeze individual enemies (and environmental obstacles), and pull others towards you. And, as a nod to Luke’s training with Yoda on Dagobah, you can Force double-jump by rolling yourself up into a ball while your droid’s clinging on at the back.
The best part of the gameplay is when these abilities are combined to produce creative ways to kill people: at one point Cal froze a Stormtrooper’s laser shot, pulled the Stormtrooper towards him, and then sliced his neck on the frozen laser beam. At another point, he pushed a Stormtrooper off a cliff, froze him mid-air, then jumped into the mix to shunt the poor trooper into the path of a giant spider. It was strangely humorous, and elicited a laugh from everyone in the room. We all have a pretty dark sense of humour, apparently.
On this topic, someone else who feels a little dark side is Cal himself: his fighting style feels more similar to Kylo Ren than the restrained defensiveness of traditional Jedi knights. Unusually, he’s only too happy to Force pull someone, stab them and then use their corpse as a bowling ball – or merely chuck his lightsaber at someone. I’m curious to see whether this links to the narrative – given Cal’s probably witnessed a bunch of his friends get slaughtered thanks to Order 66, I can’t blame him for being somewhat grumpy.
Not to be left out, Cal’s droid companion can also be given extra abilities via pick-ups introduced as part of the level. The one shown in the public gameplay demo – where BD-1 zaps electronic panels to move machinery – is called overcharge, and hints that the droid will see several upgrades to help players navigate the world. Speculatively, I wonder whether this will allow players to explore different paths, or re-visit levels later on once they’ve unlocked these droid abilities. He also functions as a little mobile health unit, what a good boy.
Those were our main impressions of the extended gameplay demo, but I doubt that’s the last we’ll hear about Fallen Order over the course of E3. Personally, I’m hoping we’ll discover a little more about Cal’s personality and background (which currently seems a little bland), along with how the skill tree and further details about the combat system. At least we have some empirical evidence the combat will be engaging – we’ll be keeping our BD eyes on this.