Is the Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order good? That’s a hard question to answer.
But we answered it. There’s an easy way to figure out if Fallen Order or any Star Wars game is good. Just answer these five simple questions.
Does it have the Star Wars iconography?
A good Star Wars game lets you do things that can only happen in Star Wars: chill in a cantina, fly a fast spaceship through a confined space, or use telekinesis to choke an old British man.
Shadows of the Empire tried to capture the magic with one-off levels where you do real Star Wars stuff, but you spend most of the game playing as a bargain-bin Han Solo shooting AT-STs in the ass.
On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got Star Wars: Battlefront, which packs in as many Star Wars icons as it can, to the point where it’s overkill.
Does it sound like Star Wars?
Does it have the pew pews? The whummmssss? The hyeaaaaarrghs? In the original films, sound designer Ben Burtt combined the whir of an old film projector and a TV tube recorded through a faulty wire to create the distinct hum of lightsabers. John Williams did his John Williams thing.
The early Star Wars games didn’t sound big enough or weird enough. Naturally this has gotten better along with video game technology, but some games go the extra mile. On top the the ship sounds and laser blasts, Rogue Squadron II even made sure the cockpit radios had that familiar, crackle-y distortion. That’s good Star Wars.
Is it fashion?
Star Wars jams together bits of sci-fi speculation, military history, high fantasy, and the good old 1970s. And the fashion doesn’t just create that Star Wars look; It tells you stuff within the universe. At a glance, you can tell that Ben Kenobi is a reclusive monk/ronin hybrid, that Poe Dameron is a rogue pilot, and that Lando Calrissian fucks.
Force Unleashed lacked the campy ’70s flavor. It modernized and streamlined the costumes, resulting in looks that were either too clean, grungy, or just video gamey. Starkiller looks like the protagonist of mid-aughts action game called Mind Warrior: Dark Prophecy. Give him a mustache.
Does the setting make sense?
Does it feel real, believable, and lived in? If so, it does not belong in a Star Wars game. Star Wars is all about shockingly impractical architecture. Walkways next to bottomless pits with no guard rails. A circuit breaker on a tiny catwalk, surrounded by a bottomless pit. A massive hard drive array, hanging over a bottomless pit. But bottomless pits aren’t the only unifying design element of Star Wars’ environments. There are also holes, crevasses, shafts, chutes, chasms, and the occasional yawning abyss.
Seriously, this is important to Star Wars. The settings need to be weird and dangerous. There should be a sense of constant peril, like one wrong step would mean plummeting a billion feet to your death. Jedi Outcast nailed this; The Nar Shaddaa level was 95% bottomless, 4% Rodian, and 1% solid footing.
Is it good?
We made it this far without talking about gameplay. That’s because it doesn’t really matter all that much. We’ll put up with a lot if it means being whisked away to the magical realm of Star Wars. Even if your game controls like mud (Bounty Hunter) or is stupidly, unfairly difficult (Super Star Wars), it’s still pretty exciting.
Watch the video above to see this simple formula applied to platonic ideal games like Knights of the Old Republic and to what we know about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order so far. If you enjoyed this, check out the rest of our videos on YouTube! We’re digging into all the new games and of course, the mere concept of E3 itself. To see new gameplay out of E3, check out Polygon Guides. Don’t forget to subscribe!