Author's Note: There are minor spoilers in this blog about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order as well as the Star Wars films and supporting media.
Alright, before we jump into the proper blog, let's set the record straight. Me and Star Wars go back. I've been consuming Star Wars media since I was old enough to play video games, and Star Wars has been a massive part of my childhood. Back in the day, I consumed the pre-Disney Star Wars Expanded Universe like it was an illicit substance. The original X-Wing book series served as my introduction to science-fantasy, and I'm probably the most ardent defender of the Yuuzhan Vong Wars you'll ever meet. I've been with the franchise through thick and thin, and to suggest I'm "in deep" is an understatement. There's no saving me, and all I can do now is continue to ride Disney's assembly line until the day I die.
When it comes to video games and Star Wars, I think we can all agree the franchise's history is far more "mixed." Star Wars Battlefront II has thankfully turned itself around and become a decent shooter with a fun progression system. However, since the Disney purchase, the release of Star Wars connected video games has slowed to a trickle. As such, the release of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was something I followed closely. Now that the game is out, I can safely say it is a perfectly fine video game for people like myself. It's an often gorgeous and entertaining romp through a mix of familiar and new locals with an interesting ensemble cast. Nonetheless, the game isn't perfect. Its emphasis on combat-oriented set-pieces quickly becomes tiresome as well as frustrating, and the worldbuilding is far from consistent. In the end, I found it to be a workmen-like video game adverse to taking risks, which appears to be a trend in Star Wars.
As I have stated time and time again, I do not hate what Disney has done with the franchise. Furthermore, I understand the people of Respawn spent years of their lives making Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. For the most part, their hard work shows in Fallen Order. However, there are a few things about the game that annoyed me to no end. In a variety of odd ways, the game inexplicably retcons a lot of long-standing parts of the Star Wars canon. Which, before we continue, I must warn you, this blog will get nerdy. Honestly, this post is going to make me sound like a crazy person. When I passed the idea of this write-up by my fellow moderators, most of them responded by shaking their heads. Even so, we all have our hobbies and illogical obsessions in life, and for me, that's Star Wars.
Finally, let's address a few points of contention that will inevitably come up as you read this blog. First, yes, I understand Star Wars is a "science fantasy" franchise. If your comment boils down to that, congratulations, you are the two-hundredth person to point that out to me. However, I'm not writing this blog to try to apply an Asimov-sense of realism to Star Wars. Nobody, including myself, wants that. No, I'm writing this nitpicky assholish blog purely for entertainment purposes and to satiate my enormous ego. Personally, picking apart a game, when done with a good sense of humor, can be a fun time. The appeal of "riffing" movies is based on that concept. Second, I want to make it very clear I think Fallen Order is a good game. None of these points of contention thoroughly obfuscated me from appreciating the game for what it was: a cinematic love-letter to Star Wars. Nonetheless, it's fun to poke fun at something you love as well as yourself! So, without further ado, let's jump into it!
Nitpick #1: They Used The Wrong Star Destroyer Model
I did warn you these were incredibly "nerdy" nitpicks, right? Alright, here's a fun factoid you can pull from this blog to impress your friends during your next social gathering. When it comes to Star Destroyers, there's an incredibly easy way to distinguish an ISD I from an ISD II. All you need to do is look at the bridge tower and figure out if there's an X-shaped or T-shaped console between the two deflector shield domes. If you notice an X-shaped console, that's an exterior tractor beam only found with the ISD-I model. If you see a flat T-shaped console, then you are looking at an ISD-II model. According to Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary, the replacement of the tractor beam with a communications array was in response to the Empire's defeat at the Battle of Yavin. The tractor beam was viewed as a defensive liability as it placed too many high-value targets on the command deck of the Star Destroyer. If you are still confused, here's a visual guide and you can expect a multiple choice exam from me next week.
|Imperial I-class Star Destroyer||Imperial II-class Star Destroyer|
How does any of this technobabble relate to Fallen Order? Well, the Star Destroyers seen in Fallen Order are primarily Imperial II-class Star Destroyers, and that's a mistake for a variety of reasons. First, Fallen Order takes place five years after Episode III, and the ISD-II model was only in the prototype phase during this time. In fact, in promotional material, Disney CHARGED MONEY FOR, it says the ISD-II did not begin assembly until the Battle of Yavin. If anything, you should see more Republic Era ship models like the Venator or possibly even the Acclamator-class assault ship as well as the Arquitens-class cruiser. Nonetheless, if Respawn wanted to pick a "classic" Star Destroyer model, then they should have gone with the ISD-I.
But if we want to crank up the assholish nitpicking, then let's talk about point defense systems. The ISD-I has a point defense system, and the ISD-II does not. As a result of dropping the point defense system, the Empire NEVER used ISD-IIs when battling starship-heavy Rebel fleets without a suite of supporting cruisers or ISD-Is. In Fallen Order, not only do ISD-IIs get plopped into naval engagements without proper support, but they also have point defense systems. Now, the reason for these anachronistic "errors" is pretty simple. Respawn used the ISD-II ship model from Star Wars Battlefront II to save development time. And you know what? Making video games is hard, and I do not blame Respawn for borrowing art assets from DICE.
Nonetheless, the issue of using the "wrong" Star Destroyer model highlights a significant problem I have with Fallen Order. I love the game's setting and wish it committed more to its place on the Star Wars timeline. Fallen Order is supposed to take place five years after the events of Episode III. Unfortunately, what you see in the game is a bunch of icons from the original trilogy for fan-service purposes. Instead of ISD-IIs, the game should be showing worn down Republic Era Venators or ISD-Is with legacy technology. Again, my grousing might seem crazy, but these sorts of small touches would have done more to set apart Fallen Order from the games that came before it. And to be honest, the lack of identity is my biggest issue with Fallen Order.
Nitpick #2: Where's The Republic Era Technology?
Speaking of which, let's return to the issue of Fallen Order taking place five years after the event of Episode III. As I suggested earlier, this point alone presents a lot of conflicts between Fallen Order and the current Star Wars canon. Oddly enough, the most natural solution would have been to set the game five years BEFORE the events of Episode IV. But here we are, listening to a lonely Star Wars fan rant about things of little consequence. Regardless, if Fallen Order is going to take place during the aftermath of Episode III, then its aesthetics should mimic that of the Star Wars prequels, rather than the original trilogy. More ships and buildings should have the rounded and sleek matte aesthetic of the prequels rather than the harsh industrial edges of the original trilogy. I get people really hate the Star Wars prequels, and I'm right there with you. Still, the entire galaxy seamlessly transitioning to the aesthetics of the original trilogy, in five years, is an absurd prospect.
As a bit of a case study, let's look at the game's set-piece on Kashyyyk. While on the Wookie planet, you see the Empire deploy a ground force populated by Stormtroopers AT-STs. That ground force should have a lot more carryovers from the Republic Era as there was a MASSIVE defense force there during the Clone Wars. However, the AT-ST is here in its Imperial form with no signs of Republic Era technology. Likewise, the Stormtroopers should be using the Phase II clone trooper armor, especially when operating the scant few Republic Era vehicles seen on the planet. Now, again, this might sound pedantic, but the game includes a transitional AT-AT design in the style of the prototypes seen in Star Wars Rebels. Therefore, it's odd the AT-STs didn't get a similar treatment.
Let's also return to the issue of starships. At various points in Fallen Order, you see TIE Interceptors, and that's downright wrong! For one thing, the TIE Interceptor did not enter production until four years before the Battle of Yavin. I know this because I own Disney's Tie Fighter "Owners' Manual," and it says just that. As a result, I can only assume Disney does not care about safeguarding its own canon. If you must know, that's why I'm writing this blog. Disney has not been policing its Star Wars content like the LucasFilm era. When a video game or comic book needs a ship or walker design, the artist in charge picks whatever make or model they think looks cool and goes with that. Again, I'm willing to wave this off for the sake of enjoying a mindless space fantasy, but it's happening all the time, and Disney keeps backtracking on information it's selling to fans.
Also, there's another issue I'd like to bring up. The galaxy of Star Wars should look way more FUCKED UP in Fallen Order! Again, the game takes place five years after Order 66 and the conclusion of the Clone Wars. A war, mind you, that spanned an entire galaxy and devastated hundreds of planets and took thousands, if not millions, of lives. Admittedly, there are small touches that suggest a massive war occurred before the events of the game. However, it would have been cool to see Fallen Order double down on some of its planets attempting to recover from the Clone Wars. Admittedly, this is a continuity error even the mainline films have been fucking up since the prequel movies. Take, for example, Coruscant in Episode III. After the CIS' siege of Coruscant ends, the planet immediately transitions to "business as usual."
Nitpick #3: Where Are The Clone Troopers?
It's time for some hard numbers again on this blog! The Republic's "Clone Army" peaked at around six million clones. Personally, I hate that number because I consider it far too small to wage the inter-Galactic war we have seen time and time again. However, that's the number the Star Wars canon has stood by since the prequels, and that's the number of clone troopers Fallen Order wants us to pretend disappeared in five years. Seriously, what the fuck happened to the Clone Troopers? Admittedly, you see a handful of clones during Star Wars Rebels, but did all of them immediately retire after the Clone Wars? And if they did, is five years enough time to create the galaxy-spanning Imperial navy and army we see in the game?
There's also the issue of the technology employed by the Imperial Army. According to Fallen Order, five years is enough time to swap out the Empire's Republic Era blasters and armor for the ones seen in the original trilogy. Speaking of which, let's talk about Stormtrooper armor! Episode III ends with a majority of Imperial soldiers retaining their Phase II armor and the Star Wars Visual Encyclopedia, which cost me $20, says the armor kit was "retired gradually." Outside of the Inquisitors, almost everyone in the Imperial Army wears the original trilogy Stormtrooper armor! Is continuity with everything Disney is selling too much to ask for these days?
Of all my nitpicks, this is the one I think showcases the narrative and worldbuilding shortcomings of Fallen Order the most. Cal Kestis, the protagonist of Fallen Order, has a painful history tied to Order 66 and the Clone Troopers who executed it. However, you only see Clone Troopers during flashbacks and NEVER when you fight the Empire's army. How cool would it have been if Cal confronted one of the troopers he fought alongside during the Clone Wars? Instead, Cal's backstory lives and dies in the form of flashbacks and is rarely told organically through the worlds he explores. Additionally, and this tangent is a bit off-topic, but Cal's PTSD might be my least favorite part of Fallen Order. His past trauma only re-appears when it's convenient to the story and magically disappears whenever you take control of him.
This point returns me to something I mentioned during my preamble. The issue of what happened to the Clone Troopers after the Clone Wars is something worthy of more context. Did Sideous kill them en masse, or were they slowly transitioned out of the Empire's army? Current evidence points to the latter, but again, what did this process entail? Likewise, seeing enlisted Stormtroopers butting heads with Clone Troopers would have done a lot to inject much-needed worldbuilding into Fallen Order. A consistent theme of Fallen Order should have been that the galaxy is undergoing a painful and occasionally brutal transition. And this isn't something Star Wars is unfamiliar with doing. Disney's first trilogy spent a decent amount of time framing legacy characters as being "out of their element." Likewise, you have Star Wars Rebels, which occurs during a similar timeline to Fallen Order.
Speaking of Star Wars Rebels, that show does a way better job of bridging the gap between Episode III and IV than Fallen Order. Admittedly, comparing a twenty-hour game to a multi-season television show is unfair. Still, Fallen Order certainly could have borrowed a lot of Rebels' ideas and themes to its benefit. In Rebels, not only do you see prequel-specific characters struggling with Imperial Era technology, but there's a more precise sense of transition between eras. Additionally, Rebels makes both sides of the Galactic Civil War feel genuine.
Nitpick #4: How Many Jedi "Survived" Order 66?
Of my four nitpicks, this is the one that borders on full-fledged criticism of Fallen Order. My grousing here boils down to two significant points of contention. First, following a Jedi who survived Order 66 is a retread of something we've seen before. Second, whenever this trope is employed, unless done correctly, it blows massive anachronisms in the original trilogy. I'm not going to spend a lot of time discussing the first criticism as doing so rehashes my general feeling that Fallen Order "plays it safe." However, the second issue is something I want to spend more time discussing.
By now, Jedi surviving Order 66 is a bit of a joke within the Star Wars community. All joshing aside, whenever a movie, T.V. show, game, or book employs this trope, it immediately comes into conflict with the original trilogy. To highlight, when we get to Episode IV, Luke makes the case the Force is the stuff of legends and not real. Certainly, this anachronism has been a point of contention in the Star Wars canon for years, but yet again, Fallen Order doesn't bring anything new to the table. If you wanted to know, the current canonical explanation relies on Palpatine using planet-spanning mind control powers to make non-Force-sensitive citizens forget the Jedi existed. And before you ask, I find this explanation so stupid that I consider it a "perfect fit" for Star Wars.
Regardless, if there were dozens of Jedi Knights or Force-sensitive Padawans in the galaxy, where were they during the events of the original trilogy? Luke, for example, really could have used the help of a fellow Jedi during the events of The Empire Strikes Back. And before you counter that they became disillusioned following the Clone Wars, Luke becomes a beacon of the Force by the time Return of the Jedi rolls out. And if the whole point of Disney's new trio of films is that Luke failed at his attempt to restore the Jedi Order, why weren't other Jedi helping him out to prevent that from happening? At some point, all these Jedi leaving the Order to live their own lives errs towards neglect. I get the events of Episode III were a bad deal for the Jedi. However, the galaxy was on fire, so what the fuck were they doing?
Then you have the Inquisitors, and I want to say overall, I like the concept of the Inquisitors. However, they are handled with a lot more care and craft in Star Wars Rebels. At least with Star Wars Rebels, after the Inquisitors are repeatedly humiliated, the Empire's hierarchy turns to a more "traditional" solution in the form of Thrawn. However, in both Rebels and Fallen Order, the force-sensitive Inquisitors march alongside Stormtroopers without nary a comment. In both sources, the Inquisitors appear to be an established part of the Imperial Navy and Army. So, when Darth Vader is said to be the only Force-wielder in the Emperor's service in Episode IV, what the fuck happened? Also, if the Inquisitors existed within the Empire for decades, why are the original trilogy Stormtroopers entirely oblivious to the Force?