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Can Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order help fans feel the Force?

Respawn Entertainments forthcoming Star Wars video game, developed in close collaboration with Lucasfilm, hopes to capture the spirit of the films

In 1983, millions of unsold cartridges of the Atari game ET The Extra Terrestrial were secretly buried in a concrete-covered landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Thanks to extremely rushed development and alleged interference from Universal Pictures, the movie tie-in was one of the worst video games ever made, and a mass grave was the only option for the poor, unwanted cartridges.

Unfortunately, like movies adapted from games, games adapted from movies are often bad. (There are exceptions: 1997s 2D sidescrolling interpretation of Disneys Hercules on PlayStation brought me more joy than most recent games.)

Historically, this has not been the result of too much interference from the movie studios that own the licences, but too little. Promising pop-culture properties such as Transformers, Robocop and Harry Potter have often been farmed out to contracted development studios that are then given far too little time to make anything half decent. The forthcoming Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, however, has better prospects than most. Its being developed by the lauded studio behind Titanfall EAs Respawn Entertainment. And this is being done in close collaboration with Lucasfilm.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is canon: that is to say, it exists in the same, increasingly dense Star Wars fictionverse as the movies, comic books and TV shows. Its exhaustive, explains Aaron Contreras, narrative lead on the game, of the relationship. We have very active partners at Lucasfilm. Theyve been with us every step of the way creatively. Every character, every line in the script, every story beat has been negotiated, discussed, challenged, and fought over with Lucasfilm.

Jedi: Fallen Order is a third-person, lightsaber swooshing, Jedi force-wielding, action adventure, set shortly after the events of Revenge of the Sith and before Rogue One. Everything takes place in the same galaxy that Han Solo and Kylo Ren call home albeit many years earlier in the timeline than the Skywalker saga. Were looking back and telling a very specific story about a period in Star Wars history, while the current films are about the future, and closing that saga, explains Contreras.

You play as the new character Padawan Cal Kestis, who has survived Order 66 to execute all the Jedi in the Republic, passed during the movie prequel trilogy, as he fights back against the Empire that carried out the great purge.

Because Fallen Order is part of the connected Star Wars universe, fans will know some of its characters. In a demo session at this years EA Play fan event in Los Angeles, Im navigating the forested wookiee planet Kashyyyk, previously seen in episode 3, to save a community of imprisoned wookiees from the Empire with help from Forest Whitakers rebel character from Rogue One, Saw Gerrera.

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To the rescue! Forest Whitaker goes on wookiee patrol in Rogue One. Photograph: EA

Probably half of our locations in the game are existing locations inside the Star Wars universe, and you can bet therell be more characters that the audience remember, says Contreras.

The cutest original contribution that Fallen Order brings to the Star Wars universe is companion droid BD-1. This explorer droid was dreamt up by Respawn, and he joins you on your journey throughout the game. He jumps around on his two little legs, moving between riding on your back (adorable) and hopping around to scan the environment, hack stuff for you, and generally be your droid bestie (adorable, and also useful). BD-1 is aware of your player character, Cals, physical health as well as how hes feeling, and his uneven little robot-eyes are always scanning for items useful to his owner. You can picture him in Christmas toy form.

Droids tend to be the heart and the spine of the Star Wars franchise, reckons Contreras. We had a vision and a concept for BD-1, which was largely what you see. But Lucasfilm pushed for more specificity in its design. So now, in the Star Wars universe, if youre an archaeologist or a climate scientist and youre going far away on a mission, youd bring a BD unit as a companion.

The droid, which Contreras says was inspired by the Peanuts characters Snoopy and Woodstock, brings a lighthearted tone to Fallen Order that recalls the earliest Star Wars films. In fact, A New Hope was the biggest influence on this games narrative and feel. On my mission to free the wookiees, I climb with BD-1 on my back up the legs of huge AT-AT, hauling my way on board the enormous moving vehicle to take over the vehicles pilot seat, bonking the heads of the bozo stormtrooper pilots together in classic Star Wars slapstick fashion.

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Cute touch the BD-1 droid. Photograph: EA

The fighting, meanwhile, is sophisticated and sometimes brutal, combining Force powers with the samurai-style sword-slashing but with lightsabers, naturally. While BD-1 brings kid-friendly humour to the game, the combat, which is reminiscent of the Dark Souls series and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, brings satisfaction and toughness. Theres nothing childish about using the Force to pull an enemy troopers neck into your grasp before slicing him up with your saber. It doesnt go too far for a 12 rating, though: you cant dismember enemies. Well, unless theyre droids.

A combination of Uncharted-style adventuring, cinematic scenes and comedy japes make Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order feellike a Star Wars film. Its got a family-friendly twinkle in its eye. But, like the movies, we should expect light and shade in this game, says Contreras. Like all things Star Wars, we try to have a wide range of tone.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is out in November, a month before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is released in cinemas.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/games/2019/jul/05/star-wars-jedi-fallen-order-feel-the-force-respawn-entertainment

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