When Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was first announced, I did what I always do when there’s big video game news—I got on the phone with my brother to talk about it. To both of us longtime Star Wars boys, the game seemed like a dream come true, especially after the mediocre outing of Battlefront II. And the first thing he said was: “It just looks like God of War but Star Wars.“
After getting the chance to play a few hours of the campaign at a pre-launch event, I found out that my brother wasn’t wrong. Fallen Order (out November 15) has that classic era God of War feeling, with everything from the flashy combat to the tricky platforming making it feel very close to god-killing, although without the extra-cakey blood and guts. There are even treasure chests in Fallen Order that you can bust open to power-up your gear along the way.
While it’s no surprise that Respawn Entertainment’s new title has Kratos vibes—the game’s director, Stig Asmussen, was at the helm of the first three God of War titles—next-gen hack-and-slashers aren’t the only games that feel present in Fallen Order. In fact, the first title that actually came to mind when I dropped into the campaign was Star Fox 64, a game that is seldom mentioned in the modern console era, especially since we haven’t seen a quality Star Fox title in almost 25 years.
The Fallen Order campaign is structured a lot like the 1997 Star Fox. You perform a bunch of missions on a single world, then hop into your ship, talk with the crew, and pick from a few planets where you’d like to go next. Despite initial promo footage resembling something of a free-roaming The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild set in the Star Wars universe, Fallen Order is actually quite regimented. You’re not going to be burdened with a bunch of dark side/light side choices like in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. This isn’t a sandbox game. You have a crew of colorful and furry friends, much like in Star Fox, and they’re vital to your adventures among the planets.
When I spoke with Asmussen earlier this month, he noted that I’m not the first to make the Star Fox connection. The director said that Respawn drew inspiration from as many previous video games as it could, including binging a huge catalog of old Star Wars titles on Steam. I asked him if Star Fox 64 was a big influence on Fallen Order, and he told me to keep in mind that it was actually Star Wars that inspired Star Fox. Not the other way around.
But God of War and Star Fox are not the only titles that feel present in Fallen Order. Part of what makes Respawn’s new game so promising is the fact that it bears resemblances to some of gaming’s all-time greatest works. Dark Souls is present in the combat of Fallen Order. Even more esoteric titles like Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire are part of the conversation here. If you have any familiarity with the history of video games at all, Fallen Order is the kind of title you can pick up and intuitively understand almost right away. And that’s thanks in large part to the games that follow.
God of War
My brother’s initial reaction to Fallen Order was spot-on. I’m talking about the classic God of War trilogy—not the more morose, down-to-earth reboot from 2018. And that makes a lot of sense, actually, because Asmussen didn’t work on last year’s award-winning PS4 exclusive. Since Fallen Order‘s hero Cal Kestis has Force powers, he’s a lot faster and more kinetic than the older version of Kratos in the 2018 War game. He leaps across the screen, runs on walls, and as you progress, your combat becomes more explosive and electric, too.
Star Fox 64
It’s plain to see the influence of the 1970s Star Wars movie trilogy on Star Fox, which debuted exactly two decades later. The game was even called Lylat Wars in the PAL region of its release (that’s parts of Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, and Oceania). But just as George Lucas’s vision for a pack of rebellious smugglers and droid goons in a war-torn galaxy made a huge impression on Nintendo, the imprints of this N64 game can be plainly seen on Fallen Order, more so than any other Star Wars game in franchise history. After the Empire instilled fascist order across the former Republic and the Jedi religion was decimated by Order 66, the many planets of Star Wars became boiling pots for chaos. Hyper-jumping from one volatile world to the next in Fallen Order makes the game feel like something of a next-gen Star Fox—and there’s even a hub onscreen where you get to pick your next level.
I didn’t play enough of the game yet to know if there are bonus or side planets like “Sector Y” from Star Fox, but I can confirm that the planet Dathomir is in the game. You know, the fully insane, treacherous place that Darth Maul calls home. So while you won’t be facing off against Star Wolf in Fallen Order, the planets you encounter do seem to range in difficulty and levels of disarray, much like in the beloved N64 game.
Today, every game is being called a Souls game. While Fallen Order is not nearly as complex or agonizingly difficult as any of the FromSoftware titles, the elevated combat certainly feels Souls- or Sekiro-esque. Asmussen called Fallen Order‘s fighting mechanics “thoughtful combat”—simple mechanics that are extremely deep when put into use, like those in the many Dark Souls games. You’re forced to face one enemy at a time. Most of the lightsaber combat is performed with a simple attack and block/parry button, and while you’re able to jump, the game really keeps you close to the ground. From my experience, it’s the most satisfying lightsaber combat gaming has ever seen.
After the FromSoftware games, combat in action/adventure and platformer titles tightened up and got a lot more difficult. You can see this advancement between the classic God of War trilogy and the more intense 2018 God of War game. Now, with Fallen Order, we’re seeing that level of intensity finally carried out into the combat of a Star Wars game.
Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
Of all the Star Wars games, Jedi Outcast is the one that feels the most relevant in Fallen Order. Asmussen mentioned the game when I spoke with him, and it’s easy to see why. Like its protagonist Kyle Katarn, Fallen Order’s Cal Kestis is a rogue Jedi with a crew of his own, completely separated from the Jedi order. Both games showcase lightsaber combat front and center, and Jedi Outcast was the last Star Wars video game to put forth the best and most complex swordfighting mechanics the franchise had ever seen. But Jedi Outcast premiered in 2002. Fallen Order is set to modernize the saber combat system that Outcast first conceptualized nearly 20 years ago, carrying the torch of the Jedi Knight saga into the modern console generation.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
Breath of the Wild has been hailed as the superior Zelda game in terms of its refined swordplay, and like Breath of the Wild, Fallen Order consolidates its combat system into fierce one-on-one battles. But although Breath of the Wild is the most renowned Zelda game as of late, this elevated combat style was actually first introduced in Wind Waker. And since Wind Waker is not the sort of sprawling, open-world adventure title like Breath of the Wild, Fallen Order’s structured gameplay feels more in line with the 2002 GameCube title than the recent Switch one. As of now, Fallen Order is not set to appear on the Switch, but hopefully it’ll be showing Nintendo some love sometime down the line.
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
Asmussen name-dropped a bunch of Star Wars games when we rapped about gaming influences, but one game that he didn’t mention was the fantastic N64 action/adventurer, Shadows of the Empire. Dash Rendar, a similarly red-haired protagonist, is not a lightsaber wielder like Cal Kestis. But the platforming in Fallen Order struck me as reminiscent of Shadows of the Empire. Like in Shadows, the new Respawn game has you leaping through fast-moving blades and skidding along steep cliffs, like a cross between Indiana Jones and Star Wars.
Shadows of the Empire also had players revisiting familiar locales throughout the galaxy far, far away—and it showed off some heroes and villains from the franchise as well. We don’t know exactly who might appear in Fallen Order. Rumors have loomed that Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Maul all might make appearances in the game. It’s old titles like Shadows of the Empire that kicked off this tradition of bringing unexpected film characters into games that exist outside of the main saga narrative.
Fallen Order has a lot to live up to, but considering the previous video games it most resembles, Respawn is trying to hit all the right notes.