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An ode to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order’s lightsaber

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A saber to sing about

There are many reasons why Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is good: challenging combat, interesting platforming and exploration, the extremely Star Wars-y sheen over the entire production, or the deep dive into a new area of the Star Wars lore. But what escalates Jedi: Fallen Order isn’t just the story and gameplay, but the smaller things, too. In particular, Jedi hero Cal Kestis’ lightsaber. It’s the best video game lightsaber in recent memory.

Fallen Order is by no means the first Star Wars game to feature lightsaber combat, of course, but it perfectly nails the balance of handing players a powerful weapon while still having an actual challenge in gameplay. Respawn designed Fallen Order specifically so that grunt stormtroopers will almost always go down in a single blow. Average troopers are no match for the power of the force, and the stormtroopers know it, too, shouting about how unprepared they are to be fighting a Jedi when you battle them. (The various bits of flavor dialogue from the troopers is all amazing — RIP, random trooper #2047 who was discussing his dream to be “trooper of the year” before I cut him down.)

Also key is the sound and animation for the lightsaber: hearing that familiar snap-hiss as Cal ignites the blade or the vwooping noises as he swings it go a long way toward selling players on the power of the lightsaber.

Another great example of how Fallen Order strikes this balance is blocking blaster bolts. Other Star Wars games have handled this to varying degrees of success. Some, like the Force Unleashed series, would automatically block a few shots, while others, like Knights of the Old Republic, took an RPG stat-based numerical roll to whether players could block bolts or not.

Fallen Order takes a different approach: players can instantly and easily deflect blaster fire by just holding the block button. Time it right, and bolts will fling back at enemies. There’s a good balance of “this is a skill that takes some conscious thought” while also still allowing for the fantasy of a powerful Jedi who certainly isn’t going to be shot from a distance by a few stormtroopers.

Respawn also nailed the subtler things, like the actual “light” portion of the “lightsaber” — Cal’s saber emits an actual glow, to the point where players have to use it to light up darker areas at points. Making sure lightsabers actually gave off light was a thing that the Star Wars movies didn’t really get right until The Force Awakens, so this is high praise.

The customization options on hand are also impressive. Fallen Order lets players customize nearly every piece of the saber from top to bottom with a surprising number of options. Factor in the thousands of different combinations of gear (and, of course, saber color), and odds are that your weapon will be totally unique from any other Fallen Order player’s, giving your specific playthrough a nice personal touch.

And like all the best video game weapons, Cal unlocks new abilities in combat that only make the lightsaber more fun to use as the game progresses. Respawn gets all the mileage it can out of the concept, with a few spoiler-y upgrades later in the game that leave virtually no lightsaber stone unturned.

Respawn doesn’t make things too easy for players, though. Even in later stages of the game, you can’t just charge in and destroy hordes of enemies by mindlessly mashing buttons. Players still have to carefully balance their saber skills, Force powers, and perfectly timed blocks to make it through. When it all comes together, though, Fallen Order looks like a Star Wars movie come to life, with Cal effortlessly dancing his way through Imperial forces and feral fauna alike.

Bringing a weapon as iconic as the lightsaber to life would be a challenge for any game designer, but Jedi: Fallen Order meets the challenge, creating a weapon that lives up to the elegance that Obi-Wan boasted about when fans first were introduced to the lightsaber all those years ago.