The upcoming Jedi: Fallen Order is promising to offer a deep Star Wars experience, with an original story and a big emphasis on incredible lightsaber combat. But one thing won’t be making its way into the game: dismemberment of enemy stormtroopers.
Spoilers for Star Wars: Episodes I through VIII below
In another franchise, this would be an odd thing to focus on. But dismemberment and Star Wars lightsabers have gone hand in hand since the beginning, when Obi-Wan sliced off Ponda Baba’s arm in A New Hope at the Mos Eisley Cantina. It was a shocking, visceral way to show off the awesome power of a lightsaber. Fans have noticed the lack of lost limbs in the new game, too. A quick glance at the Fallen Order subreddit finds dozens of threads debating dismemberment.
But according to Aaron Contreras, the narrative lead at developer Respawn, the team’s goal here is to follow the guidelines that Star Wars films themselves have established by saving the loss of limbs for more important moments.
“So, with Jedi: Fallen Order we’ve really followed the authentic Star Wars / Lucasfilm realization of dismemberment. Which is that it happens in big story moments occasionally, but you don’t see it happening constantly to sentient people.” In other words: if someone is going to lose a hand in Fallen Order, it’s going to happen in a climatic story moment and not cheapened by letting players do it to hundreds of faceless goons.
And the game won’t be completely free of dismemberment, either. As Contreras explains, “Droids and creatures that you fight will be dismembered on a frequent basis, but otherwise we save it for big moments.” Having played an extended portion of the game, I can confirm that Fallen Order doesn’t shy away here: while stormtroopers would go down with some glowing scorch marks, enemy droids and giant rat creatures were properly sliced and diced.
“We’ve really worked throughout the entire development process with Lucasfilm. And this is a Star Wars thing, this is how Star Wars treats dismemberment and the lightsaber. So we’re trying to stay true to the Lucasfilm vision of what the lightsaber is and how it should be used,” notes Contreras.
It’s an idea that holds up when you look at the movies, too. The fact that lightsabers don’t frequently send limbs flying everywhere isn’t new to Star Wars, especially in the original trilogy films (which relied less on computer-generated foes). See Luke’s battle at the sarlacc pit, or his fight with Vader on Cloud City: neither battle sees many body parts flying, except when the plot demands it.
Dismemberment in the films tends to be saved for more dramatic moments. There’s Luke’s famous loss of his hand to Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back, or Anakin Skywalker’s various lost limbs over the course of the prequels as he loses more and more of his humanity.
The newer films have followed this trend, too. In The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren stabs Han Solo through the heart (for thematic reasons), but his later duel with Finn only leaves the former stormtrooper with superficial injuries. Rey similarly doesn’t slice Kylo in half at the conclusion of that duel, but leaves him with an edgy scar. Snoke’s sudden, surprising death in The Last Jedi, on the other hand, sees him cut through on his throne to help underline the moment.
Video games have been less consistent when it comes to lightsabers. Older games like Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II and Jedi Academy had dismemberment mods, and 2010’s The Force Unleashed II intentionally added back the mechanic (in a more limited fashion) following complaints about the first game in that series. But the vast majority of games in the franchise — including the popular Battlefront shooters and the acclaimed Knights of the Old Republic RPGs — haven’t let players hack off hundreds of body parts.
As to why Star Wars films focus so much on dismemberment for iconic plot and character moments, we may never really know. The only clue we have is from series creator George Lucas who, when asked about the trend in an interview with Vanity Fair, simply commented “That’s what happens when you play with swords.”
An elegant weapon for a more civilized age, indeed.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is out on November 15th for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.