I, uh, have to make a confession: I like those moments, now ubiquitous in modern gaming, where you squeeze through narrow passageways that obviously exist just to hide asset loading. Not sure why, to be honest. Maybe it’s Freudian? In any case, what I do know is that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has the best in the business.
Fallen Order takes ho-hum protagonist Cal Kestis on a journey across a tiny slice of the Star Wars universe. Every planet he visits has its own identity. Zeffo is covered in water and the abandoned temples of a bygone civilisation. Kashyyyk is forested and wild with hints of Imperial machinery. Dathomir is red. What each one has in common, however, is the presence of very cramped paths through which Cal must squeeze to continue his journey.
But unlike many other video game heroes, Cal flows through these passageways with a certain je ne sais quoi. I wouldn’t say he’s the most graceful Jedi in the universe — Fallen Order has serious issues making even the most basic movement feel smooth — but something about the way he deals with these claustrophobic nightmares is very satisfying.
Take this clip from Dathomir, for example. Most video game characters would just move straight ahead in one of these segments, but not Cal. He climbs over a rocky obstacle. He ducks under a wooden beam. And don’t take your eyes off his droid companion BD-1, who reacts to both Cal’s movements and the environment. I certainly have qualms with various other parts of Fallen Order, but these animations are great.
It’s a small thing, but the curve of this crevice on Zeffo makes the passageway feel more natural, as if it belongs in the crumbling ruins of a distant planet rather than just distracting the player from the next area loading. Again, don’t neglect BD-1; the way it sees the narrow section coming and adjusts itself on Cal’s shoulders accordingly is beautiful to behold. Just don’t pay too much attention to the little glitch there at the end. (No one’s perfect.)
For the third and final clip, I chose the segment that first caught my eye. Kashyyyk, the home planet of the loveable and brutally powerful Wookiees, is under Imperial occupation by the time Cal reaches its forested surface, and as such the environment is a mixture of deadly jungle and Imperial infrastructure. Here, our hero makes his way from one to the other, moving between separate levels as he navigates the inner wall of an Imperial base. I particularly love the way the camera follows BD-1 as it takes its own path and then reconnects with Cal.
I have a lot of problems with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. It’s buggy and unwieldy, and I probably wouldn’t have played it as long as I have if not for my obsessive love of the source material. In these little moments, however, the game’s animators truly outdid themselves. Cal may have his issues with grabbing ropes or navigating slippery slopes, but when he’s inexplicably forced to squeeze through hundreds of narrow passageways, he does it with an aplomb truly befitting a Jedi.