I held out for a couple of months before I got this game. There was too much hype and too little critical appraisal of whether the game was in fact any good. A couple of chaps at work told me that it was worth a go but to expect it to be challenging. So I found it at a good price (a smidge over £30) online and went ahead and dived in with an open mind.
If you haven’t already gathered, I’m the guy who loves Star Wars, but I hate games like God of War (also directed by Stig Asmussen) which pretend to open world when they’re in fact as are linear as hell. I also hate having to press buttons in quick time events in key sequences like you have to do in the Tomb Raider games, and I hate games where you find yourself in dumb boss battles in circular arenas. Maybe hate is too strong a word, but what I really do hate is slow load times and bugs.
My life-long love for Star Wars, and especially the extended universe presented in the animated shows Rebels and The Clone Wars, won over the my initial dislike of the clumsy movement of the main character, former Jedi Padawan Cal Kestis (facial captured from and voiced by Cameron Monaghan best known for his work on TV shows Shameless and Gotham), and actually a dislike of his mannerisms and voice if I’m truly honest. Greez (voiced by veteran actor Daniel Roebuck), the four-armed Latero male pilot of the spacecraft the Mantis, who comes to the rescue early in the game, seems more human.
The story begins a few years after Order 66 and the purge of the Jedi order. Cal is in hiding from the Empire working as a scrapper salvaging ships from the Clone Wars. Cal uses the Force to save a friend from falling to certain death and this is relayed to the Empire. An Inquisitor called the Second Sister (facial captured from and voiced by Elizabeth Grullon who is a new face to me) chases Cal who is rescued in the nick of time by a weird-eyed former Jedi called Cere (voiced by game VO veteran Debra Wilson) and pilot Greez aboard the Mantis.
With the exception of the scenes with Second Sister aka Trilla and Nightsister Merrin, the face capture, mo-cap and cut scenes were a little disappointing for a PS4 game, but the scenery of the levels throughout the game was generally excellent, apart from the unimaginative training inserts and the last level which consists of a series of boring underwater tunnels.
The load times when you inevitably fall to your doom after badly executing a ledge jump become increasingly tiresome, but not as much as getting deep into a level, doing whatever you needed to do and then having to retrace your steps all the way back to the fucking Mantis to continue the story. It was this mind-numbing aspect of the game that ensured that I didn’t replay any of the game once I’d got the story done.
Your first port of call is the planet Bogano populated by cute bouncy boglings, shambling toad things, viscious slug things and nasty crab things. Cal teams up with BD-1 a cute droid who plays him a holo-message from Eno Cordova, a dead Jedi Master (face captured from and voiced by an under-used Tony Amendola). You quickly realise you can’t explore Bogano fully or successfully defeat the main boss on the planet without first learning a bunch of skills and becoming more powerful. It felt like playing a Lego game on Story Mode in the knowledge you’d come back in Free Play and have more fun.
Cordova’s talks of the ancient Zeffo civilisation (who used to make cigarette lighters when they weren’t exploring the secrets of the Force). Bogano contains an ancient Zeffo vault protecting a Jedi Holocron with the location of a bunch of potential Jedi younglings. Cere thinks the Holocron will help rebuild the Jedi Order, but the only way to open the vault is to follow in Cordova’s footsteps – you can’t get into the vault without travelling to a few (too few imo) other planets, the first on the list being Zeffo, and collecting artefacts.
Zeffo felt a bit like the tombs featured in Assassins Creed Origins or the Tomb Raider games and I enjoyed the puzzles more than I did the climbing, wall-running, swinging, sliding and jumping aspects. The first familiar location is the Wookiee home world Kashyyyk where Cal looks for the Wookiee chieftain Tarfful, but instead runs into Saw Gerrera. He looks like Forest Whitaker from Rogue One rather than the Saw from the animated show The Clone Wars and it’s great that he’s voiced by Forest Whitaker. Cal teams up with the Saw’s rebel forces to fight the Imperial occupation and free some badly rendered Wookiee slaves (their hair looks dreadful).
Unable to find the Wookiee chieftain Tarfful, Cal resorts to looking for more clues on Zeffo. He runs into the Second Sister again, who reveals that she used to be Cere’s padawan, Trilla. She says that Cere betrayed her and that she will eventually betray Cal. He also discovers that he needs to find a key called a Zeffo Astrium to unlock the vault but on his long trek back to the Mantis he is captured by a bounty hunter.
Cal wakes up in a prison and is fooled into thinking he can escape only to find he is trapped in a fighting arena like Thor in Thor Ragnarok. There’s some tediously difficult fighting to be done and then, once again, Greez comes to your rescue in the Mantis. It was around this point I decided to set the difficulty to story mode because I simply wasn’t enjoying the gameplay, but was thoroughly enjoying the story (although the gladiator bit felt bolted on by the developers as a lazy bit of filler).
Decision made, I started getting into the game a lot more. The return to Kashyyyk was a turning point for me. The graphics were lovely looking and who couldn’t get excited by wielding a double lightsaber like Darth Maul. There’s also a good bit of banter and battling from another Imperial Inquisitor called the Ninth Sister (superbly voiced by Aggretsuko‘s Misty Lee), a ride on a cool giant bird and some swimming to do. After much enjoyable fannying about, Cal finds a recording from Cordova telling him that an Astrium can be found on Dathomir.
Yes! Dathomir. Home planet of Darth Maul, his brother Savage Opress and the force-using Nightsisters. I loved Dathomir. Inevitably a Nightsister, Merrin excellently voiced by Tina Ivlev (who was on Shameless too at one point), pops up in a magical swirl of green smoke to tell you in no uncertain terms to turn around and go back from whence you came. Merrin blames the Jedi for the genocide of her sisters in the Clone Wars, and attempts to scare off Cal with an army of zombies. Cal also meets a mysterious former Jedi called Taron Malicos (voiced by Liam McIntyre from the Spartacus TV show), who came to Dathomir to hide during the purge.
Throughout the game Cal experiences flashbacks of his former Lasat Jedi master, Jaro Tapal (voiced by game VO veteran Travis Willingham), teaching him the ways of the Force. This is a way of helping you learn new ways of using the force as it reawakens within you. Most of the scenes play out in a room akin to a level of Portal and the animation of both young Cal and Jaro Tapal is pretty lame. By the way Cal possesses an ability of the Force shown to be possessed by Rey in The Force Awakens – the ability to ‘read’ events from objects.
Failing to open the door of the vault holding the Astrium on Dathomir and breaking his new lightsaber in the process, Cal has another flashback of Jaro. This one is a bit more involved than just a simple training session and tells the story of Jaro’s sacrifice to save Cal during the day Order 66 went out. It’s hard for Cal not to feel as though it’s his fault his master died in their escape.
Cal has to travel to the icy planet of Ilum to find a Khyber crystal to use to rebuild his lightsaber. This is the planet every young Jedi has to travel to in order to find his or her crystal. It looks and feels very much like it was presented in Star Wars: Rebels. The gameplay on this planet doesn’t seem to last as long as other planets and I was a little disappointed by the lack of complexity of the puzzles or the amount of exploration that was required to find the crystal. Still, I very much liked my new lightsaber.
Cal goes back to Dathomir, works through his guilt over Jaro’s death in the sort of scene that all Jedi initiates have to endure (e.g. Luke in the dark tunnel on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back). He also appeases Nightsister Merrin, and gets the Astrium. Taron Malicos has big fight with Cal. Malicos is only defeated when Merrin steps in to help.
It’s another in a long line of boss battles which I didn’t particularly enjoy, although I did enjoy the fight with the giant bat/owl thing earlier on Dathomir. As well as opening boxes and doors for you, BD-1 scans fallen enemies and tells you all about them. I didn’t bother reading any of this extra information or bothering much with Cal’s ‘readings’ from objects he finds along his journey.
Merrin joins the Mantis crew and they fly back to Bogano where Cal finally unlocks the vault and gets hold of the Holocron. Predictably Trilla turns up again for a fight and to nick the McGuffin. Why Cal doesn’t just destroy the Astrium and leave the vault alone, or destroy the Holocron as soon as he gets hold of it, to protect the younglings from discovery by the Empire is beyond me. I guess it made for a better story if we thought they might go around the galaxy tracking down the younglings and rebuilding the order, even though we know, from the events of A New Hope that they don’t.
Cere knights Cal after conveniently taking the lightsaber Trilla’s dropped in the last fight and resuming her status as a Jedi. There was still a nagging thought in my head that Cere might end up betraying Cal – that she was leading him into a trap this whole time and maybe that’s a compliment to the writers or maybe just my suspicious mind. Instead Cal and Cere embark on a very linear infiltration of the HQ of the Inquisitors on the planet Nur. Nur is a really lacklustre place to set the finale of the game. A big let down.
After a lot of tedious fighting where you get to earn a few more skill points, if you’re lucky, Cal eventually reaches an interrogation room where he fights the ill-fated Trilla again and gets the Holocron back off her. And then drum roll… as if you weren’t expecting it… Darth Vader appears, kills Trilla, appears to kill Cere and chases you ever so ineffectively back toward the Mantis. BD-1 and Cere help you avoid death at the Sith Lord’s hands and you get back to the Mantis and zoom off. Only then does Cal destroy the Holocron. Face. Palm.
As a good-looking canonical Star Wars story, the game is fantastic. As a console game I didn’t enjoy many aspects of the gameplay and level designs, and had no desire to replay. It actually turned out as I expected. I suppose I might have saved myself a lot of bother by just watching a gameplay walkthrough on YouTube, but I was hoping to have enjoyed the game at least to the value of the £30-ish I spent on it.
I traded it in for £17 yesterday, so on reflection I guess I got my money’s worth out of it. I’d say the story and some of the puzzles were worth about £13… Oh and you know what? Spiders and slow loading aside, I didn’t encounter a single bug.
Photo by Cade Roberts on Unsplash