Over the past couple of weeks I’ve bought four big titles, out of those four I’ve only finished one of them: Jedi Fallen Order. It captured me from beginning to end with no fatigue along the way. The gameplay was solid and the story was great. It’s certainly the best Star Wars game to come out of EA ever since they got the exclusive license to make Star Wars games. But there are two moments in the story of Jedi Fallen Order that just feel... masterful. Like the story would be lesser had they not been included.
As a quick overview of the games story, it follows a Jedi Padawan named Cal Kestis who has been in hiding for five years ever since the Jedi Purge(More famously referred to as Order 66 by fans.). After using his Force powers to save a friend, which just so happened to have been caught on camera by a passing Probe Droid, Cal is pursued by the Imperial Inquisition, specifically the Second and Ninth Sisters. This sets him on a journey to heal his connection to the Force, fight back against the Empire, and restore the Jedi Order.
Due to the games proximity to the events of the Prequel Trilogy, aka The Clone Wars, the effects of that war and the Jedi Purge are still strongly felt by the inhabitants of the Star Wars galaxy. These feelings are especially strong in the few Jedi that managed to escape the Purge and go into exile. Eventually, the game finally gives us a look at this fateful day.
When it was portrayed in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, it was an emotional and somber moment as you watched various Jedi, some of whom you’d actually seen a bit of in previous movies or scenes, be gunned down by their own clone troopers. In this case, it becomes more personal as you’ve inhabited the character of Cal for most of the game. You know the moment is coming, but the moment you see the clone commander pulling out his communicator and hear that iconic “Execute Order 66" line, the tone of the entire scene immediately shifts, and now you’re on the run, trying to escape. But the developers didn’t stop there, they didn’t stop at this intense moment of having clones who were friendly to you a moment ago suddenly trying to kill you without remorse. And they didn’t stop at the following scene and a later one where Cal confronts a visage of his deceased master whose death he blames on his own cowardice and fear. They added a special music track to the scene: Anakin’s Betrayal.
This track was featured in Revenge of the Sith and is one of the standout pieces of the entire Prequel Trilogy. It captures the feeling of the clone troopers betrayal excellently and as a backdrop for your escape it is extremely fitting. It adds so much to this scene that an original track designed just for the game likely would not have been able to match. But it also speaks to something much larger. Which brings me to the second scene.
The myth, the man, the legend, Darth Vader himself shows up at the end of the game. In this era of the Star Wars timeline, Vader is this enigmatic figure who casts a shadow over the entire galaxy, over the Star Wars story, possibly even more so than the Emperor himself. Vader is the one who everyone fears, and he is the one that all Force users hope to never cross paths with. Some Jedi know who he truly is under that suit, others know that he was involved in the Jedi Purge, while others are completely oblivious to the true nature of the Emperor’s apprentice. In this game in particular, he is referenced on a few occasions prior to this moment. Never by name, but as a black shadow, a dark, suffocating presence. Fans of Star Wars don’t need to hear him name to know who is being referred to, that’s just how large of a person Vader is. And when he finally physically appears, his presence is palpable. And that is amplified by the music choice, where Respawn chose once again to borrow a track from Revenge of the Sith: Anakin’s Dark Deeds.
This scene is a very subtle one. You defeat the Second Sister, Trilla, for the final time, and just as she has been redeemed, the music goes silent, the room goes silent. You can hear some footsteps, but you might not think much of it for a brief moment. But then, that all too iconic breathing slowly gets louders, Trilla noticeably stiffens up and begins shaking as if the mans mere presence renders her immobile, those weak and quick footsteps from a moment ago are suddenly louder, more thunderous. Anakin’s Dark Deeds begins playing in the background, the voice of the choir just spreading through you as Vader slowly appears in the fog and the camera focuses on him, then gets a really good close up on his helmet. The terror has arrived, and you as the player can FEEL that.
The developers at Respawn Entertainment knew they couldn’t use Vader as an actual boss fight, he’s too powerful, but they used him in a different, and far more effective way. The man is a walking talking overpowered tone piece. The ensuing gameplay has you running away from Vader, and from watching a bunch of streamers reactions to him, a lot of people felt the same way I did. When he appeared, it was a mixture of excitement and terror. And when you knew you had to run away, no one wanted to look back to see if he was still following him because that’s just how terrifying a character he is. And anyone who did look back usually ended up dead because there is a very VERY short period of time where he will catch up to you and just force pull you to him and stab you.
Without these scenes, Jedi Fallen Orders story would be far less powerful in my honest opinion. The Jedi Purge needed to be seen to understand not only Cal’s trauma, but also the tragedy that hangs over all exiled Jedi. And Vader needed to appear, as the man responsible for the Purge, and the villain that all Jedi must come face to face with. Respawn knew exactly which strings needed to be pulled, how to hit fans right where it hurts, and it was glorious.