How Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Got Me Into Dark Souls Games

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How Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Got Me Into Dark Souls Games

If you have been captivated by the ongoing conversation around Elden Ring but have found the Souls games intimidating in the past and want an on-ramp into the genre, my advice is to play Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. People have a lot of different tips for how you can get into the Soulsborne series and make them approachable for yourself, but a well-crafted Star Wars game that adapts a Soulslike combat and revival system and includes difficulty settings is an excellent entry point. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a terrific game that I initially underrated and that has given me an appreciation for several videogame genres I didn’t care for before—and perhaps it could do the same for you, too.

I really love Star Wars. It’s a habit I’ve been unable to kick despite the mixed-at-best results of what they’ve produced in film while I’ve been alive. It’s been a more rewarding fandom as a lover of videogames than as of movies or TV—Republic Commando provided a grittier on-the-ground look at the Clone Wars than the movies did, Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel introduced me to RPGs and open worlds, and Star Wars: Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy (the third Jedi Knight spin-off of the Dark Forces FPS/3PS game) might have introduced me to character action games and definitely introduced me to Luke Skywalker’s Yavin IV Jedi Academy. I imagine that as the immediate spiritual predecessor to Fallen Order, but Star Wars: Force Unleashed is closer in the timeline of the old canon, and in its narrative focus of the awakening of the Rebellion.

Fallen Order is an action-adventure game that combines the explore-and-retread structure of Metroid with the traversal mechanics and cinematic action set pieces of the Uncharted games and the combat style of character action games, specifically the action-RPG games of FromSoftware. You fight, you die, you try again. The core gameplay loop requires players to dodge and parry rather than just mow down enemies thoughtlessly, to manage stamina and a non-refilling health bar. When players fail, they lose whatever experience points they had last acquired until they face that enemy again and are revived to checkpoints where they can distribute skill points and recover health and items. Players can go to those checkpoints—here they’re meditation circles, in Dark Souls they’re bonfires, in Elden Ring they’re Sites of Lost Grace—at any time to save the game, and only when resting do players pay the cost of reviving most of the enemies in an area. Because of the way enemies regenerate, players can farm skill points by repeatedly fighting the same enemies, further developing their skills, and making themselves a more unstoppable fighter, in turn making the game easier. Unlike the Soulsborne games’ persistent but not ubiquitous idea of an undead protagonist, Fallen Order doesn’t have a plot reason for the resurrections. Nonetheless, it was my first successful entry point into a gameplay style I found mighty intimidating.

I got my PS3 in 2013, near the end of its life, so the only games I played while they were current were Grand Theft Auto V, Batman: Arkham Origins, NCAA Football 14, BioShock Infinite, and the Mass Effect Trilogy compilation. This was four years after Demon’s Souls came out and two years after Dark Souls, so—playing on what was rapidly becoming a last gen system—I wasn’t current on gaming discourse. I didn’t try to play Dark Souls until 2017 or 2018, upon first hearing about how important and influential it was. Initially, that interest evaded me. I didn’t grasp what was appealing about the aesthetic or the challenge.

Perhaps what sets Fallen Order most apart from the Souls games, even more than the Metroid influence and Uncharted navigational aspects and the Star Wars aesthetic, is that it includes difficulty settings—“Story Mode,” “Jedi Knight,” “Jedi Master,” “Jedi Grandmaster”—that determine the Parry Timing, Incoming Damage, and Enemy Aggression of combat encounters. So, while I mostly play at Jedi Master (because it has every slider perfectly balanced), I was able to change it if I got tired of replaying a particularly tedious fight. I especially appreciate the connotation of the least challenging mode as “Story Mode” because it conveys that maybe players just want to experience the story, rather than using the condescending language and focus of the worst parts of Gamer difficulty discourse. Fallen Order is almost definitely more approachable than the average Soulsborne experience and was for me a door into that arena.

Struggling with playing as Ian from Shameless (Cameron Monaghan portrays protagonist Cal Kestis) while getting tossed around by a giant frog-lizard on Zeffo led to repeated uninstalls, with my repeated reinstalls propelled by my care for a creatively bankrupt media franchise and the urge to be involved in videogame conversations and consume the contemporary gaming canon. “Well,” I thought, “Maybe if I get into Fallen Order, it’ll help me get into the Souls games.” I could use a familiar universe I am too emotionally invested in to get into a gameplay style more closely associated with an aesthetic of bleakness, heaving monsters, dry wit, opaque story, patient parrying, unfair deaths, and “git gud,” a phrase by some in the Soulsborne community used to convey that instead of asking for tips (of which there are many from the kind parts of the community) or ease-of-use/accessibility options, people should just adapt.

Gradually, it seems to have worked. At some point, between the Imperial archaeological dig sites on Zeffo and fighting Nightbrothers on Darth Maul’s homeworld of Dathomir, Fallen Order began to feel so fun. The challenge felt rewarding—a group of stormtroopers that made me feel like an idiot on one run suddenly sounded like prey running from John Wick as I deflected their blaster shots, jumped over them, and slashed through them without taking any damage. Losing a fight seven times to a beast that looked like a more vicious version of Boomy’s pet from Avatar: The Last Airbender before no-hitting it with the perfect combination of dodge rolls and parries and then getting killed by some spiders combined triumph with hilarity. “Now,” I thought, “I’m ready for Dark Souls.” I opened the game back up, got through the Undead Asylum, ran past the skeletons in Firelink Shrine to loot the graveyard, eventually dispatching some of them and recovering my well-earned gains on my return, fighting and dying and fighting again the Hollows on the way to Undead Burg, fighting, and dying, and fighting again, practicing my parries and counters, resting and saving and grinding and leveling.

Between adventures in Elden Ring’s Lands Between and the world of Dark Souls, I’m still finding time to hop around alien planets in Fallen Order, because it’s a captivating game, likely the crown jewel of the EA-Star Wars exclusivity deal. I’ve got to learn to love a new style of videogame while enacting my childhood fantasies of being a young Jedi Knight. What’s beautiful about these games is that they impress patience on the player, helping the audience redefine and reimagine fun. The Souls games aren’t great just because they’re difficult, but because the challenge encourages adapting and patience. Dying and retrying can become a meditative process, as Maddy Myers wrote for Polygon. As failure is a reoccurring state and a natural one, it stops feeling so bad; and it feels great when you wrap the lessons learned into the mythos and practice of being a videogame Jedi. The Souls games give characters consequences for their actions that promote patience and learning, and the open world and online connectivity of Elden Ring make this the most approachable of these games yet. Even if the Soulsborne games still aren’t for everyone, their success shows that gaming audiences are still interested in triumphing over challenges. Perhaps best of all, their ability to inspire imitators and adaptations means that you have a lot of options for how to get into the genre, like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Kevin Fox, Jr. is a freelance writer, editor, and critic. He is a former Paste intern with an MA in history, who loves videogames, film, TV, and sports, and dreams of liberation. He can be found on Twitter @kevinfoxjr.

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