"Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (Respawn / EA, 2019)"
I really like it, but don't love it. The game I can't help but keep thinking about - partially because of the environment art, partially because of the combat style - is God of War, and everything this game does just fine that game does exquisitely. I'll get back to that in a bit. As for positive impressions? The game has a strong sense of wonder, the sound design is expectedly awesome and they really have, mostly, made it feel like I'm a Star Wars Man wandering around a Star Wars world. It's clear this is a direct tie-in to the wider world of Star Wars, and while I'm lukewarm on both the prequels and the modern trilogy for different reasons I can't help but get drawn into a star war.
So, I appreciated my first four-ish hours with the game. I felt like I was coming close to falling in love with it at various points. The Uncharted bits are big, but it's also been done enough I get why someone would resist those amusement park qualities coming from another franchise. The Tomb Raider bits seem very involved, but I find a lot of fault in the environment design there. I was scrambling in circles at certain points and I wasn't ever certain whether it was expected of me or the level just wasn't funneling me well. Those moments were particular strange feeling because at other points, Respawn's done such a good job of angling the camera or creating minor environmental movement like a pack of rats to indicate the path you're expected to go down.
I worry its ambitions are capable of getting the better of this game. You'd hit deadends in God of War or Tomb Raider but those games didn't ever make you feel dumb for hitting roadblocks, instead you'd just sort of bookmark the thing for later in your mind and move on. Fallen Order doesn't seem to want you to do that, though. Partially it's because the map is a DOOM-like tough read as a 3D AR interface, partially because there's no fast travel which makes you feel like being there is the whole thing. This is where the Dark Souls influence comes in strongest - people will compare the combat to Souls or Sekiro because of its unforgiving difficulty and parry-heavy tutorial, but it's really in the meta design of the game - and also feels like one of the game's weaker nods to the generation's biggest influences. If Control's reliance on the bonfire system felt a little tacked on, Fallen Order's feels entirely superfluous so far. I don't mind the enemy respawn stuff, other than it seems like skill points aren't going to be so damn hard to come by that it needs to happen, but failing a task only to have to do a "boss run" afterward in this game just doesn't feel right, even more than Control.
I also find the enemy tells a little hard to read, not always intentionally like Sekiro either. The enemies just move very deliberately, as does Kal, and so I often find myself ramming my head against when I think I should press a button and when the game expects me to. Explosive projectiles are also universally shit IMO so far, whether rockets or bombs. They just feel unmanageable.
I started on the Hard difficulty, but like God of War I found myself knocking it down after a few bad encounters to Normal so I could just enjoy the story (thinking I may come back to the game if the story is good and I've fully understood it, like God of War, on the harder difficulty)...and this game is still harder than God of War was on normal. I'm not often a Hard guy, but when I really click with a game like God of War, Spider-Man, Horizon, DOOM or something I'm always game; Fallen Order doesn't make me feel like it's worth it to be game.
The nail in the coffin for this playthrough - and despite all the complaining/sour language, let me reiterate I really enjoyed my night with this because it turns out I just love this type of game (and I'm glad I skipped Shadow of the Tomb Raider so it'd feel a little more fresh) - was when I came to a wind puzzle consisting of two rooms, and I kept scrambling between the two rooms trying to figure out what I was missing only to get fed up with it and want to get back to my ship to continue the story...and I absolutely could not find my way out of those two rooms, couldn't follow the map to find my way out, and couldn't just fast travel back to my ship. That moment emphasized for me that maybe this game wants a little too badly to be considered a Hard Game, that it was 3:30AM and I was tired after a 7-hour bartending shift and that this game feels like it's biting off a lot.
This is what I was referring to at the beginning with God of War; that game always made you feel like you were learning, discovering, participating in and with it. Bloodborne, too (I'm not too experienced with the other Souls games), it would let you get lost but only so lost as to find a shortcut at the most desperate moment and get back on track. Even that game, you could zip around zones once you knew you had specific but far away goals; the lack of fast travel in this game is pretty wild. In this game, if you lose the plot it threatens to be lost forever, or at least until such time that you're just worn down by its obtusities. That's...not ideal.
Hopefully I can figure it out quickly tomorrow, I'd like to see some other ways this game opens up - or gets weirdly difficult - again before work tomorrow night.