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7 things EA will regret about Jedi: Fallen Order

Once upon a time, we were so awash in Star Wars games, folks were sick of it. There was a time when gamers complained about every single Star Wars game requiring a recreation of the Battle of Hoth. Now, under Electronic Arts' stewardship, we are in a Star Wars famine, with only two extremely troubled multiplayer shooters, a mobile game, and an underappreciated MMO to show for EA's efforts. The 2015 Star Wars: Battlefront may have had a Hoth level, but players would kill to have a Hoth level that didn't require listening to 12-year-olds breathing heavily into a mic during it. That all changed during Star Wars Celebration this year when we finally got our first look at Respawn's Jedi: Fallen Order: single-player, story-based, and if EA keeps their promise, no microtransactions.

On paper, that sounds like the answer to everyone's prayers, but given EA's history with, and beyond, the Star Wars license, there's more than a few concerns about Jedi: Fallen Order that EA made worse or didn't address at all with their presentation. And no doubt, they might regret it later.

The Dark Side, and the Light

The storyline of Jedi: Fallen Order is that it takes place post-Revenge of the Sith. The Jedi are still being hunted throughout the galaxy, and our hero is a man who finds himself seeking out the Rebellion after Darth Vader trains him after invading Kashyyyk in a –

Oh, wait, that's Force Unleashed, isn't it? Well, it's not like the Fallen Order trailer made it easy to tell the two apart.

It's not a great look that the first major single-player Star Wars game we've gotten in years is so very similar to a game we're already seen before, but it's all the worse when our first look isn't even a terribly favorable comparison. The first time we saw Force Unleashed was in a jaw-dropper of a teaser trailer, with the money shot of a Star Destroyer doing its Star Destroyer thing, a la the opening of A New Hope, before being torn out of the sky by a Sith Lord. Fallen Order opted for emotional and subtle, which is fine, but the trailer also doesn't offer a particular reason to get invested as yet. While it was received well, it didn't do much to get folks truly excited, either.

Killing younglings

Jedi: Fallen Order has enough of a burden on its shoulders simply by being the first major single-player Star Wars game in years. That burden is so much worse when you consider that Fallen Order made it out of EA's wringer ahead of numerous more notable attempts over the years.

There was Star Wars: 1313, which was going to be M-rated, and basically be a sort of gritty redux of Star Wars: Bounty Hunter. It was cancelled, which led to Visceral's Star Wars game which was being described as Star Wars' version of Uncharted, complete with Amy Hennig stepping in to assist.  There's the fact that Bioware has been begging EA for years to let them take another swing at a proper Knights of the Old Republic III, to no avail. All three of those projects were mourned by gamers, and anything short of brilliance from Jedi Fallen Order is going to invite yet more comparisons that, unfair or not, fall squarely on both Respawn and EA.

Let the past die

As mentioned before, there was once a point when Hoth was basically to Star Wars games what Normandy Beach is to World War II shooters. And it got tired. We've gotten fewer Star Wars novels, comics, and games since, but if there is a simple truth now, it's that we're pretty full up on anything that takes place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.

At this very moment, we now have two full-fledged Star Wars movies, a slew of comics, and a TV series that fill in that gap of time between the prequels and the original trilogy, one of which literally leads into the exact moment A New Hope starts. Granted, that's a 30-year stretch of time to fill in, and there's a lot to explore in there, but if there's any connecting trait between all the best Star Wars video games, it's that they take us somewhere and somewhen we haven't seen before. Knights of the Old Republic took place millennia before the prequels, which gave BioWare plenty of wiggle room to make the universe their own.

Jedi: Fallen Order might be able to ace the story — it is being made by the people who made us care about the story of a boy and his Titan friend, after all — but it's at a disadvantage when it's covering such well-trodden ground.

The cruelest stroke

Jedi: Fallen Order already had its work cut out for it to impress gamers before the teaser dropped, but it doesn't help that, aside from a general idea about the premise, we have absolutely no idea from the trailer exactly what kind of game it actually is.

Yes, sure, the teaser's got lightsabers, a few Force power moments, but that tells us absolutely nothing, especially since one of the best Star Wars game trailers wound up being for an MMO. But at the very least, we knew what that was before it happened. Fallen Order is still keeping players and publications at arms length in that regard.

Ironically, EA did actually make mention of melee focus and some platforming and puzzle solving ... but only in the game's press release. One expects the curtain will draw back a wee bit more at E3, but let's also not pretend first impressions don't count. And right now, the first impression is a question mark.

No such thing as luck

Make no mistake, it is definitely a good thing that EA is promising not to add microtransactions to Jedi: Fallen Order. But it's hard to celebrate without reckoning the damage EA's done in the name of loot boxes in the past.

Remember, a not-insignificant factor in why Visceral's Star Wars game was canceled was a lack of an easy long-term monetization scheme. Fallen Order came to EA mostly formed when they bought Respawn, which appears to have allowed Respawn the freedom to work on the game slowly and steadily. But that's still a worrisome question that faces both EA and Respawn: success could very easily still mean failure for EA if Fallen Order does not make Battlefront money, even if it sells more copies. That may come to bite EA from the corporate side, and it'll be Respawn that deals with the fallout.

Got it where it counts, kid

On the flip side, there's another major way Jedi: Fallen Order breaks from EA's company line, and it's one that could affect every studio under EA's wing that isn't DICE: it's the only major game in EA's stable that's not being built using Frostbite, but good old reliable Unreal Engine 4.

It's been no secret in recent years how much developers dislike Frostbite, but EA's been passive-aggressively pressuring its devs to use it regardless, and it's come to a head with the whole drama around Anthem.  The excuses are rampant: Frostbite gives its games a visual edge, it's developed in-house, etc. But aside from the games developed directly by DICE — or that got all the help in the world from DICE — that hasn't translated into better games.

Now imagine that after years of developer strife, Respawn gets to waltz in and make a rock-solid game using one of the most widely implemented engines in the industry. If EA gives their developers more slack on which engines they use, it will definitely turn all that Frostbite work into wasted effort. On the other hand, EA sticking to their frostbitten guns can only look more ridiculous in hindsight. That's a catch-22, and EA will really have no one to blame but themselves for it.

That was one in a million

Respawn's entire tenure as one of EA's premier studios has been defined by success not because of, but in spite of EA. The awesome Titanfall 2? EA was just the publisher on that, and it was their blunder releasing it in the October 2016 game release bloodbath. Apex Legends? EA had no idea it was coming and had no hand in its development.

And now, Respawn is the shepherd of the most lucrative and sacred and protected of intellectual properties, using tools and working in a genre all flying right in the face of everything EA has had their fingers in for the last ten years. This is a plum chance to take a risk unlike anything in the franchise's or publisher's recent history. And its success or failure could have the domino effect of either changing how the company operates going forward for the better or entrenching them even deeper in their ways, and likely ensuring we never get a game as great as Titanfall 2 out of Respawn ever again.

For a studio they blew half a billion dollars to acquire, Jedi: Fallen Order feels like EA letting it ride, and that pressure is good for nobody.