Impressions: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

I have not played a Star Wars game since Disney took over the franchise. Not for any particular malice, but rather because the only Star Wars offerings, remakes of Battlefront and Battlefront II, appeared to be pale imitations of the original PS2 games they were based on.

Lots of promises were made by EA following the lukewarm reception to the Battlefront remakes, and the outright hostility that was shown towards the lootbox system.

No more lootboxes

A 100% Singleplayer experience

It seemed to be everything fans were asking for.

Finally.

It was clear to those of us watching EA’s handling of video games and the Star Wars Franchise that these choices were not where EA wanted to go with gaming, particularly after their quite definitive claims about the future of singleplayer gaming.

Thankfully for us fans of Star Wars video games EA decided to eat their hat and produce a singleplayer game, which was in no way connected to the critical acclaim Sony’s singleplayer God of War remake recieved, and how much criticism their own offering, Battlefront II, recieved the year before Fallen Order’s release.

So what are my first impressions of this game?

It is beautiful, so very beautiful. It is also painfully unpolished, but despite this issue it is also very fun.

Beauty

When I first loaded up the game the first thing that stood out was just how visually stunning it all was. The game opens on a spaceship junkyard, and the main character, Cal, is part of a salvage team dismantling Clone Wars-era technology. I had real moments of fan-boy awe as I saw the Clone Dropships up close and personal or lasers tearing apart an outdated Star Destroyer.

The graphic detail and dynamic lighting effects are beautiful, and great emphasis is drawn to the lighting throughout the game when you use your lightsaber, which you are given access to not long at all into the game’s introduction. You will use your lightsaber as a light source in-game, in place of a torch. It is a simple but elegant touch to the gameplay that really shows off the dynamic lighting wonderfully.

The graphics are complemented with sonorous music that is unmistakably Star Wars in feel and tone. The combination of visuals and sound design make for an immersive and exciting step into a new Star Wars story.

Polish

My first encounter with a lack of polish came with the game’s combat. This game is frequently compared to the Souls-Borne games, and this is an unfortunate comparison as I entered the game expecting it to play like Sekrio with a lightsaber.

This game is not Sekrio with a lightsaber.

You are encouraged to use the parry in Fallen Order, but the timing is not as instinctive as it is in Sekrio. You have to take account of the animation window that it takes Cal to move his lightsaber into parry position to catch the enemy weapon as it lands. It is a difference in timing that I have not been able to master. I found myself dying several times in the intoductory sequence. I would not have begrudged this so much if it was not for the painfully long load times.

On a PS4 it takes 30-60 seconds to reload from a death. This elongates the downtime between deaths, which happens frequently if you are playing on the higher difficulties. That mixed with a slightly heavy feeling combat, meant that I had to turn down the difficulty for me to have a good time.

Low posture, stun locks and heavy enemy attack tracking made me feel more that I was fighting unpolished combat mechanics rather than challenging gameplay. One example of this would be the force stasis abilty. You can stun an enemy in game, and the most instinctive use of this ability would be to stun an enemy and run behind them to get a backstab kill. Unfortnately this is not something you can do in game as the enemies, even whilst in stasis, can track your movement as fast as you can move.

There is a lot more I could say about the balance of combat in this game, but I feel it would be better suited to a deep dive on video game combat.

Other niggles I have with the game include texture pop-ins, lag, and stuttering. I have not experienced this issues in another PS4 game before, and certainly not to such an extent that I notice it and it impacts my enjoyment of the game.

Fun

Regardless the issues I have highlighted above, this game is a really fun experience.

I have put the game down several times due to frustration, and boss-related rage, but I have always wanted to pick up the game again. This is a game that am thinking about in-between gaming sessions in a positive way. I always forget the niggles and frustrations I have an am left with a desire to dive deeper into it.

When the game works, it works wonderfully, with fluid action making you truly feel like a jedi in combat. The platforming and exploration is fun and satifying, with the game containing several well thought-out environmental puzzles. When I have struggled to solve a puzzle, it is down to my own failure to apply what the game has shown me, rather than issues with the puzzle mechanics themselves.

Exploration is rewarded with customisation options, which are great for the lightsaber, Mantis (your spaceship) and BD-1 (your personal droid), but rather lackluster for Cal himself.

Conclusion

I really love this game despite its flaws. If you have never played a souls-like game before this is an excellent entry level into the genre, particularly given the use of difficulty choices, which make combat significantly easier than will ever be found in the souls games, whilst retaining the checkpoint and enemy respawn mechanics of the infamous set of games.

The game has solid mechanics, and I would be excited to see EA really polish these mechanics to perfection in a Jedi: Fallen Order 2. The story is sufficiently engaging for an Action-Adventure game, and is a must-try for fans of the Star Wars franchise.

Quarantine Blog Update

Hi everyone, I hope you are well!

As you may have guessed by the lack of posts over the past month, COVID-19 has had an impact on my ability to keep this blog updated.

I am currently working from home full-time, whilst having to look after my pregnant wife and little one. This has had a direct impact on my capacity to create content, in that I have very little capacity in this current season.

I have had to step back from being the Dungeon Master in one of my Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and the second one is likely to be suspended as well, as day-to-day life is taking up all of my creative energy.

If you are still wanting to see the content I create I will, from time to time, be streaming gameplay on Twitch at www.twitch.tv/silent__hydra. These streams will not be particularly regular, as I will stream as and when I have time and capacity, but if you follow me on Twitter I will post whenever I am online.

I am sure many of you are finding yourselves in similar positions, and I am thankful for your understanding in these trying times.

I hope all of you, your friends and family are keeping safe in these difficult times.

– Aaron

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Returning to the blog-o-sphere

Hi everyone!

I am returning to my regular publication of my blog on Wednesdays after taking several weeks off for a combination of mental health and work-related reasons.

So what can you expect in future posts?

The first posts I have lined up is a book review of Stephen King’s The Shining, followed by an article exploring the ever important question of what should you do first, read the book or watch the film?

I have a collection of articles looking at various aspects of the Metal Gear Solid franchise including looking at mental health and building empathy towards villainous characters.

Hopefully there will be interesting things for all of you dear readers to find, and thank you for bearing with me during this necessary downtime!

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Quick Update

Hi everyone,

Just a quick update in relation to the blog.

I am currently a bit behind with my posts due to a combination mental health and work-related factors.

Nothing major to worry about but I had to let deadlines for my blog slide to accommodate these other factors.

I plan on returning to my usual schedule soon, so keep an eye out for more top content!

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This is art, not real life celebrates it’s first birthday!

This is so exciting!

This is art, not real life is officially one year old today!

Over the past year we have had over 900 views from over 300 visitors, which really picked up when I started to create content regularly in May.

Thank you so much to all of you who have read, liked, commented and engaged with my content!

I am still learning how to grow and develop this site, what kinds of content you want to see,  how to create a fun web experience for you, and I am excited to continue to develop this site over the years to come.

One of my most popular posts was a deep dive into Dark Souls, which I am excited to say there is a follow up article I have written that will be posted in just two weeks, and looks at From Software’s storytelling techniques!

Hopefully this website continues to be an enjoyable read for you, and I am excited to continue to share this experience with you!

– Aaron Surnaym

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Book Review: Barefoot Gen Volume 1

‘Gen is my alter ego and his family are just like my own.’

 

Barefoot Gen Volume 1

Japan is the only country in the history of the world that has had an atomic bomb used against it in war.

It went through that trauma twice.

When I finished reading Barefoot Gen I did not have any words to say.

I just sat there with tears in my eyes processing what I had just read.

This graphic novel tells the semi-autobiographical story of the author Keiji Nakazawa and his childhood experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

It is a passionate and emotive piece of anti-war literature, and one of the most deeply disturbing horror stories I have read.

Junji Ito may provide a visceral and terrifying supernatural horror experience on a graphic novel page, but Keiji Nakazawa’s story is real, that is the most disturbing thing of all.

This story is an important piece of modern literature, in the same vein as the war poetry of the frontline soldiers of World War 1, and it provides a unique insight into the domestic situation in Japan at the end of World War 2 and the impact of the atomic bomb being dropped that is not familiar to western readers.

I say western readers, but I can only speak from my own experience of history lessons taught in the UK. I knew about the atom bomb, I knew it was dropped to stop a long drawn out war to claim every individual island of Japan, I knew that it immediately ended thousands of lives instantly like turning off a switch.

Except that last part is not true.

I was taught a very sanitised understanding of atomic warfare, and Barefoot Gen breaks through that understanding violently.

The story told follows Gen, a child living in Hiroshima in the final days of World War 2, and his family. His father is opposed to the war, and living in a militaristic society this leads to Gen’s family being branded traitors.

The reader is introduced to the issues that the civilians of Japan were facing with food shortages and starvation being present in the face of a war that was slowly being lost, along with the pervasive militarism that permeated their society, blinding people to the fact that the war was not going well.

Gen's father

These struggles form the majority of volume one as Gen’s family try to cope with having their neighbourhood turn against them, simply because they are opposed to sending young men out to die for a war that should never have been engaged in.

And then the date ticks over to the 6th August 1945.

The final 35 pages of the manga address the aftermath of the dropping of the atomic bomb. It is haunting. You are given the slightest impression of what Keiji Nakazawa had to experience, and it enough to chill you to the core, and question what humanity is capable of.

The art style used is a very classic, simple, disney-esque cartoon style, lacking the detail that you get from other high quality manga or graphic novels, but this does not negate the emotional connections you build with the characters in this completely human story. You begin to feel like you truly know Gen’s family, and in this process Keiji Nakazawa gives us an intimate and deeply personal insight into his own relationship with his family and the life that he lived in Hiroshima.

There are further volumes of Barefoot Gen that deal with life after the dropping of the bomb. I have not yet read it, and feel I still need time to process volume 1 before I move onto the next part of the story.

Trampled Wheat

Barefoot Gen is, in my view, essential reading. Even if graphic novels are not your cup of tea, the story that it tells is an important part of human history, and it gives a unique insight into the events of 6th August 1945, that should form part of the education around the use of atomic weaponry, that is an ever present shadow in modern global politics.

Blog Update: What are the D&D posts about?

Hi guys I just wanted to provide a bit of an update on what is going with This is art, not real life!

Many of you are following for video game content and don’t worry that is still coming! I have lots of articles in the works that will be released soon!

So why the Dungeons and Dragons Campaign Diaries?

I am very close to publishing my first Dungeons and Dragons Adventure!

Title Page

I am in the final stages of editorial work for it and I am hoping to complete it over the next month.

This means that most of my writing time is spent on this adventure!

I have brought on the help of my friend Chloe Wakefield, who has written up the Campaign Diaries of the last mini-campaign I ran.

These are being uploaded so that I can keep providing regular content to you and to hopefully get some of you excited for the imminent release of my adventure!

Once the adventure is published I will resume providing a combination of video game and book related content.

I am so excited to be able to share these things with you and I hope you enjoy this content that I am going to be producing!