'Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,' a video game force awakens. What you need to know
There's been a turbulence in the Star Wars franchise recently – and that's a good thing.
First, there was the arrival of "The Mandalorian" on the Disney+ streaming service, which became operational earlier this week. Now, there's "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order," a new single-player video game that fleshes out Lucasfilm's space opera.
All this action comes ahead of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" (in theaters Dec. 20), the ninth and last film in that saga.
But these two recent entries focus on the past. "The Mandalorian" takes place after about five years after Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and the rebels overthrew the Empire in 1983's "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi."
"Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order" (out now for $59.99, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, for ages 13-up) goes back a bit further in the timeline to five years after the events of "Revenge of the Sith." As detailed in that film, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (who was actually Darth Sidious and would be come Emperor Palpatine) issued Order 66, a death sentence for all Jedi.
The 'Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order' story
The character you play in the game is Cal Kestis, a former Jedi padawan who has gone into hiding – and is not using his Force powers to avoid detection. But events lead to Cal having to abandon that strategy and join a mission to rebuild the Jedi order.
He gets some help from a former Jedi Knight named Cere Junda, Greez Dritus, the pilot of the Mantis, a Stinger space ship, and BD-1, a nimble and useful droid who becomes a constant companion.
As your fellowship looks to unravel a mystery that will help rebuild the Jedi's ranks, they must avoid some new Jedi-hunting villains strong in the dark side of the Force including the Second Sister, a sinister and fierce black-clad fighter.
Cal is voiced by Cameron Monaghan ("Shameless," "Gotham"), and the character, despite the red hair, is reminiscent of the young Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). At the outset of the game, Cal has powers, but they aren't enough to earn Jedi Knight-dom.
The first section of the game puts Cal through paces to improved his Force powers and lightsaber combat, as well as jumping, climbing and wall-running – a super-fun skill perfected in the "Titanfall" games, also created by Respawn Entertainment, the studio that developed "Fallen Order."
"Fallen Order" also owes much to "God of War," with its climbing and puzzle-solving challenges. That makes sense as the game's director is Stig Asmussen, who previously worked on the PlayStation 4 "God of War" games, as writer and eventually director of 2010's "God of War III."
'Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order':Those behind the video game that lets you become a Jedi Knight
Any familiar 'Star Wars' characters appear?
This gamer is less than one-third through the game, but Obi-Wan Kenobi has made an appearance in a video transmission. And during a preview gameplay session this summer at E3, resistance leader Saw Gerrara (played by Forest Whitaker in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story") joined Cal on a mission.
And, of course, there's plenty of stormtroopers to take down. It's especially satisfying to use your lightsaber to take them out by blocking blaster shots back at them.
The Force is strong with this video game
"Fallen Order" seems to be a hit with video game critics and players alike. Although it was just released Friday, the game had attracted 390 users reviews on Metacritic.com by early afternoon, with an average score of 8.3 out of 10.
Reviewers had similar responses giving the game an 84 rating (out of 100), based on 23 scores so far. "Fallen Order" is "amazing," IGN executive editor Dan Stapleton said in his review. "A strong cast sells a dark story while keeping things fun and loyal to Star Wars lore, and fast, challenging combat mixes with energetic platforming, decent puzzles, and diverse locations to explore for an all-around amazing game."
For Gamespot editor Phil Hornshaw, the game offers "perhaps the strongest conception of what playing as a Jedi Knight ought to really be like. ... Even with some rough edges, 'Fallen Order' represents one of the most compelling game additions to the Star Wars franchise in years."
Mashable senior games reporter Adam Rosenberg labelled the game a “terrific and welcome surprise.” There's a long history of disappointing Star Wars video games, "but that's definitely not the case here," he wrote. "Yes there are frustrations. But more than that, there are lightsabers and Stormtroopers and wild displays of Force power. 'Fallen Order' is a Star Wars game I didn't even know I wanted, but it's here now and I'm so glad it's real."
For this gamer, the story and mysteries have been engaging and the action challenging. One nit is my character's point of view occasionally going into a dizzying 360-degree spin when I hit the right thumbstick a certain way on the Xbox One controller. Not a good move when you're under attack from more than one enemy.
Despite that glitch – could it be dark side gremlins? – I look forward to continuing Cal's mission.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.