In praise of the brilliant finale of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

This piece contains spoilers for the end of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Somewhat appropriately, I begin this discussion of a Star Wars game with a Luke-warm take: game endings are quite frequently a bit rubbish. The usual structure is an extra-tough last level, a final boss fight, a cutscene to wrap it all up and then roll credits. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this structure, but it seems tricky to get right. Those last levels are often a slog, relying on the weight of numbers or cheap tricks to present a challenge, and a game’s final boss isn’t necessarily its best or most memorable.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order follows the template, for the most part. There’s nothing too overbearing in the last section of the game, though I found that its imprecise controls got the better of me during the final duel and I ended up dropping down a difficulty level in frustration. Your nemesis is defeated, you settle in for the traditional cutscene and then JFO yanks the rug from under you.

This is where we go right into explicit spoiler territory, chums. You can’t say I didn’t warn you!

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

The final duel in question is between Jedi protagonist Cal Kestis and the Second Sister of the Inquisitorius, our friend Palpatine’s elite Jedi-hunters, who you may be familiar with from the Rebels or Obi-Wan Kenobi TV shows. It’s their job to mop up what’s left of the Jedi Order and either kill or recruit anyone they find who is showing signs of Force powers.

Second Sister is actually Trilla Suduri, the former apprentice of Cere Junda, the woman who pulled Cal into his quest in the first place. (The quest is to find a fancy Jedi memory card with a list of Force-sensitive children.) It’s one of a number of revelations drip fed to you throughout the game, such as Cere actually being a Jedi herself, albeit one wracked with guilt for her failure to protect her student. While Trilla seems to have completely given herself over to evil, both Cal and Cere express hope that she can be saved.

As you might expect, Cal has no intention of killing her and Cere rushes in to apologise to her for allowing her to be taken by the Empire. Trilla’s face softens and you see the tell-tale signs of a redemption arc.

Then Darth Vader shows up.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

It’s an incredibly effective entrance. While JFO features plenty of familiar Star Wars trappings and locations, it’s also happy to do its own thing and stays remarkably light on existing characters, with Saw Gerrera being the only one to make an appearance. It makes Vader’s appearance both surprising and impactful, especially compared to the festival of nostalgia bait that is the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

Vader swiftly dispatches a terrified Trilla and, when she rushes in to avenge her student, tosses Cere in the direction of a lava pit with a dismissive flick of his hand. As his attentions turn to Cal, JFO hands control back to you.

It’s as terrifying as it is unexpected. Recent Star Wars media has done a fantastic job of conveying just how scary and powerful Vader really is, particularly the final scene of Rogue One. Cal is barely a Jedi, having spent most of the game gradually regaining the abilities he had as a Padawan. His fight against Trilla is portrayed as a desperate one that only just manages to emerge victorious from. During the final level, you see Cere in action against deadly Purge Troopers, who she deals with much more easily than Cal would have. Vader has killed both of them in moments and now you have to fight him.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

In truth, it’s something of a ruse. After a couple of ineffectual attacks, the fight goes into quick-time-event territory for a bit of frantic button bashing before you’re fleeing for your life, relying on the acrobatic Jedi parkour that makes up much of the exploration side of the game. It’s brief, only a couple of minutes between QTE-laced cutscenes, but dramatic, with Vader ripping the walkways you’re traversing apart with the force while pursuing you with the implacable inevitability of a slasher movie villain.

It’s an important reminder of what makes JFO work. While the Dark Souls-influenced lightsaber fighting is a huge part of the game, the Uncharted-esque puzzling and platforming is just as prominent. It contextualises the combat and helps sell Cal as a man who only fights out of necessity, something Star Wars often struggles with due to its insistence on throwing Jedi into the role of wartime leaders. It also avoids the common game ending pitfall of taking a game with a variety of different activities and systems and making the climax all about violence.

Before long, you run straight into Vader again (how dare he know the quickest routes through his own base) and Cal is badly wounded, only saved by the heroics of droid companion/actual star of the game BD-1 and the sudden reappearance of Cere. (Sidenote: If someone in Star Wars is tossed off a building, or into a pit, lava or the belly of a giant monster, just assume that they survive. I expect Mace Windu to show up again any day now.)

This is Cere’s big character moment. When we first meet her, she’s cut herself off from the Force to avoid falling to the dark side (she succumbed once when she realised the Empire had tortured and turned Trilla.) Having reawakened her abilities, she now faces the real test of her resolve. Full of anger and hatred, she lashes out at Vader, forcing him to his knees, but with Cal’s encouragement, she pulls back from the brink, defending them both from Vader instead of striking him down and enabling their escape.

Safely back on their ship, the whole crew gather and Cal makes the decision to destroy the Jedi memory stick to keep it out of the hands of the Empire and let the children on it have their own lives. It’s one of the most perfect game endings I’ve ever experienced and peak Star Wars. It’s a victory against evil, but it’s one that has come at great cost. At the same time, it’s hopeful and full of found-family warmth, satisfying, but leaving you hungry for more.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order isn’t my favourite game, heck it’s not even my favourite Star Wars game (that’s KotOR 2, if you’re wondering) but not only does it avoid falling at the final hurdle, but it crosses the finish line in style. As Donlan recently noted, Respawn knows how to create a damn good single-player campaign and with JFO they crafted a worthy chapter in the Star Wars saga.

Wait, whaddya mean Jedi Survivor’s been delayed?

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