Unpacking the June 2021 Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Update
After roughly six months of having an elusive next-generation console, I’m finally 100% convinced the upgrade was worth the weeks of checking NowInStock.net furiously every five minutes. What won me over wasn’t the meticulously detailed horrors of Resident Evil Village, the ultra-realistic player animations in MLB The Show 21, or the lightning-fast frame rate and load times of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. It was replaying a Star Wars game from two years ago.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first playthrough of Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order on my PlayStation 4 Slim a year and half ago, but the experience was not without its faults. The game launched with notable performance issues, including frequent frame rate chugs, janky combat sequences, and the occasional game-breaking bug. I loved so much about Fallen Order, from its Metroid Prime-like approach to environmental storytelling to its deep and varied combat mechanics, but the technical problems often got in the way of the minute-to-minute gameplay loop. It’s tough to truly appreciate what was happening all the time when sometimes I would freeze in mid-air or die because an extra stormtrooper appeared out of nowhere.
Since the title has received an upgrade for newer consoles, I figured I would give the improved version a try on my Xbox Series X to ascertain whether such enhancements made the overall experience meaningfully better. While I’ve enjoyed most Series X upgrades when it comes to frame rates and load times, most of these augmentations are not fundamentally game-changing. Sure, No Man’s Sky loads way faster now than before, but that doesn’t mean it’s an inherently better game; it’s just a more convenient one. The same goes for Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, and any other Series X-enhanced title: Obviously it’s the better version, but the difference isn’t quite night-and-day.
What Sets Jedi: Fallen Order Apart on Next-Gen Consoles
With Jedi: Fallen Order, however, the Series X edition presents such a notably improved experience that I find myself enjoying the title on a whole new level. Obviously, I really liked the game to begin with (it did make my “best of Xbox One/PS4 generation” list), but now it’s been so streamlined that virtually none of the blemishes of the last-generation release still exist. Combat is smoother, the platforming feels crisper, and the environments are much more detailed and vibrant, to the point where I’m noticing the game’s incredible architectural achievements in ways I missed previously. The improved textures make my customizable costume choices more tantalizing (this was something I largely ignored in my first playthrough), and the lack of frame-rate issues allows me to feel like I have more control during particularly hectic action sequences.
These changes don’t just make the game prettier and cleaner; they allow the title’s more detailed gameplay and narrative elements to shine. In my second playthrough, I was much more interested in listening to the force echoes, exploring hidden areas, challenging tough enemies, and even pondering the story’s themes of powerlessness, abandoning the past, and the inevitability of institutional collapse. Playing Fallen Order in its greatest form (and what I imagine Respawn had originally envisioned) elevated the experience from a very good AAA action game to quite possibly an all-time great, and I have to credit the smoother user experience and stunning visual upgrades for that.
What a Great Next-Gen Update Looks Like
To be clear, I don’t expect this to be the case with every next-gen enhancement. Fallen Order launched in a clearly flawed state, so any noticeable improvement would obviously make the game play much better. Also, the next-gen experience was not totally clear of technical flaws, as the occasional texture pop-ins and audio-syncing issues during cutscenes occurred during my latest playthrough (for context, I played the game in performance mode, which prioritized running at 60 FPS over having perfect visual fidelity).
Still, it felt like a new experience, or more accurately the excellent game I saw buried inside the wonky original release. Much like any good remake, the best next-gen enhancements shouldn’t just clean things up a little; they should make you feel as though you’re playing the best possible version of something, without any annoying kinks getting in the way. The smoothed-out presentation and performance of Fallen Order allowed its visionary brilliance to shine through at every moment, and hopefully that’s a good sign for any other future next-gen enhancements.