Review copy provided courtesy of EA
I never tire of the Star Wars franchise. Watching space monks gracefully lift gargantuan objects with their mind, or clash with swords made of literal light has entranced me since I was a young disabled padawan. With every release of a new movie, toy, or video game, I can do nothing but succumb to the will of the Force and fill my ever-growing collection. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the latest game to embrace excellent story and combat mechanics, but numerous physical accessibility shortcomings prevent this title from achieving the rank of Master.
Developed by Respawn Entertainment, Fallen Order follows former padawan Cal Kestis as he attempts to survive in a post-Order 66 galaxy. As the Empire continues to ruthlessly hunt the remaining Jedi, Cal seeks to reestablish the Fallen Order, while simultaneously completing his training to become a powerful Force user. I absolutely loved the story and enjoyed uncovering the mysteries of the Force as I traversed each planet.
Exploration is critical in Fallen Order. Similar to games like Metroid and The Legend of Zelda, Fallen Order encourages players to seek alternate paths, and return to previous areas when they acquire new abilities. Health, Force, and Lightsaber upgrades are scattered throughout the galaxy, and acquiring them is not only beneficial for Cal, but adds a satisfying sense of completion. However, discovering each collectible left me with an incredible feeling of physical exhaustion, and as I progressed, I found myself unable to continue collecting.
Fallen Order’s biggest accessibility blunder is its overemphasis on movement. Players must utilize every key or button to successfully navigate each planet. Walking, sprinting, jumping, and even climbing, are mandatory components, and Fallen Order offers no shortcuts. Unsurprisingly, the most offensive use of movement occurs in the form of climbing. Each world features an egregious amount of strenuous activities, forcing physically disabled individuals to overexert themselves. Unlike Cal’s standard ground movements, climbing requires two additional inputs. Most games that incorporate an auto-climb option, yet Cal must approach designated walls and press a specific key. Furthermore, to drop from a wall, players must press yet another key, lest they be trapped. With a game that already features an extensive amount of movement controls, two more push the limit for physically disabled individuals.
Thankfully, Fallen Order offers an impressive key customization system. Assigning key inputs is crucial when exploring the overworld. Due to my physical limitations, I simply delegated the left half of my keyboard for movement and combat. Unfortunately, Fallen Order prohibits utilizing the mouse scroll wheel. This proved aggravating for casting Lightsaber attacks and Force powers, as many of my keys were used to ensure that Cal could efficiently walk, climb, or sprint.
To coincide with the inability to customize inputs for the scroll wheel, Fallen Order requires players to use the ‘Space Bar’ and ‘Escape’ keys to confirm actions within varying menus especially after Cal dies. Thankfully, I avoided this issue due to having a gaming mouse which features several buttons on each side. For disabled players that do not have the appropriate technology, nor the capability to press ‘Space Bar’ and ‘Escape,’ Fallen Order will be tremendously difficult to play.
Where Fallen Order struggles with traveling, it excels with its action sequences. Saber swings are meant to be precise and methodical, as wildly flailing will result in a quick death. Rather, players are encouraged to parry oncoming attacks, leaving opponents open for an offensive assault. In other titles that feature parrying, players must block at the precise moment to initiate a counterattack. Fallen Order provides a unique accessibility feature in the form of game difficulty, with lower options extending the reaction time for performing parries. The easiest difficulty offers an extensive period to hit the block key, whereas ‘Jedi Grand Master’ mode parries are activated right before an enemy’s attack hits.
Unfortunately, Fallen Order stumbles yet again with the inclusion of quick-timed-events. Boss encounters, as well as larger enemies will occasionally force players into rapidly mashing a specific key to avoid a large amount of damage. With no option to remove the obnoxious feature, physically disabled players will surely exhaust themselves during long fights.
Fallen Order is a game that I so desperately wanted yet struggle to effectively play. With so many accessibility missteps, becoming a Jedi quickly turned into a fruitless endeavor, and on numerous occasions, I contemplated leaving Cal and the Jedi Order behind just to recover my strength. With every entertaining Lightsaber battle, Fallen Order thrusts countless overworld and menu navigation blunders into the mix. Cal may be on his way to unlocking the secrets of the Jedi, but for physically disabled players, the Force is not with this game.
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