This is definitely the best Star Wars game I’ve played in a very long time. The game is basically Metroid Prime for Star Wars. You visit multiple planets and unlock new abilities that allow you to open new paths and find power-ups for your character. There is just something about that style of game that feels just right. Now, I don’t want every game to be like this, but it sure is nice getting one. It would have been even better with fast travel, because fuck this game for not having fast travel.
The games story is good, not great. It definitely serves it’s purpose and makes you want to keep exploring the various planets in your journey. You probably wont be surprised by anything that happens, save for one moment that I wont spoil. It starts off with an interesting premise and set location and quickly moves into a romp around the galaxy.
The best part of the story and set up is simply the main character Cal Kestis. He’s acted by that kid from Shameless, which isn’t really needed, but the part that I like is just his character. He’s a pretty chill dude, there isn’t much drama with him and you’re not struggling with light and dark at every turn. He’s just a guy that knows what needs to be done, keeps a fairly level head throughout the whole journey. It’s just refreshing to hang out with him and your little robot companion, BD-1, in the game. The could have easily gone down the typical tropes in other stories, showing a struggle with the light and dark side, but they just keep it fresh and light.
The gameplay is good, it feels good to swing a lightsaber around and you get plenty of upgrades to add new moves to your arsenal. Particles and lights flash as you cut through your foes with your lightsaber, providing a kinetic experience not found in other Star Wars games. I found the whole “Dark Souls” get killed and your experience is in the person that killed you thing to be a little pointless. I only really died a few times in my game and rarely against normal style enemies. I think it should have been a mechanic that was saved for the higher difficulty tiers since it had little to no impact on my game. The biggest issue I had with the gameplay was using the ropes and jumping around before getting more powers, to sliding down slopes which got a little janky at times. Sometimes jumping off a rope or to the rope is an exercise in frustration, you will constantly miss or launch out at the wrong angle, causing you to fall into a hole over and over. I wound up just calling him an idiot when he did something utterly stupid, which happened a lot.
The music and sound effects were all very good. I liked a part in the beginning of the game when you enter an area and local music is playing, it’s a really Star Wars style grunge sound that just fit with the game. Sadly, it’s not used as often as I would have liked, but that would involve less barren planets and more locations with a population of civilians. The voice acting and everything was good, I also liked the sounds that BD-1 gave as you ran around, it was a good clue for points of interest in the environment. You end up really liking the little robot by the end of the game, even though it doesn’t have that much personality and is used more as a tool than a character in the plot.
I can’t forget to talk about one of the best aspects of the game, which are the environments and the way they are constructed. There is just a massive amount of high-frequency detail in the geometry. While it might struggle in other ways, it is always impressive to see what they are doing with game geometry compared to other titles. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the game has such a hard time with loading. It really did give me memories of playing Metroid Prime, whose levels were created in Maya and were not cookie-cutter in nature. This does feel like a real world with interesting things happening around every corner. Don’t expect to see the exact same shapes and objects scattered all over the place. There is some real talent and asset production that went into developing these worlds in 3D. I would be really excited to see what they can do with the next version of Unreal Engine on PS5, that’s for sure.
I have a real issue with the character model of Cere. It’s almost distracting when the character is on screen. I just think the model and rendering of her face is not where it should be and does not compare with the work done on the other women in this game. The best way I can describe it is that there is just a softness in her face. The other women do wear more makeup, which really helps in making their character models stand out. Cere’s eyes just bulge out without having any sort of shadow around them. It’s almost unnatural the way it looks. I’m not saying that her eyes or the shape of them are unnatural, just the way they are rendered. I wish they would have added more shadow in the corners of the eyes to help set them into her face better while also adding more, better defined creases above her eyes and around her mouth. I’m adding a review of Death Stranding soon and seeing the way their characters eyes are done make you really see a difference in modeling, texturing, shader work, and rendering between these two games. It’s a distracting aspect that actually pulled me out of the story and should be improved.
If you’ve seen the Mark Cerny “GDC” presentation about the upcoming PS5, where he goes into the improvements they made in regards to hard drive access speed, then I think I know why that’s needed now. I mean, I already knew why it was needed from a technical perspective, but this game is the definition of needing that increase in speed.
Just for context, I played this game on the base PS4 since my two Pro consoles are in a crate traveling to Japan right now with the rest of my stuff. Not that it would have changed that much in regards to this aspect. The game has a terrible time at trying to keep up with streaming in new assets, it kind of hurts the game and it’s part of the reason why I knocked my score down just a bit.
If you run through a level, especially after beating the game and going for the platinum trophy, you are constantly hitting signs of the levels trying to load around you. Sometimes the game would just freeze if I went too fast, just like how Half Life 2 used to do between areas. It’ll just freeze the frame, no loading sign, and you just have to wait a few seconds before being able to continue. Sometimes you can watch parts of the world just appear around you. One section I jumped down into a workshop and there was nothing in it but the walls and basic lighting. I ran into the room I was going into and got hit by an invisible spinning blade, only to then have the furniture, lighting, and blade start to appear moments later.
I’ve had the game crash on me about five times while playing. Each time I was forced to go back to the last meditation point I stopped at while not keeping anything I picked up. This had me replay sections, recollect any collectibles I already picked up, which led me to stop at every single meditation spot I saw just in case it crashed again. It was very frustrating. I do think it had something to do with the streaming of assets, since there was a lot of hitching caused by that.
I would really love to see a version of this for PS5. This game needs that hard drive speed and the increased graphical capabilities available there, it’d be nice if they provide a free patch. If they did that and made some big improvements before the sequel, perhaps I’d run through it again.
While I’m talking about negatives, the presentation and quality of the image being presented on-screen is of a very low quality. What I mean by this is not the typical graphics, it’s the way the frame is rendered out. The game itself can be very beautiful and is technically really nice, it is just covered with temporal ghosting artifacts all over. I’ll show an example below of what I mean. What I’m talking about is not a part of the camera motion blur, the aspects I’m talking about would not have motion vectors associated with them. It reminds me a lot of the ambient occlusion ghosting I experienced in Control on the PC.
Final Score – 8.6
A great Star Wars game marred by technical issues. Perhaps I should have just played this on PC. The main character and his mild-mannered personality was a refreshing aspect that I didn’t know I needed. Just please include some sort of fast travel in a sequel, especially for trophy hunting purposes in the end-game.