star wars

in praise of jedi: fallen order

every main character has been taken from their culture or heritage, and jfo looks at that so well with every one of them, at heritage that’s been taken from them and the way that they interact with it and build it and live with it and cling to it.

it’s a tiny thing, but one of greez’s first-ever lines, that he repeats at a later point - “grab some seat” - makes it clear that galactic basic isn’t his first language. i lighted on that immediately; he sounds like my family when they speak english. and later, he says he doesn’t like droids, and cere tells him “you sound like an imp. the empire deactivates droids because they can”. and he responds with an apology, and by saying that he guesses bd1 is “one of us”.

there’s a scene where the rest of the mantis crew is ribbing greez about his cooking, and it gets serious as he explains that cooking helps him feel closer to his great-grandmother, and apart from her he didn’t really have much in the way of family and he gets the response “until now”.

it’s also made very clear that cal and merrin, a jedi and a nightsister do not and probably never will understand the culture of each other, but they can still respect it.

cere knights cal. she says “by the right of the council,” despite there being no council, “by the will of the force” and dubs him with a red lightsaber taken from an inquisitor - from her previous padawan - because she has no lightsaber of her own (because she gave it to cal), and dubs him despite him having no padawan braid to cut, “rise, jedi knight” - that was such a powerful moment of clinging to your culture, everything else be damned.

cere’s been struggling with the dark side throughout the game, but especially building up to this point, and she takes up a red lightsaber and commands the cal to kneel - it’s a scary moment, in a way, despite the trust! but he trusts her and he does it and she knights him. does she have the right to? well, who else would, so she does.

and she meets the person who tortured her for an unknown length of time, the terrifying shadow, jedi killer, who broke her, and she uses the dark side to hurt him… and cal isn’t angry with her, he doesn’t give up on her, he screams in pain because he doesn’t want this bad thing to happen to his mentor. and her eyes widen and she falls back and suddenly she reaches out… and instead of harming vader, she’s stopping his blade.

she’s protecting the young man who can still be protected instead of trying to protect her past self, which she can never do, protect trilla, which she failed in, protecting her padawan cal (and trilla says it, she says “your new master” and “her last padawan,” she understands even at that point at the game that the mantis crew is moving forward) - and he can then save her. he couldn’t save jaro tapal, but he saves her, and he only does that after she assured him that it wasn’t his fault that jaro died.

as cal puts it, “life has its funny way of forcing you on the path forward anyway”.

the gameplay is mostly linear… but sometimes you have flashbacks that tell their own narrative, set in the past at various times and in various places, and that informs the options for the gameplay in the present, as well as you needing to play some of the flashback sequences, which are just as real and deadly as the main narrative. he needs to survive his memories in a very literal sense.

i think think what really made jfo great to me is the sense of heritage and culture, and the sense of powerlessness that is not hopeless.

the final boss fight? all you can do is run. the objective is survival. the main goal of the game? the characters change their minds about wanting it. the rebel campaign you assist in? it fails.

your sacred places are desecrated, all you can do is protect your immediate family, because to seek out others would be to endanger them….. but it’s very……….. it feels very…..

“The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

your sacred places have been desecrated, and to go to them means fighting stormtroopers and seeing horrible mines and exploitation and industrialisation and secularisation… but you can still go there, and they are still sacred. and that carries through not just with the jedi sites, but with locations of other civilisations. deforested kashyyyk and tombs of long-dead civilisations alike.

cal character encounters a creature, a beautiful and sacred one, that’s the last of its kind (the shyyyo bird), and it’s sad, but it’s there, there’s still one there, and it’s beautiful.

“i might be one of the last of my kind,” cal says, but through all the devastation of loss there is the triumph of survival. he is one of the last of his kind, but he is still of his kind, and nothing can strip that away from him.

“not bad for trash!” says the ninth sister. he responds “how about for a jedi?" one of the first cutscene shots in the whole game is cal tenderly cleaning grime from the jedi starbird, the symbol of his culture. even under the empire, undercover, begging prauf to keep his mouth shut about not all of the jedi necessarily being traitors!

and of course a star wars game set under the empire is anti-imperialist at least in name, but it’s more than "empire bad,” it’s “the empire’s victims good - not because they’re victims, but because they still fight, they still cherish themselves and each other and what has been taken from them, they still work in solidarity and listen to and assist each other”.

“the jedi are not yet lost. we are not yet lost. kashyyyk is not yet lost!”

those three things go together, because the characters realise and the game realises that they do, and the characters realise and the game realises that there is survival as long as one person is still fighting, as long as one person is still alive.