Review copy provided by Electronic Arts.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a third-person view action and adventure game created by Respawn. It takes place in the iconic Star Wars universe, where you take the role of Cal Kravis, a padawan who escaped the Jedi purge caused by Order 66 and lives hiding from the Empire. The game contains aspects from different genres. You will explore many types of environments in different planets, running and jumping to avoid creatures and traps. You will also combat the infamously poor shooting stormtroopers using your lightsaber and the Force, unlocking new moves and abilities as you progress in your journey. There are many puzzles to solve in your way, that will require clarity of mind, good reflexes and imagination. The game has all the ingredients to be a great solo experience, even more so if you are a Star Wars fan. Now all this sounds good but let’s take a look at the accessibility for gamers with reduced mobility.
I played on PC using mouse and keyboard mainly and these are my conclusions based on that.
In Options, we find different tabs on the left for each menu. These can be navigated using your keys or mouse but in order to go back to the main menu your only option is to press the Escape key. This is reflected in the UI on the bottom right and unfortunately it is the first barrier you will face. Just making the ESC text into a clickable button would get rid of this problem.
Controls displays a schematic of the gamepad controls and right below it we see a button called Edit Controls. We will go there in a moment, but let’s scroll down first to see other options. You can do this using WASD or your mouse wheel. I must note that there are no indications of these being the controls to do so and that with no scroll bar, arrows or nothing similar to indicate the existence of more options it is easy to miss these.
Vibration is a switch to enable/disable the gamepad vibrational cues. Mouse Sensitivity is quite self-explanatory and has a value range of 1 to 10 in steps of 1. Then we have Invert Mouse Y and X Axis to separately reverse the way up-down and left-right behave when using your mouse. Right after that there Invert Gamepad Y and X Axis for the same when using your gamepad sticks. And that is all. No toggle/hold options, no stick dead zones, no vibration levels… Well, let’s step into the Edit Controls option mentioned earlier.
Here you can remap your keys, mouse buttons and gamepad buttons. Just as in the previous menu navigation is not very comfortable but there are some keys to move between sections. These are again displayed on the bottom right and once again would be really helpful if acted as clickable buttons. As you can see the game only allows one key per action, and while for the most part it should be enough, having secondary keys always helps in many situations. You will find yourself struggling to perform certain actions especially when you need to press more than one key at once to use an advanced ability, perform precise jump+grips or rapidly use abilities followed by sprints and jumps. The remapping is made harder than necessary because once you click the key you want to edit you need to hold down the new key for a bit. You can remap extra mouse buttons but you can’t use mouse wheel up and down as inputs either, something that would be really helpful by reducing the number of keys needed plus they are very accessible generally speaking. I was playing like that and then used third-party software to simulate keypresses with them and the difference was very noticeable. You also can’t assign the same key to different functions unless they are in different sections. The thing I liked was that there is a Reset button at the top you can use to set your controls back to default. The total number of actions to remap is 36, but if you use the mouse you can ignore the 4 needed for looking around, and with some smart remapping you can drop the number to just 22 keys. That is a good number but still feels like too many, especially with the menus hardcoded keys adding up.
The Gameplay menu has a few useful options. Auto switch target on enemy death works exactly as it sounds, making it easier to acquire a new target in fights with multiple enemies. It must be used with caution because if we want to just kill one enemy and run away you will have to unlock the enemy by yourself. Also, it will only target visible enemies, so enemies behind a corner can still surprise you. Auto lock target in combat is useful too, it saves you the trouble of locking enemies constantly but it only works with enemies that are active. You can’t lock on an unsuspecting target. Then we have Subtitles to turn them on and off, Subtitle Scale which goes from 5 to 15 with the default being 5. The subs are quite big and include the speaker’s name. I really liked that even at 5 they have a good size, so no complaints about text size. Subtitle Letterbox Opacity allows you to adjust the opacity of the text background. Text Language allows to well, you guessed it.
The Visuals menu allows customizing the overall look of the game. There are on / off switches for Motion Blur, Film Grain, Chromatic Aberration and Camera Shake. There is also a button to enter the Brightness calibration screen. Good to see that there a couple of options to help with motion sickness. I miss the Depth of Field and Field of View options, though.
The Video menu controls the resolution and quality of graphics. There are options for the Window Mode, Resolution, Max Frames per Second, turning Vertical Sync On/Off. There is also an option called Dynamic Resolution Scaling that will and reduce the resolution in order to keep the desired framerate stable. The rest of options are the usual quality settings which work well. They are a bit too simplified, and it would be better to have more granular controls because there is no way to know what usual settings such as Anisotropic Filtering, Depth of Field and such are hidden under each option and level of quality.
In the Audio menu, we have different options to adjust Game Volume, commonly known as Master Volume, Music, Effects and Dialogue. These can be fine-tuned and are simple yet very functional, nice. Next is Audio Output to select between Headphones, Stereo Speakers, 5.1 and 7.1 surround. Last we have Dynamic Range to choose between Default and Night Mode, which is a bit quieter.
How to Play
This is a list of how to perform the most common actions. The game mechanics are the most important aspect and maybe this way the reader will have a better understanding to decide if the game is accessible to them.
The gameplay has you exploring the different environments such as factories, ancient ruins and caves using your basic movements, climbing walls, jumping from vines to vines and doing all sorts of acrobatics with the help of your Force abilities. Combat with enemies is frequent, you have to be always ready for some horrible creature to appear from around the corner or simply unburrow and attack you. You are far from being defenseless though, and using your lightsaber and Force abilities to dodge, parry and attack you are more than a match for them. Of course, you also will have your chance to fight the Empire forces, starting with regular troopers all the way up to the mighty Inquisitors. Some enemies are really hard, the so-called bosses that will require everything from you to beat. Special mention to Oggdo Bogdo for being such a pain in the neck. You also will scan the fauna and all sorts of relics with the help of BD-1, the helpful and friendly droid. And while exploring ruins and other places you will have to solve many platform and mechanical puzzles. Now for the how-to do all that.
- To move you use the usual WASD keys or whatever you change them to. You control turning and the camera using the mouse. To sprint you have to hold down the direction you want to go and press the sprint key. To jump you must press the jump key and the direction you want to jump towards. When you get close to elements you can climb (walls, vegetation…) you have to press the Climb key to grab onto it. This is a tiring exercise when you have to hang to a wall after a jump. You have a limited time to do it and failing means you will fall, very often to die and go back to the last checkpoint. You also will need to go over and under bars, fallen trees… There is no need to do anything to keep your balance which is great, and to go up/down you just have to press Climb or Drop key once.
- To fight you have an attack key/button, the left mouse click by default, that you can chain. To block attacks you hold down the Parry / Block mouse button/key, while for Parry you just tap the button at the right moment. To avoid unblockable attacks you can press the Dodge key once or tap it twice for rolling out of the way. I found no big issues here and if the timings are too narrow you can change the difficulty to increase the parry time window. The Lock Enemy feature works by just pressing the corresponding key once and it’s great it works that way instead of requiring to hold it.
- Other combat moves require to perform parry then attack, or using your lightsaber abilities. The most basic ones consist of pressing or holding down briefly the Force key, but more advanced abilities are harder. Some require you to perform key combinations that aren’t always possible, including holding down different keys or chaining them in a timely manner.
- Other kinds of Force abilities must be used during exploration, to progress through obstacles and interact with elements to solve puzzles. The basic ones require just to press the key for one of the 3 abilities but later you need to hold down the key to use the advanced versions. Unfortunately many of these moments (like jumping and pulling a vine) need you to be pressing two keys at the same time and then press the Pull key at the right moment. Depending on your mobility you might be able to do it but in most cases is extremely demanding.
- To interact with NPCs and the other world elements like opening doors you press the Interact key. In other cases, you press the Droid Interact key. At certain points you will be presented with dialogue choices, to select one you have a limited time to press left/right.
- HoloMap and Planet Travel navigation are based on a combination of mouse and directional keys. Here the problem resides in the fact that they use hardcoded keys such as R / F and Escape. Clickable buttons would help or at least you should be able to remap these keys. This same thing happens in the skill tree screen, although mouse can be used to select and unlock the abilities.
- One issue is if you press the R key to preview the ability you will need to press Escape to close the demonstration. The customize, databank, lightsaber crafting screen are also fully usable just with the mouse which is great but then you will be stuck on them because, again, you need to press Escape to exit.
This game is hard to play for a low mobility gamer. In the beginning you will probably do okay, as moves are basic but the first obstacle will be probably jumping and hanging onto the walls. I think this mechanic is unnecessary and very hard for gamers with reduced mobility. There are a few solutions: allowing the player to increase the time to press the key, allowing to use other key (parry seems like a good choice) or simply using the same mechanic used in Assassin’s Creed where you automatically grab to surfaces.
The excessive backtracking strongly recommends to add an auto-run feature.
Another problem is the number of keys required for some actions and the close timing for them. Again jump+pull vine or jump+slow are pretty hard in many cases. Maybe have the time slow down in such moments, like in a slow-mo sequence.
QTEs represent a severe barrier. The game needs options to skip, use hold instead or another way to reduce the necessary number of taps. This is something we feared since the trailers came out and I hope can be fixed.
The UI could use a few changes. First of all, better contrast of text in most areas. Even in Options, it’s hard to read see many of them. Then we have the Escape and other hardcoded keys problem, like R and F. The Meditate screen has perfect buttons for those actions, adding something similar to the rest of screens would be perfect, including the Options menu. Otherwise the game could be called “Escape Strikes Back”.
Also maybe add some visual indicator on the right that can allow to easily scroll the menu. Here is a small example of these suggestions I made using my Jar-Jar level skills at drawing with Paint.
So in general the game needs a few additions and changes to improve its accessibility for mobility. I hope it’s done because when you are able to play the game it delivers a great experience. There are signs that the team tried to have some accessible features, like the basic controls being good, yhe combat feel and the way enemy lock works, the first abilities being simple to use and the meditate menu having buttons, the almost fully mouse driven usage of customize, lightsaber, databank and others.
Antonio I. Martinez has Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 3 and has been a gamer for most of his life. His background formation in computer programming and English compose his basic skill set. Previously the mobility editor for Can I Play That, now works in this new project to help other fellow gamers and contribute to spread accessibility. You can contact him on Twitter at @Black1976