Thoughts on Jedi: Fallen Order

The last time I played a Star Wars game that I actually enjoyed was the Battlefront reboot that came out a few years back on PS4. I played that one pretty regularly for a few months, but as most lobby shooters tend to do, it eventually lost steam and I stopped playing. It didn’t help that it was produced by Electronic Arts, who are notorious for bad DLC/RMT practices, and I didn’t end up shelling out for any of the map packs. Later, they would release a sequel and Battlefront II was pretty universally panned about said price gouging so I avoided it altogether. Beyond that, the only other Star Wars game I’ve played in the last decade was Bioware’s The Old Republic MMO, but it too was lacking and never stuck with me. I was skeptical about Jedi: Fallen Order until I started seeing videos and had friends at work telling me it was really good. Compared mostly to the Souls games, it was said to have “difficult” combat that relies on timing rather than button mashing. I’m hard pressed to actually make this comparison myself, because it is in no way anywhere near as difficult as the Souls games, but I can see why people made the commentary. I would also compare it to games like Uncharted or Tomb Raider, in that you have a lot of running around jumping and climbing on things, but it also has some psuedo RPG elements in that you gain skill points and there is a skill tree, though much of it is locked until you complete parts of the storyline to “repair your connection with the force.”

Visually this title is stunning. I’d put it right up there with the likes of Uncharted, because it has a cinematic quality that isn’t present in most console games. This is probably due to the fact that we are coming to the end of this console generation and the machines have already been pushed to their max, but I’m still impressed that this several year old hardware can make such pretty pictures. The voice acting and motion capture of real world actors is top notch as well. The red-head kid from the TV show Shameless is Cal Kestis, our main character. Forrest Whitaker makes an appearance, and the lady from Mad TV (I can’t recall her name) is one of your crew mates who has some major parts influencing the story.

From what I can tell, this game seems to take place somewhere between Episode VI: A New Hope and Episode VII: The Force Awakens. There is talk of “the purge” where the Empire was able to basically eradicate all of the Jedi but there’s also talk of the Clone Wars and things that happened during Episodes I-III. Whatever the case, Cal has been working as a scrapper on a junk planet though you can tell there is more to the story. Eventually it is revealed that he was a Padawan receiving training from a Jedi Master but that Master was killed during the purge and he had been in hiding ever since. The Empire comes to the junk planet and he must reveal himself as a force-sensitive individual, barely escaped on a ship called the Mantis, piloted by an alien named Greez. Cere is his companion, and also your antagonist for a time, who pushes you to reconnect with the force and rebuild the Jedi order. There’s much more to it than just that, but I can’t say anything else due to spoilers.

Eventually you’ll lead your rag tag team to several different planets, where you and your droid companion BD-1 will learn new skills and open up new areas as you go. In this sense there is a feel of a Metroidvania, because new areas will become accessible only after unlocking certain skills/abilities for Cal/BD-1. There are a bunch of collectibles, chests and “echos” to locate on each of the planets, and if you are the completionist type, you’ll probably want to make side trips back to these planets as you progress the story and unlock these new abilities. Eventually Cal will have a bunch of different force powers and lightsaber abilities and the combat gets really fun. Boss fights can be pretty intense, but once you get the hang of your powers everything starts to feel pretty easy. I didn’t really feel challenged throughout the game, but I didn’t play on the harder difficulties where perhaps the game would actually feel Souls-like.

Overall I thought it was a great game. Perhaps not worth the full $60 price investment unless you are a diehard fan, but I was lucky enough to get this as an early Xmas gift from my girlfriend so I wanted to play the shit out of it so she felt that she got her money’s worth. It won’t be long before it goes on sale though, so if you can get it for even $10 off I’d jump on it. It will give you a few weeks of fun.

TWR: Theros: Beyond Death Spoilers

Wow, it’s really been over a month since I made any mention of Magic: The Gathering on this blog. I did take a bit of a hiatus over the course of December so that’s a big part of it, but there was a lot of news to come out of the last quarter of 2019. Some things that we knew back then was the schedule of new sets coming in 2020. Theros: Beyond Death is the first of those, and releases before the end of the month. A familiar plane to those who have been playing for years, but another return to a plane we’ve already been too, ala Ravnica. I wasn’t playing during the first Theros block, but I have collected a majority of the Gods introduced in those sets, along with plenty of other cards. You could say I’m familiar with the plane despite my absence from the game the first time around. 

Like previous sets of the past year or so, there is once again a buy-a-box promo card, only available at your LGS. I’ve gotten one of these so far, because where I live currently LGS’s aren’t exactly local. The last box I purchased was War of the Spark a little under a year ago, and I did so through Amazon. The price was actually a bit lower taking this option, so I’m not too worried about the promo card. I do rather like this one though.

Buy-A-Box Promo:

The Gods are returning. We had a newer cycle of Gods during the Amonkhet block, and most of those we reimagined in War of the Spark, having been corrupted by Nicol Bolas. This time around it seems we’re seeing most of the same Gods (albeit not all of the ones from Theros) in differing forms, some good and some bad. The new Athreos is still reanimation based, but instead of bringing the dead back to the battleground immediately (unless an opponent pays 3 life) he puts counters on creatures. Creatures who die with the counters on them return to the battlefield under your control. This means you can target opponent’s big nasties and then wipe to board to bring them all back to your side. He’s a bit pricey CMC wise and I don’t know that I’d want to run him as my commander but he is definitely a key recursion/theft piece.

New God Cycle:

Speaking of the returning Gods, we have 5, one from each color. Erebos, Heliod, Nylea, Purphoros and Thassa are back, and each does something different than they did before. One new God was introduced as well, an RG creature that does similar things to Xenegos. Of these, Erebos is still one of the best, but not as good as his prior form. Heliod has already been pointed out as being broken in combination with Walking Ballista from Kaladesh, as it’s a two card infinite combo. I wouldn’t mind a copy of all of these, but they aren’t the chase cards for me.

Demi God Cycle:

Instead of finishing off the cycle of Gods, instead we are being given Demi-Gods as well. Another cycle with one for each of the five colors, each is a recognizable legendary character from past sets, and to my knowledge all of their prior incarnations were multicolored. Ascending to Demi-God status did one thing across the board — each of these creatures has either power or toughness affected by devotion, which has proven to be a powerful strategy in the past. Daxos is the only character here that I really have an attachment to, and this version of him is pretty weak compared to his Orzhov and Azorius cards. They are uncommon so should be easy to get ahold of.

White:

Moving into the individual colors, I found that there was less that I was excited about than I thought. There are plenty of interesting cards, sure, but there isn’t a lot that I’m dying to acquire. We have another cycle reflecting the wave of Gods, each of them have a spell with their name + “intervention” and they’re modal cards. Most have a good option and then a less good option, but options are goo, and I can see the one above being useful for clearing the board of artifacts and enchantments that you don’t like, or just one at instant speed. Idyllic Tutor needed a reprint, and I’m hoping that means the price comes down. The Archon is a Pegasus lord, and though I don’t think that’s really needed, perhaps another tribe will become viable eventually with more cards like it.

Blue:

Sagas are back too, and Kiora Bests the Sea God was one of my favorites from the set. These enchantments do different things for a few turns before hitting the yard, where in some cases you can bring them back to do it again. Another intervention card here, which is either an expensive counter spell or a way to dig for combo pieces. The other cards are viable in certain strategies, but I’m not dying for any of these.

Black:

A new demon that’s not terrible but is quite expensive. More enchantment creatures that can be great in the right deck. Oh, and Gary (Gray Merchant of Asphodel) got a reprint with new art. Sweet!

Red:

Red got some neat tricks, including a Dragon that gives your creatures double strike, an Ox that is a wheel on a stick that you can cast again from the graveyard, and a decent sort of board wipe for only 4 cmc. Not too bad.

Green:

Green seems to have gotten a lot of love again, and that’s puzzling because it doesn’t really need more ramp. Nyxbloom Ancient gives you crazy mana ramp. Yes, it’s an expensive card and it dies to all sorts of removal, but it can be crazy if it lives. The Dryad gives you more ramp and fixing, Nylea’s Intervention can ramp you for a ton, and landfall decks are drooling. It’s good stuff but I don’t think green really needed the help.

Multi-Color:

In multi-color we have more options that I’m actually kind of into. The Allure of the Unknown is a risky spell but I like the payoff. It’s very political too so a plus. The new Planeswalkers aren’t very exciting, but I do like Ashiok as a character. I really like the Izzet merfolk and think he deserves a spot in both my Tawnos artifact deck and my Shu-Yun voltron deck. Lastly, I really like the Orzhov hound, being a nice 3/3 vigilance, menace lifelink for only 3 CMC, but also being graveyard hate on a stick. It’s not bad. I think a death and taxes kind of deck is in order, with other assholes like Kambal.

Colorless and Land:

Only a couple of artifacts that caught my eye this time around. Nyx Lotus is a pretty good rock that taps for your devotion to a color. It does cost 4 CMC and comes into play tapped though, so perhaps you’ll want a way to untap it on the turn it comes down. The Shadowspear is some nice protection removal and I think it could slot into my equipment deck. As far as lands go, there are some really pretty full art lands that feature just the mana symbols instead of a landscape and not only is that unique but they’re really cool looking. Supposedly there is one per pack, so I did actually consider buying a box just for that reason. If nothing else I get a few packs just to get some of these for a deck.

So that’s that. It looks like a pretty decent set overall, but I’m not as excited for it as I thought I was going to be when it was first announced. Perhaps getting my hands on some new cards will change things.

2020

The year has been insanely busy despite the fact that we’re only thirteen days into it.

I moved my family into our own house. Finding the right one took almost the whole month of December. I had it secured just before the new year and we moved in on January 2nd. With some help from my best friend, we had everything moved into the new house with two trips in a Uhaul. It took a few days to get mostly unpacked (I believe there are only a handful of boxes left at this point), but we also started to realize many of the things you should have in a house that we didn’t currently own. I was fortunate to acquire a dining room table and washer/dryer from my friend as he wasn’t using them in his current living situation. We were also fortunate enough to have some money put aside, so things like a microwave and other various odds n ends were able to be purchased. I also picked up a new 55″ Samsung 4k UHD TV on a killer sale so we were able to put my old TV into the bedroom.

This past weekend we found a couch we really liked from a rent-to-own place that is being delivered today. I was also able to request a new desk as a Christmas gift, so my office was completed. It’s been fantastic having my own house again. It feels good to be able to provide for the family but also having the space to spread my shit around (which again looks like a lot less given the amount of space we now have). Being able to come home from work and plop down in front of a big TV to unwind is great — or being more comfortable in my nerdy office and not worrying about background noise or bothering others around me is a huge plus as well.

I’ve been missing blogging, as I knew I would. This wasn’t too much of a hiatus, but I think it’s time to get back out there and share some thoughts. Over my break from writing, I did manage to play through the latest Star Wars game, Jedi: Fallen Order and I have some thoughts to share about that. The complete spoilers for the next Magic: The Gathering set, Theros: Beyond Death are out, so I have more to talk about there. Also, my Packers just beat the Seahawks in the Divisional round, so next weekend there’s more football to watch, an the Packers face the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. I’m sure I can spare some thoughts there again, but I’m going to let my By the Numbers column die for this year. Hoping to pick that back up come September.

So welcome back to semi-regular content. 2020 is a fresh start in more ways than one.