I’ve got a bad feeling about this
Why don’t Jedi use guns? Obi-Wan Kenobi would tell you it’s because they’re too uncivilized. Some very smart media critics would tell you it has something to do with the symbolic importance of the saber in the Campbellian Hero’s Journey. A business analyst might tell you that $200 lightsabers sell too well at Disneyland. I have a different theory, though. I think the Jedi leave their blasters at home because sword fighting is just a lot cooler.
Now, evidence is mounting that in the sequel to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Cal Kestis will brandish a blaster. I want to be clear that this hasn’t been confirmed by EA or Respawn Entertainment – Cal has a blaster in an action figure, and a leaked preorder bonus for the game includes blaster cosmetics. This is not bulletproof (or blaster-proof) evidence that Star Wars Jedi: Survivor will include gunplay, but for the sake of argument, let’s pretend it is. And let’s talk about why that probably wouldn’t work very well.
Up close and personal
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is, in many ways, very indebted to the contemporary works of FromSoftware. The combat is a solid attempt at turning Dark Souls into a straight-up sword fighting game (a valiant effort only undercut by the fact that FromSoftware was doing the exact same thing at the exact same time). It plays like a Souls game, but its focus on swordplay above all else means that it’s usually a game played at very close quarters. The action is all up-close, in-your-face, frenetic, and very fun. Plenty of enemies can fire on you from afar, but if you want to take them down, you’ll usually need to get very, very close.
Now, imagine the same game, but you have a gun. The enemies can fire on you from afar, and you can… fire back. You can still get up close if you want to, but suddenly, an issue arises: why would you ever do that? If you have a gun, then it doesn’t matter if you also have a lightsaber – you’re going to use your gun. The solve for this is to do what Bloodborne did and make the gun pretty much useless, although at that point, one must wonder why you got a gun in the first place.
Respawn can shoot just fine
Obviously, it is not impossible to make a game where shooting is fun. I’m not going to sit here and say that Respawn Entertainment, developers of Titanfall and Apex Legends, can’t make a good shooter. They’re very good at that! If they want to introduce shooting to their Star Wars series, I suspect that it’s because they have a good idea for how to integrate shooting into their Star Wars series.
Still, I just can’t shake the feeling that Jedi: Fallen Order with a blaster isn’t really Jedi: Fallen Order anymore. It seems hard for me to believe that even Respawn Entertainment could make a good shooter that is also a good game focused on swordplay that also captures the fun of Jedi: Fallen Order.
Been there, done that
The way I see it, there are two ways for this to potentially shake out. We could be getting a game that is designed around blaster combat, one that feels like a really cool third-person shooter set in the Star Wars universe – I would not hate this outcome. We could also be getting a game designed around lightsaber combat, one that feels a lot like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – I would also be fine with this. What I struggle to imagine is a game that genuinely blends gunplay and swordplay without losing something from one of the two camps.
I really enjoy that first game, and I enjoy it because it’s a gorgeous AAA game where the win-condition involves getting in the enemy’s face rather than sitting back behind cover until I can line up a perfect headshot. Jedi: Fallen Order is a very specific game with very specific action. It’s possible that my imagination is just too limited to make sense of Respawn’s plan here, but introducing something as massive as an entire new mode of combat to the game feels like it has the potential to totally transform the experience. I only hope that it doesn’t transform into something I don’t like anymore.