Inside Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order with Respawn’s Aaron Contreras

Following the game's thrilling EA Play demo, its narrative lead sits down with to talk lightsaber combat, companion droids, and creating a brand new story.

If there’s one thing you absolutely need to know about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen OrderEA and Respawn Entertainment’s upcoming video game from a galaxy far, far away — it’s this: As Padawan Cal Kestis, you’ll be able to slow blaster bolts in mid-air before positioning the stormtroopers that fired the deadly projectiles in their path.

While this ability alone should see fans eagerly diving into this new story-driven action-adventure, it barely scratches the surface of what players can expect from the final game when it lands November 15. From awesome Force abilities and an original Star Wars story, to cool character cameos and an adorable new companion droid, you could fill a TIE fighter hangar with all the game’s fan-pleasing features. dug into all this and much more with Aaron Contreras, Respawn’s narrative lead on Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Cal Kestis Force pushes a stormtrooper in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Can you set up the story and where Jedi: Fallen Order unfolds in the Star Wars timeline?

Aaron Contreras: You play as a Jedi named Cal Kestis, who is on a quest to restore the Jedi Order and survive as he’s being hunted by the Imperial Inquisition. It’s set between Episodes III and IV. So it’s during what we call the Dark Times, when the Empire is totally dominant over the galaxy and there is no hope. It’s an authentic Star Wars story. Given the authenticity of the story, is Lucasfilm heavily involved in the project?

Aaron Contreras: We work very closely with Lucasfilm on the production. They are our production partners and they’re with us every step of the way throughout concept and development. They are on set during all of our performance capture. They are playing builds of the game, so they are right there with us to give their opinion and make sure that it’s an authentic Star Wars product.

Saw Gerrera and Cal Kestis in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Can you talk a bit about the balance between introducing new characters and locations versus Cal’s encounters with existing faces and places from the Star Wars universe?

Aaron Contreras: Roughly half our locations already exist in the Star Wars universe. In our E3 demo, you deal with the Wookiees over on Kashyyyk, you meet Saw Gerrera and the Wookiee Chieftain, and General Tarfful, who is a character in Revenge of the Sith, is mentioned. So we’re adding a whole lot of new stuff to Star Wars, but everywhere along the line we want this to feel like something pulled right out of the cinematic experience. We spend a lot of time trying to get the details right. What can players expect from the lightsaber combat — is it more button-mashy or strategic?

Aaron Contreras: Our game director characterizes it as “thoughtful combat,” and that’s how we approach it. If you just go in and blindly start swinging, you’ll be successful in some situations against some opponents, but we try to create a combat design where the player thinks about stuff, analyzes the situation, and is aware of what their tool-set is at that given point in time. You need to really look at the situation…the environment, the terrain. Do you have the high ground, for example? What enemies are you facing? What are their capabilities? And then sort of do the right movement at the right time for the best results.

In terms of depth versus accessibility, we are really trying to check off both boxes. Obviously we’re making this game for a very broad audience. Star Wars is for everyone in every way. We really believe that on the team, and we want to push that. So if you’re a Star Wars fan, you can have a really good experience with Fallen Order. At the same time, if you’re passionate about gaming, and if you’re especially passionate about melee combat games, you’ll have a lot of depth that you can get out of Fallen Order.

Cal Kestis versus a purge trooper in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. How will the Force powers complement this nuanced lightsaber combat?

Aaron Contreras: I’d say your primary tool and the primary weapon of the Jedi is the lightsaber, but you have an array of Force powers that you can deploy in combat. And you have to use the right power at the right time.

Against some of the opponents, you can sort of knock them around with any ability. But if you’re watching closely, you’ll see in the purge trooper fight [demo], the player attempts to use Force pull, and the trooper plants his staff into the ground to block it; he then goes with the momentum and flies at the hero, and actually gets a hit on him because of that.

So there are some abilities that will counter certain Force moves. It’s all about using the right ability at the right time. And then of course, as our hero goes through the game and his connection to the Force deepens, he’ll develop more powers and have more of an arsenal of abilities to play. Will those abilities grow and progress through an upgrade system of some sort?

Aaron Contreras: We don’t want to talk too much about progression or the skill system at this point, other than saying we do have one. I will say we have some Force powers that you can make better, and that’s driven by the experiences Cal has throughout the game. And then you’ll learn whole new Force powers at various points throughout the game. When not engaged in combat, it looks like Cal does a lot of traversal and exploration — will platforming be a significant part of the adventure?

Aaron Contreras: Platforming and exploration are a huge part of Jedi: Fallen Order. It will be a lot of navigation in the environment, like swinging on ropes, climbing up walls, making leaps across chasms, as you make your way through the game. It’s that sort of action/adventure DNA that we’re putting into the game. He’s very much an agile, developing Jedi hero, and he’s going to be navigating through the world in very kind of unconventional ways, including the wall-run, of course.

Cal Kestis on an AT-AT in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Cal’s companion droid, BD-1, is completely new to the Star Wars universe — can you offers some details on its history and role in the game?

Aaron Contreras: You’ll meet BD-1 relatively early in the game. He quickly becomes Cal’s closest companion because, for a good percentage of the time, he’s riding around on his back. He’s your best pal, and he’s kind of going to experience the entire story with you, every step of the way.

He’s an explorer’s companion droid, so the depiction of BD-1 is a relatively uncommon droid. Designed as the perfect companion to somebody who is an explorer or an archaeologist or adventurer who is out in the wild. So if you are a researcher or a scientist, who is off on some crazy backwoods planet, you have a BD unit with you and it’s sort of there to give you first aid, help you in your research.

It’s a very intentional design of the sort of stuff he’ll do in the game. He’ll shoot out little stim-packs for you, which is how you heal yourself. He can scan things in the environment, so if there’s some kind of interesting piece of technology or a weird alien life form that you encounter, BD-1 is super excited to run over and scan that sort of thing. That also adds it to your databank, kind of our in-game codex, and also a source of player progression.

You’ll also tweak him and he’ll evolve over the course of the game. He obtains an ability called “overcharge,” which causes him to overcharge certain technological things. And he can hack doors and do stuff like that. So he’s kind of your solution for all things technological going on in the game. Anything else you can tease for fans anxiously awaiting the game’s arrival?

Aaron Contreras: I can just say that we’ve introduced this hero who’s kind of on this crazy quest to restore the Jedi Order during the darkest time in galactic history. There’s so much more in both the story and the environments and the gameplay, and we can’t wait to share it with the world.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order arrives November 15 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and is available for pre-order now.

A full-time freelance writer born in Lizzie Borden’s hometown, Matt Cabral has covered film, television, and video games for over a decade. You can follow him on Twitter @gamegoat or find him in the basement of an abandoned building hoarding all the canned goods, med-kits, and shotgun shells.

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