Against my better judgment, I've been playing Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order. In many ways, it's a great bookend for a generation: it tries to combine some of the biggest game design elements from the last five years. Unfortunately, these elements seem to have been built by people who haven't really understood what makes them truly enjoyable.

The obvious comparison is the Soulslike. This has been such a huge genre this generation, with very few games capturing the essence of what makes it such a compelling format. From Software knows that brutal difficulty in a game is totally fine, but it has to be fair. Enemies in Demon Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Sekiro all have the ability to send you back to the last checkpoint, but every time it happens, it's because it's hard; not because it's unfair. JFO feels cheap and unfair almost constantly. Enemies travel on rails to hit you, making dodging impossible. Perhaps the most important issue is that enemies can block a combo attack, but if an enemy is comboing you, there doesn't seem to be anything you can do about it.

However, when a fight is fun, it's really fun. The swordplay is very satisfying, and once you start accumulating force powers, they become a really cool part of the combat.

The other big genre they've had a go at is the Metroidvania. It's not a popular genre to attempt on a 3D plane but they have done a very good job at making this fun. Progression never feels arbitrary, and when new pathways open up, exploring them is a lot of fun. The platforming is also done well. Platforming in 3D is notoriously frustrating but it's very satisfying here, and chaining wall-running, climbing and vine swinging is fun when it goes well.

The main criticism is that it can be difficult to carve a path on the map. Trying to navigate back to your ship when you've finished a mission can be super disorienting. It would've defeated a fundamental principle of the Metroidvania but having some sort of waypoint system so you don't get lost would really help. I genuinely almost gave up returning to the ship after one mission; I got so lost.

Major criticisms notwithstanding, I am having a lot of fun with this game. Normally a game that annoys me as much as this one does would've been traded in by now, but something about it keeps force-pulling me back (I will not apologise). However, I don't think I'd ever recommend someone pick it up. It really can be infuriating.