LOS ANGELES – There’s a new Jedi coming to the “Star Wars” universe – but he’s a troubled work in progress.
Cal Kestis is the main character in the upcoming video game “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,” due out November 15 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC (you can pre-order now). He’s a young Padawan – a Jedi in training – when then-Chancellor Palpatine issues Order 66, a purge to kill all Jedi, an event that takes place in the 2005 film “Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.”
In hiding at the game’s beginning, Cal (who is played by “Gotham” star Cameron Monaghan) is forced to use his Jedi skills and now is among the hunted. He must learn on the job, mastering his lightsaber and use of the Force to combat the Empire.
Apple, Amazon, YouTube: Safer, faster & less annoying
E3 2019: Video games take a cue from Netflix, but can Google and cloud games score?
“For us, this is about telling a specific story about what its like … going through this traumatic event and coming out the other side damaged and trying to then stand up for what the Jedi order is,” says Vince Zampella, head of Respawn Entertainment, the studio making the game. Respawn and its parent game publishing company, Electronic Arts, released a new 14-minute video of the game here Saturday in advance of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the massive video game trade show running Tuesday to Thursday.
Among the trailer’s highlights: Cal, climbing aboard and commandeering an Imperial walker and destroying an enemy aircraft, and his battle with a powerful Purge Trooper, an enemy that makes its first appearance in Star Wars comic books.
Star Wars video games do not have an unblemished record. Despite critical favorites such as “Knights of the Old Republic” and that awesome original “Star Wars” arcade game, many other “Star Wars’ games were weak in the Force.
However, there’s much anticipation for the new “Jedi: Fallen Order” game, because of its pedigree. Zampella was among the team that created the original “Call of Duty” and the “Modern Warfare” series; he co-founded Respawn in 2010 with Jason West, another former exec at Activision-owned Call of Duty studio Infinity Ward. Since then, Respawn has released the well-received online multiplayer game “Titanfall” and “Titanfall 2,” a 2016 sequel that included a single-player story campaign, too, and the new “Fortnite” challenger “Apex Legends.”
The game director of “Jedi: Fallen Order” is Stig Asmussen, who worked on the PlayStation 4 “God of War” games, eventually as writer and director of 2010’s “God of War III.”
He and Zampella both shared a passion for “Star Wars” and when Asmussen left Sony Santa Monica in 2014, “we talked about working together and that was one of the first things we envisioned – we should do a Star Wars game,” Zampella said.
Electronic Arts, which owns the rights to making Star Wars games, did not initially bite on their proposal, so they worked on another game. However, by the time they completed that prototype, EA was in the mood for Star Wars. “It turns out the timing was right,” Asmussen says.
The story’s place in the Star Wars timeline makes for plenty of action. “During what they called ‘the dark times’ as Obi-Wan referred to them in Episode 4, any remaining Jedi are being systematically hunted down and murdered,” Asmussen said. “So we thought that was a really interesting time period to explore. We knew we wanted to make a game with a Jedi with Force powers and that is a great catalyst for a game, being on the run and being hunted and surviving.”
After an incident forces Cal to expose himself, he is now on the radar of the Republic, which will evolve into the Empire. “It just becomes a story about a fugitive on the run and learning how to survive and build up his skills and become a Jedi so he can fight back,” Asmussen said.
Along the way, players will get to visit some familiar places including Kashyyyk, the home world of the Wookiees (you know, Chewbacca is one), where Cal must help release the wookiees who have been enslaved by the Republic’s forces to help with its war efforts.
There he meets Saw Gerrera, a resistance leader played by Forrest Whitaker in the game and previously in the 2016 movie “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”
The goal of the game is to give players “that visceral feel of being a Jedi, it’s superhuman powers in a way,” Zampella said. “You can run along the wall, deflecting blaster bolts, jump down, throw your light saber, pull someone into you, it’s that feeling more powerful than you can imagine being.”
And don’t take the new game play trailer at face value, because this is not a fully-scripted linear game. Players have some free will. “As you get new skills and abilities in certain locations, those skills will allow you to advance in other locations that you have already traversed,” Asmussen said. “The player has a lot of choice in where and when they want to go and how they want to unlock the entire map across several planets.”
Other familiar planets and characters have yet to be revealed, but Cal will eventually connect with another former Jedi and attempt to restart the Jedi order.
For the two game designers, being able to play within the Star Wars universe was just the game project they were looking for. “We created characters that live in that universe now,” Zampella said. “That was purposefully what we wanted.”
‘Star Wars’ movie update: A look at Keri Russell’s new ‘Rise of Skywalker’ character
Star Wars Celebration: ‘Fallen Order’ takes gamers to dark times for the Jedi
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.