At long last, Stephen Barton and Gordy Haab’s fantastic Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order score has gotten the release it deserves – and it was absolutely worth the wait.
I’ve been waiting for this since back when the game first came out in late 2019. Here’s a fun fact for you; Fallen Order is one of starkly few videogames I’ve played in recent years where the main theme really sticks out (in a good way). I distinctly remember loading up the game for the first time, hearing Cal’s (main) theme playing over the opening logos and then thinking to myself – that sounds nice, I wonder if there’s a soundtrack release. Over nine months later, that hopeful thought has now finally become a reality. So let’s not waste any more time – and dive straight in.
Speaking of the theme, Cal Kestis is the opening cue of the album – premiering the theme for Fallen Order with a happily lengthy five minute track in order to give it the full fleshing out it deserves. Structurally its actually quite a memorable piece, and as I mentioned before it stuck in my mind right off the bat when I first began playing the game. What’s really standout in this cue however is the compositional style – it’s spectacularly, breathtakingly John Williams. It’s fully orchestral – strings, brass, the works – and it couldn’t be more of a musical love letter to the scoring style of Williams’ Star Wars if it tried. This right here is exactly what Ludwig Göransson’s The Mandalorian score was missing in my opinion, and its so refreshing to hear a score that isn’t afraid to appreciate the established musical world that its joining. Jedi Starfighter then cements this stylistic idea, opening with a gentle rendition of Cal’s theme (which incidentally is also a very Star Wars-y motif, just listen to it and you’ll know what I mean) before fleeting woodwinds and tense brass join the fray, swiftly then bringing the track to a particularly tense musical conclusion. Things then get rather villainous in The Inquisition, with loud, rumbling drums opening the piece alongside a few foreboding bursts of brass. Slow, high-pitched strings then begin to hint towards the theme for the Second Sister (the main villain of the game), though it is done so subtly I only noticed because that theme also stuck with me from when I played the game. It does also get a little more prominent towards the end of the piece, and from what I remember we’re in for a proper thematic treat with it a little later on in the game (and score).
Fight And Flight is the album’s first major action cue, and what a musical setpiece it is. Worrisome strings hurried along by tense percussion set a particularly rapid stride in the first few minutes of the track, with brass then bursting into fray at various intervals to play several anxious yet heroic renditions of Cal’s theme. The best part though, is that if you pretended just for a moment that you didn’t know what this music was from (or who composed it), you could honestly mistake it for a piece of John Williams action score. I kid you not. The rising woodwinds, the crashes of percussion, the way the brass moves – it’s hard to describe just what exactly it is that makes this music so Star Wars, it just is. The Second Sister’s theme then returns in full form in the cue’s back half, switching the tone from action to practically horror-like (I told you this theme had a presence). As villain motifs go it really is a great one; it’s absolutely terrifying, and simply refuses to be ignored. After the theme establishes itself for a very ominous minute or so the action then returns, first building up quietly in the background and then reaching a particularly tense crescendo a minute or so later to close the cue.
The score gets much gentler with Bogano, a quiet cue that primarily serves as musical (mainly woodwind-based) atmosphere for the titular location in the game. That doesn’t stop it however from being quite an enjoyable piece, with a lighthearted Cal’s theme even appearing once or twice. BD-1 And The Boglings then continues where it leaves off, with light woodwinds and flurrying strings occupying much of its three minute runtime. This instrumentation then takes a bit of an action turn with Oggdo Bogdo, a cue for the oh-so-aggravating monster bossfight that became something of a legend around the time of the game’s release. Ominous, low-pitched brass then opens To Dathomir, with high-pitched strings building in the background alongside increasingly-rapid percussion. This all then comes to a head a few minutes in, where the music takes a loud action turn complete with brassy outbursts and those very John Williams-y short string flicks that you always find in one of his action cues (you know the ones). The breakneck pace then continues through the four minute Nightsister and briefly pauses for breath at the start of The Wanderer before kicking right back up again in the cue’s back half with rapid percussion and loud barrages of brass.
Quiet strings are loudly interrupted by sinister bursts of brass in the opening minute of Kashyyyk, with tense percussion then kicking the musical action into gear with light yet fast-paced woodwinds joining the fray a few seconds later. This Williams-esque orchestral rapidity continues for the remainder of the cue, then seguing into the exquisitely-crafted action setpiece AT-AT Hijacked. Just listen to the opening minute – it absolutely blows me away just how hard composers Barton and Haab clearly have worked in eminating John Williams. I know I keep saying it, but it really is astonishing – and as if it couldn’t get any better, there’s also a particularly heroic action motif that crops up in the final two minutes of the cue that really cements it as one of the best action tracks on the album. Saw’s Plan then slows things back down, with gentle yet worrisome brass alongside quiet strings that set a rather sombre tone for much of the cue. Cal’s theme also receives a few quietly pensive renditions about halfway through, before loud brass then takes over for an action-centric close. His motif returns in very anxious form throughout subsequent tense action tracks Infiltration and Flore And Fauna, where loud brass and rapid percussion take centre stage for seven minutes of edge-of-your-seat action score before then coming to a considerably dramatic conclusion in Wookie Liberation. Saw’s Speech then closes off the Kashyyyk side of things with a rousing brass-based rendition of Cal’s theme followed quickly by a hopeful orchestral finish.
Creepy ambience is the stylistic centrepiece of Zeffo, with quiet strings setting an initially gentle atmosphere before ominous brass begins to lurk in the background, making for quite an unnerving musical tone overall. Project Auger starts in a similar manner before the brass then starts to push its way into the forefront, increasing the tension and eerieness of the cue up tenfold while still retaining its atmospheric setting. Crashed Venator then quietens things back down, with the brass once again lurking forebodingly in the background. Exploring Ancient Tombs and The Origin Tree also contribute heavily to the atmospheric side of things, together making for ten minutes of enjoyably ambient though thematically absent score. Chieftain Tarfful then heads back into narrative score; introducing a rather heroic brassy motif for the aforementioned character, though it sadly doesn’t stick around for long as a confident Cal’s theme then arrives to close the cue. Worrisome brass and strings open the ten minute Flight Of The Shyyyo Bird, with percussion then pushing the pace into action territory for a few rather tense minutes. Interestingly, there’s also an action motif here that bears a striking similarity to that of John Williams’ War Of The Worlds action cues. A few minutes later the action then comes to a close and the music starts to build, starting with quiet strings and then becoming louder with ethereal vocals before epic brass then practically bursts into fray, playing a dramatic Cal’s theme which then leads into one of the most breathtakingly scored segments of the entire album. If we’re likening it to John Williams (which has become a bit of a pattern in this review so far) then this is very much the Buckbeak’s Flight of the score. Make sure you give it a listen below.
Loud, threatening brass and crashing percussion take the forefront in The Ninth Sister, a six minute action-packed bossfight cue that’s heavy on the stylistic Williams references and positively breakneck in pace – not to mention being nail-bitingly tense all the way through. Tomb Of Kujet then returns to the quietly ambient side of the score, with low brass and strings occupying much of its three minute runtime. Gorgara, The Chyrodactyl then makes it presence known with a thoroughly terrifying burst of loud brass after two minutes of introductory atmospheric build-up, before then seguing into another loud and edge-of-your-seat bossfight cue that makes excellent use of rapid strings and dramatic vocals. Solemn brass is centre stage in Memories Of Days Past, with quietly pensive backing strings only adding to the already saddened tone. Percussion and sorrowful vocals then build into a heartbreaking crescendo towards the end of the piece, which segues rather seamlessly into the six minute Broken Saber. The first half is occupied mostly by quiet woodwinds with loud sections of brass infrequently appearing, and in the back half things move into rapid action territory with tense percussion and anxious strings. Ilum then descends the score into ominous mystery, with wistful vocals contributing considerably to this tonal idea. Failure Is Not The End remains quiet and atmospheric for much of its five minute runtime, before then becoming gradually more prominent with a few pensive renditions of Cal’s theme until hope finally arrives later on with a particularly ethereal and rather poignant playthrough of Cal’s motif as the cue ends. A New Saber then closes off this narrative chapter with two full minutes of Cal’s theme in heroic action mode, and it’s just as glorious as you’d expect.
Moody atmosphere is the main aspect of Confronting The Past, with low-pitched brass notes and subtle strings taking stylistic prominence for the majority of the cue’s four minutes. A solemn rendition of Cal’s theme then opens Peacekeepers, with the same moody brass from the previous cue occupying the background to add a touch of unnerving to the otherwise sorrowful track. We then get another frantic bossfight cue in Taron Malicos, where rapid bursts of horror-like brass and loud, imposing percussion set a particularly malevolent mood overall, with several anxious renditions of Cal’s theme also interjecting at various intervals. The action then continues in Opening The Vault, with loud brass overwhelming the score in the first minute or two before the horror-like strings of the Second Sister’s theme return to plunge the back half of the track into musical darkness. Fortress Inquisitorious then starts almost heroically with uplifting brass before the tone then dives right back into gloom and doom with villainous, in-your-face brass and loud crashing drums. This then builds up over the next few minutes until reaching a very dramatic crescendo towards the end of the cue. If one thing’s for sure – the hope from earlier on has certainly disappeared now. The Will Of The Force then takes the aforementioned musical darkness and plunges it into rapid action territory, making for a very frantic bossfight section for the Second Sister, with her theme naturally then taking menacing prominence. A little glimmer of hope appears a few minutes later as a lighthearted Cal’s theme appears and the Second Sister fades away. Sadly, this is where the score more or less comes to an end, with the battle music from a certain character’s special appearance being entirely absent from the album (likely because it was tracked in from one of Williams’ Star Wars scores, but it still would have been nice to have). To close the score proper we then get Eno Cordova’s Theme, which is essentially the gentle yet sombre main menu music from the game that I’ve spent most of the album worrying that it’s not on here. Rest assured though that it is – and it’s a pretty great way to close out the score too.
Overall, Stephen Barton and Gordy Haab’s score for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is absolutely amazing, and it shouldn’t have taken anywhere near this long for the soundtrack release to see the light of day. The themes are excellent and instantly recognisable (with Cal’s being the obvious standout) and the action scoring – not only is it breathtaking at times, it’s also quite astounding just how much it sounds like John Williams. I reckon you could drop it into a Star Wars score and genuinely struggle to tell the difference. Having said that though, it is a little bit disappointing that none of Williams’ iconic themes were included on the score, despite some being in the game – I understand why they weren’t (rights issues, presumably) but there are certain musical moments that I feel would be a lot stronger had they been allowed to include that thematic touch of Star Wars. Oh well. This score still manages to be absolutely incredibly all on its own, and if one thing’s for sure – I’ll be listening to it for a long time to come.
Standout Cue: 1. Cal Kestis