To be totally upfront here from the start; I am not a Star Wars fan. I can understand why it is one of the most popular franchises out there, but it never latched onto me. My favorite game in the series is Star Wars Episode I: Podracer, and my favorite movie is The Last Jedi. I know that the latter is not a popular opinion, but traditional Star Wars stories just don’t do it for me. With all that in mind, I can tell you without a doubt that Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is one of the best single-player games you will play in a year filled with massive titles, whether you’re a fan of the IP or not
A few years after a long time ago…
Survivor picks up five years after Fallen Order with a more battle-hardened Cal Kestis. He still has his trusty droid, BD-1, at his side, but he has a new group he is running with. Between games, the Fallen Order posse had a falling out. Early on I was interested to see where this new group of allies would go. Unfortunately, that intrigue doesn’t last, and just a few hours into the game, you are working to reconnect with Greeves and Cere. Not to say that those are bad characters, but the beginning portions of the game really set you up to get invested in a new group, only to take a large portion of them away almost instantly. It really makes the opening moments feel inconsequential.
Overall, the Jedi: Survivor story is entertaining and engaging, but this game lands in the pitfall that every new story inserted in this timeline will face —we largely know what state the universe will end up in. In a time when Darth Vader still lives, it’s obvious that you will not kill him. The Jedi are not going to make a comeback here, and there isn’t much room to make a real impact in the wider universe. A lot of the big story moments are so heavily forecasted early on that you have a pretty good idea of who will end up betraying you and who you can’t trust, sucking the wind out of those twists. There’s also quite a bit of that lame reliance on Force explanations for why certain things happen. “Cal, why did you suddenly transform into a different person at that moment?” “Force hallucination.” Those are the kind of Star Wars reasonings that I have always despised from this series, and is worse in a game where you’re constantly slaughtering Stormtroopers. Striking someone down in anger being worse than decapitating so many other enemies never made sense to me.
While I have some reservations about the Star Wars elements in the story here, it is a good tale. There is plenty of emotion, meaning, and intrigue to keep any fan invested for the long haul. The shift from fighting to take down the Empire to just finding a place to survive is a great move for Cal Kestis and company.
Taking the step from Padawan to Jedi Knight
The story may have a bit of a time jump from Fallen Order, but Jedi: Survivor’s gameplay picks up right where it left off in a great way. Cal has all of his abilities from the previous game instead of creating some contrivance that forces us to relearn how to double jump or run along walls. Very early in the game, you are also given a new grapple hook for various climbing sections, and it feels great implemented alongside the other platforming mechanics at play. It’s quick, easy to use, and fun. With so many collectibles and chests hidden around these large maps, good feeling movement is vital to Survivor’s success, and it nails it.
There are also sections where Cal can now tame wild creatures and use them to help him progress. Unfortunately, this largely feels undercooked. For example, taming flying creatures just to get across an empty ravine would be faster and better suited for the many ziplines you already can access in the game. Throwing in these sections feels like flair with no substance. Often, when you are riding ground creatures, it’s just to get across empty areas that feel forced in to justify the work they spent on the creature assets. I was hoping for more with these animals.
One area that Jedi: Survivor will not let you down in is the combat. These lightsaber duels feel fluid at all times and are animated brilliantly to feel as close to a movie experience as possible. Cal has five various lightsaber stances you can choose to use for various playstyles. Some are faster than others, some are better for a defensive minded person. That level of customization for your combat is something I truly enjoy. You’re not forced into adapting to one way, you can choose one and totally abandon the others if you prefer it.
In a traditional sense, I always preferred using the single and dual stances, but seeing Cal wield both his laser sword and a blaster at the same time is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a Star Wars property before, and that is genuinely a great idea. There is also a slower but more powerful crossguard stance to give you the Kylo Ren feeling when attacking enemies. You will likely find your two favorites to run with at all times, but I found all of them to feel great.
Like Fallen Order before it, Survivor can be a tough game. I decided to lower the difficulty down a slot below the default Jedi Knight difficulty because I don’t like the Souls-like properties at play with the enemies respawning when you rest at a Meditation Point. It made these aggravating points much more bearable for me while not making things too easy. I wish the game had a more standard checkpoint system, though, as I’m not too fond of the bonfire system pulled over from those games.
The force is too much for these frames
The biggest problem I had with Star Wars Jedi: Survivor was some poor performance issues. While I think the game looks great from a graphical standpoint, I had plenty of moments where the game would slow down on my PS5. The environments are greatly put together, with detailed fauna and plenty of wildlife to see. I was never let down by how good the maps in Survivor look. I chose to play in Performance mode and noticed a drop in FPS much more often than I would like in combat sequences. There were also plenty of visual bugs where characters’ eyes were closed for entire scenes and the odd glitch with the wall running where it wouldn’t register me trying to traverse the wall. None of those moments were ever too much to deal with, but they were noticeable. Reloading the game because of these small bugs could be annoying, but it didn’t nearly soil the overall experience.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is the perfect example of what a sequel should be in video games. It takes everything the original game did and improves upon it without making it feel too similar or being too much of a departure from the original formula. It tiptoes that line perfectly to make it one of the best Star Wars games ever made. Even as a non-Star Wars fan, I felt compelled to see the story through, and I enjoyed most combat encounters that were presented. The world is large and can take up some time if you decide to 100% complete it. There is a lot of good to see here and an even brighter future for Cal Kestis’ story ahead of him if Respawn can keep up this momentum.
- Combat feels great
- Environments look amazing
- Platforming feels smooth
- Disappointing performance drops
- Predictable story