I’ve been a Star Wars fan for almost as long as I can remember. While it started with a love for the original trilogy of films, it soon extend to books, TV shows and most importantly, games. While I won’t run through that entire list of top Star Wars games (let’s save that for another day), I will admit that developer Respawn Entertainment’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order hit me with quite the surprise, resulting in what was my favourite Star Wars game; until now.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor ultimately feels like an extension of Fallen Order, a haven for lessons learned and ideas expanded. The story feels deeper, combat more rewarding and exploration more diverse and expansive. I also respect it for making both this era and protagonist Cal Kestis incredibly relevant, making for one of the more important pieces of Star Wars lore. While general performance leaves a little more to be desired, it rarely held me back form experiencing what is otherwise one of the best Star Wars games ever made and a storing contender for one of the best games of 2023.
That Same Galaxy, Far, Far Away…
Taking place five years after the events of Fallen Order, Cal is now an emerging master of the force and has banded together with a rag tag group of rebels, as the game opens with them failing to pull off a major heist on Coruscant. It’s an Indiana Jones style adventure I had always imagined for the franchise, as we soon see Cal and crew race against the Empire in a bid to locate a long-lost planet dedicated to building future of the Jedi Order.
While the story itself centres itself around tracking down the aforementioned planet, it also invertedly wraps everything I love about the franchise into one neat package. The pure adventure and cinematic quality that follows is a given, but the conversations based around implications of the purpose of the Jedi Order and thin lines between good and evil certainly add a layer of depth to the surrounding lore, while treating Cal to a considerable amount of growth within a gap of five years.
Cal’s journey sees him teaming up with old friends in Greez, along with some new allies in mercenary Bode, which certainly feels like something out of Uncharted in terms of the character banter these relationships provide. But at the end of the day, it’s simply nice to see the old band back together for something that feels not only important within the established universe, but important to players as we get to reminisce on old times all while rekindling those lost relationships. I would have appreciated a few more twists in the narrative, particularly in the latter half, but feel as though the narrative should be commended for simply reaching further and digging deeper than Fallen Order ever did.
For Those Who Prove Worthy
Those who have played Fallen Order will feel right at home with Survivor when it comes to general gameplay. You’ll traverse various environments across multiple planets, and scrap with countless Empire forces and some special characters, the likes of which I would rather not spoil. There’s a nice balance between combat and traversal, even if both elements feel greatly expanded upon, to the point where Fallen Order now feels somewhat linear.
Thankfully, Cal has retained all of what he had learned in Fallen Order, meaning that most push and pull force abilities and multiple lightsaber options and stances are immediately available. You’ll initially be able to choose between single, dual and doble-bladed stances, two of which can be selected at any meditation checkpoint. While it’s a little odd that only two stances can be used at any given time, it certainly helps with building and catering for your own unique playstyle.
Wielding a lightsaber in Jedi: Survivor is simply a treat. Strikes and blocks feel weighted and responsive, all while providing a hefty level of challenge and difficulty through various enemy types out in the wild. If the returning combat wasn’t already good enough, Jedi: Survivor now adds two new stances to the mix, which are unlocked a little later in the narrative.
The cross guard stance fits Cal’s lightsaber with Kylo Ren inspired guards, making it feel like more of a traditional broadsword in terms of movement and weight. It certainly lacks the speed, but makes up for it in terms of raw power, as you bash through enemy shields and tear apart dangerous wildlife. The second is the blaster combination, which gives Cal access to a small blaster to take out enemies from a distance. I certainly preferred the former of these two stances for the absolute power trip that it gave me, but can certainly appreciate the latter for its convenience, as opposed to having to resort to blocking and deflecting shots or using the force to bring them in close.
On the other hand, Cal will also be able to explore a number of planets and expansive environments, each filled with characters to talk to, collectibles to find and alternate paths to navigate. While the map generally does a great job at pointing you in the right direction, the way forward will more than likely be accessed via climbing walls or solving environmental puzzles. The puzzles themselves never really break the brain, but don’t necessarily halt progression either, making them feel like a welcome addition to the engaging exploration and general pacing.
While Cal can track down and unlock new outfits, hairstyles, lightsaber parts and skins for BD-1, shortcuts and pathways can also be opened to allow access back to a central part of the map, meaning you’ll rarely have to backtrack through anything substantial. Cal can now tame wildlife in each area to mount and ride about. While this allows for a smoother and quicker method of transportation, mounts can also prove essential for progression, as they may be able to walk on surfaces or cross gaps that Cal could otherwise not.
The Making of a Jedi
General progression also feels well rounded and expanded, mainly thanks to additional stances and new force powers. Cal can stop at any mediation point to save progress and upgrade abilities with skill points gained either through combat or by locating force sensitive items in the environment that reward Cal with skill points.
Skill trees themselves are split between three areas, including survival abilities, which boost Cal’s health and stamina, lightsaber abilities which grant Cal new moves for each stance and force abilities which strengthen Cal’s connection with the force. While you can spend these points in any way you see fit and even reset them for a new approach, I found it was best to focus on two or three particular lightsaber stances in order to adequately to flesh them out, as you’ll more than likely find your favourites in combat anyway.
We reviewed Star Wars Jedi: Survivor on the PlayStation 5, and while I had some gripes with performance on this platform, cannot speak to the current state of the PC version. That being said, Survivor aims to run at either 4K/30fps or 1440p/60fps, the latter of which I prefer for most games that offer the choice. Both options ran relatively well, but both unfortunately frame rates dropped occasionally, even if it was only by a handful of frames. But for as impressive as this game already looks, I personally recommend the 1440p/60fps option for it’s added responsiveness and reliability.
Visually, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor looks fantastic. Textures are detailed and environments pop with impressive lighting and draw distances, adding to the grand sense of scale. The opening level on Coruscant is an absolute treat for its attention to detail, while character models look incredibly polished too. Thankfully, throughout my 20 or so hours with Survivor over this past week, I haven’t yet run into any major bugs or glitches, aside from a few crashes, which were noted before the day one patch.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is in many ways a major improvement over the already fantastic Fallen Order, providing solid combat, and engaging story and expansive exploration. While the occasional frame rate drop is a little annoying, it rarely detracts from just how satisfying it is to live and breathe in this world once again.
As a result, Cal Kestis feels like an incredibly relevant character, and one worthy of further exploration and development. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is simply magnificent as a sequel, and stands as one of of the best Star Wars games I have ever played.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Engaging combat; Expansive exploration; Intriguing narrative and character development; New lightsaber stances are fun
Lowlights: Uneven frame rate
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows PC
Review conducted on PlayStation 5 with a pre-release code provided by the publisher.