A Sequel For A More Civilized Age
HIGH Expands on everything that made its predecessor great, while adding much more.
LOW Getting eaten by the same Rancor over and over.
WTF I think I’m back to loving Star Wars again.
The Star Wars universe has had its ups and down in the last couple of years, but regardless, Disney is showing no signs of slowing down the release cycle of major stories to tell within the franchise. This includes the world of videogames, where the latest title, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, shines.
A sequel to 2019’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Survivor is a third-person action-adventure set five years later. The crew of the Mantis has splintered off to fight their own battles, while protagonist Cal Kestis continues to take on the Empire. He’s re-introduced to players while sabotaging things on the Imperial-occupied planet of Coruscant, but things quickly go wrong and he begins an epic quest that takes him across the galaxy far, far away.
Similar to the first SWJ, Cal is on a journey to preserve the Jedi way and is faced with dangerous opposition. I’m intentionally going to be as vague as possible with story here because I enjoyed the narrative immensely and don’t want to take those reveals away from anyone. However, know that it’s a darker tale that takes players on a path full of loss, joy, and the ever-increasing need to fight for a cause by balancing despair and tense drama with the classic, light-hearted, and sometimes pulpy tone Star Wars is known for.
To its credit, the script is also full of exceptional and shocking twists that don’t rely too heavily on callbacks to past Star Wars media, and even the obvious (and occasionally forced) cameos don’t detract from how fresh the story feels. Additionally, I appreciate getting a hero who isn’t bound by some magical destiny as a ‘chosen one’ or someone who’s got the baggage of coming from a long line of famous Jedi. Cal is simply a guy in the right place at the right time, and he’s ready to take on any challenge that comes his way.
Returning characters Cal, Greez, Cere, and Merrin all have plenty to do, and interactions with them are some of my favorite parts of the story. New characters, like the rogue rebel fighter Bode Akuna and the villainous Rayvis, also round out the cast well. There are certainly bombastic set pieces and plenty of exciting adventure, but I appreciated the quiet moments full of heart and human drama.
While the narrative is surprisingly strong, what also surprised me was that the gameplay got a significant facelift — especially notable since I recently replayed Fallen Order, so the differences between the two are fresh in my mind.
The most significant introduction to combat are the new stances. Players may remember that in Fallen Order Cal was able to switch between his single lightsaber and a double-bladed one, with a dual-wielding ability being thrown in as a special move. In Survivor, players now have a choice between five different stances — single, double-bladed, dual-wielded, crossguard, and blaster. At every workbench or meditation circle, Cal can equip himself with two stances he wants to use, and can switch between either of them with the D-pad. Every lightsaber also has its own skill tree to upgrade and expand the skillset.
The two I became attached to the most were the crossguard and the double-bladed. The former is essentially the lightsaber equivalent of an RPG broadsword that looks similar to Kylo Ren’s weapon from the recent sequel trilogy, complete with vents on each side of the hilt. Its damage and blocking ability are significantly better than the other types, at the cost of a slow windup speed. After a few upgrades, however, the crossguard was quite effective against bigger bosses. The double-bladed has a lightsaber beam coming out of each side. like Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace. I was able to launch myself and spin the saber like helicopter blades, and even throw it like a kyber crystal-infused boomerang. It’s not quite as strong as other stances, but it makes for a great weapon against a large group of grunts.
It’s no secret that Fallen Order was inspired by the Souls series with its approach to combat. While interesting and enjoyable, the notes it took made most fights too slow and cumbersome. To me, it felt like the combat with anyone but the standard, blaster-wielding Stormtroopers was too drawn-out and protracted, and it wasn’t until later when I upgraded my abilities and unlocked most of the moves that I got into a good flow with combat. In contrast, Survivor gives players enough power and variety to pick up the pace, right from the start.
Another aspect of Survivor‘s combat that I loved was being able to choose how to approach each fight — at no point did I feel the need to sacrifice being smart and tactical.
For example, stormtroopers with shields can be taken down with brute force, though the most effective (and enjoyable) is to force-pull the shields out of their hands and launch them back at them. Moves like that never get old, and mixing in other force powers like the new Jedi mind trick ability (which has enemies fighting to defend the player in battle) makes combat feel faster, more nuanced and more engaging than last time.
The buddy system is another great enhancement to fights. Throughout the story, Cal will partner up with Bode or Merrin for backup. In one instance, Bode might be called in to throw stun grenades and give Cal an opening to attack, while Merrin can trap them using her magick. This is specially useful during some of the harder fights against the new Battle Droid variants.
Combat isn’t the only thing that’s been ironed out. Navigation and exploration — a major sore point with many players in Fallen Order — got a major boost, thanks to Cal’s expanded traversal. He can still wall-run and double-jump, but he’s also got a brand new grappling hook and a few late-game additions to the arsenal. There’s also a larger emphasis on simply moving this time around, with many levels focusing on platforming or free-running. It feels like a huge step up.
The interconnected levels and metroidvania aspects of Fallen Order make a comeback in Survivor, but like the rest of the navigation, they get some smart tweaks.
An improved holo-map and fast travel have been added, meaning that Cal can travel between mediation points he’s previously visited, though this is limited to the current planet he’s on. Exploration also feels exceptionally worthwhile thanks to more meaningful collectibles. Every planet now has new things to find, such as the standard cosmetic options for Cal like beard and hair choices, weapon skins, and new jackets, shirts, and pants. More importantly, different currencies for shopkeepers on the hub planet of Koboh are scattered throughout, and these can be exchanged for even more cosmetics and items to place around Greez’s cantina, which acts as a hub of sorts. As someone who wasn’t actively diverting from the main path that often, I still found myself accumulating interesting stuff on the way to my next goal, and I can’t wait to go back and see what I missed.
Speaking of Koboh, it’s a large, open-ended planet with much to do, including a variety of sidequests, optional boss fights and random enemy encounters around the map. This new, enriched content makes the planet (and all the others) feel expansive and dense. While not open-world, they’re big enough with many diversions from the critical path, and each one is full of secrets to find. This richness makes the world of Survivor feel like a series of real places, not just varying backdrops, and even after 30 hours of play there’s still plenty of left for to discover.
If I was simply grading Star Wars Jedi: Survivor in a straight comparison with its predecessor, it would already be a great game. However, Respawn took a hard look at what worked and what didn’t, and they’ve polished, fixed and expanded on virtually everything. From the robust combat suite, upgraded movement system, detailed world, and exciting story that not only rivals the best Star Wars games, but the major triple-A titles out right now, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is simply one of the best videogame sequels released in recent memory.
This trip to a galaxy far, far away is one that’s well worth taking.
Score: 9 out of 10
Disclosures: This game is published by Electronic Arts and developed by Respawn Entertainment. It is available on PS5, XBX/S and PC.This copy was obtained via publisher and was reviewed on PS5. Approximately 30 hours were spent in singleplayer and was completed. There is no multiplayer mode.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T for Mild Language and Violence. The site states: This is an action-adventure game in which players assume the role of an outlaw Jedi on the run from the Galactic Empire. From a third-person perspective, players explore alien planets while using their Jedi powers to traverse environments and battle enemies in melee-style combat. Players use lightsabers to slash and break apart alien creatures, droids, and humanoid enemies. Combat is fast paced, with cries of pain, impact sounds, and large explosions. Some sequences depict characters getting impaled through the chest. The words “a*s” and “bastard” are heard in the game.
Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not present in the options menu.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are subtitles present in the game, as well as visual cues during gameplay. Subtitles can be adjusted, and in my view this game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: The controls can be remapped.
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I played the first game for 10 hours and just . . . sort of forgot about it. Nothing about it stood out or left any impression. I recently tried to pick up my game again, but completely forgot the controls, and just deleted it from storage instead.
I have no love for the Star Wars franchise anymore, and there are dozens of other mediocre third person action games that interest me slightly more. I just don’t really see a purpose for this series if it refuses to do anything unique or provide a memorable experience.
I forced myself to beat the first game, and it was an absolute slog. I only really enjoyed the last 4 or so hours when it finally turned into the game I’d been wanting to play all along, but by then it was too little too late. It irks me to no end to see Fallen Order get the hype that it does because, at best, it is an incredibly mediocre game.
I guess it’s also like . . . I don’t need more games full of obstacles that can only be solved with a laser sword. My interest in playing a video game where you wield a lightsaber was satisfied back in 1999 with that mediocre Phantom Menace game. It may not have been great, but it did the lightsaber thing well enough. And since then, the Lego games have gotten lightsaber action right multiple times over. I don’t need more of it. It doesn’t interest me.