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Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

Written by Elliot Hilderbrand on 5/3/2023 for PS5  
More On: Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

In Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, we meet Cal Kestis for the first time. We witness the young Jedi padawan when Order 66, the empire’s attempt to purge all Jedi, goes into effect. Throughout Fallen Order, we see him struggle to find his purpose before deciding to take the Empire head-on. Well, it’s been five years since then. When Star Wars Jedi: Survivor begins, Cal is no longer a fresh-faced young man, but someone who has become a bit hardened by his time fighting the empire. He’s working for Saw Gerrera, attempting to thwart any plans the Empire has, but has middling results. Paired with a new group of rebels, Cal finds himself on Coruscant taking on a corrupt senator.

I was happy to see Survivor puts you into the action right away; there’s no need to beat around the bush, our boy Cal is a full-fledged Jedi at this point. The game also assumes you know a little about the world you’re playing in. I’m glad to know I didn’t spend the entire previous game making Cal into a bad-ass Jedi for nothing, just to have him get amnesia and forget everything. We’re also introduced to one of the bigger new mechanics early on, a new grappling hook and zip-line, something that fits perfectly into the gameplay loop of wall-running, double jumping, swinging, and climbing.

Combat is once again one of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor’s strong suits. If I want a true challenge, I can do that. If I wanted something a bit more friendly to the 36-year-old who works 40 hours a week, plays D&D weekly, and is married, Survivor is still welcoming to that guy. I was having a blast fighting no-named Stormtroopers, or giant spiders...so many spiders. I’m always unsure how a Star Wars video game will handle how lightsabers work, but Survivor has outshined most of them, including the previous series’ first entry. Combat feels like I expect it to; I even began to parry without thinking about it. Sure, a lightsaber should just cut through arms and legs instantly the first time I swing at an appendage, but I get it’s still a videogame, a one-hit kill on everything would get old. Luckily this time, arms and legs do come off when you attack something. There are more and more powerful force powers to use in combat as well. I also loved how fluid, almost cinema-like, the combat feels; it is better than in Fallen Order, a game whose lightsaber combat was the best.

I love all the choices I can make in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. The difficulty settings are perfect. I can make combat easy, difficult, or something in-between. Being able to change the difficulty on the fly is also welcomed. I tried to play on the default setting, found myself not having fun with a boss fight, changed it to a lower one, beat the boss, and changed it back. Also, the way I can choose the style of combat I want is great. The new stances add a lot of options and act a lot like classes in other games. I’m more than just Jedi with a lightsaber. I can be traditional, well-rounded Jedi with one lightsaber, or wield two sabers at once. There’s also a single double-bladed saber, a massive lightsaber with a crossbar, like Kylo Ren, or the one I preferred, lightsaber in one hand, gun in the other. Other changes I can make, like the design and color of my lightsaber are great, along with all the unlockable hairstyle and outfit choices. I would be surprised if anyone plays with the same setup as anyone else.

Combat is constantly happening, and so are puzzles. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is loaded with them; some belong to the main story, and others are for side-quests, called "rumors". Most of the time, I could figure out what needed to be done without stressing myself too much. I did find myself sitting and looking blankly at my screen for a few minutes on more than one occasion. Sometimes I found the eventual answer so simple that I would get frustrated with myself. Other times I felt like a chess grandmaster when I solved a puzzle. The big takeaway for me was never finding myself putting down the controller and walking away. Many times a puzzle would require some platforming; I never enjoyed any of the platforming that required me to wall-walk anywhere. I still can’t stand the wall-walking mechanic of the series.

You could argue that the survivor of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor isn’t who you might think, but everyone. Greez, the four-armed pilot from Fallen Order has opened a cantina, and just trying to get by while dealing with the local gang, the Bedlam Raiders, causing mayhem. Cere Junda is trying to make sure the history of the Jedi survives; she feels like less of a mentor and more of an equal to Cal this time. And newcomer Bode has perhaps the best story to tell in the game; I was surprised a couple of times by his plot development. Of course, Cal is still front and center, no longer the green-horn he looks like in the first game. He’s now a little more sullen, all he’s known is the fight against the Empire, and he has little to show for all his efforts. I don't want to get much more into the story, only to say, it feels like the story takes more hints from the good side of the Star Wars universe than the not-so-good one. This could have been a great limited series on Disney+. Anything that gives me more Cameron Monaghan as Cal Kestis I will take.

Revisiting planets now has more to it than just story progression. In Fallen Order, if you were traveling back it was typically to advance the plot further. In Survivor, however, going back to Koboh happens all the time. If you were into collecting seeds and growing plants, that hobby still remains in Survivor, this time done on the roof of Greez’s cantina in Koboh. Koboh is a place you come back to once you’ve completed a mission elsewhere, like a central hub for Cal and friends. There are shops, new characters, and new parts of the planet to explore as you progress in Survivor’s story. To make overworld travel easier, there are fast travel points everywhere. They did almost too good of a job putting in fast travel spots and allowing you to unlock shortcuts. The fast travel hubs also act as save points; I found myself saving more often than I needed to.

Back to Koboh. The amount of Jedi chambers, collectibles, rumors, and bosses on this planet is nuts. The main town, Rambler’s Reach, feels more alive the more I play. As you help NPCs across the planet, most eventually make their way to Rambler’s Reach. Eventually, the town feels packed with NPCs. The Jedi chambers act as mini-dungeons, similar in thought to the Breath of the Wild dungeons. Bounty Hunters also frequent Koboh, getting rid of them will upgrade your weapons.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is also easy on the eyes. Koboh also happens to be beautiful, the landscape changes enough without feeling like a different planet. The layout and design of the planet is my high point of the game; so much to discover and experience. It’s not just Koboh I liked. The worlds are beautiful; even the first planet Coruscant, with its cityscape, looks great. The dark, dirty, dingy city feels like the Coruscant of the movies and tv shows. All of the locations look like they were pulled from movies, tv series, and previous games, even if they’re new to the overall lore of Star Wars, they all fit.

As much fun as I had with Star Wars Jedi: Survivor I still had some issues. In Fallen Order, I hated anytime I had to do a wall jump. I still hate all the wall-jumping nonsense in Survivor, and there’s more wall-jumping in this one. I feel like the mechanic of running and jumping and then jumping again to another wall, then another, then using the grappling hook is too much for me. I had several places where it took more than ten tries to get across some places. I’m sure it’s just me, but damn, I was frustrated at times.

I love Cameron Monaghan as Cal Kestis. I want to see more of him. More games, put him in the Mandalorian TV show, slap him onto comics, and have him star in his own Star Wars trilogy. But some of the facial responses feel lacking during in-game cutscenes. It might not be a true uncanny valley, but it’s not great. The same felt true with a handful of the human characters; they may have something important to say, but the expression on their faces says, "Hello, I’m dead inside".

If you’ve paid attention to the talk about Star Wars Jedi: Survivor you’ve seen that performance and stability have been major talking points. I didn’t have a terrible experience like others, I did have noteworthy issues. Visual issues played a bigger part of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor than I wanted, but I never felt like it took me away or downright out of the game. Survivor has a lot of big, open areas that Cal can explore, sometimes too many events are happening at once in these big open areas. I had a couple of instances of screen tearing, but they were very light. I am not bothered by slower frame rates, unlike a lot of people. Even though I never felt taken out, they were frequently noticeable in my playthrough. I didn’t have issues when I was in a small area, it was always the big open areas that proved problematic.

Does Star Wars Jedi: Survivor have some hiccups? Yes. The big open areas to explore can become bogged down when too much is happening. Frame rate issues are also very apparent. None of that turned me off from all the great elements Survivor has. An excellent story, near-perfect lightsaber combat, and more to explore and discover than the first game. Not only is Star Wars Jedi: Survivor a worthwhile sequel, it easily ranks in the best of category for Star Wars titles.

Characters that are fun, interesting, and have a purpose. I had a lot of fun seeing where Cal Kestis’ story went, and I’m interested in seeing where these characters go from here. Combat is near perfect; no matter your style, the puzzles are challenging enough to keep me entertained when I’m not clearing out Stormtroopers. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is the good Star Wars. The kind you hope for every time you start a new video game or begin a new Star Wars tv series. A story so good I don’t want to share any of it; go play it for yourself.

Rating: 9 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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I'm pulled towards anything that isn't driving or sports related; having said that, I love a good kart racer. I Can't get enough RPGs, and indies are always worth a look to me. The only other subject I pay any attention to is the NFL (go Colts!).

While writing about games is my favorite hobby, talking is a close second. That's why I podcast with my wife Tessa (it's called Tessa and Elliot Argue).

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