There was a time when Star Wars movies were considered the pinnacle of achievements and the peripheral spin-offs lacked any significant importance but those days of the Lucasfilm empire are long over, as Disney has brought about a change in which the intellectual property is being further exploited. Thankfully, the video games side of the galaxy has shown great progress, with LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga and Star Wars: Squadrons holding down the fort, but even those are mere Padawans compared to the true master that is Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
The team over at Respawn Entertainment and EA have taken the solid foundations laid down by Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and built upon them in the last four years, further refining the third-person action adventure’s combat, platforming, worldbuilding, and storytelling. And the result is an ambitious evolution that will please the millions who enjoyed the first game, and make it more of an attractive proposition for new players coming to the fore.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor continues the story of Cal Kestis five years after the first game. Increasingly pushed to the edges of the galaxy by the growing threat of the Empire, the events that unfold up the stakes both for Kestis and the Jedi Order, as our hero seeks the perfect solution to protect himself, his allies, and the legacy of the Jedi Knights.
Without delving into spoilers, this is a much more mature story that colours the progress players will make in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. Desperate manoeuvres, an ever-pervasive sense of tension, and a seemingly unwinnable fight against the Imperial machine are part of the equation, but on the flip side, Kestis and his allies always represent hope, even at its tiniest sliver, to keep the fight going. While it will most certainly captivate those that have embraced the growing lore of Star Wars, there is also enough intrigue to interest anyone jumping in for the first time.
Much of that has to do with the excellent character work done for Kestis and the many allies and adversaries that are part of the adventure. The hero is no longer a Padawan and is now a full-fledged Jedi Knight that talks the talk and walks the walk, but even with his powers; there is never the sense of omnipotence that renders threats invalid. It all works toward creating a character that is easy to root for, while simultaneously displaying the overwhelming evil forces that threaten his very existence.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor sees the return of familiar faces and introduces new ones, with Greez, Cere, BD-1, and particularly, Merrin, each having ample time in the spotlight. Both Greez and Cere dispense valuable advice and help flesh out the new state of play in this universe, and BD-1 remains a constant adorable presence that has neat tricks of its own. Merrin’s Nightsister powers are a sight to behold, and the game is never too shy to show it off, even if players are to believe in the world-saving prowess of Kestis.
The fresh face of Bode Akuna brings charm and a deft shot, and the many denizens of what will eventually develop into the game’s hub area are always worth speaking to, organically teaching the players about different planets, biomes, and life during this time. Even the central villain at the heart of things is a nuanced character, tasked with not just being chased down by players, but also asking the tough, ethical questions of how far one’s crusade should go.
Beyond the flesh and blood, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor orbits around the core gameplay tenets of exploration and combat, and what an intoxicating blend it has managed to concoct. Instead of focusing on quantity, the various locales that are available for exploration are much higher in quality this time around, providing plenty of opportunities to seek out secrets, use the Force, and utilise the satisfying Lightsaber combat.
While it can be a tad spellbinding to see how large certain worlds can be, it is something that is tantalising to look forward to. Kestis will eventually learn several nifty tricks that can make exploration much more rewarding, be it new Force powers or even upgrades for BD-1, with there being something always worthwhile at the end.
That could be new cosmetics to expand customisation options for a variety of things, including Kestis’ hair, enhancements to both his health and Force meter, and more. It also helps tremendously that the platforming has been improved from the first game, making the Jedi Knight a nimble and agile individual, capable of impressive feats that are more in line with what they represent.
Each location is usually rife with surfaces that can be traversed in a couple of ways, and it allows for level design that is interesting to go through whether you are progressing the story or looking for the nooks and crannies that can house valuable secrets. The way shortcuts are put in place in the game continues to be a blessing and makes returning to old haunts that much more palatable, especially if you are intent on building up the hub area.
Naturally, things will get hectic, and there is no other choice other than straight-up combat, and this is another area Star Wars Jedi: Survivor shines quite brightly in. The level of challenge is perhaps even more demanding this time around, but that is balanced by the new tools available to the hero on both defence and offence.
Mastering the intricacies of blocking, dodging, and parrying should form the bedrock of any playthrough, and learning the patterns of foes will always be helpful. Companions can be relied on to provide helpful abilities to turn the tide, and there are unlockable perks that can be equipped to make Kestis an even more formidable opponent.
Most importantly, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor introduces two new stances to complement the three existing ones from the first game. As usual, the single Lightsaber stance is all about balance across the board; the Dual champions speed and agility, and the Double Bladed stance is the best tool for crowd control. The new Cross Guard and Blaster stances mix things up even more, with the former being a high-risk, high-damage affair, while the latter brings a ranged option to the mix that also illustrates the circumstances Kestis finds himself in.
Each stance has its own skill tree that players can invest in, alongside those catering to both survivability and the Force, allowing players to grow their Jedi Knight in ways that cater to their play styles. That said, the option of only being able to equip two stances during gameplay is a downer, especially when flexibility is a plus, so be sure to test things out before committing.
It all contributes to the delicate dance that is combat in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, with a wide variety of enemies requiring different approaches to truly dominate. The standard Stormtrooper may be a pushover, but in numbers, they remain a dangerous threat. Add in droids, bounty hunters, and the wild flora and fauna, and things can get crazy.
Even with his improved fighting abilities, it is almost always a death wish if there is no plan in place for taking on large groups of enemies, especially when there are ranged opponents disrupting the rhythm. It can be a tad frustrating for those not well-versed enough in the system, so learning from experience is key, and smart use of the environment and Force powers, together with suitable Lightsaber stances, will elevate the combat into a true spectacle.
This is especially prevalent in the set piece fights against some of the big bads in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, requiring players to use all of their wits and knowledge to come out on top. There is no hiding place in these encounters, and if failure remains constant, there is always the option of grinding for skill points, finding upgrades, or toggling down the difficulty. In the fight against the Empire, take every advantage you can get.
And for those seeking a distraction from the main narrative, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor’s hub area is teeming with things to do as well. Aside from the aforementioned exploration and all its rewards, meeting and recruiting additions to the frontier town of Rambler’s Reach will open up further gameplay activities that have their own benefits.
You could grow a garden with seeds obtained from the different biomes, hunt down the Haxion Brood bounty hunters gunning for your head, or turn in collectibles at various vendors to unlock even more customisation options or gameplay enhancements. The aquarium activity is one of our favourites, with the engaging nature of its lead character being just delightful, and it wouldn’t be hard to imagine other players finding their own rabbit holes to dive into.
Of course, for all the elegance and expertise shown by Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, there is still a tinge of the dark side present. Rare crashes aside, the Quality Mode that features 4K resolution at 30FPS on the PlayStation 5 is usually up to snuff, but grainy textures and pop-ins still happen from time to time. Certain platforming sections can be challenging not by design, but rather the way the game recognises contact between Kestis and the surface, and fall damage can build up if one is not careful.
Those are small issues, which in the grand scheme of things, wouldn’t amount to much when Star Wars Jedi: Survivor remains exemplary in the areas that matter more. Having been introduced to Cal Kestis in 2019, it is fitting that in 2023, we finally get to see the fruits of Respawn’s labour. Here stands a mature Jedi Knight, capable of shouldering the heavy responsibility of not just saving the day, but doing so with flair and proficiency, a similar journey for a sequel that takes centre stage in our galaxy.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor will launch on April 28, and is available on the PSN Store for $95.79.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is an excellent sequel that displays expert refinement across the board, delivering an action-adventure worthy of the franchise and the attention of fans and newcomers alike.
Gameplay - 9.5/10
Story - 9/10
Presentation - 8.5/10
Value - 9/10