Star Wars Jedi: Survivor - Surviving & Thriving
PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
On November 11, 2019, the greatest Star Wars game of all time launched. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was an instant hit, and was simultaneously the game that fans had been longing for for decades, by abandoning the first person shooter model that DICE had been developing, and dropping the numerous RPG systems underpinning Bioware and Obsidian’s Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic games. There was a simplicity to the action, in all of the best ways, and a hook to the gameplay that resonated so strongly with audiences that it completely salvaged EA’s reputation with the Star Wars license and was instantly lauded as one of the finest game’s of the year. Nearly 3.5 years have passed since that point, and while it was instantly apparent that the team at Respawn were destined to take the story of Cal Kestis further, the impacts of COVID-19 upon development, seemed to make the wait for fans unbearable, but no longer must they lust for Cal’s newest adventure, because Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is here, and the wait has been well-and-truly worthwhile.
One of the biggest criticisms directed at the original game was at its narrative, with players out to track down a Jedi Holocron McGuffin that took Cal on an epic adventure that ultimately changed nothing in the state of the galaxy. With constraints already in place based on the Star Wars stories that had been already established prior to, during, and post the window that Jedi: Fallen Order was set in, it seemed as though this narrative arc, despite it being fantastic to play, was not necessarily going to be additive to the universe of Star Wars, but thankfully, Survivor weaves a pathway through some of the newest elements of the universe to paint a picture that intrigues as much as it excites. Survivor does what I had never expected it to do narratively, by leaning heavily (despite where it is placed in the timeline) into the newly established High Republic era.
Five years removed from the conclusion of Fallen Order, and Cal is struggling to make inroads against the ever-expanding Galactic Empire, and the curveball that is introduced by these remnants of another age is extremely engaging. It brings fascinating new characters into the loop, both on light and dark sides of the force, as well as others straddling a more ambiguous place in the middle. New characters like Rayvis, Bode Akuna, Dagan Gera, and the endearing new droid ZN-A4 (Zee) pair with favourites like Cere Junda, Greez Dritus, and Merrin in ways that stretch Cal’s mettle, challenge his behaviours, and actions, and build a narrative that matters to the overall timeline of the IP.
On the gameplay front, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor feels more like an evolution than a revolution. Cal has more lightsaber stances than ever before, from the standard single blade, to the Darth Maul inspired double-bladed option, dual-wielding, Kylo Ren’s Crossguard, and an original and certainly unorthodox pairing of a blaster and saber combo. These options diversify the combat experience, although the nature of the encounters rarely will tempt you to explore options other than those you’ve grown fond of. Cal can find and equip a range of perks that bolster his already impressive skillset, with buffs, and debuffs that change the flow of battle. Initially Cal has three perk slots to work with, however more can be unlocked through exploring the vast world of Jedi: Survivor. There are also some expansive skill trees for each stance, as well as for Cal’s Force and Survival skills that can grant additional health or force powers, or additional skills with saber in hand.
Like its predecessor, Survivor embraces the Metroidvania elements found in Fallen Order, to give players consistent replay value and opportunities to grind XP, or build their proficiency with different weapon types. No matter your choice though, the action feels incredibly fluid, as Cal performs a range of expansive combos, and can switch between two selected stances at the click of a D-Pad button. The combat scenarios continue to throw up slightly varying combinations of enemy types, some with eyes only for you, and others than are themselves opposed that keep things engaging. There are then the boss encounters on top of this that are a little less complex on the game’s critical path, but, just like a famous toad from the prior game, get more expansive, and challenging as you venture off into the worlds plentiful nooks, crannies, and other opportunities that open up through the game’s numerous side-quests.
Gameplay accessibility has been further addressed in Jedi: Survivor, with a new difficulty mode in the form of Jedi Padawan, and a host of other accommodations being included to improve the playing experience such as “Slow Mode” which could be really handy for players in a pinch. For a game that is already trying to half-step into the Soulsborne realm in terms of its difficulty and other gameplay systems, these various additions and expansions to what Fallen Order had already implemented will certainly be appreciated by those needing the support.
Cal is visiting a range of new locales in Jedi Survivor, but the size and scale of each is also significantly greater than the last game. Core planets like Koboh branch off in a range of directions that wonderfully facilitate the exploration of the game’s many side-quests, while there are others that are far more linear in their nature. Each location is aesthetically diverse, and incredibly appealing on the eye, the same could be said for the character design which feels incredibly Star Wars. The John Williams inspired soundtrack is consistently powerful as well, through the most heated of combative moments as well as those more sombre, introspective times as well. The voicework, beginning with Cameron Monaghan as Cal, all the way through to those voicing even the smallest of characters is superb as well, elevating the already great writing to even greater heights.
If you’re going into Star Wars Jedi: Survivor looking for a further reinvention of what Star Wars or even action-adventure games can be, then you’ll feel a twang of disappointment that will seconds later evaporate as you find yourself swept up in a vibrant world of science fiction fuelled magic. The action is enthralling, the plot riveting and surprises with its numerous twists in the tail. A golden path playthrough will wrap up in 16-18 hours, but will offer dozens more hours as you explore the galaxy further, and uncover all of its mysteries. The galaxy is a big place, and the High Republic an enticing mystery – you’ll want to see all of it.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor was reviewed on a PS5 with a code that was kindly provided by EA Australia