author: Giancarlo Saldana
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review - Galactic Masterpiece
Like Cal Kestis, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a more refined, mature, and more developed sequel that offers you better thrills, features, and a story that keeps you hooked until the end.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is bigger, better, and more fleshed-out than its predecessor. Like any good Star Wars movie, it’s one of those games that you can’t put down until you see the end credits roll. In fact, it’s quite comparable to a blockbuster film, in part due to a memorable cast, a plot filled with twists and turns, and enough references to the Star Wars universe to have any fan grinning till the end.
- An impressive story that pulls you in featuring humor, drama, and tragedy;
- A challenging, but customizable combat system that rewards you with experimentation;
- Denser worlds to explore and plenty of side missions to complete;
- An impressive cast and soundtrack that make it very cinematic.
- Unable to swap stances whenever you want curbs what you can equip;
- Graphical hitches and frame rate drops;
- Clichéd loading screens.
Yes, it’s a better game than Fallen Order mainly because it took what made the first installment good and focused on these aspects, improved storytelling elements, and gave us a game that feels as amazing to play as it does to experience. In the four years that’s passed since their first installment came out, developer Respawn Entertainment has fine-tuned its craft and created a masterpiece.
“No One’s Ever Really Gone”
One of the ways Jedi: Survivor holds your attention throughout 25-hours of the main game is its improved writing that mixes in references from the original game, the Star Wars films, and more mature themes of hardship, loss, and betrayal. It’s a leg up from the first game, and even when you think you’re done with the story, the plot surprises you and throws a curveball that changes both your perspective and that of the returning protagonist, Cal Kestis.
It’s a story that takes place five years after the events of the first game and brings back together the original cast, but also introduces new enemies, locations, and a growing mystery to uncover that is prevalent throughout the whole experience. Finding the lost planet of Tanalorr is your objective, but let’s just say getting to that final goal also means facing off against the Empire’s threats and the dangerous dark side of the Force. Cal and his crew are just a handful of people going up against the likes of Darth Vader and his army, so you will often feel like you’re fighting an uphill struggle. Just when you start to wonder how they are going to get out of the sticky situation, the game surprises you and keeps the action going.
The story is seen from the perspective of Cal, but nearly every character you interact with – even one-shot characters you meet during side missions – has their own story to tell. There’s a cantina in the game where a few of these characters will gather, and throughout the course of the story, you can visit it to see what each one has to share. You’ll meet a DJ droid, a humanoid frog creature with Invader Zim’s voice, and even an alien in a scuba suit with a Scottish accent who will regale you with stories of his past fishing trips and near-death experiences. Every conversation you have is filled with personality and charm.
Your crew from the original is back as well, so you will continue to develop your relationships with them and learn how they’ve changed. Your old pilot Greez may have come across as cranky in the original, but he’s a lot more fatherlike here, while still offering some of the more humorous lines in the game that come in as a close second to your droid BD-1’s beep-boop sass. Merrin’s relationship with Cal grows even closer, and even Cere looks at Cal differently now that he’s a more mature Jedi. It’s a story that makes you feel all kinds of emotions and makes you root for each character when the going gets tough.
“Let Go of Your Hate”
If the story got more interesting, then Jedi’s gameplay got more refined. You can instantly feel this the moment you control Cal and notice his movements feel more fluid and less floaty than before. His abilities from the end of the previous game are back allowing him to traverse areas with ease, but you also unlock additional abilities as you play. Just like before, a mix of Metroidvania elements means that you will often be revisiting areas to uncover new paths and places to explore except you don’t feel like you are backtracking because each discovery blends in with the game’s evolving narrative.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a worthy successor and features more of everything, improves on what Fallen Order was lacking in, and gives us a new game that’s as much a joy to play as it is to watch it unfold.
You can choose to focus only on the main game’s objectives and finish the game in about 20 hours, but there are so many side missions referred to as rumors that you can undertake for additional rewards and experience. These missions introduce you to new characters who can’t wait to share their plight with you, but undertaking these missions also changes up the action-oriented pace of the game and offers you a detour to fight off a difficult beast or simply venture into areas you would have easily missed.
Cal’s combat abilities have also evolved and you now have access to five lightsaber stances. The original game lightly introduced the dual wield stance, but you can now fully enjoy holding one lightsaber in each hand and pummeling your foes with them. It’s the more aggressive stance, and was my go-to for most of the game. In addition, you will also unlock a crossguard stance that’s much slower but powerful and makes you feel like Kylo Ren, and a blaster stance that mixes in some gunplay to your attacks.
The downside to these stances is that while the game gives you all five to choose from eventually, you can only select two when you enter a battle. Changing your stance loadout requires you to do so at meditation circles and can’t be done freely. So, while you are given more toys to play with in the number of stances you have, you are actually limited in your choices. Don’t get me wrong though – having two stances to pick and choose from during a fight still feels great, but I ended up always having the double-bladed and dual wield stances available – one to help with crowd control and the other to devastate everyone else.
Jedi: Survivor also still plays very much like the first game, so there are some light soulslike elements to the combat. Enemies eventually get more lethal, so you will need to master the precise timing of blocks and parries to stand a chance against them. Dying to one of them requires you to respawn at a nearby meditation circle with all your accumulated experience lost. You get it back, however, by finding the enemy that killed you and fighting them again. It’s a challenging system that gets tougher when you start fighting DT Sentry Droids and AT-STs, but the game does come with generous accessibility options to tune the difficulty to match your playstyle.
“Your Focus Determines Your Reality”
In fact, there are plenty of options to customize the experience to your liking here, from how you fight to how you look. Each time you gain enough experience points you unlock a skill point you can use to gain a new lightsaber stance abilities, Force powers, or overall upgrades to your health and Force meter. The abilities you unlock will determine how you want to approach battles so you can rely on confusing your enemies to attack each other, use force pulls to bring them closer to your to them slice them up-close, or unlock stim upgrades to keep yourself alive when your health goes down. You can focus on what works for you and you can discover various cosmetic options to your lightsaber, clothing, and even facial hair. In all fairness, upgrading your lightsaber’s handle isn’t as significant as giving Cal a buzz cut and full beard, but the upgraded clothes you can discover let you mold Cal into the Jedi you envision him to be.
Visually, the game is stunning and you will not play a better-looking Star Wars game than this one. The planets you visit each have their own distinct environments to them that make them feel alien but familiar, and the insides of Imperial bases have that classic look and feel to them. Even cutscenes that take place during intense lightsaber duals allow you to see the raw emotion on the actor’s face thanks to photorealistic renderings and animations.
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It is a shame, then, that the game seems to struggle to keep up with everything that’s going on around you. Sometimes entering a building can take a few extra seconds waiting for the door to open, which is surprising on a PlayStation 5, but what’s worse is that battles sometimes begin to stutter if too many stormtroopers are around you or if you run into an area you haven’t been to yet. Like the original, the game also overuses narrow passages to load other areas. I was okay with it the first four times I saw it, but after seeing Cal squeeze through his 17th crevice, it became predictable. Poor guy can’t gain weight or else he’s in trouble.
Jedi: Survivor leaves you with plenty to do after you see the credits roll, and new game plus ramps up the difficulty for your second time around. Various treasures, challenges, and side missions are a completionist’s playground and will add plenty of more hours to your playtime. Its story will leave an imprint on you and features an impressive cast of actors like Debra Wilson and Cameron Monaghan, who lend their voices and facial emotions to a script that’s surprisingly good. Even its cinematic soundtrack would make John Williams proud. Gameplay itself, which borrows from various genres, feels fun and exciting without growing old – with the exception of those narrow passages that Cal has to squeeze through all the time.
Just like Cal is now a more developed Jedi, so is this new installment in a series that’s sure to get stronger and better over time. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a worthy successor and features more of everything, improves on what Fallen Order was lacking in, and gives us a new game that’s as much a joy to play as it is to watch unfold.
Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com