I was about three hours into my first play session with Star Wars Jedi: Survivor when I realized it just might be the best Star Wars game since BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic.
As a series that came up alongside the medium of video games, developers have struggled to translate what makes Star Wars special into games for decades.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor offers the fulfillment of George Lucas’ “Kurosawa-in-space” vision. It’s one of the best stories told set in the Star Wars universe and a triumph of third-person action gaming.
Same Jedi, New Tricks
Taking place years after the events of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, hero Cal Kestis is now a proper Jedi as opposed to an outcast in hiding. Cal is one of the few remaining Jedi after the Emperor’s issuing of Order 66. He must learn how to continue on his path without a master.
Survivor quickly shows that Cal is now a force (pun intended) to be reckoned with. He is now more comfortable with his powers and responsibility as a guardian of justice and peace across the galaxy.
Cal’s character development goes hand-in-hand with the mechanics of Survivor. The game sidesteps the annoying trope of “oops! I forgot all my powers” phenomenon. Instead, players are fully powered during the Survivor‘s opening, continuing to become a more powerful and skilled Jedi as the adventure progresses.
The traversal features and exploration from Fallen Order spark “Star Wars Uncharted” jokes and return in Survivor. This time, players have a grappling hook that Respawn smartly introduces in the game’s opening level.
Not only does Cal act like a more confident hero, he plays like one too.
The real treat to Survivor is getting to experience the power fantasy of becoming a Jedi. Respawn Entertainment expands upon the combat from Fallen Order by including five different combat stances that each feels unique. Each stance has definitive pros and cons for every encounter.
Fallen Order’s combat could be compared to FromSoftware’s Sekiro. The addition of stances helps Survivor inch closer to territory occupied by Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima.
Jedi are essentially space samurai, and Survivor might be the first game that actually allows you to fight like one. The combat and takedown animations showcase Cal’s power through dismemberments and brutal executions. Kid-friendly Star Wars this is not.
Speaking of Sekiro, much of the lightsaber combat is built around parrying. But even on higher difficulties, the parry window is very forgiving.
Players who enjoy the sword fighting of FromSoftware’s samurai opus but find the skill floor too imposing, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor offers a respectable middle ground.
The Soulsborne qualities call for methodical combat, but there are few encounters that you can overcome with simple trial and error.
A Blast of a Story
For the story, Survivor exceeds the bar of quality that Respawn Entertainment set with Fallen Order. Both games help to fill in crucial gaps in the overarching Star Wars lore in the time period between Episode III and A New Hope.
Forrest Whitaker reprises his role as the leader of the Rebel extremists Saw Gerrera. The early moments of Survivor introduce players to an entirely new band of heroes who are working with Gerrera to take down the Empire.
Survivor sets itself apart from Fallen Order as a much darker game. As Cal reflects on his role as a Jedi, he also struggles with his anger and desire for vengeance.
Does Cal give in to his feelings? Is it right to avenge fallen comrades? What is the point in protecting justice and peace when those qualities have all but left the galaxy?
These and other questions are all addressed through Cal’s character arc. It establishes Survivor as the Empire Strikes Back of Respawn’s Jedi trilogy (fingers crossed!).
There are no easy answers here. The mature tone sets up what is bound to be a thrilling conclusion regarding Cal’s story.
Refined and Expanded
I enjoyed Fallen Order despite its minor flaws. I am extremely pleased that Respawn improved upon the first game by nearly every metric.
The combat is tighter and more focused. Players have more freedom when approaching enemies thanks to the inclusion of multiple stances. The character and lightsaber customization options are also expanded. Traveling and exploring are massively improved, with the spaces available to the player dwarfing the areas from Fallen Order.
If you are a fan of Fallen Order, you owe it to yourself to play Survivor. Compare Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi games to Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham trilogy. Everything fans enjoyed from Arkham Asylum is amplified and made better in Arkham City. Similarly, Survivor is the refined and improved version of Fallen Order.
Some players who feel that the inclusion of Soulsborne elements are shoehorned into Fallen Order, capitalizing on FromSoftware’s popularity. I personally enjoy the comparisons to the Dark Souls series drawn in Fallen Order and Survivor.
Players who don’t like Dark Souls may take issue with the continued use of Mediation Points and the parry/dodge-heavy combat. It is important to note that Fallen Order and Survivor are significantly more beginner-friendly than any title developed by FromSoftware.
A Great Jedi Adventure
The Star Wars franchise has been through its fair share of ups and downs in its over 40-year history across multiple media formats. The movies, television shows, novels, comics, and games contribute to the series’ waxing and waning popularity. Star Wars is hotly debated among fans regarding which entries are worth investing time in. Survivor is a triumph in presenting one of the most accurate sensations of playing as a Jedi. The game also gives us the middle chapter to the best Star Wars trilogy since the original three films. With an extensive campaign and New Game + mode available upon completion, this is a Star Wars story well worth your time and money and a “can’t miss” title for series fans.
Rating: 9 out of 10