Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Interview - Discovering the Philosophies Behind the Fallen Order Sequel

We chat up Star Wars Jedi: Survivor staff at @Respawn to find out just what's new for the big sequel.

Published: April 3, 2023 11:05 AM /


Star Wars Jedi Survivor Interview

With EA and Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Survivor on the horizon, we naturally have a lot of questions. The game is shaping up to be a massive expansion and evolution of the systems and scope we saw in Fallen Order, and that aspect was plenty evident in a recent hands-on demo we had a good amount of time with.

During the event, we had a chance to sit down with members of the development team, including Senior Producer Blair Brown and Design Director Jeff Magers, for a quick chat on what players can expect going into the sequel and the challenges faced when creating the next big thing for the Star Wars universe.

Upon starting the hands-on session, the biggest question for Jedi: Survivor was: What’s new here? We’re a few years on now from Fallen Order, and that means there’s been plenty of time to bulk up and really comb through what made the original great, while at the same time evolving the series beyond what fans might expect.

“We set out to make a true sequel to Fallen Order,” explained Jeff Magers. “We wanted to take what we did and just improve everything across the board. We took a lot of Cal’s traversal mechanics and tried to refine them to feel better and make them more connected to the world.” That specifically is evident as soon as you take control of the game. The world is a lot larger, and so is the combat system -- and well, everything really.

"We didn’t want to do a thing where we reset Cal back to a Padawan or something -- he’s evolving." -- Jeff Magers, Design Director at Respawn

“Stig [Asmussen], our game director, likes to call it Cal 2.0,” Magers continued. Whilst combat in Fallen Order focused on two stances and towards the end of the game you got to split the lightsaber with the special move, it was more of a power fantasy. In Jedi: Survivor, that stance will be part of Cal’s main kit out of the gate. “In the first game, we had plans to make a third stance, like a full dual-saber stance, but production constraints, timelines – it didn’t work out, so it really turned into that power fantasy moment. So the first thing we wanted to do with this game was add that stance and beyond that, we ended up having two more stances.”

These stances include the Blaster and Crossguard stance, which allows the player to really customize their playstyle. Depending on the two stances you choose at any given time, the game will play differently.

Star Wars Jedi Survivor main character, Cal Kestis.

The other main point of evolution in Jedi: Survivor is focused on exploration, and it’s something the team wanted to take to another level. “We’re not an open-world game, but the exploration is much wider and deeper, and with that we wanted to improve the rewards for exploration,” said Magers. “We’ve got a very deep customization system for Cal and BD and the lightsaber now, as well as new systems like the Perks system which lets you customize your playstyle.”

Those who played the original Fallen Order might be concerned about carryover in terms of Cal’s move set, but rest assured, there’s no need to worry. “We didn’t want to do a thing where we reset Cal back to a Padawan or something -- he’s evolving,” Magers stressed. Certainly, it’d be a bit awkward if you had to do everything you achieved in the first game all over again. To that extent, Cal does start out with the same move set we ended up with in the last game. “What you’re playing right now is pretty early in the actual game, and he’ll evolve further from there in ways that we’re excited for players to find out.”

With talk of Fallen Order and continuing Cal’s adventure, there’s always concern over spoilers. The original had a certain surprise spoiled on TV, for example, and that wasn’t so great for anyone wanting to go in unknowing. That said, Jedi: Survivor aims to have many more moments of surprise and delight -- some of which were present in the hands-on demo. Specifically, we encountered the familiar Separatists droids from the prequel trilogy, so it’s nice to have that sort of representation.

“That’s the fun part of being in the Star Wars IP is pulling these things in. You’re still early on, so you’ll run into some things,” Blair Brown said. It’s largely about making it their own and not in a way that’s like ‘Hey, remember this?’ as some of the modern material has been wont to be.

Reaching into that modern material, however, isn’t unfamiliar territory for the team. Certain aspects of Fallen Order have made their way into the live-action TV shows, such as The Mandalorian and Obi-Wan. Is this something that will continue though? It seems like anything goes at this point.

“We can’t talk about that right now, once we make the game, it’s in Lucasfilm’s hands,” Brown explained. That means they have the capacity to take what the Jedi: Survivor team made and put it into other things. “Yeah, we’ve seen the BD droid in Mando, and that’s just fun to see. And as far as anything in the future, we don’t know anything. But yeah, we love seeing what they did with the BD droid.”

Working with Lucasfilm in general seems to be a smooth process for the folks at Respawn. While there’s not a lot of rules they have to follow, they’re still good at controlling their IP. According to Brown, their working relationship has been going on for about nine years now, and it’s a good relationship.

“There’s never really any hard No's with them, it’s a lot of, ‘Oh we can find this over here or maybe you guys can take it this way or change this up.’ So it’s been great to work with them, they’re really accommodating for what we’re trying to do as well,” Brown said.

Beyond the modern material, there’s also really not been any conflict when it comes to material in the Expanded Universe. It’s just not something that’s come up specifically for them. “What we’re doing is being an authentic Star Wars game in the universe that is here, so we’re always trying to fit in with what the TV shows and other things are establishing these days,” explained Magers.

New antagonists in Star Wars Jedi Survivor.

While working with Lucasfilm is smooth sailing, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been some challenges when working on the sequel to one of the biggest Star Wars games ever. Exploration, as noted before, is a big one, and it wasn’t necessarily a challenge but something the team learned a lot on.

“Take planet Zeffo for example,” said Magers. “We’ve got the landing pad in Zeffo on one corner of the map. And the rest of the world, it’s our biggest planet in that game, expands outward from that. So whenever you land in that corner and to get to the other side is tricky, so a couple things we did was we added fast travel, for one, so now you can fast travel between different Meditation Points. This allows us to make the planets bigger as well when we want to. Because if you follow a thread, like if you follow a cave and find yourself deep somewhere else, you know you can always get back to the main path if you want to continue the story, and then you can easily come back out to that spot as well if you want to continue that thread that you were on.”

This type of design philosophy is furthered by the decision to put landing pads more centrally on the planets, so that levels could be built spidering out from them. Because of that, when you return there’s new stuff so you don’t necessarily have to trek through old content to get to the new stuff.

If you remember Fallen Order, the backtracking could be a little tedious at times, so that’s something the team has worked on mitigating in Jedi: Survivor. “We had the benefit this time of when we started to make the game we know the language of the game – we know where we ended up last time, so we have this really solid base to start from there and expand from,” explained Magers. “When we were starting the last game and building a level, we might not have known what the game was gonna be fully at the end, you know.” Having that established base makes a world of a difference and is a true benefit for making this sequel.

With all the talk of new planets and new level designs, is it possible we’ll see any returning locations from Fallen Order? Well, the pair was mum on any answer for that – for now we’re meant to focus on Koboh, which was created specifically for Jedi: Survivor.

Our final thoughts center on what this sequel might mean for someone who wants to get into it unaware of the original game. “We’d thought about that, and we will train you up on the things you missed in the first game, and we expect anyone to be able to pick up this game,” said Magers. “Even if you missed the first one, even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, I think you will have fun with this game. But you know people who enjoyed the first one, or people who are Star Wars fans, will have even that much more fun.”

There’s a particular importance on this Star Wars story and adventure, no matter if you have previous knowledge or not. If you did play Fallen Order -- that’s great, it helps to fill in some stuff. If you didn’t, there’s no need to worry; Jedi: Survivor is still being pushed as a fun game with a nice Star Wars bubble around it.

TechRaptor played Star Wars Jedi: Survivor at an event they were invited to by Electronic Arts.

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| Staff Writer
Erren is a staff writer for TechRaptor whose writing experience stems from years of helming Nova Crystallis – a website dedicated to everything Square Enix… More about Erren
More Info About This Game
Learn More About Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Electronic Arts
Release Date
April 28, 2023 (Calendar)
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