Sometimes it feels ironic that the current landscape of Star Wars is swimming in prequels. Certainly, this is something I wouldn’t have foreseen some years ago, after the prequel trilogy had come and gone and largely enjoyed a somewhat mixed reception. Times have changed since the release of Episode III marked the apparent end of the story back in 2005 and as such, the modern reemergence of Star Wars into the pop culture scene has brought with it a new appreciation for said prequels. It’s only fitting because it’s setting the stage for even more stories between that film and the start of the original trilogy.
Not only in film and TV shows, but the video games are striking while the iron is hot. 2019 saw the release of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and with it a much-needed breath of fresh air was pushed into the lungs of licensed video games. It was a title that proved that games based on film properties do have plenty left to give, and with the now sequel in hand and tested to its extreme, it’s clear that it wasn’t some one-off fluke.
At its core, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor’s mission was to improve on the vast array of mechanics and elements built up in the original. As with any sequel, there is that expectation to do better, and going into the game, there is that expectation that it will do just that. As for the reality of the situation? Well, let’s just say that they’ve managed to stay on that specific path and introduce so much more.
One thing that I particularly enjoyed when first booting up Jedi: Survivor, was the inclusion of a recap of sorts that took you through a cinematic retelling of the events of the first game. It’d been quite some time since I played the original – having done so upon release – so it was good to have that bit of catch-up rather than spending time playing through Jedi: Fallen Order once again. It’s also convenient for anyone who wants to jump into Jedi: Survivor as their first experience with the series.
With that done and dusted, Jedi: Survivor opens up with our hero Cal Kestis continuing his adventures on the Imperial capital planet of Coruscant, which you may remember seeing throughout copious amounts of other Star Wars media. Our guy Cal has been captured and he’s on his way to be interrogated because Jedi are bad and because he is one, he’s obviously up to no good. Or something of that nature. In any case, various things happen and Cal manages to escape to the streets of the planet city. There’s a bunch of tutorials to be had here and this segment is really used to introduce the player to all the new things found in Jedi: Survivor – which is good, because even though it’s a direct sequel, the amount of additions and changes has piled up.
These changes center on the fact that Jedi: Survivor has put a large focus on opening up exploration and it’s something you’ll be doing a lot of. Even on Coruscant, this becomes immediately aware with Cal having to traverse all over. It’s a testament to one’s platforming skills and I found myself really having to get used to it as the story progressed and the map became more accessible. Map design as a whole has been expanded in the sense that it’s far more sprawling. Jedi: Survivor isn’t open world, but the map areas are quite big and they’ve been constructed in a way that allows for shortcuts and other ways around – be it though additional paths and even mounts Cal can ride – to the extent that it eliminates forced backtracking on the same planet nearly entirely.
Backtracking hasn’t fully gone away, however, as I began to find out with my time on the second planet Cal visits – a new location known as Koboh. Koboh isn’t just a one-and-done location – oh no. Think of this as the main hub because Cal will return here several times throughout the course of the story. When I say “hub”, Koboh also serves as just that in terms of the larger RPG elements because at the core of it, Jedi: Survivor is a role-playing game. In addition to various side quests that can be found all over the galaxy, known as Rumors, Cal can populate his own outpost after a certain point in the main story. This means there’s an element of recruiting folks for said outpost, as well as spending time doing various activities instead of fighting or exploring all the time. I found it a good breather from the intensity of the action – there’s a lot to be said about chatting up people in the saloon or tending a quiet garden or even playing a holographic tactics minigame.
The side quests too, are a nice distraction from the norm. Often times they’ll take Cal off the beaten path to discover things not seen in the main story. There are a lot of good easter eggs hidden in here and the best part is, I didn’t have to worry about getting lost because Jedi: Survivor implemented fast travel. It pretty much had to because, once again, places like Koboh are just so massive. It’s really impressive just how much they managed to implement not only in size but the variety of the terrain as well – and this is something that becomes further highlighted in some of the scripted set pieces.
While all of these RPG elements and the expansion of the world and subsystems in Jedi: Survivor is noteworthy, what really impressed me was the combat system. Playing as a Jedi feels smoother than ever with the allowance of five lightsaber stances – two of which Cal can equip at any given time and upgrade accordingly. Out of the three new ones for the sequel (Blaster, Crossguard, and Dual Wield), I found myself favoring the Blaster stance the most just because it was neat to have a Jedi using a gun as a primary weapon and because it was useful for taking out ranged adversaries. Being able to swap through both stances in real time further heightened the experience by keeping combat interesting. The amount of customization is certainly staggering – to the point it really does change the gameplay experience depending on what is equipped.
Gameplay is further fleshed out with the addition of the Perks system – Cal can equip these attributes of sorts by collecting them throughout the game. They’re notable in the sense that they add additional conditions to his moveset such as increased block timing, or in the New Game Plus mode, introducing one that jacks up damage caused by Cal and enemies alike. Companions have a role to play during the gameplay loop as well, jumping in at certain points during the story to help out. They can even be fed commands to give Cal an extra edge when fighting a particularly tough group of opponents.
All of this comes around to being in service of Jedi: Survivor’s story – which, like everything else, aims to push the scope of what came before. It’s safe to say that I felt like Jedi: Survivor felt right at home as an extension of the Star Wars universe in close proximity to what the end of the prequel trilogy turned out to be, as well as feeling integrated enough with other aspects of the universe that have been recently expanded upon. Those familiar with the recent Andor television series, for example, might find several elements familiar. To me, it was especially clear that the team took a lot of material from Rogue One and used it to fill out the details here. There are also a lot of connections to the prequel films, what with the battle droids scattered about. The good thing about these additions is that feel natural to the state of the galaxy and not something that’s put in just for nostalgia’s sake.
The narrative itself puts the focus on the title proper. It’s about the survival of the Jedi even if it’s still about Cal and his character journey. There’s a lot of what goes on that takes Cal on a mission to preserving what was lost and throughout Jedi: Survivor he’ll discover that there’s more out there than just the looming Imperial threat. It’s somewhat different than your typical Star Wars adventure, and whilst the story straight through can last at least 18 hours on its own, it does feel like this is only the beginning of a larger tale. Whether that will be eventually will be fleshed out remains to be seen but there’s a lot that left me wanting for just a little more.
That criticism has little bearing on my overall experience, however. Jedi: Survivor is an astonishing achievement. Not only does it elevate the series to a new height, it improves on the first game by introducing a wealth of content – including further incentives to keep playing in the New Game Plus modes. There’s enough here to keep one playing for hours after the conclusion of the main story – I know I did just that looking around to complete all the side quests and exploration requirements. With all these things in place, there’s no doubt that whatever comes next – it has the potential to take all of these things and be even more.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor was reviewed on PlayStation 5 with a copy provided by the developer over the course of 35 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- Map design has been vastly improved to facilitate the ease of exploration
- Gameplay is fluid and the level of customization lets you play as you want
- Plenty of side content to satisfy one's RPG itch
- The galaxy has never looked so beautiful
- Some story threads feel incomplete or wanting for more
- Some awkward character animations