Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review

I was lucky enough to get into Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order just last year, and by the grace of very good timing, I beat the game mere weeks before the sequel, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, was announced. I enjoyed Fallen Order despite its annoyingly long load times whenever you reloaded a save after a death or when just booting up the game. The story was nothing out of this world, but it was a good example of a classic Star Wars story featuring a cast of likeable characters standing against the overwhelmingly powerful Empire, no matter the odds. The combat was solid, though main character Cal’s movement and dodging controls were slightly janky. It was an overall really good game, and I was rather hyped to play its sequel. Much like how God of War: Ragnarok was largely an improvement over the previous God of War in 2018 but also not a game-changer, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor offers a similar level of improvement over Fallen Order, but the improvements are, again, not game-changers.

Let me first start off by mentioning that the technical issues many players experienced upon this game’s release, namely horrible frame-rate stutters, graphical glitches, and so on (especially on PC), were largely avoided by yours truly. I played the game on PS5 and didn’t notice any issues with frame-rate except in one instance very late in the game when I fought a huge number of enemies in a small location. The game did also freeze/crash on me about four times, but after getting an update on my PS5, it didn’t happen again. And there was one annoying issue I came across also very late in the game when I had Cal walk onto a stone platform, only for him to phase through the floor and get stuck in the swamp underneath and die (twice). But I was lucky enough to avoid the consistent technical issues that other players claim to have experienced, partly because I took my time with this game and didn’t advance too far into it by the time patches were implemented (and I think I was also unusually lucky, for a change). Those reading this review should keep all this in mind when they see my score for this game (assuming you didn’t just check the score first and then didn’t bother reading the actual review).

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review
“This was my favorite set of armor, you little shit.”

 

Taking place five years after Fallen Order, Jedi Survivor opens with Cal Kestis and his new crew of mercenaries sticking it to the Empire with their special brand of sabotage. Things don’t go very smoothly though, and Cal soon finds himself alone with only his loyal droid buddy, BD-1, and they crash land on the planet of Koboh, which soon becomes their main base of operations. It is here that Cal reconnects with his old friend Greez from the previous game, and it’s surprisingly a fair bit after this that the story’s main plot is actually made clear to the player. The first couple of hours or so seem to lack a set direction, story-wise, compared to Fallen Order, which set the tone for its adventure almost immediately. As enjoyable as the opening hours of Jedi Survivor were, the meandering narrative had me wondering where all this was going. Thankfully, it doesn’t take too long for Cal and his friends to set the ball rolling when they learn of a special hidden planet that they might be able to access and where they can potentially live the rest of their lives free of the Empire’s tyranny. There are obstacles, of course, aside from the Empire.

Cal will deal with a thankfully more extensive collection of enemies than those from the previous game, though it’s really only a few more extra enemies. There is more hostile wildlife for Cal to contend with, from bug-like creatures to larger, musclebound animals that can really put the hurt on Cal if he’s not careful. Surprisingly tough Raiders with their reprogrammed Battle Droids (including Super Battle Droids, Commando Droids, MagnaGuards, and Droidekas/Destroyer Droids) from the Clone Wars era round out the other main collection of enemies. Seeing the classic Battle Droids and listening to their always humorous dialogue with one another was a nice treat. I also appreciated how at any given moment when exploring the game’s more open environments, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see different groups of enemies fight each other, like Battle Droids and Raiders fighting Imperials, hostile wildlife fighting Battle Droids, wildlife fighting wildlife, etc., and you can jump in and join the fun or sit back and watch. While enemies could fight each other in Fallen Order, such encounters were really only possible in a handful of specific areas on specific planets, but given the semi-open world nature of the environments in two of this game’s larger planets, enemy infighting is a far more common occurrence, and the game world feels more organic and varied for it.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review
Surprisingly, this multi-boss encounter still doesn’t even make it to the top three toughest boss battles list.

 

Furthermore, the larger environments house a lot of collectibles and activities, as well as the option to use some animals as mounts to traverse these environments more swiftly and even gain access to normally out of reach areas. Again like in Fallen Order, most collectibles are cosmetic in nature, and this time they are far more extensive. Parts and paint jobs for Cal’s lightsaber and the blaster he eventually acquires are numerous, and I spent much time pouring over the many options available to create my own unique designs for my lightsaber and blaster while still keeping their appearances faithful to the Star Wars mythos. There are also many parts and paint jobs for BD-1, as well as a much larger collection of outfits for Cal (rather than just the many, many ponchos he could wear in Fallen Order), not to mention a number of hairstyles and beard/mustache combos that put to shame the options that were available to Geralt in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Other cosmetic collectibles can be purchased from vendors using different currencies that can also be found out in the wilds or by completing side activities. Many areas, however, will be blocked off until almost the end of the main story when Cal acquires (a particular set of) skills or gadgets that will let him access these closed off areas. It’s normally worth accessing all these areas as they yield rewards such as skill points, increases to health and Force, special perks that affect Cal’s combat effectiveness and survivability, etc. Other optional activities that Cal can undertake in the main hub include gathering seeds out in the wilds and planting them in a rooftop garden and facing off against other characters in a game of Holotactics, which can be surprisingly fun and occasionally aggravating.

The many Rumors (side quests) that can be accessed by talking to NPCs or by stumbling upon them yield similar rewards, and many of them also lead to optional boss battles. Speaking of boss battles, there are a lot more of them compared to the previous game, and they’re enjoyable. The only exception is one particular optional boss who was clearly a callback (or a trolling tactic) from the developers to a notoriously difficult early boss from Fallen Order. Those who have played these games will know exactly who I’m talking about. This said boss was a cheap and unbalanced exercise in frustration, it made many of the bosses from the likes of Nioh and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice look easy by comparison. Aside from that, the many varied bosses in Jedi Survivor are more well balanced yet still fun to fight. They do repeat themselves after a while, but the variety and fun factor is still superior to what was on offer in Fallen Order. The randomized bounty hunters that would attack Cal when revisiting certain areas in the previous game have been reworked in Jedi Survivor. This time bounty hunters can be tracked down and prepared for prior to fighting them, though it is still possible to randomly run into them while exploring, and many times they will have allies assisting them. There are a few newer types of bounty hunters to fight on top of the ones that were in Fallen Order.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review
Who asked for this, Respawn? Seriously, who?

 

Cal’s general movement has improved since the previous game, particularly his dodge move, with it being quicker and more responsive, making combat a lot smoother. Cal’s five lightsaber stances, all with their own skill trees, along with an expanded collection of Force abilities, help to further spice up the combat. The single lightsaber and double-bladed lightsaber stances return from the previous game, and the dual wield lightsabers, blaster and lightsaber combo, and crossguard (greatsword) lightsaber stances make up the rest, and all stances have their own uses in different combat situations and will cater to many different playstyles since they all have their own varied levels of damage output, speed, reach, and defense (affects the block meter). Many gamers will likely want to focus on two stances and master them fully. I tried giving roughly equal time to all stances (but largely preferred the single and double-bladed), and being a bit of a completionist, I had acquired more than enough skill points before the end of the game to buy all combat and Force techniques. The one slight disappointment for me regarding the different stances is that Cal can only equip two of them at a time and has to visit a save point or workbench in order to switch to other stances. Being able to switch between all stances on the fly (like you can with Dante’s four combat Styles in Devil May Cry 4 and 5) would have been preferable; Cal could have had a real “Swiss Army Lightsaber” thing going on there.

A couple other minor things that I was somewhat disappointed with in this game were the companion system and the lack of screen time Cal had with his friends from Fallen Order. Before this game was released, it was shown how Cal could team up with companions at certain times during his journey, namely old ally Merrin and new ally Bode Akuna. While Cal does indeed fight alongside them at times, it was nowhere close to the same degree as the way companions worked in the newer God of War titles, as an example. Bode only accompanies Cal during specific set-pieces and one boss battle in the main story, while Merrin gets more team-up time with Cal by automatically accompanying him in certain areas of one of the larger planets you can visit. Still, the majority of Cal’s time will be spent solo when exploring planets and even during most main missions. The option to have Bode or Merrin accompany Cal before leaving the hub areas in Koboh and other main planet Jedha would have been a nice feature to include. I also felt like Cal didn’t have enough on-screen time with fan-favorite love interest Merrin and particularly with his master Cere. While he does have his moments with those characters, it didn’t seem like quite enough to really drive home how important they are to Cal (plus, Merrin is too good of a character who deserved more focus in the main plot and felt strangely sidelined for a good chunk of this game).

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review
Matching outfits: the cornerstone of any healthy and long-lasting relationship in a galaxy far, far away.

 

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is an improvement over Fallen Order in pretty much every way. It doesn’t blow its predecessor out of the water, but its improvements in all aspects over what was already a damn good game make this a great game, in my opinion. Puzzles are more challenging, and even the exciting and explosive set-pieces in this game were at least at the same level or better than the ones in Fallen Order (definitely better than that one extremely irritating set-piece where Cal has to tangle with a large bat creature in mid-air). Apparently, many gamers are still experiencing technical issues with this game, particularly on PC, so hopefully they’ll be ironed out in due time since all fans of Star Wars (at least those that are also into gaming) should give this game a whirl.

Developer: Respawn Entertainment

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC

Release Date: 28th April 2023

 

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