Star Wars Jedi Survivor

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Shows More Can Be Less

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is the kind of sequel that takes a good game and adds more. Of what? Of everything. More characters, more powers, more side activites and collectables. Being able to build upon the characters, mechanics and engine tech established by the first game has allowed developer Respawn to go fairly wild with new additions but, like an ageing Lucrehulk battleship lying in a swamp, Survivor begins to strain under its own weight.

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For the uninitiated, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a third-person action-adventure game by Respawn Entertainment and a sequel to 2019’s Jedi: Fallen Order. Jedi Knight Cal Kestis returns as the protagonist, having made peace with his trauma in the previous game just in time to receive a whole load more. Lightsaber combat and environmental puzzles make up the bulk of the gameplay, with collectable hunting providing a motivation to revisit previous levels with new abilities, metroid-vania style. Chasing collectables usually rewards cosmetics or one of several currencies to buy them, or else additional skill points to develop Cal’s combat abilities.

Those who passed on the first game might wonder if it’s necessary to start this one, and generally the answer is no. While the recap cutscene is a little disjointed, most of the details can be picked up either from context, conversations or the game’s lore encyclopedia. However, if you’re interested in this game at all, you might as well play them in order, since Survivor is mostly more of what Fallen Order did well.

Star Wars Jedi Survivor

Lets address the Bantha in the room: performance. If you’ve followed the game at all, or perhaps even if you haven’t, you’ve likely heard of the huge performance issues many have had with the game. Performance was bad enough that Respawn and EA felt compelled to release a statement. Mercifully, I was spared any significant performance issues and the game ran at a pretty consistent 60 FPS on an AMD Ryzen 5 5600X processor and a Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU, likely helped by the post-launch patches. That said, friends and colleagues have still had significant issues with machines both more and less powerful than mine, so be aware that the game’s technical problems are far from fixed.

What I have encountered, however, are lots of bugs and glitches. Scrambled texutres, weird pathing to interactables and misaligned props. Several dramatic entrances or flourishes were somewhat ruined by props popping in and out of position and scenes handling an important macguffin were undercut by said macguffin floating an inch out of a character’s hand, no force tricks required. There was the time I force pushed a stormtrooper through a locked door once, nearly locking me from progressing since doors cannot be unlocked during combat, or the time enemies just declined to spawn into the area, leading to many non-sequiter lines about imperial patrols when there were no patrols to be seen. Some kind of advanced stealth tactic, I suppose.

When it works, however, the combat is a lot of fun. Blaster bolts rebound off your saber with satisfying force, a single swing cleaves weaker foes in twain and throwing armored thugs into Star Wars‘ ubiquitous bottomless pits will never not be a thrill. Most fights against grunts and ranged enemies ask not can you beat them but how do you want to beat them. A fight is a canvas and your array of lightsaber styles, force powers and acrobatics are the paint. The tougher melee enemies and bosses, however, can sometimes be less enjoyable. One-on-One fights work well enough, with the parries, blocks and pattern learning reminiscent of a soulslike, but when multiple melee foes gang up on you it falls apart somewhat. They tend to attack all at once, leaving few openings to attack and many of the tougher foes are resistant to your crowd-controlling force powers. Unblockables come thick and fast, with no warning for off-screen attacks and you can still take damage while knocked down. It becomes less like a Souls game and more like the Arkham combat system, but without the tightness of control that either of those games have. It ends up feeling sticky and sluggish, especially compared to recent titles like Wo Long.

Star Wars Jedi Survivor

Screenshot via Siliconera

While many of the puzzles are solid and intuitive, the platforming can begin to feel a little rote. The game begins to lean on the wall-running sections and grapple points as they impart a better sense of momentum than the slow shimmy across ledges. Many of the new gadgets are interesting but often feel like keys for opening specific doors, rather than new tools for interacting with the world. The Koboh Matter sprayer, for example, is only useful when theres Koboh Matter and a special kind of laser present. There’s no real wider usage for it other than that specific puzzle set up.

As for the story, it continues a lot of the themes from the previous game: family lost and found, overcoming trauma and carving out a space for yourself in the midst of a hopeless struggle. The main plot concerns the hunt for Tanalorr, a planet isolated from the rest of the galaxy and therefore safe from the Empire. Like Fallen Order, a lot of it boils down to a macguffin chase but this time there’s a lot less immediate threat. The antagonist is bad, but his plan isn’t “hunt down and kill or indoctrinate children bad”. A let up on scale isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the last thing Star Wars as a franchise needs is more power level one-upmanship, but for a game called ‘Survivor’ it often feels a lot less dire. When stakes do get raised, it’s due to twists and turns that don’t feel totally organic to the main plot.

Where the game really indulges, however, is in the side activities. There are bounty hunts, rooftop gardening, and even a holographic arena you can use to pit enemies you’ve scanned against each other. If you’ve ever wondered who would win in a fight, an AT-ST or 30 alien birds, this ones for you. On top of that theres a huge amount of collectable scrolls, disks, seeds, and ores all with their own vendors and cosmetic rewards. Lightsaber customisation returns, but other cosmetic options have also increased. You can now pick out an entire outfit for Cal, including facial hair.  My Cal ended up looking like he plays drums for the Modal Nodes, when he’s not fighting against bandits, droids and oppressive space empires.

The problem with this huge influx of side content is that it feels like it becomes the focus of the game. Where before the side activities were just little bonuses to go back after the story for, here they’re the main attraction. And that’s fine on its own! But when the story is trying to tell a story of desperation trauma, it doesn’t totally align. If anything, this almost resonates with the themes more. Maybe the real Tanalorr was the smorgasbord of new hobbies Cal picked up along the way.

Ultimately, whether Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is for you will depend on how much you liked the first game. As much as it builds on the first game in terms of size and scope, it doesn’t feel like it’s going in any new direction. It’s more of what was good about the last game, a second helping of a meal you already know you like. That’s not to damn it with faint praise, it’s an enjoyable game with a lot of content, but there’s no new angle that the previous game didn’t cover already. Add to that the technical instability and it’s hard to recommend this over Fallen Order unless you’ve already beaten that and want more.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is immediately available on PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X.

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Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

The story of Cal Kestis continues in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor™, a third-person, galaxy-spanning, action-adventure game from Respawn Entertainment, developed in collaboration with Lucasfilm Games. This narratively driven, single-player title picks up 5 years after the events of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order™ and follows Cal’s increasingly desperate fight as the galaxy descends further into darkness. Pushed to the edges of the galaxy by the Empire, Cal will find himself surrounded by threats new and familiar. As one of the last surviving Jedi Knights, Cal is driven to make a stand during the galaxy’s darkest times — but how far is he willing to go to protect himself, his crew, and the legacy of the Jedi Order? PC version reviewed.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a fun game packed with things to do, but that scale ends up to the detriment of telling its story.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
  • A good amount of bizarrely named Star Wars creatures, my favourite being the majestic Spamel.
  • The map highlighting locked doors and obstacles for you to return to later is a godsend.
  • Battle droids and their dorky chatter are way too endearing. Please stop making me slaughter them.
  • The Shattered Moon reminds me of some of my favourite Ratchet and Clank levels.

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Author
Elliot Gostick
Elliot is a staff writer from the mist-shrouded isle of Albion, and has been covering gaming news and reviews for about a year. When not playing RPGs and Strategy games, she is often found trying (and failing) to resist the urge to buy more little plastic spacemen.