Respawn laid solid groundwork for a new AAA-Star Wars series with 2019’s Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, creating a likeable new protagonist and crew with strong adventure gameplay inspired by some of the greats, and set it in an era of the franchise relatively unexplored. Jedi Survivor comes hot off the heels of Fallen Order, a scant three years since that game’s release in 2019, yet it builds upon the first game in massive ways, making for a sequel that not only carves out a unique identity for the series, but satisfies as a truly rewarding experience.
Cameron Monaghan’s Cal Kestis remains the protagonist of Jedi Survivor, although his rag-tag group of friends are now far flung, having separated following internal friction after the first game’s events. Cal finds himself still fighting the good fight in the period between the Star Wars prequels and the Original Trilogy, as the Empire expands its presence throughout the galaxy and Cal can’t help but feel his efforts to resist them are just a losing battle. However, after a raid on the Empire goes poorly, Cal not only finds himself in need of getting the band back together, but getting drawn into a whole new adventure, one which ties heavily into the ancient High Republic era which Lucasfilm has been recently developing, as well as his own feelings about the Jedi Order.
The inclusion of the High Republic could very easily have tipped the narrative into full-bore into lore-heavy fan-service, but it’s all woven in very deftly, providing an element of mystery that aids in enticing you in one of the game’s major themes of exploration. Jedi Survivor is home to several planets, some smaller than others, and one absolutely huge one, which are home not just to branching paths and parkour challenges, but wide-open natural spaces. While many games with open maps can feel bloated, Jedi Survivor thankfully justifies its scope with landscapes brimming with rewards and little things to discover. Where there are large wide open plains, Jedi Survivor is still keen to provide you with methods of transportation to cross them quickly, with a range of unusual looking mounts. Rewards range from useful items like skill points or vital stim-canister upgrades, but also amusingly more frequent (but welcome) cosmetic changes like new outfits and hairstyles.
Just about everything is customisable about Cal Kestis, from his haircut, facial hair, jacket, shirt, pants, every part of his droid-buddy BD-1, and every single component of his lightsaber. You’ve got a great deal of control over everything, from colours to condition and wear-and-tear, and the range of options has some great stuff in there, like a real ratbag mullet-and-handlebar moustache combo.
Jedi Fallen Order felt very much like Respawn’s take on the Dark Souls formula, with Cal able to rest at ‘meditation points’ around each planet that act as respawn points both for you and any rank-and-file enemies you’ve taken down. When you rest and recharge your health and stim packs, bosses won’t return, but every other enemy will, making repetition necessary as you train yourself to better complete each level. Jedi Survivor feels more like it has its own identity, with a difficulty curve that never feels as sharp or punishing as a Souls game, and rest spots adequately doled out. Puzzles not only revolve around Cal’s Jedi abilities, using the force to push and pull objects for interest, but also interweave his parkour abilities (such as running along walls and a newly-acquired grapple mechanic) as well as at-times careful observation and use of the environment. While hints are available through BD-1, most of these puzzles are enjoyable enough to solve on their own terms, with only one groan-worthy one I found that had a solution in a different area of the map.
Combat this time around feels far more open to experimentation. Cal can equip two ‘stances’ to switch between at any time, including a standard all-around single lightsaber stance, to a crowd-control Darth Maul-esque double lightsaber stance, a parry-based dual wield stance, and a couple more secret ones which are unlocked through the journey which provide both options for ranged attacks and high-damage (but slow) swings. Jedi Survivor is also more keen to throw enemies at you with comparable abilities to Cal, not necessarily just droids, stormtroopers and monsters, but also folk with lightsabers, providing far more interesting duels. Cal can not only block, parry and dodge, but he’s also quite nimble with vertical attacks, force abilities and even a literal stop-gap solution that can slow time for him to get out of more serious jams. Jedi Survivor provides a challenge that never feels unfair, but Cal never feels underpowered either, hitting a sweet spot in terms of difficulty on the regular setting.
Like many Metroidvania-esque games, you’ll also frequently come across pathways or puzzles blocked by impassable barriers, impassable that is until you’ve found the correct power-up to traverse them. While some have solutions not far away, there’s also quite a few that require significant backtracking later in the game, although this never feels like too much of a chore, thanks to the aforementioned generous rest points which allow for fast travel across the map. You’ll also meet quite a lot of characters during your journey, some of which will have proper side-missions for you to engage with in the form of ‘rumors’, which might point out a location of interest or a potential unknown path on the map, leading to a reward.
The rumor side-missions are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to extra activities, as Jedi Survivor‘s expanded cast can also be invited to Cal’s new home base hideout, the Pyloon Saloon, which is constantly upgraded based on your exploration. You can find a salty old fisherman to build and populate the bar’s aquarium, a droid DJ with an expandable list of music, an actually somewhat accurate re-creation of Star Wars‘ holo chess with its own unlockable rewards, and even an expansive gardening mini-game. None of this you need to engage with to enjoy the game or finish its main story, but it’s all also enjoyable in its own right, and provides some great distraction from the larger problems of the galaxy.
Jedi Survivor can pull out some amazing visuals, particularly running in 4K, with sunset vistas over desert planets, shattered moons and even a prequel-accurate version of Coruscant. At launch, technical issues do mar some of the enjoyment extracted from the great design work going on, from minor issues like T-posing as Cal changes outfits in the menus, to larger ones like HDR seeming not to work, frame-rate drops on Quality mode and a surprisingly low-resolution when playing on Performance mode. These are issues that Respawn is likely to address in future updates, and it is important to note that I only had one bug that actually affected my ability to play the game, with a crash during a fast travel load.
I’m really happy to report that Jedi Survivor has everything you’d want from a Star Wars game: a rich story with plenty of twists (some more signalled than others), weird and wonderful planets and a lot of really cool Jedi abilities to experiment with. It’s also just a really satisfying adventure experience in its own right, with exploration encouraged through rewards, charming characters and interesting locations and challenges, that all ties in deftly with the main narrative. Star Wars: Jedi Survivor takes everything that worked in Fallen Order and gives this series an identity that grows beyond its influences, into something that all Star Wars fans should fall in love with.
This review of Star Wars: Jedi Survivor is based on review code provided by EA Games on Xbox Series X.
– Brilliant adventure gameplay entices players to explore each of Jedi Survivor's detail-packed worlds – Combat has evolved from Fallen Order to become its own unique and satisfying experience – Constantly rewarding, not only in fun side-activities but cosmetics and upgrades
– At launch, technical issues mar some of the enjoyment