|Genre||Action RPG, Metroidvania|
|Platforms||PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC (reviewed on PS5)|
|Release Date||April 28, 2023|
In November of 2019, EA and Respawn shocked the gaming world by releasing a Star Wars game that was actually good. In a period where the future of the gaming franchise was very much in question—remember the Battlefront 2 launch?—it was a comfort to many to know that a good Star Wars game was still possible. Jedi Fallen Order went on to earn accolades and high-scoring reviews (we gave it a perfect 10/10), and it quickly became one of my favorite Star Wars games ever. I don’t know if any previous franchise entry has given me such an immense, immersive feeling of being in a Star Wars movie before. Jedi Fallen Order felt like an incredible launching point for a series, and fans were eager for a sequel. That sequel—Jedi Survivor—is here, and it arrives with questions. Can Respawn hit gold twice in a row? Did they improve the formula, keep it exactly the same, or make it worse? And what in the world is Cal’s obsession with ponchos?
Jedi Survivor not only lives up to its predecessor, but it improves on its formula in many areas, at times feeling as if this is the game Jedi Fallen Order should have been. Sporting a very well-crafted Star Wars story, next-gen graphics, epic boss fights, and a plethora of side content to explore, Jedi Survivor is a game that I can easily recommend. It’s not without flaws, and EA did majorly fumble the launch of the game, but as a final package, Jedi Survivor doesn’t disappoint those looking for more lightsaber-swinging action.
Jedi Survivor is fairly light on spiritual themes outside of “being Star Wars,” and one specific character. The Star Wars universe has always been inherently spiritual, based on its incorporation of The Force in its stories, and Jedi Survivor is no different. Characters speak of placing trust in the Force and of the Force guiding affairs in the universe. People speak from beyond the grave by way of the Force.
Jedi Survivor includes a character who is a Night Sister, who can also be spiritually problematic. The Night Sisters, for those unaware, were a clan of Force users from the planet Dathomir. This group has always been explicitly written and portrayed as the “witches” of the Star Wars universe, and their visual use of the Force can come across as very occult and arcane. The character in Jedi Survivor uses the Force in the same way, and it could be problematic for some players.
Jedi Survivor contains lots of fast, violent combat and a not insignificant amount of dismemberment via lightsaber. Thankfully, it’s “tastefully” done, in the aspect that the only combatants who ever get dismembered or cut in half are droids. The humanoids and monsters are spared any loss of appendages, but they are still dispatched rather violently at times. There is no blood or gore during combat.
Jedi Survivor’s worst offense is that you see two people kissing.
There is infrequent cursing in the game, including hell, d*mn, and b****rd.
One of the focal points of the game is a saloon, where you can talk to the bartender and make conversation with people while they’re enjoying their drinks. The alcohol is never the focal point, you never see people drunk, and you yourself never drink anything.
Misc. Content Thoughts
Jedi Survivor was almost a very family-friendly video game. Unfortunately, it’s violent combat and use of cursing make it impossible to recommend for the padawans in the audience.
At its heart, Star Wars has always been about people and their journeys through life in a dangerous, vast, breath-taking galaxy. Jedi Survivor absolutely nails this core aspect in many ways, but nowhere better than in the storytelling and writing.
[spoilers ahead; skip the next paragraph if you’d rather go into the game completely blind]
Jedi Survivor throws us five years into the future from where we left Cal and gang in the previous game. Cal, now flying solo and still working with Saw Gerrera to stick it to the Empire, barely escapes an operation on Coruscant. The Mantis is in great need of repair, so Cal half-lands-half-crashes on the remote planet of Koboh, where he heard Greez has made himself a home. While attempting to find a part to repair their spacecraft, Cal and BD-1 unknowingly release a long-dormant threat from the High Republic of the Jedi. Upon realizing what he’s done, Cal goes on a quest to get the band back together to save Koboh and the galaxy at large.
[spoilers are over now]
The writers of Jedi Survivor did a phenomenal job of giving us an epic, high-stakes overarching plot line, while interweaving lots of smaller, very human stories within its larger fabric. Issues such as fatigue, betrayal, friendship, personal journey, and loss are all dealt with, and not only does the writing do it justice, but the voice acting is phenomenal. It’s been a very long time since I’ve played a game where I wanted to listen to every single line of dialogue, even from side characters.
The side characters and side stories are one of Jedi Survivor’s strongest points, and it all revolves around Pyloon’s Saloon, a dive that Greez came in possession of through somewhat dubious means. When you first arrive on Koboh, there are hardly any patrons in the Saloon, the place is run down, and it feels like a dump. But as you progress the story and explore the various planets, you can recruit people to Pyloon’s Saloon in various capacities, from a music DJ to a gardener to a very feisty fisherman who helps with the gigantic fish tank. There’s even a person who sets up a holotactics table, unlocking an autochess minigame! As you recruit people, the bar’s patronage grows and you get to hear more about the lives of the people who inhabit this backwater planet and why they’re here. This slow progression over the course of the game was surprisingly fulfilling, and I found myself absently walking through the Saloon all the time, picking up snatches of idle conversation or chatting with many of the side characters to see how they were doing. This was also a very convenient way of picking up side quests and hints on where to find side quests, but it did make me feel like all my efforts were doing some good, and having people in the bar congratulate me on things I was doing in the story felt wholesome.
For those who haven’t played Jedi Fallen Order, I felt that the writers made an intentional decision to make the story in Jedi Survivor as accessible and understandable as possible without needing to play the first game, and they did a good job of it. You might not get the full effect of the storytelling without certain knowledge of the first game, but Jedi Survivor is very playable and enjoyable on its own.
At its core, Jedi Survivor, like its predecessor, is a 3D metroidvania with a Souls-like combat system. The gameplay loop is full of platforming, combat, puzzles, and exploration, with the goal of finding abilities, collectibles, and upgrades. I had small issues with both platforming and combat, and its exploration and “collect-a-thon” aspects, while fun, won’t be for everyone.
The platforming in Jedi Survivor is greatly improved from that in the first game: there are more options, the platforming feels much smoother, and the controls are less clunky. There were multiple times that I couldn’t help but grin as I was seamlessly wall-running, double-jumping, and grapple-hooking around, feeling like a Jedi from the movies. However, traversal in the game does have a few issues for me. First, Jedi Survivor’s implementation of a “glider” could have been much better. In the game, there are flying animals that you can use to get down from high places or cross large gaps. The controls while in the air are *terrible* and make no sense, and I cringed every time I was required to use one of these. Jedi Survivor also frustrated me because you don’t learn all platforming/traversal abilities until you’re 85% of the way through the main story, at which point, personally, I don’t want to backtrack to find everything I missed. I wish all abilities had been unlocked far sooner, to allow for more exploration potential.
The combat in Jedi Survivor is much improved from that in Jedi Fallen Order: it is smoother, faster, and it affords more options. If you didn’t like the style of combat in the first game, that isn’t changed at all; it is still very Souls-like, in the fact that it can be fast, it can feel very heavy, and it can be punishing of mistakes. However, Jedi Survivor has a new difficulty level, Story Mode, that makes all enemies hit like a wet noodle and fall to your lightsaber like a sheet of paper, so players that just want to experience the game and not stress will find this a welcome addition. Or, for those masochists out there, Jedi Grand Master difficulty still exists, where the parry windows are tiny and even the lowliest of enemies hits like a truck. Why aren’t you just playing Elden Ring at that point?
In retrospect, the boss fights in Jedi Survivor were one of my favorite parts. They had unique, grand settings, they felt like boss fights, the music was appropriately epic, and they all had very unique move sets, both offense and defense, that you had to learn in order to succeed. None of them felt like a copy/paste of a previous boss. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the common enemies throughout the game, and even many of the rarer ones you find while exploring and completing side quests. In my experience—playing on the Jedi Knight difficulty—the game was very prone later in the game to substituting “higher difficulty” with “throwing more enemies at you,” instead of making the individual enemies better and harder. I was particularly disappointed by a string of side-quests that has you tracking down and eliminating bounty hunters after your head, because none of them were in the least bit challenging or interesting in combat.
One other combat-related item of note is Companions. During certain portions of the game, you have a “party member” fighting beside you, who you can direct to a certain degree. In theory, this sounds great, but in practice, it felt a bit gimmicky and half-baked. It didn’t feel like an actual improvement to combat at any point.
Talking about Jedi Survivor’s side content, exploration, and collectibles could potentially be divisive, because it’s going to be a personal take, and it could potentially sound like “old man yelling at clouds.” Your mileage may vary. I found that Jedi Survivor’s side content had a good amount and variety, and I loved exploring these vast, alien worlds they gave us. However, I found the rewards for doing this side content were severely lacking. Regarding Jedi Survivor’s collectibles, the journey was far better than the destination, because the overwhelming majority of the rewards were simply cosmetics, and the non-cosmetic rewards did not make up for it. I have no desire to put a lot of time and effort into getting a new haircut or pair of pants for Cal, or a new lightsaber handle, or a different color scheme for BD-1. Imagine buying a beautiful, expensive Advent Calendar for Christmas, only to discover that it only contains pictures of candy each day. That’s what Jedi Survivor’s side content ended up feeling like.
Graphics and Visual Design
Jedi Survivor is one of the first fully next-gen games to release this year, only available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. It takes full advantage of this fact, and looks absolutely gorgeous…when it works. More on that in a minute.
Visual design has always been a strong suit of Star Wars, and Jedi Survivor continues this tradition. All of the planets you visit are highly-detailed and lush, and they feel alien. I think Jedi Survivor might have my favorite depiction of the Coruscant underworld in any Star Wars media, ever. The aliens and monsters are all visually unique and interesting, if sometimes gruesome or grotesque. Even the plant life truly made me feel like I was on another planet. I truly enjoyed a level of detail and an attention to detail that spoke to people that truly care about the Star Wars universe and its fans.
The game’s graphical performance, on the other hand, is a mixed bag, at times blowing you away, and at times blowing your console or PC away. From the first initial hours of launch, there were reports of horrendous performance across the board, but especially on PC, and everything pointed to a product that had been rushed out the door. There were hard crashes–I experienced three while playing on the PS5–and progress-halting bugs that caused the internet to do its thing and crucify EA and Respawn. The game truly does look amazing when it’s running well, and it’s a shame that people had a terrible first impression because of a mis-managed launch. Let me be very clear here: I do not blame Respawn, because software devs are normally acutely aware of problems with their products. EA is entirely to blame for pushing the launch of an un-finished product, hoping that the angry masses would in time be soothed by regular patches. Only time will tell if their gambit pays off.
Jedi Survivor: when it hits, it hits hard and knocks it out of the park, but when it misses, it makes itself look silly. I enjoyed my time with the game, and I hope we get a third game in this series; Respawn hasn’t failed us yet on its single-player titles (just give me Titanfall 3 please if you’re reading this). I did have problems with the game, but I highly recommend Jedi Survivor for its story and visuals alone. This experience was crafted by people who get Star Wars, and that oozes throughout the game. It’s good fun, and parts of it will stick with you for a long, long time.
The Bottom Line
Jedi Survivor not only lives up to its predecessor, but it improves on its formula in many areas, at times feeling as if this is the game Jedi Fallen Order *should* have been.