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Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Image via Electronic Arts.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review | A Powerful Epic for a More Civilized Age

It's over Fallen Order! Survivor has the high ground.

Five years have passed for Cal Kestis and nearly just as much time has passed for all of us as we’ve eagerly awaited to see where the young Jedi ended up after completing his quest for the Holocron. In that time, a lot more has happened than some red whiskers growing on Cal’s face. While the young Jedi was out battling the Empire on his own terms, we were watching a new era of Star Wars unfold within Disney.

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Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a more realized Metroidvania action-adventure package for Cal that reflects the change in direction Disney and Lucasfilm have taken for the franchise in the last few years. There’s more action, more drama, more exploration, and of course, more lightsabers. But Jedi need to be light on their feet, and sometimes too much bloat can hold them back.

Sequels can make or break where a story or a game is headed. It’s the point where a title either loses its identity or does just enough to rise above the predecessor and leave some identity behind. While Cal figures out who he is as a young Jedi, so too does the Star Wars Jedi series. Some dark side temptations exist within Survivor, but the developers clearly continued to pull the game back on its intended path.

What’s Old is New in the Star Wars Renaissance

When Fallen Order was released back in 2019, it was at a time when Star Wars was on a downtrend. The Rise of Skywalker was right around the corner with some rough trailers and the community was still split over The Last Jedi. Somehow Palpatine returned, robbed all the fans of their lunch money at the theater, and ended the Sequel saga. In that timeframe, there were two heroes that saved Disney’s Star Wars.

Those heroes were Cal and The Mandalorian. This was the start of the change in Disney’s content philosophy, and it was apparent right away that Fallen Order and The Mandalorian were utilizing the parts of the franchise all fans loved. To name just a few examples in Fallen Order, there are tons of Order 66 references, visits to Dathomir, classic Stormtrooper chatter, an Obi-Wan cameo message, and the list goes on.


“Now Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is taking the first lightsaber jab at an era that has remained unseen.”


At the time, fans loved it, and it was a breath of fresh air to see the parts of Star Wars that we all collectively love, rather than the products of the sequels that clearly dropped the Huttball.

Fast forward to Cal growing as a Jedi from Fallen Order to Survivor. In those years, we saw more of The Mandalorian, the return of Ahsoka, Luke as he should be, Boba Fett, an Obi-Wan series, and more animated entries. Why is this important? Because Disney succeeded with this plan and they used up what was left on the moisture farm. It’s time for them to move on and they’ve confirmed as much. That brings us to the High Republic.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor relies heavily on characters from the time of the High Republic, which is a few centuries before the events of the game. Canon television and films have left this part of the lore alone for decades. Now Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is taking the first lightsaber jab at an era that has remained unseen.

While the lore that’s being used is technically much older than what we’re used to, it’s a fresh coat of paint that allows the narrative in Jedi Survivor to really carve a unique spot out in the galaxy, rather than follow the same safe path from Fallen Order. This unique spot is what allows the game to flourish.

Trust Only in the Force… And Lightsabers

Now that Star Wars: Jedi Survivor has force pushed the way open for unexplored eras in the galaxy, there is access to a whole array of weapons and abilities for Cal to utilize. Fallen Order is all about the standard Jedi teachings, which means abilities we would expect most of them to use. To survive those five years, Cal had to adapt, and he has to adapt even further to take on threats from another age.


“Cal wields the Crossguard Lightsaber like he’s fighting for his freedom in Braveheart.”


The game revolves around five lightsaber stances. Everyone will recognize the single-blade stance, which was standard in Fallen Order and is largely the same in Survivor. Then you have the double-bladed stance, and this time it’s the real deal. Cal wields the double-bladed saber like a 10-year old at Target in the first game, but now he’s a true master, and he could easily rival Darth Maul.

On top of those two stances, you’ll have access to Dual Wield, a Blaster and Saber combo, and the Crossguard. Of the five, the Crossguard is by far the most creative, and another byproduct of the willingness to expand beyond the standard lore alone. Cal wields the Crossguard Lightsaber like he’s fighting for his freedom in Braveheart. Damage is the name of the game and throwing brutal, heavy swings to break guards with full power is unmatched.

Pair all these stances with new abilities that also go off the beaten Jedi path of the Force, and you have a recipe for gameplay that is addicting, to say the least. I found myself doing far more flips and well-timed chained attacks in Survivor when compared to Fallen Order. I could jump and slash a Rancor in one moment, then force slam five enemies at a time in the next. This game truly allows Cal to fight like a Jedi rather than a Dark Souls character with a lightsaber in hand.

Cal’s Path is as Enthralling as Ever

Gameplay aside, much of the appeal of any Star Wars game is the narrative. When compared to the first game, I saw a few similarities and plenty of welcome differences that separate the arcs. Cere has found peace and purpose while it’s Cal that will now struggle with his anger. I don’t have to say any more for you to know that could eventually lead to “Master Kestis, there’s too many of them,” if left unchecked.

That’s not the main theme, though. The story largely follows the crew of the Mantis once again after years of change following the events of Fallen Order, which already had developed each member a substantial amount. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor allows us to see these characters as they become adults and how they handle temptation or danger without guidance. Left unchecked, it could mold Cal, or it could lead him to ruin. He’s more powerful than ever and he begins to see where that’s brought him.

Add the struggles that Cal Kestis has to another space epic based around the High Republic remnants of the Jedi Order, and we have a unique Star Wars story that continues themes we universally associate with the franchise. The Mantis Crew has to face legends from an entirely different age with fleshed-out motivations of their own. The mixture leads to intriguing story beats and plenty of intense sequences between protagonists and antagonists. By the end, I wanted to grab some seat for more than a few hours at a time, but it was a force at times to get there.

The Journey is as Important as the Destination

Half of Jedi Survivor is some of the best Star Wars I’ve experienced in general, and the other half had me feeling like I was stuck in the tar pits on Koboh. Pacing is by far the largest issue in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. It might sound like a small problem on the surface, but it affects most of the first half of the game.

It takes a while for the narrative to really pick up after the first hour, and many of the characters’ motivations feel weak. After the first hour, Cal loses his brand new team, and then he kind of just moves on because he remembered he had a different team. For hours after that, Cal essentially is visiting some old friends when he happens to come across information about a hidden planet called Tanalorr: The premise of the full game.


“Those who can get beyond the first part of Survivor will be met with hours of content that surpass anything seen in Fallen Order.”


Narrative tar pits are one thing, but the story starts to pick up quickly after the first Tanalorr revelation. It’s the gameplay pacing that’s even more painful in many sections. There are simply way too many climbing sequences. You will spend hours simply climbing up walls, running on walls, then climbing up another wall so you can climb on the roof that leads to a wall. When you reach the end of that wall and swing off a ledge, there will probably be a puzzle that requires more climbing.

It’s not until you get the ability to dash in the air that climbing feels somewhat fun and much more like a real part of the gameplay. However, that won’t be until nearly halfway through Jedi Survivor. I could feel the worst of the slog just before unlocking the dash. The Jedha level felt as if there were four climbing sequences and four puzzles for every small fight I had with a group of droids or Stormtroopers. Then I would go on and do another ten minutes of climbing or puzzles.

Because of the new semi-open world design, the linear level design certainly suffered. The pacing of climbing and puzzles to combat felt far more balanced in Fallen Order. And because the combat in Jedi Survivor feels a bit more action-heavy, some sequences feel cheaper as well.

Better pacing would have been fantastic, especially for unlocking abilities that make movement more fun, but it’s not enough to hurt most of the game. Exploration is still a blast and the levels in the second half of the game ramp up in quality exponentially. Those who can get beyond the first part of Survivor will be met with hours of content that surpass anything seen in Fallen Order.

Is Greez Cooking Up Too Much Bloat?

One of the key differences in Jedi Survivor, when compared to Fallen Order, is the semi-open world. Rather than have levels that were similar to those found in Dark Souls games, Survivor opted for worlds that felt more like the Realms in God of War Ragnarok. They aren’t fully realized open worlds, but they are large enough to have small side quests and warrant enough space for a mount.

Having a semi-open world allows for more interesting side content and tons of secrets filled with some fun loot. Of course, there had to be an incentive for exploration, and the customization is much deeper for Cal this time. Earning new outfits or unlocking lightsaber materials is always fun. Gardening and Collecting music? Not so much.

Pyloon’s Saloon is the main hub for Cal and the Mantis crew, and as the game progresses, more characters will join the area. These characters come with stores in some cases, collection mechanics, or just some entertaining dialogue. Additions like Skoova Stev, the tiny Scottish alien shrimp with a mustache, were always worth talking to. Other than Skoove Stev or the main story characters, most of the Saloon became dull after the first few visits.

Exploring afterward is only worthwhile for items like perks or stat increases. Those areas typically include bosses as well, so the dangerous detours are worth the gameplay alone. It would have been nice to see stores and NPCs get new items as the game progresses, but that was never the case.

The amount of bloat and area expansion in Jedi Survivor doesn’t seem like it was worth the loss in level design and pacing. Performance seems to have taken a hit as well with my playthrough on the PlayStation 5 Performance Mode having frequent frame drops and visual issues. There should be some patches at the time of this writing, but a steady framerate should be expected on performance mode for consoles at this point in the generation.

It seems like Jedi Survivor would have been better off with a more linear game that focused on what it does best in narrative and gameplay. Some of the side content was great, and just as much of it could have easily been cut for a more focused experience. Again, it’s not enough to stop me from playing New Game Plus as soon as possible, but it definitely had me annoyed like it was sand.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Has the High Ground

Despite some of the flaws in world design or pacing, nearly all of the magic that was present in Fallen Order still remains. I would go a step further and say that all the gameplay has evolved for the better right along with Cal. The story had some painful twists and predictable but incredibly satisfying victories. Characters went on some amazing journeys and the game had the perfect mix of nostalgia and High Republic lore.

The gameplay is fantastic and the stances are so diverse that they could warrant different playthroughs. I can tell you I’ll be right back on Koboh trying out the Daul Wield and the Blaster Stances in full with the New Game Plus run. I want to experience the full adventure all over again. You can always skip the side content you don’t care about, though that won’t fix the pacing or sacrifices in the levels themselves.

Star Wars fan or not, Jedi Survivor is setting up the franchise for another era change that follows the lore of the High Republic as well as the Old Republic. It’s the perfect time for new fans, Star Wars nerds, or action game fanatics to jump in and follow one of the best Jedi protagonists we’ve ever seen as he matures along with the franchise.

STAR WARS JEDI: SURVIVOR

PROS:
● A top-tier Star Wars-style narrative
● The lightsaber combat goes two steps above Fallen Order’s
● World building is an exciting mix of the High Republic and nostalgic eras

CONS:
● Poor pacing in the first half of the game
● Performance problems hurt visuals and framerate
● Bloat hurts the quality of levels and combat encounters


A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PlayStation 5.


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Author
Image of Daniel Wenerowicz
Daniel Wenerowicz
Dan has been writing gaming guides, news, and features for three years after graduating with a BA in writing . You can find him covering Call of Duty for eternity, action-adventure games, and nearly any other major release.