Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Preview – The Force is Strong With This One
When Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was released in 2019, some of the best Star Wars-related games we were getting around that time were crossovers with Lego. The game changed how a Star Wars game could be from a gameplay and narrative standpoint and blew me away. Developer Respawn continues to craft their blending of action platformer with the follow-up Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
After playing 3 hours of the game and exploring the various locals of the planet Koboh, it’s evident that everything that worked about Fallen Order has returned. Still, Survivor pushes the gameplay systems to new levels as it seemingly strives to be this generation’s best Star Wars game.
During my time with Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Cal Kestis has just crashed on the planet of Koboh following a complicated mission from the game’s opening. He’s now searching for Greez to help fix the crashed Mantis and get information about his mission. The planet of Koboh is rife with discoveries, many of which will shape Cal’s journey ahead. Where the first entry has Cal struggling with his Jedi abilities, we get a much more confident version of the lead, but plenty of dangers lie ahead, which will test his connection with the force.
I won’t spoil the story for anyone, but I will say that the writing is of movie-level quality. As I experienced each story beat, I felt immersed in Cal’s mission and did my best to bring my skills to the game because plenty of challenging encounters were just around the corner. That said, players can choose from five difficulty options that affect various aspects of the action, including parry timing, dodge, and overall challenge.
So let’s focus on gameplay. Cal can equip two battle stances out of the five available, Single, Double-bladed, Dual Wield, Crossguard, and Blaster. These stances dictate how Cal wields his lightsaber, and each has its own skill tree to unlock new abilities and ways to approach combat. Respawn has players use almost every button on a controller when in combat, depending on how you fight. Shoulder buttons are tied to Force abilities and Parrying, while you have the face buttons dedicated to light and strong attacks and dodging.
It takes a little while to get comfortable, but once you understand the abilities, you have access to, which there are many, it’s easy to chain together attacks and look cool as hell doing it. Interestingly, some attacks require you to hold down a button press in anticipation of attacks. This creates various builds for players to customize their experience with either Offensive or Defensive builds.
I would describe the overall environmental experience as Metroidvania meets Dark Souls, but Star Wars Jedi: Survivor brings some unique systems that differentiate it from those titles and its predecessor. The planet of Koboh is massive, allowing players to explore large areas with branching paths that lead to optional missions or small discoveries. Even though I was on a timer during my experience, I couldn’t help but be distracted by points of interest around the map and put some time into seeing more of this game.
However, your approach to it is up to you. There will be moments when you’ll need a particular skill, so you’ll have to return, but I never found myself confused about my next destination. This is probably because the map has been updated significantly to properly show where you are and where you can and cannot go, and there’s Fast Travel. Further, trials lie scattered around the map, which will test your puzzle-solving and force abilities to make it through.
There’s an additional trial known as the Fractured, where Cal is put through a time trial, and players will need to understand the trial’s gimmick to get through the end. Everything you do is rewarded, from stat upgrades to cosmetics for Cal and BD-1. Further, exploration is enhanced with the option to tame creatures that lend to additional ways of navigating the environment.
Graphically, I think Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is gorgeous. While I encountered some areas of frame drops, my experience with the game made me more in awe of the architecture and design of each area, enemy encounter, and stage design. Of course, having a pretty game is one thing, but using game design to guide players through the levels without coming off as handholding and allowing them to discover the path on their own shows how skilled this team is at crafting these exquisite playgrounds.
There are various NPCs met throughout the world who offer side quests, but their overall design appears a little stiff. Regardless, the missions seemed focused on showing off more of the level, with one even including an encounter with Ranco. There’s a sense of freedom while navigating that I hope makes its way into the other planets I have yet to experience.
The opening moments highlight Star Wars Jedi: Survivor’s dedication to providing a true Star Wars adventure to players, but it also provides a genuinely stellar gameplay experience. However you approach exploration, you will surely have a thrilling time in this world. Everything has been refined in this release, from menu systems to combat.
I look forward to discovering how Star Wars Jedi: Survivor evolves across the galaxy and to other locations when it launches on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and PC on April 28, 2023.
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