Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review – A Must-Play Star Wars Adventure

    Title: Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
    Developer: Respawn Entertainment
    Release Date: April 28, 2023
    Reviewed On: PS5
    Publisher: Electronic Arts
    Genre: Action-Adventure

Video game sequels can be tricky when taking into consideration what fans loved about the previous entry and, at the same time, delivering a new experience with updated systems and building on the established plot. Suffice it to say, it’s impossible to satisfy everyone. Well, all that is thrown out of the window because after playing Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, I believe this is undeniably not only one of the best sequels but also one of the best action games you’ll ever play.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor occurs roughly five years after Fallen Order, continuing the story of protagonist Cal Kestis and his ongoing struggle facing the Galactic Empire. After all this time, the staple crew members of the Mantis have all gone their separate ways, with Cal managing the ship in Greez’s stead. Yet, Cal gradually begins to question the point of facing the Empire when it feels like he hasn’t made a significant dent in their reign over half a decade.

This uncertainty, while not the central focus of the entire story, plays an integral role in pushing Cal toward his newfound motivations. Honestly, I’d go so far as to call Cal a far stronger and more multi-dimensional protagonist than in Fallen Order.

In the previous game, Cal was coming to grips with his self-imposed responsibilities as a Jedi, the loneliness that arose from that, and his ineptitude as one in training. However, now that he has become more confident in himself, a few of his past troubles haunt him in new ways, causing him to tackle his problems in an equally mature yet almost somber manner.

While he retains the same enthusiasm and optimism, it begins to crack, offering an endearing and sympathetic look into his psyche. Narrative-wise, events remain engaging despite some slow pacing in the middle that prioritizes gameplay sequences. But the conclusion ramps up with twists and turns that redefine the context of everything you experienced.

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As for the rest of the returning cast, notably Merrin, Cere, and Greez, their mid-decade distance helped them embrace parts of life they always sought yet never internally found the opportunity for. Greez, for instance, has settled down and opened an establishment called Pyloon’s Saloon, which, despite being in the middle of nowhere, is a quaint, inviting locale that has become a new home for him.

In fact, this area becomes your primary hub which grows throughout the adventure. Additionally, several visitors here have stories of their own to share if you take the time to speak to them across each visit, building a genuine sense of community.

The growth and scale of this saloon and its surrounds emphasize how much bigger Survivor is than Fallen Order, alongside the countless avenues of optional content you can complete. From chasing rumors and requests spoken of by various folks of differing backgrounds to taking on combat and puzzle challenges, every open planet feels more richly populated than ever before.

Plus, as not to make exploration needlessly overwhelming, there are a few planets with more linear-based progression. Still, regardless of the planet you’re traversing, completionists will find themselves returning to them after they obtain movement upgrades.

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Unexpectedly, the movement and Metroidvania-esque area design became the factors that impressed me the most in Survivor. To elaborate, Cal gains several upgrades that fundamentally impact how you get around every locale, with my favorite being an air dash. Able to be performed at any time, using this boost to obtain additional horizontal airtime opens up a slew of satisfying and well-made parkour sequences. Further, Cal’s ever-present droid companion, BD-1, learns a few new tricks of its own, like the ability to charge distant switches with electricity. In essence, Survivor takes the strengths of what made Fallen Order‘s planets enjoyable to wander in and amplifies that collective appeal tenfold.

Also in the realm of exploration is how the area design in Survivor is unbelievably better than what its predecessor provided. Whereas Fallen Order‘s progression often felt mazelike, reinforced by the lack of fast travel, every puzzle in Survivor is intuitive, striking a masterful balance on a line where you’ll never find yourself frustrated nor believe what you’ve solved was too simple. The creativity found within these designs had me wishing for even more puzzles. And that’s a desire I’ve rarely felt from any game.

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Moreover, the thought-provoking brain teasers found in Jedi training chambers also house optional rewards for those who utilize the area’s primary gimmick and think outside the box. And there’s fast travel between rest spots now, so padding from backtracking and wasting hours on going through the entirety of a planet for a few collectibles is a dilemma of the past. Treasure chests you open now appear on the map for added convenience.

Plus, when you reach the end of the main story, you unlock a fantastic feature where the map tells you the locations of database scans you’ve missed. Everything about this menu is just so much better here, complemented by a more open-level design that makes parsing them much less frustrating.

Continuing on this train of endless improvements is the combat. In the early hours, Cal quickly gains access to five fighting stances, each tailored to evident playstyles. For instance, there’s Dual-Blade, ideal for crowd control, or the default Single-Blade, best for treading unfamiliar territory since it’s a reliable all-rounder. However, my favorite stances were two new ones; Crossguard and Blaster.

Crossguard is the slowest yet provides the greatest damage output if you can read enemies well and time your hits. Blaster, on the other hand, is the most unconventional stance, comprising a simultaneous wielding of a lightsaber and firearm. While it can take some getting used to, learning how to use these weapons together can rapidly overwhelm enemies, especially in depleting their stagger gauges. However, you must keep an eye on your ammo since its replenishment is reliant on you dealing physical damage.

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Thankfully, none of these stances ever grow dull due to the presence of the robust Skill Tree. Every stance has its own dedicated branch, as does Cal’s general survivability and his Force powers. You have quite a vast array of options here, like focusing on a specific branch or two throughout the story’s duration or trying to evenly spread out your points to ensure that every style receives equal treatment. When first beginning the game, the number of choices you can make with combat is quite hefty, a direct contrast to Fallen Order, where the Skill Tree progression was primarily linear.

One combat technique I wish I experimented with more is mental manipulation. Indeed, Cal can utilize his Jedi abilities to coerce foes to fight on his side for a time, which can turn the tides in crowded, narrow passageways. Also, in the area of cooperation is how you’ll have companions fighting alongside you throughout many story sequences. They can be directly commanded to impede enemies, and sometimes when defeating a foe, a cool team takedown will play, which was always neat to see in the midst of hectic scenes.

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Like in Fallen Order, you can customize Cal’s and BD-1’s appearances, giving Cal various styles of facial hair, though I’m pretty boring in that I prefer leaving them as their default states. Still, there are plenty of choices, mainly for those who aim to complete the optional tasks. Another returning element is gardening, but it has been so significantly enhanced that it doesn’t even feel like the same idea anymore. On the roof of Pyloon’s Saloon, you can gather seeds you discover across planets and plant them in a grid-like fashion where each has its own size. Further, seeds aren’t acquired as a one-and-done deal anymore, with multiples of each type now acquirable. It’s possible to recruit someone to the hub who’ll provide a brief insight into these plants’ roles and histories as well.

My favorite side activity is Holotactics, a hologram board game that reminds me of Fort Condor from Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade. This has you place units representative of the enemies you’ve scanned throughout the game, and they each have a specific point cost emphasizing how practical they are. Each of these has specialties, so higher point costs don’t mean they’re more useful. Still, you can breeze through most of these bouts with no problem. It’s a fulfilling minigame that was a nice palate cleanser, though I wish there was more to it.

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While navigating specific areas came naturally, there was a section of Koboh that I couldn’t reach where you must ride a bird-like creature through gusts of winds to reach elevated areas. However, here I wasn’t able to reach the highest platform no matter what I tried, resulting in me brute-forcing it in what I felt was an unintentional way. It’s very possible I overlooked something, but I felt that this could be caused by a slight distance oversight.

The only recommendation I have for returning players is not to play on the standard difficulty level, Jedi Knight. Instead, I highly advise playing on one of the higher difficulties because, trust me, the game is too easy otherwise. Lastly, you don’t need to know the events of the prequel novel Battle Scars. The events of that book are mainly focused on character interaction, and they’re only loosely referenced in Survivor, so it’s not necessary to know.

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Star Wars Jedi: Survivor provides one of the best action-adventure experiences ever. Aside from being a fantastic story within the Star Wars universe, its gameplay raises the bar for the genre to another galaxy. Every element of this package strikes a fine balance through puzzles, combat, exploration, and progression, which don’t overshadow the masterful character writing. Further, the updates to map design do wonders for those looking to spend as much time as possible in this world. While some pacing dips are present, this is a must-play game that will make you a true believer of the force because it’s strong with this one.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.