Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is an incredibly fun video game. Fallen Order was merely the appetizer for the Jedi Survivor feast. It features all you can hope for and beyond, with drastically expanded gameplay complimented by a subversive yet compelling narrative with interesting new characters. There have been a few gems in the franchise over the last decade, but I believe Respawn Entertainment has produced the best of Star Wars since the Disney acquisition.
Every aspect of its design is bigger and better. Combat is endlessly dynamic due to five unique lightsaber stances with their own ability trees. While each is most effective for particular scenarios, you aren’t forced into using any specific stance. You’re free to enjoy your playstyle, with the only caveat being the limit of equipping a max of two stances.
Having completed the game, I’m feeling indifferent about the limit. On the one hand, I appreciate the challenges of some combat encounters, given the two stances I have equipped. However, I’m interested in experiencing what combat could be like with the option to switch between all five simultaneously. It likely feels like god mode, so I’m sure Respawn has a particular reason for it. Thankfully, you’re able to swap stances frequently at any mediation point.
Each stance is fun and satisfying. I like the balance of single blade, the frenzied attacks of dual wield, crowd control with double-bladed, and the brutality of crossguard, but blaster stance is my favorite. While a Jedi wielding a blaster has been seen before, playing as one is an entirely new experience. Between picking off weaker enemies from afar and breaking down the guard on tougher ones, it’s helpful in nearly every fight. Beyond the badass nature of having a blaster at your disposal, you can increase its versatility by changing its shot type.
Combining lightsaber combos with a variety of force abilities is a blast. Jedi mind trick plays a significant role throughout the game. You can temporarily confuse enemies and hostile creatures to fight alongside you in combat. It’s beneficial when you’re overwhelmed. I could comment on many fun combos, but one of my favorites includes levitating several enemies and marking them all with the blaster’s quick draw for a fast succession of kills. It’s a cheeky trick I learned from Design Director Jason De Heras at the Survivor preview event.
Throughout the game, there are sequences when companions accompany you. They’re effective combatants on their own, but you can also use their abilities at will to assist with crowd control. The banter between Cal and his friends along with the sick takedown animations they have in combat is a welcome addition.
The wide array of enemy types also contributes to the fun of combat. The Empire, the new Bedlam Raider faction, Battle Droids, Haxion Brood, and wild creatures are each packed with foes that challenge your combat prowess. On top of all, Survivor features a perk system that significantly alters your playstyle. You can upgrade your available perk slots as you progress through the game, leading to many dynamic builds. I like how some perks are pure power-ups while others present risk versus reward opportunities.
Between main and side bosses, each showdown is memorable and challenging. I’m playing on the standard difficulty “Jedi Knight,” and there haven’t been any noticeable difficulty spikes. Some encounters are more demanding than others, but each battle feels balanced and fair. Every aspect of combat is brilliantly designed, and I’m still loving it after more than twenty-five hours with the game.
If you haven’t already noticed, Jedi Survivor is massive. There are six explorable planets, with Koboh and Jedha being the most expansive. Koboh serves as your hub world where you can build up the settlement of Rambler’s Reach. Throughout the game, you encounter many characters across the galaxy who you can invite to the settlement. Each of them serves a purpose. Whether they’re a vendor, eccentric fisherman, mini-game host, Dj, or bounty supplier, every character provides you with resources or gameplay opportunities.
Most reside at the infamous Pyloon’s Saloon established by your old pal, Greez. Seeing the saloon evolve from an empty bar to a thriving and bustling community is cool. While both Fallen Order and Survivor feature what is commonly referred to as “hub worlds,” Koboh alone feels like an entirely open world. It’s gigantic, with over a hundred collectibles and secrets to uncover. Settlers can provide you with rumors that lead to new discoveries and boss fights, and exploration is highly encouraged, as you’re rewarded for every path you follow.
Cal Kestis, Jedi Knight
Thankfully, Cal isn’t stripped of his basic force abilities at the start, and progression is well-paced. While there’s reason to return to planets for further exploration after acquiring upgrades, Respawn regularly introduces stances, force abilities, and equipment to keep things fresh. Jedi Survivor makes the most of your abilities between Mediation Chambers akin to Shrines in Breath of the Wild and Force Tears that present you with various challenges. There are a few puzzles within Mediation Chambers that took me a while to wrap my head around. Additionally, the Force Tears put your combat and platforming skills to the test. Fortunately, you’re rewarded handsomely for conquering them.
I’ve long had an affinity for Coruscant. Jedi Survivor opens with an exhilarating sequence on the planet. Ironically, it’s my least favorite to revisit after the intro. Once you acquire some upgrades, there are a few new areas to uncover, but you explore the bulk of it in the beginning. Jedha’s a vast desert planet similar to the scope of Koboh. Some of my favorite environmental puzzles are there. I also adore the music reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark that plays as you explore. It’s also fun to take advantage of creatures you can mount to travel faster and reach higher areas on both Koboh and Jedha.
The best aspect of combat and traversal collectively is that it feels phenomenal. Each lightsaber stance is responsive and intense. Platforming is smooth between zipping around with your ascension cable, wall running, dashing, and Jedi flipping. All of it’s complemented by gorgeous animations that make everything you do look and feel amazing. Respawn’s games are always mechanically exceptional, and the trend continues in Jedi Survivor.
Fallen Order’s common criticism of limited customization for Cal has been tremendously addressed. There are dozens of cosmetics between hair and bear styles, jackets, shirts, and pants. All of the clothing features multiple color options providing a ton of variety. I’m confident you’ll find one or numerous looks to love. I stuck to a similar look to the game’s key art for Cal’s hair and beard. There are some pretty dramatic scenes throughout the game. While playing, I wondered how funny it could be to watch them if Cal sported a mullet and handlebar mustache. I appreciate that Respawn is fearless in allowing players to alter Cal’s look as wildly as they please.
Lightsaber customization returns along with the same depth for BD-1 and your blaster. There are countless parts for your lightsaber, including the option to change the vents and their angle for crossguard. All the blade colors from Fallen Order are available at the start, with additional colors unlocked in new game plus. Among the many options for your blaster, I rolled with a Dirty Harry-inspired 44 Magnum style. To sum up combat, customization, and exploration in a word, it’s variety. There’s so much fun to be had in your initial playthrough and reason to carry on in the new game plus with additional perks and other surprises unlocked when you reach it.
Old Friends and New
Cal has a complete and seemingly conclusive arc in Fallen Order. I’d struggled to imagine where Respawn could take his character in the sequel. Jedi Survivor begins five years after the events of Fallen Order. Cal’s obsession with doing all he can to put a dent in the Empire’s efforts has been in vain. His old friends have gone their separate ways, and he relies on new allies by working with Saw Gerrera. The opening on Coruscant leads Cal and his new friend Bode Akuna to Koboh, where the stage is set for a surprising narrative.
Respawn’s challenge is writing characters and a story that’s original and compelling that simultaneously fit within the established canon. While Fallen Order focuses primarily on Cal dealing with Empire’s hunt for the remaining Jedi, Jedi Survivor explores characters coping with having their morality tested as they navigate an increasingly hostile galaxy. There’s a ton to spoil, so I’m limiting what to share.
The plot centers around the chase for a hidden planet called Tanalorr, discovered by a pair of High Republic-era Jedi named Dagan Gera and Santari Khri. The planet’s circumstances lead all who know of its existence to pursue it. After completing the story, I mostly enjoyed the return of old characters and the introduction of the new. Everyone involved gives an awesome performance and plays an integral role in the plot. However, a couple of characters are a bit underdeveloped and predictable, and I didn’t find their arcs particularly interesting by the end. There’s also a surprising number of MacGuffins that characters chase throughout, with many back-and-forth treks between planets.
Fortunately, I was never bored. Jedi Survivor succeeds in including characters with relatable motivations. Cal undergoes personal challenges that aren’t uncommon for Star Wars but make sense for the progression of his character. This series will likely become a trilogy, and there’s great potential for what he’ll face next. Every main story mission is outstanding. Gameplay is diverse, and there are some insane set pieces. I’m still loving every minute of the game as I continue exploring after completing the story.
I’m playing the game on PS5 and have good and bad news. The good news is Jedi Survivor usually looks gorgeous. However, there are frequent performance distractions, I once ended up stuck underneath the map, and my game crashed a couple of times. Unfortunately, the game hasn’t performed consistently throughout my review period. Like many recent current-gen games on console, Jedi Survivor features a full-quality 4K 30fps mode and a 1440p performance mode targeting a higher frame rate.
I’m sad to report that the version I’ve played while reviewing never consistently remains at 60fps in performance mode. I understand the necessity of variable frame rates. When I select performance mode on console, I’d be OK with running a game at a drastically reduced resolution if it means I’ll maintain the highest possible frame rate. Jedi Survivor typically hits 60fps in smaller areas but struggles to stay beyond 30 in larger areas. What’s worse is there have been many instances where the game has dropped to the mid to low 20s. The game is still playable, but the constant fluctuation is highly distracting.
I eventually opted for quality mode in the hope of maintaining a consistent frame rate. While I prefer a minimum of 60fps, I can live with 30fps with just about any genre apart from shooters. The best part is the game looks stunning in 4K and mostly remains at 30fps but also dips below that in some areas. The only planet that struggles significantly is Koboh which is understandable given its scope. There are also a ton of texture pop-ins on Koboh in quality and performance modes.
Can’t Get Enough
The performance struggles haven’t ruined the fun but have been an unfortunate distraction. To end on a high note, Respawn has taken full advantage of the Dualsense controller. Combat and traversal are amplified by all they’ve applied to it. There are also some funny and creative trophies to unlock that I won’t spoil.
Some other positive aspects are all the presentation options. You can alter your field of view and film effects like motion blur, film grain, chromatic aberration, and camera shake. The accessibility options are vast, including an “Arachnophobia Safe Mode” that modifies a creature to look less like an arachnid. It’s both amusing and certainly appreciated by someone out there. The game’s a looker when it’s running at its best. Fans are bound to take advantage of the simple but functional photo mode to share the prettiest views and their finest moments.
Star Wars wouldn’t be nearly as iconic without the music. Gordy Haab and Stephen Barton composed beautiful work for Fallen Order between original tracks and incorporating famous themes. Haab and Barton return for Jedi Survivor and have totally outdone themselves. Their music wonderfully contributes to every moment throughout the game. Alongside the music is the impressive sound design that enhances every presentation aspect.
Jedi Survivor is the definitive Jedi video game experience. As a Star Wars fan, I love it. I imagine it was a lot of fun to develop, and the Jedi Team at Respawn are absolute rockstars for what they’ve achieved. I’m confident the performance hiccups on PS5 will be resolved. Apart from that, I can’t get enough of the game. I’m actively finishing my initial playthrough and am stoked to jump into new game plus.
Stay tuned to COGconnected for more Jedi Survivor content coming soon.
***PS5 review code provided by EA***
- Endlessly dynamic combat
- Fun and rewarding exploration
- Expanded customization
- Inconsistent performance on PS5
- Occasional visual hiccups
- Occasional game crashes