Star Wars, from a video game point of view, has had it pretty good in the last few years. Between Battlefront 2 getting fixed and being a pretty good multiplayer game that serves as a celebration of Star Wars in its entirety, Squadrons being a great Space Combat game, The Old Republic still chugging along and Jedi Fallen Order being awesome, there’s no shortage of finding good Star Wars experiences. Coupled with the release of the second season of Star Wars Visions and Andor being very good in ways people way smarter than me can go in-depth with, it feels like a great time to be a Star Wars fan despite the internet’s best efforts. It’s also why I want to talk about Star Wars Jedi Survivor. I’ve been playing it on and off for the last few weeks debating on if I want to talk about it, but after finishing a good chunk of it already, I’m just gonna talk to y’all about my favourite game I’ve played this year not named Hi-Fi Rush. Also because when I was getting back into writing, I never gushed about Jedi Fallen Order, so this is me correcting a great disturbance in the Force as far as I’m concerned.
Picking up five years after the end of Jedi Fallen Order, we find ourselves once again in the boots of Cal Kestis, one of the survivors of the Great Jedi Purge. Now a fully realised Jedi Knight and following a heist organised by Saw Gererra on Coruscant, Cal and his adorable droid companion, BD-1 (get it? Because he’s your buddy?) crash land on the planet Koboh. From there, they embark on various missions to both stay one step ahead of the Empire and a criminal outfit called the Bedlam Raiders, as well as find a lost planet named Tanalorr that’s been untouched for centuries. Without getting into specifics because of spoilers, Jedi Survivor tackles a lot of big questions about what it means to be a Jedi in a galaxy where they don’t exist anymore, finding a purpose for one’s self aside from just endless conflict, how we shouldn’t let the past consume us, all that good stuff and it tackles it all decently enough. What I do wish the game focused on more was how Cal has to reconcile his friends being the most important thing in his life when a Jedi is supposed to avoid such attachments. It’s a thing Star Wars has done before, but I’m just a sucker for that kind of internal conflict.
While the returning cast is all still great, Cameron Monaghan sells the hell out of Cal as a character, but it’s the newer additions that are the stars here as well. Particularly Noshir Dalal as Bode Akuna and Cody Fern as the later leader of the Bedlan Raiders. The former has experience in Star Wars as both Varko Grey in Squadrons and Vice Admiral Rampart in The Bad Batch, so it’s nice seeing him be a character that is both not an Imperial and a dashing rogue type, Han Solo with a Jetpack if you will. The latter’s character I don’t want to say their name because their identity is a fun surprise, but suffice it to say, he’s a great foil to Cal and has motivations that are super understandable, even if he’s being a huge dick about it. Between this and also pulling in story beats from other eras of Star Wars makes for an interesting tale that I want to see through to the end.
Before I get further, I need to bring up some tech stuff real fast. I’m currently playing Jedi Survivor on PS5 in performance mode. Outside of two instances of dropped frames, the game has run wonderfully. Just a thing worth mentioning.
The structure of Jedi Survivor is the biggest change in a group of decently big changes. You still globetrot around the galaxy, but you frequently find yourself back on the planet of Koboh. Koboh itself is a large semi-open world environment stuffed to the gills with missions and activities. My favourite is Pyloon’s Saloon. Pyloon’s is a tavern run by Greez, the Mantis’s former owner and pilot. Here you meet and can recruit a colourful cast of characters that gives you new rumours (side quests) and just talk and hang out with them. It is weirdly enough the part of the game I like the most because it gives off a nice slice-of-life vibe you rarely get in Star Wars.
Pyloon’s aside, the structure highlights and reinforces what I’ve said about Respawn’s Star Wars efforts that everyone else is too cowardly to admit: Fallen Order and Survivor aren’t Soulslikes, they’re Metroidvanias. You get a wide sprawling map that you loop back into for shortcuts and opening up new paths that were previously inaccessible to you through new abilities gained through the main missions. This comes into play primarily through the more thorough exploration and mission completion of Koboh. But it also shows up through the level design of each new area that immediately puts the new power or gadget you have to the test and extensively builds its areas and obstacles around it. This is good because the level design in Jedi Survivor is fantastic. It not only gives you a decent challenge, but it also tells the story of the locale you’re currently traipsing about in. The Bedlam Raiders base on Koboh is the standout example so far, with them converting the innards of a crashed Separatist battleship into their headquarters. You start off with all of the movement abilities you had in Fallen Order and it builds from there, with the additions of a grappling hook, various keys to help with doors, a goddamn air dash and more. All of these feel great and build upon the already good foundation established in Fallen Order.
The same thing goes for combat. While it’s stayed the same mechanically for the most part, its additions to both Cal’s abilities and new enemies are all great to see. The empire is still composed of the same gaggle of stormtroopers varying in threats and Purge Troopers, now with Jetpack troopers, more commanding officers, upgraded KX Security Droids and DT-Sentry Droids AKA “the closest thing you’ll get to fighting Dark Troopers outside of Star Wars Dark Forces”. The Sentries in particular are tough bastards between their multitudes of weapons and attack patterns. There’s still wildlife to contend with, including Mogus, which are basically Wampas and just as terrifying. But the main standouts are the Bedlam Raiders as an enemy faction. On top of having melee and ranged variants, they are backed up by a small army of Separatist battle droids, reprogrammed to serve them. B1s, B2s, BX Commando Droids, Droidekas, goddamn Magnaguards. You name it, the Raiders have it and the ways they are mixed and matched are going to put you to the test.
This is good because Cal has thankfully been keeping up to date with his training. Like with traversal, you keep the basis of Cal’s Lightsaber skills in the Single and Double-Bladed Stances. The former is the all-rounder for any and all situations and the latter is amazing for clearing out huge groups of enemies. The dual saber attack you got at the end of Fallen Order has been expanded into its own full stance focusing on overwhelming speed and counterattacks that power through pretty much anything. These are joined by the new Blaster stance, which pairs your lightsaber with a blaster pistol to pick off flying and shielded enemies and is recharged with melee attacks in a combat loop straight out of Hyper Light Drifter and the Cross Guard stance, which makes your lightsaber into a slower, powerhouse of a claymore like Kylo Ren’s lightsaber in the Sequel trilogy; I don’t think I like it, but I do appreciate it as a more unique instance of a lightsaber seen in Star Wars and I have a newfound respect for Kylo Ren because this thing is slow as heck and he wields his one-handed. No wonder that guy is super jacked. You can have up to two stances active at a time and while I loved messing with them, I wished I could go between all of them freely. But I just stuck with Dual Wield and Blaster swapping out for a single blade when I needed it. There are also companions that join you in certain bits like how you have Atreus in the God of War games. It's not a perfect system, but it’s fun having tag-team attacks and seeing them play off of Cal when just going around the world.
All of these things I mentioned come together to make Star Wars Jedi Survivor greater than the sum of its parts, much like Jedi Fallen Order before it. It does what any good sequel to a video game does: takes the foundation set before and builds upon it in interesting ways. If you’re looking for a good Jedi experience and have already experienced Knights of the Old Republic, I can give Jedi Survivor a hearty recommendation.