Reviewed on Xbox Series X
Every story has a beginning, middle and an end, and the Star Wars franchise has one of the greatest critically acclaimed and fan favourite sequels of all time in the film The Empire Strikes Back. It delivered a stronger story, deeper character development, interesting new supporting characters, memorable moments and epic action set pieces. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor matches this energy on every level and delivers a remarkable follow up to 2019’s Jedi: Fallen Order.
Arriving just three and a half short years after it’s predecessor, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is here, taking everything that made Fallen Order the critically acclaimed hit that fans had been clamouring for and builds upon that foundation meaningfully while raising the bar in terms of scope, storytelling and engaging gameplay. Five years have passed for Cal Kestis in his battle against the Empire, with new hardships, alliances and further Jedi training keeping him busy.
Boasting broad new customisation options for Cal, his lightsaber and his loveable droid companion BD-1, recruitment of survivors for the settlement that serves as his base of operations, rideable mounts and a host of optional side quests, combat challenges and platforming puzzles, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor has risen to the challenge of delivering a strong sequel and the greatest Star Wars video game to date.
Taking place five years after the events of Fallen Order, Jedi Cal Kestis has been through so much in a short span. As the Empire tightens their grip on the galaxy with their continued hunt for any Jedi that survived the Purge, Cal and his band of rebel heroes from Fallen Order have since gone their separate ways for reasons that are quickly explained.
This makes way for Cal’s new friends to be introduced, with the jet packing rogue Bode standing front and centre of his strongest and deepest new allies. Familiar faces from Fallen Order return and new characters are introduced at a steady pace, providing a diverse cast of supporting characters that are developed with depth, intrigue and purpose.
Throughout the course of the 12-15 hour story, Cal visits half a dozen planets in his war against the Empire, all providing meaningful movement for the narrative while opening the doors for new enemy types to fall to Cal’s lightsaber. Cal himself is a much stronger protagonist than his first outing, presenting a confidence he was lacking prior to owning his status as one of the last surviving Jedi. His interactions with the well developed cast of heroes and villains that stand beside and against him reinforce his newfound self-assurance and greater purpose, allowing him to shine as one of Star Wars’ greatest characters.
Some of the biggest moments in the story are foreshadowed too heavily to the point of constant predictability, which doesn’t take away from the impact they have but it would have been nice to be more surprised by certain beats and character arcs. Star Wars loves the idea of tragedy, temptation, betrayal and obsession, and all of these themes are well executed and represented in Cal’s second adventure, which can be continued after the credits or roll or started over in New Game +, bringing all cosmetics and skill upgrades with him.
A handful of difficulties are available that cater to players of all skill levels, including Story difficulty, which allows players to experience Cal’s journey with less resistance from enemies and puts a heavier emphasis on the story rather than difficult combat. Coupled with a variety of other accessibility options such as toggling spider enemies off for players that have arachnophobia, controller remapping and navigational hints, Survivor truly does its best to help players survive the Empire.
Cal himself has received significant customisation options this time around, allowing players to find, unlock and buy a variety of cosmetics, hair and beard styles. Cal can have his hair, beard, jacket, shirt and pants customised, mixing and matching different pieces instead of being tied to one complete set. The poncho from Fallen Order returns as an unlockable cosmetic but it’s very exciting to see some of the jackets, armour and other variations in play. Most pieces can have colours selected by finding colour pallets out in the wild too. The freedom to style Cal goes a long way in further personalising the experience in this epic sequel.
Lighstaber customisation is back and offers various components to be customised, utilising different styles of each component that can be found, unlocked or earned. The variety on offer lends to some fun and personalised styles, especially when switching between the assortment of blade and hilt colours. As well as the blaster and BD-1, these can all be modified at any workbench.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor balances the gameplay with combat, platforming and exploration, with each component superior to what was introduced in Fallen Order at every turn. The combat is more layered and flexible, platforming is made more enjoyable with fun new tools such as a grappling hook and a dash ability and exploration is significantly deeper in the half dozen worlds that can be explored.
As any self-respecting Jedi driven should be, lightsaber combat is at the forefront and this time around their are five different styles, referred to as Stances, to experiment with. Only two Stances can be equipped at any time and these can be freely switched as they become available through story progression at Meditation Points. Each of the five Stances play completely differently and have unique abilities and skill trees to further the experimentation and fun factor while offering players the choice to fight however they like. The five Stances are;
Single – the default Stance offers a single blade that balances attack, speed and defence
Double-bladed – this style is similar to that of Darth Maul, with a blade at each end of the hilt. This Stance is great for dealing with groups of enemies by offering increased speed and defence at the expense of attack
Dual Wield – two lightsabers offers the greatest speed with maximum aggression for swift but powerful combat encounters
Crossguard – the polarising style of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber features to small, knife like blades extending horizontally from the top of the hilt like a sword. This Stance hits the heaviest but is the slowest as a result of the trade off. This dispatches larger enemies very efficiently
Blaster – equipped with a single lightsaber and a blaster, this Stance offers the best balance in terms of range, allowing players to fire single shots that can also be charged while also swinging the lightsaber to deal with enemies up close
Experimenting with all five Stances is a lot of fun and while each Stance certainly has their advantages, None are forced upon the player and any pair can be selected for any part of the adventure at any Meditation Point. The gameplay for each Stance is equally fun and the overall combat when combined with the Force abilities is the best Star Wars has ever felt in a video game to date.
Joining Cal in the fight are companions Bode and Merrin, each appearing in specific story missions and in some free roam areas. They attack automatically but can also be manually activated to perform their special manoeuvres between brief cool-downs. These attacks are fun to play with and the tag team executions are very cool to see.
Meditation Points serve as a resting area where players can upgrade their skills with unlocked spill points, fast travel to other unlocked Meditation Points and to allocate Perks. When choosing to rest, the players health, Force and stem kits will be restored but defeated enemies will be respawned too.
As players defeat enemies, complete quests and objectives they will be awarded XP that contributes to Skill Points. These can be spent at Meditation Points on skills from three different categories; Survival, Lightsaber and Force. Survival offers health boosts, additional healing stim kits and defensive abilities for example while each lightsaber Stance has unique abilities and Force unlocks and upgrades the various Force abilities Cal has access to such as Push, Pull and Slam. XP is awarded generously and this leads to regular skill points for a constantly evolving gameplay experience.
There are a total of 25 Perks to unlock, some are staffed by story progression and others have to be found. Three special Perks become available exclusively for New Game +, along with the red and party lightsaber colours, which is unlocked by finishing the story. They offer various stat buffs and XP increases but some also come at a cost of attack, or health regeneration for example. Each costs a number of slots, a total of ten slots can be obtained by finding them in the wild and with story progression.
Traversing the beautiful open world has been made an absolute joy with the combination of double jump, air dash, wall running, grapple hook and launching from floating installations. Blending these elements together is a seamless exercise that feels precise yet incredibly simple to execute, despite the timed nature of wall running duration and dash distance for example.
The labyrinthian structure of the various maps is littered with things to climb and latch onto, and these objects have a distinct look that makes them stand out, even in the heat of series of aerial traversal techniques.
Where traversal and exploration comes undone is a terrible map function where locations are difficult to pinpoint in terms of their exact locations. Scaling walls or descending to lower levels is a nightmare when looking for an objective or specific collectible that easily leads to time spent getting lost. The map in Fallen Order was bad and even though this is better than that, it is still a long way from being efficient. The absence of a mini-map is brutal with the clumsy map design, rendering this the only aspect by far that falls short.
New to the series is the introduction of rideable mounts in certain parts of specific maps. There isn’t the complete freedom to take these beasts absolutely anywhere but the way it has been introduced works and offers a nice little speed boost that Cal can’t quite achieve on foot. These mounts can also be jumped off of to provide additional height to reach some of the sneakier, otherwise out of reach plateaus, further justifying their inclusion to maximise exploration.
Sometimes single-handedly bringing the fight to the Empire warrants a break, a brief respite from the action to indulge in exploration and Survivor offers a handful of different types of tasks to entertain players. Specific NPCs can be found out in the world and recruited to join the Outpost that serves as Cal’s base of operations on the planet Koboh. Some of these NPCs offer items that can be bought with the various in-game currencies that are littered throughout the world while other offer an aquarium to fill with exotic fish or plants to find and grow in a garden.
A bounty hunter also tasks Cal with tracking down and eliminating 17 targets that is a fun challenge, with each bounty collected awarding a form of currency to unlock other cosmetic goodies. In addition to the 13 legendary adversaries to hunt and slay, including the infamous Rancor, there is also a mini game called Holotactics which lets players experience the holo-battle game Chewbacca is seen playing in A New Hope. There is plenty to do outside of the main story, with all visited planets accessible to return to after their initial discovery and can be revisited after the story has been finished as well.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor looks, sounds and feels like an authentic Star Wars experience, offering sound effects and a score that is both familiar and genuine to the themes we’ve grown to love over the last 45 years. The score in particular is faithfully beautiful and features themes with their own spin to feel personal to Cal’s journey. Sound design is remarkably faithful and keeps the adventure feeling genuinely delightful and true to the big and small screen experiences.
The environments within the visitable worlds are stunning, offering beautiful vistas, desolate wastelands and state of the art sci-fi infrastructure and the character models are all meticulously recreated or invented to be faithful to their affiliated factions. Separatist militia such as Battle Droids, Super Battle Droids and Droidekas are a joy to see back in the fold while Stormtroopers and their Imperial legions are always a menacing sight.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor raises the bar set by the already impressive and beloved Fallen Order. An action packed, emotional and heartfelt narrative tie the excellent gameplay and stunning audio-visual presentation into a beautiful experience that feels as true to Star Wars as any fan could possibly imagine.
+ Excellent gameplay
+ Solid customisation for Cal, his weapons and BD-1
+ Enjoyable story
+ Variety of side quests and optional activities
+ Striking visuals and sound design
– Map implementation is poor
– Mounts could have been implemented better
* A digital code was kindly provided for the purpose of this review *
Developed by: Respawn
All digital photography was captured in-game by Games of DAYNE on Xbox Series X