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I have a pretty tenuous connection to Star Wars, if I’m being truly honest. If I recall correctly, the Phantom Menace was my introduction to the franchise, and after that, it would take the LEGO Star Wars game series to motivate me to watch the rest.
Like many kids out there, I owned a toy lightsaber before it was revoked by my mother because, in her infinite wisdom, she realized what she had done was give a naturally hyperactive child a blunt object to swing around with careless abandon. So I guess you could call me a casual fan. I don’t watch the spin-offs, and I don’t acknowledge any of the movies outside of the original trilogy and the prequels. Yet, despite all this, I have a real soft spot for Cal Kestis and the Jedi Fallen Order/Survivor series.
For the longest time, everyone and their mother hated EA. They were the company we all loved to hate, but have you noticed that not so many folks are hurling verbal feces their way anymore? Well, aside from their insistence to keep nefariously monetizing sports games, it’s largely because they’re making great single-player experiences again. It Takes Two, The Dead Space Remake, and Jedi Fallen Order led the charge, and now we have Jedi Survivor, the hotly anticipated follow-up to their first foray into a galaxy far, far away.
I was pleasantly surprised by EA and Respawn’s ability to offer a competent action RPG that does Star Wars justice, not just with a compelling story, but with fun platforming, and reasonably well-implemented lightsaber combat. It wasn’t perfect, but it was far better than it had any right to be. So, with the second bite at the cherry, it almost goes without saying that I went into this sequel expecting big things. Yet, against the odds, I am once again pleasantly surprised. Want to find out why? Well, hop aboard the Mantis, and let’s jump into hyperspace. This is RPG Informer’s Jedi Survivor Review conducted on PS5.
A Jedi For Detail
The first far-off star we visit in this review is the planet of visuals and world design. I had initially worried that the gravity of said planet would weigh on this game about as heavily as this labored metaphor is on this sentence. However, I have to say that Jedi Survivor takes the already fantastic visuals present in the first title and ups the ante significantly. With the benefit of new hardware to play around with, the game pushes things to the limit, offering a handful of wonderfully realized planets, offering distinct biomes, interesting nooks and crannies to explore, and when the game decides to deliver story beats, the cutscenes look as crisp as any motion picture could.
Considering the first game was a bit of a looker, it should really come as no surprise that Survivor goes big and succeeds. That much I expected. However, I also expected the game to stick to its very tedious on-rails world design, with terrible map systems, no fast travel, and planets that funneled you through, leading to the player needing to perform massive loops to get to specific areas. Fallen Order was a lesson on how not to borrow aspects of the Metroidvania model, but Survivor practically fixes every gripe I had with Fallen Order.
The game features a number of wide-open spaces akin to that of The Last of Us Part 2’s Downtown Seattle section, where the player is let off the leash to explore. The game is also much more generous with shortcuts, and the game has side content that makes going back to old planets and exploring areas much less of a chore. The only issue I have is that you need to meditate at every fast travel spot to have it register, but it’s a small price to pay to avoid doing laps of the map in search of one cosmetic item chest.
Treasure Planet With Lightsabers
We then move on to the storyline of Survivor, which, again, I have a lot of time for. While I was never the biggest fan of Cal Kestis as a character in Fallen Order, I really liked the story as a whole. It was told in a very well-paced manner, it was very cinematic, and the vocal performances were very good as well. So once again, Survivor takes a look at what came before and says, more of the same, but bigger.
The game brings all of our favorites back into the fold in a creative way that allows the initial stages to be all about Cal. Which, quite frankly, was an excellent choice because he needed more development. Up until now, I saw him as a character cut from the same cloth as Aloy from Horizon. A generic hero archetype and personality vacuum, which only served as a placeholder to let those around them shine brighter.
You could argue that is still the case, as the side characters are still the ones that will evoke the strongest reactions, but the monumental disparity between the two is no longer there. Then looking at the story as a whole, I think it’s a compelling one that is well-paced, action-packed, has great ebb and flow, and wraps up before it becomes a long-winded slog. What I will say though, is that some aspects of the game feel like they didn’t need to be anywhere near as long, and feel like they are padding out sections that could be much shorter without any drop in quality.
The opening in Coruscant is a very long-winded tutorial that only serves to introduce one key character, and give context to why Greez and Cere are no longer present. Not to mention the long prisoners walk at the beginning of the game mirroring that of Arkham Asylum. However, the biggest issue is that the central plot point, the big ol’ Jedi treasure planet of myth and rumor, doesn’t actually come up until you are hours into the game. Maybe in even double figures if you really take your time exploring Kobah.
It even permeates into the general gameplay, where you will have to walk through pointless corridors to get to the heart of Pyloon’s Saloon, for example. I feel like there could be a director’s cut of this game where you could shave five hours off the playtime, and it would be a much richer experience. However, I acknowledge that for the avid Star Wars fan, those corridors and platforming sections add to the overall spectacle.
I also want to say, I really wanted to crowbar is a Greez nutz joke, but my good intentions will have to suffice.
Pick Up Where You Left Off
We now move on to the general gameplay, which hasn’t so much been overhauled as it has been fine-tuned. Before I get into the specifics, I want to pour praise on this game for one thing. The game doesn’t find some sort of weak ass reason to strip the player of their powers. Nor does it employ a skill tree that has you gain the same perks and abilities that you knew in the first game. Instead, it has you jump right back in with all your core abilities and then has you acquire brand new skills as you progress. This is so rare in game development these days, and I need to give Respawn props here; they don’t bank on their past successes. Instead, they build on their strong foundation, and it’s great to see.
So what about these new abilities and features, then? Well, I have to say, none of them are particularly ground-breaking. The player can now wall jump, which seemed a little silly when outside of a Ratchet and Clank game. The player can now use an Ascension cable to grapple to surfaces, which is a nice addition, but unremarkable, and then you can jump and dash, which again, is nothing to write home about.
The coolest new feature is probably the ability to use Jedi Mind Control to tame animals, ride mounts, and get yourself out of some sticky situations. There’s something quite satisfying about soaring through the skies via a Winged Relter. However, I think I was most impressed with how much smoother the existing mechanics were this time around. In Fallen Order, it was clear that the platforming was a little rough around the edges, leading to cheap deaths and frustrating sections aplenty.
This time around, I have to say that this was far from the case. The wall running was smooth, the jumping and platforming were equally smooth, and the climbing sections were much faster than before. I won’t go as far as to say everything’s rosy, because the platforming still has its moments where Cal’s character model contorts itself awkwardly to catch up with your inputs, and occasionally, sections are just a little askew. However, as a whole, everything feels like it has had a major glow-up. That’s what the kids say, right?
Button Bash Bonanza
If we left out combat from this review, it would actually be pretty hard to find any major faults with this game. However, sadly for Jedi Survivor, combat is something you will engage in far too often for us to simply ignore it. To bring it back to Fallen Order again, I had major issues with the combat back then as it was languishing between two camps. It couldn’t quite decide if it wanted to be a Souls-like game with methodical combat, or a fast-paced hack-and-slash where combos were king. It was probably the biggest problem to fix, and aside from adding more superfluous abilities and perks on top of the existing system, I can’t really see how this game rights the wrongs of the first. It’s like adding endless toppings to 10-day-old pizza; unless you cook a new base, no one will want to eat it.
The game still has a serious issue when it comes to making combat feel fluid and satisfying, with so many of the past issues remaining. The player still has to wait for an age for blaster enemies to shoot, allowing you to deflect shots. The game still doesn’t give the player the tools to effectively manage a fight when there are more than a few enemies, leading to the player needing to block countless times before they can carve out an opening. Then on the flip side, when faced with gargantuan foes, there is never any sort of choreography to each fight outside of parry, then attack.
I would love to just say that it’s just Fallen Order with bells on and leave it at that, but the bells actually come with their own issues. For example, the game gives you access to five different stances, each with its own respective skill set, but all it really boils down to is that the player needs a heavy block stance, and an agile stance, making it all a little pointless. This would be fine if you could flip between them all on the fly, but the game only allows you to choose two at a time, with meditation needed to swap them about. This leans into the idea that the game wants you to plan ahead for each battle and be methodical, but it’s at odds with the combat you engage in.
The game also has a pretty generic pool of enemies that never really offer anything more complex than dodge, deflect, or parry. Some of the new force powers, like the Jedi mind control powers allowing you to have others fight alongside you, are neat, but they don’t do enough to solve the glaring issues present.
The only thing that I can say in defense of the game’s ‘New’ combat system is that the skill tree and perks system is actually pretty good by typical action RPG standards. The skills all feel like a fair reward for gaining enough XP for a level-up, and most perks have a fun effect that can add something new to your playthrough, whether that be a passive skill, a buff, or an oddity that offers realism, encouraging replayability.
I’ve been waiting all my days for a Star Wars game that I feel offers genuinely authentic and satisfying lightsaber combat, which makes me feel like a certified badass, and sadly, the wait continues.
Who’s Force Choking My Graphics Card?
Then before we wrap this thing up, I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t address the elephant in the room. This game has performance issues, and while I can only speak for the console edition of this game, even with the day one patch installed, this game still has a lot of wonky moments. Throughout my playthrough, I played the game on Quality Mode, and found that about 80% of the time, the game ran incredibly smoothly, looked the part, and delivered a fantastic experience from a visual perspective. However, for that 20% of the game where there was a lot asked of the hardware, everything started to feel very choppy, taking away from the spectacle on screen.
This was most prevalent when there was a lot going on, such as the closing scene in Coruscant when the gang is under heavy fire from the Empire, or when the player is asked to take out a sizable group of Stormtroopers with Merrin. Heck, even if the game has to render reflections in a body of water, every chugs, and it takes you out of the experience. I would compared it to watching a movie where the sound is half a second out of sync with what’s on screen. It’s bearable, but if it was happening the entire time, I wouldn’t be willing to power through. For everyone’s sake, I hope a new patch arrives that renders this section of the review useless. I’m happy to have some egg on my face to see you guys have a good time, but until then, consider this a warning.
If you want to play something else in the Star Wars gaming family, or simply want to jump into an Action RPG that has a few similarities with this one, then you need to have a look at these close alternatives listed below:
- Jedi Fallen Order
- Horizon Forbidden West
- God of War: Ragnarok
- Star Wars: Force Unleashed
- Ghosts of Tsushima
- Elden Ring
Overall, I have to say that Jedi Survivor is one of the few examples we have in the modern era of gaming, where a sequel is just a bigger and better version of what fans loved before, with a lot of the most offensive issues of old squashed. It’s clear that the developers have looked at the feedback offered from the last game and set out with the aim of ironing out all the creases, and that has to be commended. Planets, aside from the opening section on Coruscant, no longer feel like on-rails labyrinths that funnel you through the action.
There are side-quests, plenty of open areas to explore, and tonnes of reasons to loop back to old areas, with fast travel added in to make it less of a chore. The game also looks much more impressive, and tells a story that is just as compelling as the last outing in the series, with a perfect blend of action, emotion, and humor. Heck, I even like Cal now, who was easily the least interesting character in Fallen Order, which is a testament to the writing of the second game.
While Respawn has smoothed over a lot of cracks, some issues still remain. Most notably, the combat still feels quite lackluster. It toes the line between a souls-like and a hack and slash, never really picking a lane. Which leads to combat that never feels cohesive or predictable. Even on easy settings, I felt that dodging and parrying was never a given, and to tread on a criticism I had for God of War Ragnarok again, when the enemy count rises to four or more, the combat feels like a frenzy where the player has no control of the situation.
That, coupled with the performance issues I experienced, even with the day-one patch installed, stopped this game from breaking through and becoming a game-of-the-year contender for me. However, as far as Star Wars games go, if we take Knights of the Old Republic out of the mix, this may just be the best one yet.
- Outstanding visuals, sound design, and plenty of Star Wars lore for the heads
- A compelling story with excellent performances from the whole cast
- A much-improved world design, with better mapping, and fast travel to ease the burden when exploring
- A rewarding skill tree and perks system
- Lots of side-content offering more than just collectibles and cosmetics
- Performance issues are still a major issue, even with the latest patches
- The combat has seen little to no improvement and feels lackluster
- Some aspects of the gameplay and story feel like unnecessary bloat
- The amount of collectibles needed to 100% is pretty offputting
Callum clocked a total of 22 hours before he finished the main plot of this title. Largely due to the fact that he got really invested in exploring every inch of Kobah before jetting off. Callum remembers how irritating the 100% process was for Fallen Order, but even with that in mind, he can see himself cleaning up all the side content and further exploring the world of Jedi Survivor.
Question: Is Jedi Survivor A Souls-Like?
Answer: I suppose it is, considering you have checkpoints where you can heal at the cost of having enemies respawn; the combat can be approached in a methodical block, parry, and strike style, not to mention that Fallen Order was labeled as one, so it would be a little unfair to deny Jedi Survivor the same treatment. So, in conclusion, yes, but it’s not a good example of one.
Question: Who Plays Cal Kestis?
Answer: Cal Kestis is played by Cameron Monaghan, a Candian actor who is probably best known outside of the Star Wars game series for his TV roles, featuring in Shameless and Gotham.
Question: What Type of Droid is BD-1?
Answer: BD-1 is a BD Unit Droid, and more specifically, an Explorer Droid. His role is to scan around him and provide context and explanation to his master. He is also used for data collection, and if I may say so myself, is an absolute cutie.
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