Games

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, the latest adventure by Respawn reviewed

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Action-adventure game Star Wars Jedi: Survivor was created by Respawn Entertainment and released by Electronic Arts. It is the follow-up to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (2019), and it takes place five years after the events of the previous game. Cal Kestis, a young Jedi Knight, and his comrades continue to fight to survive the Galactic Empire’s oppression in this sequel. On April 2023, the game was made available for the PlayStation 5, Windows, and Xbox Series X/S. Versions for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are also in the works. For Respawn, it was certainly challenging to outperform the fantastic prior chapter.

This time, there are no cross-gen versions to support anything, and there are a number of recently published games to compete against in a brutal struggle to the death. However, the brand has evolved. The general public’s perspective of Star Wars has indeed evolved. With books, comics, movies, and TV shows that are alternately persuasive and unconvincing, it is getting harder and harder to strike the perfect balance and satisfy everyone.

Five years have passed since the events of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. In the game, Cameron Monaghan’s character, Jedi Knight Cal Kestis, battles the Empire while looking for a location to hide from them. Cal’s allies include Jedi Master Cere Junda (Debra Wilson), former pilot of the Stinger Mantis Greez Dritus (Daniel Roebuck), BD-1 (Ben Burtt), a small droid, Merrin (Tina Ivlev), one of the last surviving members of the Nightsister clan of Dathomir, and Bode Akuna (Noshir Dalal), a Rebel fighting for the safety of his daughter Kata (Tajinae Turner). Other characters include ZN-A4 (Kendal Rae), a droid from the High Republic Era once owned by Jedi Master Santari Khri (Tracy Ifeachor), and Jedi Master Eno Cordova (Tony Amendola), the former owner of BD-1 who is now assisting Cere in locating the Jedi Archive.

As part of the Imperial Inquisitors program, the Ninth Sister (Misty Lee) was trained by the Sith Lord Darth Vader (Scott Lawrence). The High Republic Dark Jedi Dagan Gera (Cody Fern), who seeks to reach Tanalorr, and his right-hand man, the Gen’Dai Rayvis (D. C. Douglas), the leader of the Bedlam Raiders, are other enemies that Cal battles during his journey.

Plot

Jedi Knight Cal Kestis has split up with Cere Junda, Greez Dritus, and Merrin five years after burning the Jedi Holocron in order to fight the Empire as a member of the resistance under Saw Gerrera. In his most recent assignment, he is working with his mercenary friend Bode Akuna to sneak into Coruscant, the Imperial capital world, and kidnap Senator Daho Sejan in order to obtain crucial military information. Following Sejan’s data recovery, the Ninth Sister, who had survived her defeat on Kashyyyk, shows up to confront Cal and massacres everyone on his squad except for Bode. Before leaving Coruscant with Bode, Cal battles and kills the Ninth Sister.

Cal is discouraged to discover from the statistics that the Empire has grown more potent and increased its influence throughout the galaxy in spite of all of his efforts. Cal chooses to look for Greez, who lives on the distant planet of Koboh, to see if he can fix the Stinger Mantis after it was hit during his escape from Coruscant. After making it through a crash landing on the planet’s surface, Cal discovers that the local populace is under threat from the Bedlam Raiders, a gang led by an armored Gen’dai named Rayvis. Greez leads Cal to a cave that contains the components he needs to fix the Mantis when they are reunited.

ZN-A4 or “Zee,” a droid that worked for the Jedi Order during the High Republic era, is discovered by Cal as he is investigating. Zee hands Cal a High Republic tuner gadget and explains that hundreds of years ago, she was supposed to activate a device called the Forest Array but got stuck in the caves. Following her release, Cal goes to the Array and experiences Force visions of two High Republic Jedi, Dagan Gera, and Santari Khri, who found the fabled planet of Tanalorr concealed beneath the allegedly impenetrable Koboh Abyss nebula. When Cal turns on the Array, he finds Dagan dangling in a bacta tank.

Cal releases Dagan in the hopes of recruiting a fellow Jedi but discovers that Dagan has turned to the evil side of the Force, enraged by the Jedi Order’s abandonment of Tanalorr. Dagan battles and defeats Cal before fleeing with the assistance of Rayvis and the Bedlam Raiders. Cal, Bode, and Greez repair the Stinger Mantis and head for the planet Jedha, where Cere has been working with Merrin and a still-alive Eno Cordova to rebuild the Jedi Archives with the help of a resistance organization called the Hidden Path. Cere and Cordova conduct research on Koboh and Tanalorr in the Archives.

Cordova claims that Dagan was the first and only pilot to successfully navigate the Koboh Abyss. To traverse it, Khri invented special compasses, and the Republic later erected a town and Jedi Temple on Tanalorr. However, the Nihil pirate syndicate attacked Tanalorr, forcing the Republic to retreat from the planet and destroy the compasses to prevent them from using them. Dagan got enamored with Tanalorr, claiming that it was rightfully his. Khri imprisoned him in the bacta tank, where Cal discovered him. However, three compasses remain unaccounted for, according to Cordova. Cal, Merrin, Bode, and Greez make the decision to look for them. Bode is looking for a safe haven for his small daughter Kata, but Merrin feels the Hidden Path could make Tanalorr their new home. Cal and Merrin declare their affection for each other and decide to pursue a romance while traveling.

Two compasses are destroyed, but when Cal battles and kills Rayvis and Dagan, they find one that Cordova can repair. The Empire then launches an attack on Jedha. Bode snatches the compass and murders Cordova as chaos ensues. Cal tries to stop Bode from fleeing, but he is defeated by Bode, who reveals himself to be not only an imperial agent but also a former Jedi who has since succumbed to the dark side. Meanwhile, Cere prevents the Empire’s forces from reaching the archive but is slain while defending the Hidden Path from Darth Vader. Cal, enraged at Bode’s betrayal, uses a tracking beacon to track himself to an Imperial Security Bureau (ISB) base controlled by Lank Denvik in the Nova Garon system.

Cal finally confronts Bode after infiltrating the Bureau, who confesses that he served in intelligence for the Jedi Order during the Clone Wars but vanished when the Jedi Purge began. After his wife was murdered by Inquisitors, Bode struck a bargain with Denvik to operate as a spy for the ISB in exchange for keeping him and his daughter hidden from Vader. Bode escapes with Kata and the compass, revealing that he lured Cal to Nova Garon to create a distraction in order to avoid the ISB on his way to Tanalorr. Cal resolves to embrace his own inner darkness in order to escape the Imperial garrison, but he prevents himself from completely succumbing by sparing Denvik after Merrin talks him down.

Cal recovers a tape left behind by Khri that explains how the arrays on Koboh can be utilized to open a new way through the Koboh Abyss. The gang gets to Tanalorr in one piece after narrowly avoiding the abyss. Cal, Merrin, and Kata try to get Bode to back down, but he refuses and assaults them, forcing Cal to fatally shot him. Following that, they organize a Jedi funeral for Cere, Cordova, and Bode to mourn their deaths. Cal, Merrin, and Greez decide to adopt Kata and intend to contact the Hidden Path to relocate them to Tanalorr now that they have control of the planet.

Gameplay

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor keeps many of the gameplay principles from its predecessor while adding new ones. Cal Kestis has access to five different lightsaber stances, each with its own set of advantages. He can employ the previous game’s single and double-blade stances, and the special dual-wield blade attack has been expanded into its own stance. The dual-wield stance was originally meant to be a playable posture in Fallen Order, but owing to scheduling constraints, it was only featured as a special strike.

A new stance has also been added, which features a Kylo Ren-style crossguard lightsaber that demands players to pay attention to time windows in order to wield efficiently, especially when blocking and parrying opposing blows. The blaster stance is the second new stance, allowing the player to wield a lightsaber and blaster combo for both close and ranged assaults. These various postures are intended to be utilized to face distinct types of adversaries. A new Force stasis ability, akin to Kylo Ren’s in The Force Awakens, allows the player to freeze adversaries and blaster bolts in mid-air.

In comparison to Fallen Order, the level design of Jedi: Survivor includes larger, more open landscapes populated with more non-player characters. Respawn wanted Koboh to have a crowded inner region with more open outer sections as the player explored outwards. Furthermore, the Mantis landing pads have been relocated to more central areas on planets to facilitate access to the various zones.

The planet Koboh has been described as a “home away from home” that the player will return to during the game, with each return opening up new routes. By exploring the worlds, players will both make Cal more their own through customization, and many of the optional places feature talents, upgrades, and perks that will make Cal “more powerful and equipped to take on the challenges ahead.” In comparison, returning to worlds like Bogano in Fallen Order was done largely to further the plot rather than to encourage exploration.

Fast travel at meditation locations allows the player to be swiftly transported to another meditation point on the planet that they have already visited, making exploration easier in Survivor. However, Respawn wanted to make sure that quick travel was not required to explore the terrain or complete the tale. Fast travel was a much-requested feature that was missing in Fallen Order.

Seven High Republic-era Jedi Chambers are scattered across Koboh for the player to find. Jedi Meditation Chambers contain riddles and obstacles for the player to solve, as well as incentives such as perks or skill points to help the player level up. Once the player has saved Zee from the Chamber of Duality, Jedi Chambers become available.

In comparison to Fallen Order, player appearance customization possibilities in Survivor have been substantially expanded. Cal’s whole wardrobe, as well as his hairdo and facial hair, may be customized in Survivor. In lightsaber customization, a white blade is a new color choice.

Impressions

There is no way to write a review of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor without dividing ourselves between our passion for George Lucas’ faraway galaxy and our love for video games, but the final question is just one: is Star Wars Jedi: Survivor a good adventure video game? Let’s find out.

Let’s start with an assumption that should reassure players who finished Fallen Order and couldn’t wait to see how the story of Cal Kestis and his pals aboard the Stinger Mantis will continue – you don’t have to read the prequel novel Battle Scars or binge on The High Republic books and comics to comprehend the plot of Survivor, and if you’ve forgotten what occurred in the original Respawn title, you can always launch the handy summary video on the first screen of the new game. Of course, playing Fallen Order in first person would have been preferable, because Survivor focuses heavily on the characters and relationships formed in the first chapter.

Battle Scars is almost completely overlooked by the game’s narrative, which only mentions the accident in which Greez lost his arm in passing, glossing over the rest of the story wonderfully. In terms of The High Republic, the speech is a little different. From the official trailers, we could see a one-armed man in a bacta tank who was clearly traceable to a High Republic Jedi based on the attire he wore in one scene. We discover that this man’s name is Dagan Gera, and he is accidentally awakened by Cal while exploring the ancient ruins of Koboh at the start of the game. Gera was a Jedi obsessed with the idea of reaching Tanalorr, a legendary planet hidden in the impenetrable Abyss of Koboh, and it was for this reason that he had rebelled against the Order, which had preferred to focus all of its attention on the threat of the Nihil and the Great Disaster that was ravaging the galaxy.

Nihil, Great Disaster, and Starlight Beacon are words that will sound foreign to anyone who hasn’t dug their claws into Disney and Lucasfilm’s multimedia project of The High Republic, which primarily affects publishing in the form of books and comics but will soon also arrive on TV with the series The Acolyte. Fortunately, none of these have a substantial impact on the plot or the characterization of the characters, who are left to cinematics and monologues that make only faint references to the High Republic era. If you want to dig deeper, each event or scan adds information to the database that contextualizes everything but is completely insignificant. In this regard, Respawn has done a commendable job: on the one hand, it is commendable that we are finally beginning to integrate the High Republic into the general Star Wars imagination; on the other hand, perhaps that is precisely why there is a strange sense of forcing as if Lucasfilm forced director Stig Asmussen to slip the High Republic into the narrative to give it some publicity, but in the end, nothing would have changed if it had been a different era or any other alien civilization.

The blame is also shared by the screenwriters, who probably failed to adequately depict Gera. Gera, in fact, is the story’s principal enemy. Awakened in an era where the Order no longer exists and the galaxy is ruled by the Empire, the Jedi decides to resume the search for Tanalorr with the Chaos Marauders, a band of anonymous thugs who have appropriated Separatist technology – which explains the presence of droids dating back to the Clone Wars – and that who obey the orders of an armored Gen’Dai named Rayvis. Surprisingly, a character like Rayvis, a kind of henchman with a few lines, seems to be far more incisive than Dagan Gera. Rayvis is also one of the most difficult bosses in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. Not only is he a big hitter with a variety of potent ranged attacks, but he also has two unique forms. Unfortunately, this means he has two health bars too.

Cal Kestis’ new adventure slows down after passing the fast-paced but linear prologue on Coruscant and arriving on the planet Koboh, taking on characteristics reminiscent of those of the previous Fallen Order. Following in Gera’s footsteps, Cal will explore Koboh and then Jedha in search of some artifacts, reuniting with his former allies in the process. With no Inquisitors to pursue him and the Empire reduced to a secondary opponent, Cal explores new worlds and cultures with his Baby Yoda, the ever-adorable BD-1.

The story takes a sharp turn at a crucial juncture in the journey, and the Star Wars themes, that were absent in the early going to make room for a more constrained and circumscribed story, return with cockiness in an exhilarating roller coaster that drags players to an excellent epilogue. The character relationships that Greez, Merrin, and Cere, have developed over the course of two games, and most importantly the newcomer Bode Akuna, as well as the emphasis placed on introspection and these relationships, make every moment spent in their company decidedly special.

It is undeniable that Survivor is quite similar to its predecessor. The prologue on Coruscant is a remix of the one in Fallen Order’s Track, with Cal engaged in a furious sprint between opponents and platforms that serves as a tutorial and explains the fundamentals of gameplay. There’s just one small difference: Cal starts Survivor with all of the skills he learned in Fallen Order: Force powers, wall-running, Jedi somersaults, and so on. Survivor mixes everything right away, gradually offering increasingly complex challenges while also equipping our hero with a new tool – the cable lift – that makes exploration even more dynamic and articulated.

However, Coruscant remains a pretty linear introduction stage that also serves as a preview of what awaits the players in the course of the new adventure. It is therefore not surprising that Bode Akuna, a gunslinger armed with a jetpack designed by Respawn for Survivor, also comes to our aid. The game gives us control over our battle companion, but this is really an illusion: in reality, we will only be able to tell supporting characters like Bode which target to hit with a special attack or which objective to complete in order to unlock a new path. Bode and Merrin will assist us at various points throughout the campaign, and the dynamic known as Companion Assistance is likely the one that has stayed the most constant since Fallen Order.

This last chapter of Star Wars Jedi has been greatly improved in every way, and it becomes clear as soon as you land on Koboh, and take your first steps into this kind of open world that isn’t really an open world – it’s more of a gigantic, enormous map structured in a Metroidvania way that guarantees the player the freedom to go wherever he wants right away. It’s unavoidable that you’ll run into an impenetrable wall or long for a platform that’s too far away, but as you progress through the primary mission, you’ll unlock the talents and equipment you need to overcome each obstacle.

In this regard, Survivor provides the gamer with two exceptional characteristics. The first is definitely the map, which has been greatly enhanced over Fallen Order’s one. It is now clearer and more readable, and Respawn has enriched it with filters and settings, but most importantly, it accurately records each collectible, route, or puzzle, regardless of whether it is accessible or not. Fast travel is another aspect that alters the approach and, in some ways, highlights the level’s design merit. It is accessible from the save points, allowing you to move from one to the other with a short load, and the developer has taken care to distribute collectibles, puzzles, and so on always in the vicinity of these locations. Backtracking is thus reduced to a minimum, and although it is inherent in the nature of this type of game, it is always a pleasure to retrace your footsteps because the skills learned in the meantime open the door to ever-new and interesting paths.

Exploration thus becomes the beating heart of Survivor. This game provides ample opportunities to probe around. If collectibles in Fallen Order were confined to several sorts of ponchos or components to personalize BD-1 and Cal’s lightsaber, there is considerably more to acquire this time, and every detour leads to something or someone.

Overall, there are only two free-exploration worlds: Koboh and Jedha. Aside from these two planets and Coruscant, Cal sees a few additional places, but they are usually confined and offer linear scenarios. The smart and precise shortcut system allows you to return to them at any moment and explore them in quest of collectibles. Although the physical variety of Koboh compensates for the lack of explorable planets, there is still a sense that Cal Kestis’ new adventure is constrained to a specific area, which dampens a little bit its goals.

Despite this, you can’t ignore such a brilliant design. Each new talent or tool fits nicely into the map’s exploratory dynamics and structure, merging seamlessly with previously learned skills, and while the total at the conclusion of the game is stunning, you never get the impression that Respawn is trying to exaggerate. Even the timed challenges, known as Rifts of the Force, which put the player’s platforming skills to the test, appear balanced and never trivial or unjust, thanks to a redesigned and improved control system that appears much more straightforward right away.

Koboh is a galaxy nexus that Tatooine and Jakku lust after. There are Separatist droids that have been isolated for years, as well as Jawa junkyards, Rancors, Jedi ruins, and Imperial outposts. Its environment is immensely diverse, with canyons, crevices, mountains and woodland regions, lakes and marshes, volcanic terrain, and flying strongholds. Greez has opened his Pyloon Saloon right in the outpost of Meta Promessa, a place where some colorful characters gather.

These NPCs frequent our friend Latero’s pub or walk among the buildings, and in some cases, they will give us Rumors – essentially secondary objectives that appear on the map and tell us that we might find something intriguing in that region. The freedom provided by Koboh’s open structure, on the other hand, allows us to go to a certain area and perform the secondary assignment before speaking with the NPC – in that case, Cal will make sure to inform the NPC that the objective has been met. Rumors aren’t truly side missions, they’re more like clues that don’t award the player with tools or experience points.

In other situations, however, solving a Rumor might ensure respect from the NPC in question, which we will “recruit” in the Saloon. There, it is always worth chatting with the patrons, who will respond to the campaign’s growth and possibly have some new Rumors for us. Some will unlock extra features like the jukebox, the growable garden on the roof, the aquarium to fill, or the Holotactics minigame, which employs a Pok√©mon-like trick: it’s a form of turn-based strategy, but the pawns are the foes we’ve made scan to BD-1 after beating them.

The vendors then offer various items in exchange for specific currencies that Respawn has placed more or less prominently on the planets of Survivor. These range from additional components for the lightsaber or BD-1 to new clothing for Cal, which can be customized even down to the hairstyle and beard cut, but also Benefits and other upgrades. Caij, the bounty hunter, will provide us extra blaster properties in exchange for the progressively difficult mini-bosses she will send us to kill across the galaxy. Each of these NPCs has a good narrative backstory that we will find by discussing them on a regular basis, which may or may not be relevant in the big scheme of Star Wars, but indicates an important level of intelligence.

The Benefits are basically perks that Cal can equip to affect the gameplay in a more or less noticeable way. You can buy them from the droid Zeta or find them around, carefully hidden, possibly in the Chambers of the Jedi after solving complex puzzles. There are Benefits that exclusively improve the damage dealt by specific weapons or skills, while others are ambiguous and, for example, increase the damage inflicted on the enemy’s block indicator while decreasing the time available for parrying. Because each Benefit takes up one or more special slots, it is impossible to equip them all and you must pick or expand the number of accessible spaces by exploring the explorable planets.

Finally, Survivor would not be a Star Wars Jedi unless he fought. The core fighting system has stayed nearly unchanged. It is once again focused on a mechanism of exchanges and precise parries that diminish the opponent’s block indicator until it is unbalanced, allowing for an attack. To break through their defenses and annihilate them in a few strokes, it is necessary to learn to read the movements of the enemy in order to forecast their attacks and deflect them with timing.

When you’re surrounded by melee and ranged adversaries, you can also use dodging in all directions, which, when done correctly, recharges Cal’s Strength indicator. You can also keep your guard up to parry complete combos, but you risk stumbling like the attacker and absorbing more damage than necessary. As a result, Cal has a wealth of Force powers at his disposal to gain an advantage in combat, ranging from telekinesis, which may pull or push foes, to mind control, which allows them to momentarily turn against each other.

The fighting system in Fallen Order was adequate in its own way, but it lacked Cal’s response to player interaction which led to that instant later, which could have meant the difference between a perfect parry and a straight hit. Respawn had added a fantastic difficulty slider that not only raised or decreased enemy strength but also response time, allowing even gamers unfamiliar with action games to shape the dynamics of the battles, particularly spectacular in duels with bosses armed with lightsabers. Not only does the aforementioned difficulty selector return in Survivor, but Respawn has also altered the shoot on timing and responsiveness to inputs, while also balancing the Force powers, which in the first title could be utilized to literally overpower foes.

Survivor’s Force powers are also devastating, but there are a lot of them, and Respawn has engineered the clashes by mixing enemies resistant to the Force with others who can even turn against us. There are enemies we can attract with the Force and pass to fil of the sword in an instant, and others who will exploit the momentum to kick us and reset the fight.

Force powers can still be abused, but Cal must be “built” expressly by distributing Skill Points in the relevant skill trees. There are now many more to create: one dedicated to Resilience, three to Force powers, and five to lightsaber techniques. Another notable addition is the Styles, which have a smaller impact on the battles than one might imagine. Cal can equip two styles at the same time and then switch from single-bladed to double-bladed lightsabers. Three different fighting techniques are taught through time: the agile and aggressive one with two swords; the sluggish and powerful one with the crossguard sword; and finally, the uncensored one that combines a lightsaber and blaster to offer Cal an advantage in long-range combat.

Each style has its own set of combos and special attacks to learn and master, but there isn’t one that is clearly superior to the others, and at the intermediate difficulty level, you can approach each fight with the techniques you prefer. Moving the difficulty level higher, however, makes it far more vital to choose the most effective technique based on the foes you’ll be fighting, compensating for their weaknesses with Benefits, a Survivor-exclusive feature.

Between Force powers, lightsaber styles, and Benefits, the Star Wars Jedi fighting system hasn’t altered dramatically, but it has improved overall. It is perhaps the least revolutionized component of the Respawn title when compared to Fallen Order, but it is also the most spectacular, with the developer working on the animations with an eye toward the representation of the fights in the Star Wars films and animated series. Fans will not be disappointed, but non-fans will be ecstatic when they eliminate a particularly obnoxious imperial stormtrooper by reflecting his own blaster shot in his face.

Speaking of animations, we must admit that the return of the mutilations, which were glaringly absent in Fallen Order, startled us. Of course, there is no blood, but Cal’s attacks decapitate his opponents, human or bionic, and sever limbs left and right, not to mention some final blows that are, to put it mildly, terrible. It’s most likely an aspect on which Respawn has decided to tread to emphasize Cal’s transition to adulthood, thrust against his will into a period in which he can’t afford gallantry as he battles to stay alive in a galaxy that is pursuing him. And, while some movements remained clunky, Respawn eventually got their hands on some animations, sparing us the iconic “diaper effect” that plagued Cal’s jogs in the trailers.

As a final note, at full speed, without exploring or hunting for supplementary stuff, Survivor should take around twenty-five hours to complete but you can play the game more and more times without being disappointed. Returning to Survivor certainly makes sense. In fact, completing the campaign unlocks a New Journey + mode that allows you to restart the story by importing all of the Skill Points, styles, and collectibles you unlocked in the first game, as well as some very special Perks and two special lightsaber colors.

The only pitfall we noticed is that the play can be affected by frequent slowdowns and instability, even playing in Performance Mode, a setting that drops the resolution to 1440p to ensure 60 frames per second. If the problem appears to have been largely remedied with updates, it is unclear whether the update has fixed all the numerous faults.

Conclusions

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a fantastic all-around action-adventure title that improves on Fallen Order in every way. Respawn has essentially excelled in terms of level design, creating a hybrid gameplay that relies on the Metroidvania legacy while also incorporating open-world elements and a more comprehensive combat system. Survivor is the Star Wars videogame fans and not hoped for and deserved, despite the various graphic issues that Asmussen’s team has vowed to fix.

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