By George Bate & Josh Reilly B.
“Stim, BD!” It’s been over three years since Star Wars fans heard those words as they traveled the galaxy with Cal Kestis, BD-1, and the crew of the Mantis. Now, with the release of Respawn Entertainment’s Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Kestis and friends return for an ambitious video game that improves upon its predecessor in virtually every department.
Jedi: Survivor takes place five years after the events of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Cal Kestis and BD-1 have separated from Greez, Merrin, and Cere, but continue their efforts to weaken the tyrannical Empire. Desperate to find other Jedi scattered throughout the galaxy, Cal comes across a High Republic era Jedi trapped in a bacta tank. Cal and the mysterious Jedi figure soon find themselves at odds over a planet that could hold the key to safety from the Empire.
Jedi: Fallen Order featured a compelling, albeit standard storyline. The concept of the Empire and Jedi fighting over a Holocron containing information about Force-sensitive individuals had been depicted previously in other Star Wars stories. The narrative saw Cal Kestis come face-to-face with Inquisitors and Darth Vader himself, included an array of new and visited locations, and featured a core collective of unique and complex main characters.
Jedi: Survivor, meanwhile, picks up with a different narrative altogether – one far more original and captivating. The High Republic era Jedi lost in time proves to be one of the most unique plot threads and character arcs in recent Star Wars storytelling, with Jedi: Survivor continually taking twists and turns along its ~25 hour narrative. It’s a plot that integrates elements from multiple eras of the Star Wars galaxy and logically takes the player to familiar locations like Coruscant and Jedha and novel environments like Koboh and Nova Garon.
Key to most (if not all) Star Wars stories is the antagonist or, in this case, antagonists. In a creative move from writer Aaron Contreras, Jedi: Survivor shows the player that there are more threats in the galaxy than just the Empire. Yes, the Empire is prominent and their hold on the galaxy remains oppressively tight. However, Jedi: Survivor’s plot sees Cal face off against an evil senator, a crew of brutal bandits, and the aforementioned High Republic era Jedi.
If there’s any complaint to be lodged at Jedi: Survivor’s story, it’s the somewhat awkward and jarring introduction of several of the game’s key narrative elements. Much of the story revolves around a lost planet, one that the High Republic Jedi has experience with and one that Cal is desperate to find. With key narrative details often delivered in seemingly throwaway dialogue interactions, it can take some time to adjust to the main characters, their conflicting motivations, and multifaceted backgrounds.
A surprising narrative direction relates to Cal Kestis’ relationship with the members of the Mantis crew at the start of Jedi: Survivor. Jedi: Fallen Order and the intermediary novel Jedi: Battle Scars depict a tight-knit crew. Not dissimilar from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy in tone and species diversity, the team was a solid ensemble to follow. However, Jedi: Survivor begins with Cal separated from the Mantis crew, who have split off and relocated to different parts of the galaxy leading their own lives. When reunions inevitably occur, they feel somewhat underwhelming, especially when considering the terrific character work done by Sam Maggs in her novel to tie these characters closer together.
With bigger locations to explore and refined combat and movement mechanics, Jedi: Survivor improves vastly upon its predecessors’ gameplay. The reviewers of this game played Jedi: Survivor on PS5 and experienced no notable performance issues throughout the duration of the 20-30 hour play-through. Some awkward facial and hair graphics aside, Jedi: Survivor is a gorgeous game to behold. Environments feel textured and real, architecture of different planets stand out as unique, and character designs and movement are polished.
Jedi: Survivor retains the general structure of Jedi: Fallen Order, but goes bigger (and better) with its approach. Players are able to take the Mantis to different locations of the Star Wars galaxy and explore them as semi-open world environments. While the locations in Jedi: Fallen Order were more linear, Jedi: Survivor features locations vastly greater in size and detail. Navigation, however, remains problematic and, in turn, may lead to some unintended detours throughout the game. The map provided to the player is difficult and cumbersome to use, although a navigation assist tool does prove handy at times.
Combat, meanwhile, flows well for the most part. Although it can certainly devolve into repetitive button-mashing, Jedi: Survivor employs an intelligent skill/upgrade system that allows Cal to gradually learn new abilities throughout. These new abilities prove more and more important as the game progresses and the enemies Cal faces are all the more formidable. Boss fights are varied and difficult, but never in a “I’m going to stop playing this game” frustrated manner. The boss fights are distinct from one another and require the player to lean on different skill’s of Cal’s depending on the type of enemy.
Key to the gameplay of Jedi: Fallen Order were Uncharted-like puzzles to work through, some of which were deeply fascinating while others were unnecessarily convoluted. Jedi: Survivor marks an improvement in this area as the puzzles retain a level of difficulty, while always remaining approachable.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor excels as a bigger and better sequel than its predecessor Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. An original and compelling central narrative involving a High Republic era Jedi and a lost planet proves to be refreshing, while Cal Kestis continues to develop into a complex character distinct from other Jedi in this era. Poor navigation tools persist, but Jedi: Survivor features engaging and intelligent combat, immersive and approachable puzzles, and massive environments to explore. Whether it be for the story alone, the gameplay alone, or both (as will be the case with most Star Wars fans), Jedi: Survivor is a tremendously enjoyable experience that rivals the likes of The Force Unleashed and Knights of the Old Republic as the best single-player Star Wars game.