Title – Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Platforms – PS5, PC, Xbox Series X|S
Release Date – April 28th, 2023
Developer – Respawn Entertainment
Publisher – Electronic Arts
MSRP – $69.99
ESRB – T for Teen
Disclaimer – This product is being reviewed on the PlayStation 5. A review copy was provided by Electronic Arts for the purpose of this review. This review may also contain spoilers for certain gameplay and story elements. Watch at your own risk, you have been warned. Gaming Instincts is an Amazon Affiliate and does gain financial benefits if you choose to purchase this product on this page.
Taking inspiration from the Soulsborne games, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order showcases the most impressive lightsaber combat ever witnessed in a Star Wars game. Moreover, it boasts an exceptional world and gameplay design minus the egregious map. Despite the game’s remarkable accomplishments, it suffers from an overall lack of polish that seldom aligns with other triple-A action-adventure games. Regrettably, the same sentiment can be applied to its sequel, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. While it expands on almost every aspect of the first game, from customization to world design, it gives off an impression of being hastily assembled. Nothing is inherently broken, but the overall cohesion is tenuous at best. There is no denying that Survivor is an outstanding game, yet its underlying aspects such as performance, visuals, and polish struggle to keep pace.
At the outset of the game, the original crew consisting of Cal Kestis, Cere Junda, Greez Ditrus, and Merrin disbanded, resembling the breakup of an old boy band. Nevertheless, our protagonist Cal remains committed to challenging the Empire by joining forces with Saw Gerrera, who leads a guerrilla warfare campaign against the tyrannical regime. Cal’s character revolves around the poignant realization that he will spend his entire life battling the Empire, making small but impactful strides, yet never achieving enough to secure freedom and safety for himself and his friends. Fortunately, a glimmer of hope emerges when Cal stumbles upon a concealed planet that has eluded the Empire’s grip, offering the possibility of a sanctuary. However, reaching this planet necessitates acquiring artifacts from the High Republic era. Unfortunately, Cal faces the daunting challenge of contending with Dagan Gera, a fallen Jedi who has succumbed to the temptations of the Dark Side, and his allies, the Bedlam raiders, as they too seek to discover the planet’s location.
The forthcoming hunt serves as the catalyst for reuniting the gang and forms the core of the narrative. It takes some time for the main storyline to gain momentum, resulting in the initial few hours feeling somewhat aimless. Nevertheless, when the story thread does emerge, it pleasantly surprised me by exploring fresh territory instead of relying on a new batch of inquisitors or making Darth Vader the central antagonist. The game leverages the vast Star Wars universe to introduce new concepts and factions while retaining the essential themes of light versus dark. The sluggish start does hint at an issue with pacing moving forward. I noticed that significant story developments, particularly those directly propelling the narrative, were infrequent, causing the story to drift at times. It wasn’t until the latter part of the game that revelations began to unfold, and the story gained momentum.
The story of Survivor delivered a mix of unexpected twists and predictable moments. While some story beats were easily anticipated, they still carried an emotional weight that overshadowed the disappointment of their predictability. Despite the meandering nature of the overall plot, the characters consistently underwent development and exuded delightful charm. I was particularly pleased to witness Merrin, the Nightsister who joined the crew later in the previous game, assuming a more prominent role this time. Her sarcasm, compassion, and strength made her one of my favorite characters. Other characters like Greez and Cere received equal representation and remained as likable as they were before. When discussing Jedi games, however, Cal is often considered the least compelling character due to his seemingly mundane and uninspiring personality. While I can understand that perspective, I believe his portrayal accurately reflects someone grappling with profound trauma. Moreover, Survivor takes his character on an intriguing journey, ultimately rendering him more well-rounded, despite certain moments where his performances fell short of delivering the desired emotional resonance.
Overall, similar to many Star Wars narratives, Survivor’s story does possess some flaws. Nevertheless, I appreciate that it ventured into uncharted territory within a franchise where everything is typically intertwined with the Skywalker saga. The fact that Jedi Survivor is canon is a source of satisfaction, and I eagerly anticipate encountering these characters in other Star Wars media.
The core of Survivor’s gameplay revolves around combat, particularly lightsaber combat, with the addition of force powers. The combat mechanics function just as effectively as they did in the previous game, relying on well-timed parries, dodges, and attacks. Survivor takes the solid combat foundation and elevates it by introducing three new stances and incorporating flashy moves into the existing stances. While the single-blade stance serves as a versatile middle ground, each of the other stances possesses its own unique specialization. Personally, my favorite was the double-bladed stance, which excels in crowd-control situations. Each stance also features a distinct force strike, with the double-bladed stance allowing you to throw the lightsaber in a spinning whirlwind around you. As you upgrade them, you gain the ability to perform a dash forward while spinning the lightsaber ahead of you or execute a front flip while spinning the lightsaber below you. It’s these stylish moves that enhance the satisfaction of combat and truly capture the essence of Star Wars, setting it apart from the Dark Souls inspiration. Deflecting blaster fire with each stance remains a gratifying aspect of combat and is among the best-feeling parts of combat. The double-bladed stance, in particular, proves essential when facing multiple ranged enemies as it allows for consecutive round deflections.
The dual-wield stance, which is designed for risky and fast-paced combat, became my second favorite style. It particularly shines in one-on-one battles. One of its notable advantages is the lightsaber throw, which becomes even more impressive as you progress in the skill tree. Eventually, you can throw both sabers consecutively, providing an easy and effective way to chip away at the enemy’s health bar. The force ability associated with the dual-wield stance is one of the more unusual ones in the game. Cal levitates the lightsabers above his hand and swiftly parries an incoming attack, followed by a powerful flurry of swings in response. Although I personally didn’t utilize this ability as much as I should have, it showcases the creative nature of the skill tree unlocks. It’s a testament to the thought and ingenuity put into designing these unique combat mechanics.
Survivor features additional stances that I will leave for you to discover. However, I can assure you that each stance serves a useful purpose, and none of them feel unsatisfying to play. The inclusion of multiple stances adds depth, complexity, and room for experimentation in combat. It becomes enjoyable to test each one and determine which ones work best in different situations. It’s worth noting that Cal can switch between two stances at a time, with the ability to change them only at workbenches or meditation checkpoints. While it could be somewhat frustrating when a preferred stance wasn’t equipped for a particular situation, it wasn’t a major issue because each stance can be effective if utilized correctly. Additionally, it was immensely satisfying to respawn, equip the most suitable stance, and swiftly dispatch the enemy that had previously defeated you.
In addition to lightsaber combat, Survivor incorporates various force powers. These include the iconic force push and force pull abilities. Force push is primarily useful for creating distance when feeling overwhelmed or for pushing enemies off cliffs, rather than causing significant damage. On the other hand, force pull allows you to drag enemies towards you, leaving them vulnerable to instant kills depending on the enemy type. This mechanic never grew tiresome, particularly when experimenting by using enemies as shields against incoming fire or hurling them into groups of troopers. The mind trick power also makes a notable appearance, allowing you to control the minds of enemies and make them fight on your side. While I didn’t personally utilize this ability extensively during my playthrough, I could sense its potential power and effectiveness with further investment in its skill tree.
As is often the case with games influenced by the Soulsborne genre, the question of difficulty arises. Fortunately, Survivor strikes a good balance. It is not excessively challenging, thanks to generous parry windows and an abundance of checkpoints throughout the game. However, some of the bosses will certainly put your skills to the test. It may take a few attempts to grasp a boss’s attack patterns and learn how to effectively counter them. Yet, this aspect adds to the enjoyment of the game. Survivor falls more on the lighter side of the Souls-like spectrum, so you shouldn’t expect overwhelming frustration. Nonetheless, the difficulty does elevate combat just enough for a rewarding experience. It’s worth noting that I played the game on the Jedi Knight difficulty, which is considered normal, and I imagine that higher difficulty settings would pose a threat.
When you’re not engaged in combat, you’ll find yourself exploring expansive planets and solving puzzles. The largest planet, Koboh, serves as your home camp or headquarters. As someone who typically isn’t fond of open-world design, I was pleasantly surprised by Koboh and how Respawn skillfully blended open exploration with linear-level design. In certain games, extensive open maps sometimes overshadow solid-level design and cinematic storytelling. However, Survivor strikes a balance by giving equal attention to both aspects without overwhelming players with an excessive amount of content. This approach allows for an engaging and immersive experience without sacrificing the quality of the levels or the narrative.
Koboh features a modest base management system where you can enhance Greez’s saloon. Initially, the saloon appears desolate and gloomy, with a bored robot bartender. However, Cal can embark on side missions to recruit various employees, including a musician and a fish tank caretaker. There’s even a gardener who tends to the rooftop garden, allowing you to plant seeds and witness their growth over time. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the process of building up the saloon, as it gradually transformed into a vibrant and lively place filled with enthusiastic patrons. The diverse species gathered in one place showcased Respawn’s creative character design and the game’s surprisingly humorous writing. Among the colorful characters, Turg stands out as the best companion from the Pyloon Saloon. We must protect Turg at all costs. He’s an endearing frog-like creature with protruding eyes, radiating innocence, friendliness, and clumsiness. His comical running style reminiscent of a Looney Tunes character adds to his charm. I’ll even go as far as admitting that I prefer Turg over Grogu. There, I said it.
The bar in Koboh is a hub of intriguing characters like this, and I always made it a point to stop by and engage in conversations. The side missions, for the most part, serve as an opportunity to explore Koboh, a planet that defies the Star Wars planet trope of having only one type of terrain. While the main area of Koboh consists of a rocky desert, you’ll also encounter eerie swamp-like environments, towering mountains, and murky caverns. As well as drawing inspiration from FromSoftware’s combat system, Respawn also appears to have drawn inspiration from Elden Ring’s open world. Now, don’t misunderstand me—Koboh is nowhere near the size and scale of Elden Ring. However, the experience of simply exploring, encountering unexpected bosses, and uncovering secrets felt reminiscent of FromSoftware’s open-world adventure. On one occasion, I stumbled upon a formidable boss in the open world, suffered a crushing defeat, and made a determined decision to come back stronger after exploring other areas. That encapsulates the essence of Elden Ring.
Exploration in Survivor entails a significant amount of parkour, which generally feels satisfying and stylish. Cal possesses the ability to wall run, grapple, and dash, allowing him to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. While the parkour mechanics are mostly well-executed, there were instances where the platforming felt a bit finicky. For example, I occasionally found myself disoriented when wall running or misjudging jumps that seemed feasible. Additionally, in my eagerness to explore, I would sometimes leap onto a platform that appeared to be within the game’s boundaries, only to meet an immediate demise. These issues detract from the sense of exploration, freedom, and seamless traversal achieved in games like Elden Ring and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Exploration in Survivor also involves engaging with puzzles, often incorporating Metroidvania elements where you need to revisit areas with newly acquired tools or force powers. This aspect added an extra layer of anticipation as I looked forward to unlocking the necessary tools or abilities. The puzzles themselves followed a classic AAA design, featuring gameplay mechanics that were straightforward and not overly challenging. While some may consider this a downside, I found solving puzzles like a Jedi to be consistently satisfying. There were also instances of creative puzzle ideas, such as utilizing BD-1 to guide a line of fire to a specific location, clearing the path, or leveraging animals to gain extra height for jumps. Additionally, there were meditation chambers or puzzle shrines that posed a slightly higher level of complexity, requiring thoughtful consideration and adding a welcome depth to the puzzle design.
While exploration in Survivor offers its own enjoyment, it is not without purpose as it leads to the discovery of collectibles, along with the acquisition of skill points. These collectibles primarily take the form of cosmetics, which surprisingly add an extra layer of fun to the game due to the extensive customization options. You have the freedom to alter Cal’s hairstyle, facial hair, jacket, shirt, and jeans. Whether you want to give him a mullet with a mustache or long hair with a headband, the possibilities are vast. Moreover, there is an abundance of outfits to select from, allowing Cal to resemble a character from the Clone Wars, a member of the Rebel Alliance, or even a rugged hunter. The customization options extend to BD-1 and lightsabers as well. You can modify BD-1’s appearance by changing its parts, and even customize the colors. With that said, the most enjoyable aspect of customization lies in the lightsabers. You can alter every intricate detail, from individual components to determining the level of polish or weathering. The sheer pleasure of exploring these customization options and creating the perfect ensemble adds value to the collectibles, exceeding my initial expectations.
Now, the downside of exploration is the lack of planets you get to visit. While there are two main open-world planets, Jedha and Koboh, the lack of diversity in Jedha as a simple desert planet left me wanting something more unique and creatively designed. Additionally, the other planets and moons you encounter serve primarily as small linear missions. Most of the missions are concentrated on Koboh, which does offer enough diversity to justify its prominence, but it falls short of fulfilling the desire for a planet-hopping experience we often associate with Star Wars.
Performance and Final Verdict
The visual quality of Survivor doesn’t live up to expectations, especially considering the lack of improvements compared to its predecessor. The muddy textures and noticeable pop-in during cutscenes, such as the background loading in while the ship lands on Jedha, can be immersion-breaking and detract from the overall visual experience. Additionally, encountering clipping issues with character models, like Cal’s backpack clipping through his cape, or his arm morphing into the ground during slides, further contribute to the visual shortcomings of the game.
The performance, even in 60 FPS mode, dropped significantly several times, creating some uncomfortable moments when trying to explore. Worst of all, my game crashed three times and didn’t hold up during high-octane open-world moments. One time, while I was running past a group of enemies to reach a boss, the game couldn’t handle the mayhem and froze, eventually crashing. There were also small moments like the door to Cal’s room not opening, leaving me trapped unless I fast-traveled. The PS5 was the least optimized console, but I’m glad I didn’t play the game on PC, which, from what I’ve seen, is incredibly broken.
Overall, I believe Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a good game. However, it’s disappointing that the level of polish and stability isn’t quite up to par. I hope that with future patches and updates, the game will become a much more solid and enjoyable experience. If it weren’t for the performance issues, I would easily rate it a 9. Unfortunately, considering its current state, I have to give it an 8.5.
The technological issues I encountered during my playthrough were noticeable but not game-breaking. While they didn’t drastically lower my overall score, they were definitely the weakest aspect of the game. I must say, though, these issues were not on the same level as the unplayability seen in Fallout 76. So, while they were frustrating, they didn’t ruin the experience entirely.
I’m optimistic that Star Wars Jedi: Survivor will be improved over time, and I recommend keeping an eye on it if you’re a fan of the series. With the necessary fixes, it has the potential to be a truly fantastic game. As it stands now, I give it an 8.5 out of 10.
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