To get my Star Wars fanboy rant out of the way first, if I am having to continually check the timeline to see when the next piece of content is set, it is too fragmented. I am all for expanding this universe, but it needs to be a bit more cohesive and disjointed. You can most definitely have too much of a good thing.
That said, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is perhaps the best thing to come out of the Star Wars franchise since Disney took over.
Five years have passed since the events of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Cal Kestis is still mulling over his decision to destroy the Holocron. As such, his entourage have all gone their separate ways and moved on, prompting Cal to work a bit more freelance in his attempts to destroy the Empire. We rejoin him as he is taken prisoner on the world of Coruscant. After an opening cinematic showcasing the graphical improvements over the first game – and perhaps going someway to explaining why Star Wars Jedi: Survivor requires 140GB of Xbox drive space – Cal quickly finds himself on the run again.
Instantly, and we have been blown away by how fluid the movement and combat is. It is buttery-smooth, to the point where we would argue that Cal is using the force to oil his joints. Even when out of combat his fluidity is impressive and it won’t be long before you are found combining many traversal movements into one longer motion to help you navigate these new worlds.
Then, in combat, things are just as impressive. Cal is now a Jedi Knight, and he feels stronger as a result. No longer do you go into a combat scenario with a defensive mindset; here you can be much more aggressive. That is in thanks to Cal’s larger repertoire of lightsaber stances and Force moves. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor avoids the pitfall that many sequels do of having your character start from scratch again in terms of abilities. Cal starts off strong, and only gets stronger.
Which is all good news because Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is once again a Soulslike affair. Cal must journey these worlds with limited health and rest up at meditation points. But, in doing so, all enemies are respawned. The easiest Soulslike comparison would be to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice; most enemies have a stamina bar that needs to be whittled away first through attacking and parrying before unleashing a flurry of attacks on their health bar. But unlike Sekiro, this dance of the lightsaber is much more fast-paced. Enemies have attacks that cover all distances, and sometimes trying to bait an attack isn’t advisable. You need to be on the offensive much more than in other Soulslikes.
Now, this may put people off, but it needn’t. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor has enough difficulty settings for everyone to enjoy, and even the default will not pose too much of a challenge for Soulslike fanatics. The punishment for death is also not too steep, only penalising you for the EXP you currently have. Any skill points you have banked will remain safe until you spend them.
There are new and returning lightsaber stances included, for a total of five now. The previous single- and double-bladed stances return, along with a now fully fleshed out dual wield stance. New stances include a larger, crossguard saber similar to Kylo Ren’s that is slower to wield but a hell of a lot more powerful and a saber and blaster combo stance. Each stance has its own skill tree, so it would be worthwhile to get acclimatised to one stance and stick with it. For me, the traditional single-blade was enough to carry me through, though that crossguard stance was equipped in the other slot for dealing out huge damage. And feeling badass in the process.
After escaping Coruscant with new ally Bode Akuna, Cal notices the Mantis ship is damaged. And there is only one person capable of fixing it, Greez Dritus. Greez has settled down on the planet Koboh and opened up a bar there, which now serves as your main hub area in the game. You will be returning to this area time and time again throughout your adventure, and each time there will be something new. It could be a new character to chat with, or just catching up with your old friends.
It is while Cal is on Koboh that he begins to hear rumours of a world out of the reach of the Empire. The world of Thalanorr had previously been discovered by a couple of High Republic Jedi’s: Santari Khri and Dagan Gera. Kept secret to protect it, rumours begin circulating that a compass hidden on one of Koboh’s moons holds the key to finding it. Understandably, Cal is tired of hiding and running from the Empire. If he can find this hidden planet though, he will no longer need to live in fear, along with all those he holds close around him.
Despite this more personal story now, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor feels slightly more light-hearted in tone. There are several humorous interactions between the established characters, and even BD-1’s bleeps and bloops are usually timed to perfection for some levity. One NPC in particular appears to be the butt of all jokes on Koboh, but they are able to take it all on the chin. Unlike Fallen Order’s darker tone the overall feel in Survivor is one of hope and light at the end of the tunnel.
But the overall story is still a bit of a weak aspect, and I don’t think this is helped by the large gameplay sections as you joyfully explore these worlds. Then when you get to the next marker, it usually involves you travelling to and from the same planets to explore a little bit further, with the story only crawling along.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor improves upon pretty much every other criticism of the first game though, and Pyloon’s Saloon in Koboh is the tip of the iceberg. There are many more NPCs dotted around the map to converse with. They may offer you a rumour, which is essentially a side-quest to explore an area. Usually, these are quite fruitful to explore. Certain NPCs will then be found in the bar and can offer various distractions. They may be able to play the music you have unlocked, help you fill the aquarium, offer up some green-fingered advice in the garden, or even tempt you into a game or three of holotactics. There is much to see and do here; much more so than collecting ten specific plants and little else in Fallen Order.
There is also fast travel, something crucially missing in the previous game. And yet, it doesn’t feel as needed as it was before. The level design is superb, taking the basic framework ‘borrowed’ in the last game from the likes of Metroid Prime et al., and near-enough perfecting it. Meditation points feel perfectly placed with shortcuts and return points all expertly leading back to them. Every time you spend a long period of time away from a meditation point it can be a bit nervy, but there is always a lift or a door to return you to one and you can’t help but smile at the expertise in level design. And whilst Koboh is the largest area to explore by some way, the level design is no weaker on any of the other moons and planets you explore.
Exploration feels much more rewarding too. It is no longer a case of simply finding different coloured ponchos or the occasional extra stim; there are a ton of other stuff out there. Various collectibles that can be used as currency, hidden doors that lead to Breath of the Wild-esque shrines, a bounty of bounty hunters for you to hunt down and even challenge scenarios. You don’t need to travel far off the beaten track either to find any of this stuff, it is in abundance everywhere.
For the traditionalist though, there is still a healthy amount of cosmetic stuff to find too. Cal can now have different beard and hair styles along with a plethora of new outfits.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor doesn’t do much different over Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, but the small tweaks and improvements that are in place make for a much more enjoyable experience. Tighter level design, fast travel and a better hub world were all on wish lists after the first game, and they’ve been added in here. Plot-wise and Survivor remains a bit weaker, at least until the very late-game, and there doesn’t feel like there is as much variation in the roster of enemies. But, if lead director Stig Asmussen has this envisioned as a trilogy, the difficult second chapter has been overcome with flying colours.
Everything it’s very refreshing!! So good to know they improved so much in comparison to Jedi:Fallen Order!! (fast travel is a must)
I think there’s a mistake o on the “Formats” section, I believe as for now that, there’s no version for Xbox One nor ps4 of Jedi Survivor!
Thanks for the awesome review!! Can’t wait to join Cal in his next thrilling adventure!!
Cheers for the comment – blaming the editor for the formats. All fixed!