When I started playing Star Wars Jedi: Survivor for four hours, I had a lot of doubts. I’ve recently revisited 2019’s Fallen Order, and my experience has been less than stellar. I liked the game when it first came out, but now there are many frustrating things about it, like Cal’s slow movements, disappointing upgrades to his lightsaber, and checkpoints that make me repeat boring climbs. Combining parts of Uncharted and Dark Souls isn’t as interesting to me as it used to be.
But it was clear immediately that Respawn had changed its focus to Jedi Survivor. The game covers my biggest worries about Fallen Order in just a few minutes of play. Wallrunning no longer feels like a fight against gravity. Lightsaber battles are now based on the Ghost of Tsushima and have different upgrade paths for each stance. And finally, you can travel fast between checkpoints. Jedi Survivor shows growth, just like its main character Cal does.
This evolution is evident in the thrilling new lightsaber takedowns, Cal’s faster and more self-assured acrobatics, and his developing early-20s facial hair. Cal’s voice actor, Cameron Monaghan, uses a deeper tone that reminds me of my voice in the morning before I’ve had anything to drink (though I hope this doesn’t last for the whole game).
Even though Jedi Survivor is a sequel that builds on what came before, I don’t have much to complain about. It adds to and improves on the first game in unexpected ways, but the biggest surprise is that it goes into the open-world territory.
Back at the ranch
During my demo, I focused on exploring a single planet that was easily twice as big as any map in Fallen Order. The experience was less like Dark Souls and more like God of War (2018). I climbed cliffs, ran up walls, and solved light puzzles in tight canyons or caves. On the planet Koboh, these sections split off from a large desert in the middle, with a town with sidequests, a vendor, and a base of operations that Cal could improve over time.
Respawn hinted that Koboh is a big part of Jedi Survivor and is just one of several planets with a sandbox style. The game also has more linear, Fallen Order-style levels, but it seems like Respawn is most excited about the open spaces.
Jedi Survivor feels like a 3D platform game from the early 2000s with high-quality graphics from 2023.
I liked exploring Koboh’s sun-drenched space desert, which made me like the levels in Fallen Order even less in hindsight. The latter had funnel-shaped planets where fighting and climbing happened, so there was no time to enjoy the strange and beautiful alien landscapes. Koboh, on the other hand, shows convincingly that it is a place where people live (meeting the people there helps), and it has places where you can take a break without using swords or climbing.
I usually found chests off the main path with cosmetics, just like in the first game. Even though finding a new pair of pants at the bottom of a cave isn’t the most exciting loot, Jedi Survivor gave me more ways to change Cal’s look, making me care more about his appearance. He can now wear different shirts, armour, pants, and hairstyles. It’s odd to find a beard in a metal box, though. BD is also getting into the fashion trend with modular part sets that greatly change its look.
I sometimes found real upgrades, like a permanent upgrade to the Force meter or a perk. Respawn was happy about the new perk system and how it gives players more control over how their Cal builds look. During my demo, I only found one perk, and it was so small that I couldn’t remember what it was.
Conundrums and action
The smart move by Respawn was to give Cal virtually all of his old powers right away. Although players of Jedi Survivor won’t require a horrific padawan memory to perform simple puzzles like double jumping or force pulling a rope, the game’s light problem-solving is more entertaining than that of much of Fallen Order. Slow and push were often the only two choices available in Fallen Order.
I like Jedi Survivor even though its platforming isn’t especially difficult or thought-provoking. The ease with which one may create a bridge by sawing through a rock pillar or a floating platform by releasing a tar reservoir is appealing. Jedi Survivor looks and feels like a 3D platformer from the early 2000s with 2023 graphical fidelity added to it. I’m quite fine with the idea that my acceptance of this level of design from the early 2000s indicates developing PlayStation 2 nostalgia (at least for now).
Respawn has increased the challenge despite Cal’s enhanced ability to maintain a sense of intrigue. You’ll encounter stronger stormtroopers earlier in the game, such as ones armed with anti-Jedi sticks or laser miniguns. It’s still exciting to take down an entire squad of soldiers with a single slash, but the new separatist droids refurbished to fight for a band of local raiders are where the actions at.
I like that Respawn is depicting the typical conehead droids as clumsy morons that can’t wait to be destroyed. One such droid, poised on the edge of a cliff, bleated on and on about its helplessness and isolation, nearly begging to be attacked. The lack of human gore enables more innovative executions when dealing with droids, showcasing Respawn’s creative flexibility.
Jedi Survivor provides an experience that is both familiar and new with its mix of classic platforming and difficult fighting. This sequel aims to expand upon the foundations of Fallen Order with enhanced problem-solving, exciting fights, and a larger environment to explore.
Cal’s larger arsenal of lightsaber moves works well with the wider variety of enemies in Jedi Survivor. Although though Jedi Survivor has five postures, I was only able to use the first three of them in my demo. Blaster and crossguard, the other two (and perhaps more impressive) positions, were only displayed in a hands-off combat simulation designed to shove it in our faces. EA outlined the necessary attitudes as follows:
- Single: The standard lightsaber, balanced for offence and defence
- Double-bladed: The staff is great for crowd control
- Dual Wield: Cal’s lightsaber split into two lightsabers. It great for aggressive play high skill ceiling.
- Crossguard: A powerful, deliberate stance that allows you to deal massive damage at the cost of long wind-up times.
- Blaster: This stance allows Cal to deal with long-range foes.
There is now a clearer contrast between the single saber and double-saber positions from Fallen Order. In the new dual-wield posture, for example, Cal slows down time and temporarily counters every attack against him, while the single-blade stance performs a strong stab, and the double-blade stance whips the saber around in circles to damage everything around you.
These maneuvers are stylish and impressive, but there are nuances worth exploring. If you upgrade to double-blade early on, you can infinitely parry incoming blaster fire if you timing it just so (perfect for shielded minigun troopers). One flawlessly deflected shot from a dual-wielder may now be used to kill two soldiers at once with a comparable upgrade. After only a few hours and a dozen or so experience points, I was still constantly trying out new strategies in an effort to find my preferred one.
The limitation on active positions in Jedi Survivor is arbitrary and should be removed. Only at checkpoints are you allowed to switch between your two equipped postures. Having access to only three positions seems very restrictive.
Despite Respawn’s assurances that the game can be played from beginning to end in a single stance, I like to engage in a kinetic dance in which every play style and approach is flawlessly integrated. The wonderful multi-parry that is unique to dual wielding was severely missed, so I opted for single and double blades instead.
With less than a month till its debut, Jedi Survivor is just what the doctor ordered. Early indications are that it won’t be the most daring sequel out there, but that it will make strategic tweaks. Respawn certainly doesn’t want to repeat the missteps of Fallen Order, an uncomfortable but potentially rewarding action game that left a lot of meat on the bones. Jedi Survivor has the air of a sequel whose creators were aware of their game’s most decried flaws and set out to fix them in spades.