Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order’s much anticipated sequel finally arrived a few weeks ago. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor had big shoes to fill. Its predecessor was a massive hit receiving critical acclaim. As a massive Star Wars fan, I immediately jumped at the chance to play and review Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. The question on a lot of people’s minds was “Did Respawn raise the bar even further?’ The answer is: “Yes, they did.”. Read on for our Star Wars Jedi: Survivor review.
What happened before?
Much like the Marvel games, Star Wars games have been in a weird spot ever since Disney took ownership of the IP. Back in the day of LucasArts, we’ve received loads of Star Wars games. Sure, some weren’t that great but there were some amazing games among them. When Disney handed their license for Star Wars games exclusively to EA, we’ve only seen a handful of AAA games since. While initially disappointing the gaming community (But not me!) with the Star Wars Battlefront games, they hit a home run with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
The first entry in the Star Wars Jedi series introduced us to Cal, a survivor of the Jedi purge who has been hiding from the Empire for years. He came into contact with another former Jedi, Cere, who took him on a journey to reconnect with his Jedi heritage. On board their spaceship, the Mantis, they traveled to various planets in order to uncover a mystery presented by Cera’s former master. At the end of the first game, Cal and the crew were more determined than ever to take the fight back to the Empire.
Survivor’s place in the Star Wars universe
The Star Wars universe is vast. And with all the crossover media from recent years, especially regarding the time period Star Wars Jedi: Survivor takes place in, there’s been a lot of speculation about the story. Will it tie in with existing media? Which characters will we see? Any connections to movies or TV shows? Without spoiling anything, I myself had some thoughts of where the story was likely going. And boy, was I wrong.
I’ll be giving some minor spoilers for the first 30 minutes of the game here, so skip this paragraph if you don’t want that. The game starts out a few years after the original game. While we left a determined crew at the end of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, this game actually starts with Cal and a completely new crew. He’s not with the original crew, they’ve all gone to different pastures. But Cal found some new friends courtesy of Saw Gerrera to fight the Empire. It becomes clear a lot has happened in between the two games. Before long, events set Cal on course for a new mystery and exploring new planets. You’ll see plenty of new and familiar faces throughout.
Top notch storytelling
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a game with great gameplay but with a huge focus on its story. And be assured, it’s a great story. I’d be surprised if it would be anything you’d have expected. As someone who is pretty well acquainted with Star Wars media from books to series, it was still a complete surprise to me. For example, there are ties to other Star Wars media, but not as I expected. The prologue of the game is very different than my expectations were and during the course of the story there were some great plot twists I didn’t see coming. There are some pacing issues, with the middle of the game slowing down a bit. But I found the story, and especially the final third of it, better than most Star Wars content from the past decades. It also helps that, for most of the game, the antagonists aren’t the Empire for a change.
During the course of the story, you’ll visit a number of planets. Some fan favorites and some completely new ones. The amount of planets is less than in the first game, but in this case less is more. The bigger worlds are much bigger than in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. They’re also less linear. It’s taking more of an open world approach. It’s not a true open world but there are huge zones with a lot of places you can explore. The first time I actually entered one of these zones, I was amazed. Both by its beauty as everything I saw on the screen. Everywhere I looked, I saw caves, ledges, walkways and so on. It was clear there was a ton to explore. And this is what I did.
On the first big planet, Koboh, it became very clear that the bar for this game was raised even higher. I actually spent more than an hour just exploring the planet, finding collectibles and seeing where I could go. There’s a lot of vertical level building, which makes the planets feel even bigger. Sometimes, there’s as much as four different heights, each reachable through different paths. In the early part of the game, you’ll also notice you can’t progress any further because you’ll need specific upgrades to clear the path. A clear sign of a Metroidvania game.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor manages to give a masterclass in Metroidvania gameplay. Metroidvania games put a huge emphasis on exploration, gated by unlockable abilities. The more abilities you unlock, the more you can explore in previous areas. There’s so much to do and see on the planets, that you can literally spend hours sidetracking per planet once you get all your upgrades. Sometimes this leads to collectibles or legendary enemies. And sometimes, to something more special.
A new feature in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor are rumors. Rumors are gained from various NPC’s in the game world, pointing you to a form of side quest. Yes, there are side quests now. These optional quests give Cal some more story content and special unlocks. Some will lead you to NPC’s to join Cal’s base of operations Pyloon’s Saloon. Yes, you read that right. Cal has a base in this game, operated by a friend from the past. It serves as a place to relax, talk to friends, do some gardening or play holotactics.
But that isn’t the only new feature of the game. For example, you can ride mounts now. On the bigger planets, you can mount creatures to increase your traveling speed and to reach places you otherwise couldn’t. You can even ride them into combat. Another new addition are Perks. You get three perk slots at first in which you can slot said perks. Perks offer passive bonuses to customize your playstyle. You can increase your block meter, damage or health for example. A nice addition, copied from God of War no doubt.
Annoyances cleared up
And one of the biggest annoyances from Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has also been dealt with. There is finally fast travel in the game. Since the game offers a lot of backtracking to places you’ve been before, it’s nice to be able to fast travel from meditation point to meditation point. Especially when cleaning up post-game for collectibles.
Along the way, you’ll also be accompanied by companions from time to time. They can help in combat and make combat encounters easier. Not so much because of the damage they deal, but because they can draw aggro at times and interrupt your opponents. To increase their use even more, you’ll get an ability with a cooldown timer which opens an opponent up for attacks. This feature was clearly inspired by the recent God of War games. It’s a nice addition but to be fair, it doesn’t make as much of an impact as it could as it happens in just a few parts of the game.
Take your pick
The meat of the gameplay is clearly the combat. And it’s an area where they’ve hit the ball out of the park in my opinion. Fallen Order’s combat was already great in my opinion. They’ve built on that and it will feel very familiar. They have just expanded on it greatly. You’ll fight foes with your trust lightsaber and force powers yet again. Using parry and dodges to weaken enemy defenses and deal damage. There’s multiple lightsaber stances to use. In the previous game you had three. Single saber, dual wield and a lightsaber staff. You’ll get more options this time around. Each has a different use and their own skills and combos. I did find some stances to be more effective than others throughout the game, which led me to stick to one or two and neglecting the others.
One problem I foresaw for this game was how to deal with Cal’s skills and force powers compared to the previous game. From a gameplay perspective you want to gradually unlock Cal’s skill set from the previous game. Unlocking it all at once can feel overwhelming. However, it doesn’t make sense from a story point of view to have him “forget” all his skills. And you also want to have players discover new things through progression.
Fortunately, this is handled expertly through a combination of storytelling and simply expanding on his skillset and force powers. Pretty early in the game, he’ll feel like the Cal from Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. And there will still be a lot of force powers, skills and stances to unlock. Before long you’ll be taking down stormtroopers and enemies in ways you haven’t before.
Is the game perfect? Not yet but pretty close. Fall distance is still a thing. When you fall too far, you’ll simply die instead of taking health damage. This may make sense in a linear game, but in the semi open world zones it simply doesn’t. As a Jedi, I want to be able to jump down two stories because that’s what Jedi do. Especially in an open world with tons to explore. Seeing your character die a few feet from the ground because of an invisible pit of death is just strange.
Additionally, boss battles, while well designed in general, often feel easier than some of the harder encounters spread across the level. This is because groups of enemies can gang up on you which is lethal when there are multiple powerful enemies. Beating a boss on the first try when you just spent 30 minutes trying to get past a group of random enemies feels a little anticlimactic at times. But these are simply minor annoyances in what is otherwise a great game.
And then, there’s also performance. At this point it feels like beating a dead horse, but since it’s overtaking the narrative regarding Star Wars Jedi: Survivor I feel like I need to touch on it. The game performed great for me. Yes, you read that right. I played Quality mode, not performance mode. I prefer 4K over 60 fps. And in this mode, I had almost no issues. There were a few scenes (about three) where I noticed a performance drop. But it was barely noticeable. So while a lot of people are up in arms about their frames per second, I was enjoying what is a game of the year candidate for me. Now do keep in mind, if you do want to play with 60 FPS, I would wait a few patches and read up on it. But if you’re alright with 30 FPS, don’t sleep on it. By the time it becomes playable in the cloud, there’s a good chance it’s not an issue anymore due to patches anyway.
In terms of graphics, this game feels truly next gen. When you start exploring some of the more open worlds, you’ll notice the power of next-gen consoles and graphic cards. There’s a ton of detail and the draw distance is amazing. For me, this confirmed game developers should stop making games for the previous generation consoles. It’s become clear how much they have held recent AAA games back in terms of graphical power. From the character models to the textures and animation, everything is very sharp and fluent. Accompanied by a fitting soundtrack, exploring the game’s environments is a game itself.
I had pretty high expectations for Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. Not so much in terms of gameplay, as I would have been fine with more of the same however definitely in terms of story. The game has exceeded my expectations in every way. Some features feel like fluff, such as mounts and companions. But the more open world planets and expanded combat system have truly impressed me. And the story has me blown away. I finished the game a few days ago and still find myself thinking “Did that just happen?”. I can’t wait to play the next game and see where Respawn takes Cal and how they’ll improve the formulae even further.
- Planets are less linear, more open
- Metroidvania gameplay at it’s finest
- Excellent story
- Graphically impressive
- Expansive combat skill set
- Fall damage mechanic
- Boss and encounter difficulty feels unbalanced