“Star Wars Jedi: Survivor” Review
In the third-person hack & slash action game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, former Padawan Cal Kestis had to relearn all the Jedi skills he’d forgotten while trying to survive in a post-Order 66 universe. But as Jedi Master Albert Einstein said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” Which is why, despite now being a Jedi, Cal still has a lot to learn in his new adventure, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC). Good thing Jedi’s learn by doing…
Set five years after Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,
which itself was five years after Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith (putting this around the time of the show Obi-Wan Kenobi), Star Wars Jedi: Survivor finds Cal still trying to rebuild The Jedi Order, and undermine The Empire. But he’s done more in the intervening five years than just grow a beard. He’s grown as a Jedi as well, learning skills he’ll need to know if he’s going to continue being hunted by Lord Vader and his Inquisitors.
When we first reunite with Cal, it’s on Coruscant, where we see that he hasn’t forgotten how to use The Force to push Stormtroopers off ledges, or how to wpull them into his waiting lightsaber (which are my two favorite ways to take out those bucketheads). He also remembers how to do a Force-assisted double jump, how to use his lightsaber to return blaster fire to its previous owner, and how to run along walls like a Persia Prince or titan falling.
But apparently Cal also used the five years between games to learn how to use The Force to momentarily slow time (an ability that takes time to recharge), and to do that Obi-Wan hand wavy thing to, say, convince a Stormtrooper to help him out. He can even do a more advanced version of the Force-assisted jump now, one that, when used on certain kinds of walls, allow him to scale them through multiple jumps.
As for his lightsabers,
Cal still has the single blade he’s had since this all started, and the Darth Maul-looking double-bladed one he picked up last time. But where before he seemed hesitant to pull it apart and use it as two lightsabers Ahsoka-style, he now sees how, in many situations, this configuration can be beneficial (and fun). All of these lightsaber options also come with their own special attacks, as well as upgrades, which makes it handy that Cal can pick between two kinds and switch between them on the fly.
But while Cal may not be a learner anymore, he’s hardly a master. Which is why he learns almost as much in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor as he did in Fallen Order. Like how to build a grappling hook that can sometimes help him get around like Spider-Man. Or Kryna-Man, as the case may be. Though it really works more like Aloy’s Pullcaster in Horizon Forbidden West in that it can only attach to very specific things.
He even learns how to use other kinds of lightsabers, one of which will have you wondering if this is where a certain broody boy in one of the later movies got the idea for a cross-like hilt.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor also has Cal finding perks that upgrade certain skills even further, making, say, his attacks “…more effective at breaking enemies’ guard.”
Blocking has also become more important in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, and not just against incoming blaster fire. And while you can get away without countering someone’s melee attack by just button mashing your way through most battles — this isn’t a Star Wars version of Ghosts Of Tsushima, after all — as with Tsushima and, well, real life, there is a real benefit to learning how to stop someone from hitting you in the face.
This, of course,
is not the end to what Cal learns in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. But he’s not the only one putting his education on display; it seems the good people at Respawn who made this game learned some things from the last time as well.
For starters, one of the things that separates Star Wars Jedi: Survivor from Fallen Order is how Cal spends a lot of time on previously unseen planet called Koboh, which is far larger than anywhere Cal has visited before. Not only does it have more areas to explore, including many that are off the beaten path, but it also has quite a few people in need of assistance. Which actually does make this feel like a Star Wars version of Tsushima.
Then there are the enemies Cal faces in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. While he’s still taking out Stormtroopers like they’re nameless, faceless cogs in a giant machine, he also has to contend with a bunch of Battle Droids from the Clone Wars that have been repurposed.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor even corrects the biggest mistake of Fallen Order…sort of. Where before Cal had to walk everywhere — which often meant re-fighting the same bunch of Stormtroopers on his way back to his ship — he can now jump between meditation points you’ve discovered. Which isn’t as convenient as, say, being able to fast travel to a meditation point from just anywhere, but it’s certainly better than having to backtrack through recently repopulated areas.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor could really benefit from some kind of navigation system, especially on Koboh. Maybe one like Dead Space‘s that shows you the best way to make your way through the game’s many multiple pathways. Sure, exploration is a big part of the game, but no one ever said a Jedi has to follow just one path.
(And no, the map isn’t much help. It’s a 3D map in a video game you have to pause to pull up; unless it’s a dynamic mini map that’s on screen at all times, it’s never much help.)
The thing is, while Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a grander, deeper, and more varied version of Fallen Order, it’s still very similar. This isn’t a reinvention like Resident Evil 7 or, more aptly, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. It’s more like what happened between Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2, or Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and what Star Wars: The Force Unleashed would’ve been had it not been such a rush job. The hack & slash action, combined with Cal’s Force powers, the varied enemies coming at you from multiple angles, the varied locations, and the game’s fluid and intuitive controls make for some great — and, more importantly — constantly fresh combat encounters. This, combined with climbing that’s on par with Horizon Forbidden West, and situational / physics puzzles that are as clever and inventive as those in the Tomb Raider games, make for a game that’s as effortlessly fun as, well, you know.
And let’s not forget how the whole game has a cinematic approach, complete with a cool score, that makes it feel like it would fit rather nicely next to A New Hope or The Mandalorian. It even does a good job of tying in to Sam Maggs’ prequel novel, Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars (as well as some other novels I won’t mention).
the most significant difference between Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and Fallen Order is that Cal is a Jedi in Survivor, with the skills to prove it, and not the kid with delusions of grandeur he was in Fallen Order. Sure, he’s still not a master, but as I said, he’s certainly not a learner, and this game benefits from his advanced knowledge, especially in the beginning. As Jedi Master Einstein never said, “It’s time to put those skills to good use.”