In 2019, Respawn Studio created one of the best Star Wars games I had played, Jedi: Fallen Order. Designed in the style of the ever-popular SoulsBourne genre, it combined exploration with reasonably simple but satisfying lightsaber combat. It also introduced one of the better new characters in the franchise. Respawn set the bar pretty high, showing that they had both the knowledge and the passion for crafting an excellent adventure in the galaxy far, far away. Despite flaws, Respawn proved they have excellent knowledge of the franchise from a design and aesthetics point, but part of what makes the Star Wars universe so compelling for narratives. The struggle to reconnect with the Force and defy The Empire was an engrossing story. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor expands on what the Fallen Order started. I only wish that the level of ambition that they had aimed for was a plateau just beyond their reach.
The story takes place five years after Fallen Order. The crew of The Mantis has gone their separate ways. Jedi Knight Cal Kestis has grown a lot during this time. He’s now rocking a beard and mustache and is much more confident in himself and his Jedi abilities. After a lengthy sequence that shows off the visual improvements, we are thrust into a brief set of tutorials to reacquaint ourselves with Cal’s abilities. Thankfully, Jedi Survivor retains the powers Cal acquired in Fallen Order and is granted new traversal options. A grappling Hook you gain early on adds verticality and sometimes even challenge to the platforming, with improvements in traveling in the world. And something is sorely missing from the previous entry, Fast Travel. The Fast Travel allows you to travel between save points and only takes about 4-5 seconds to complete.
Exploring a handful of planets is an enjoyable experience. The worlds are large and filled with lots of goodies to find. Treasure chests contain costume pieces, hairstyles, facial options for Cal, colors, and parts for BD-1, and parts to customize your Lightsaber. I found a ton of upgrades just by exploring and fulfilling my curiosity. Jedi Survivor takes you through several planets that dazzle with their diversity. With the improved fast travel system, getting from one save point to another is straightforward. Returning to previous planets feels much less harsh. Exploration will generally be rewarded with cosmetics or power-ups, making your investment into exploring worth it. The shining gem in Jedi Survivor is its combat.
Jedi Survivor expands the tree of your Lightsaber skills from 2 sword styles into five different forms. Each form has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, a single saber balances offense and defense or, you can go all in with the offense-oriented dual saber style, crowd control with the saber staff, and more. The caveat with these different forms is that you can only actively equip 2 out of the five at a time. If you want to change your form, you can go to a workbench or save point and select a different stance. I naturally gravitated to the Dual-Wielding and Cross-Guard stances. Dual-Wield has a slightly shorter reach but allows for a flurry of attacks. The stance allows a parrying counterattack that punishes the enemies. It was tricky to time but IMMENSELY satisfying when pulled it off. The Cross-Guard gives Cal extended reach at the cost of speed. If you hit with it, this stance can decimate weaker enemies and receive a buff in Cal’s ability to block and parry. The new blaster stance did not complement my play style. It has the weakest melee damage, but it does, however, give you something novel and a ranged option. Combining these stances and the Force abilities at Cal’s disposal, you have quite an arsenal. Jedi Survivor also allows you to learn new skills and provides a new perk system. These perks are a unique equipable passive trait that augments your stats. Some of these perks improves your attributes like more blocking stamina, recharging your force meter, and dealing additional block damage. You can find these perks again by exploring or purchasing them from certain vendors. Initially, you start with three perk slots but can earn more to allow various builds.
Jedi: Survivor stepped up its enemy variety. The Star Wars Universe is home to many kinds of dangerous creatures, like the legendary Rancor or the spawn of the infamous Ogdo. The staple of different Storm Trooper types you will face returns from Fallen Order. There are a handful of new ones. However, a new faction is at play here, The Bedlam Raiders. They use the Battle Droids from the Clone Wars, and I enjoyed their return the most. I often stopped before reaching them to hear their dialogues, arguments, and hilarious self-musings. I also must give serious credit to the boss fights in this game. The story-related bosses were exhilarating, and the cutscenes further heightened the drama.
Just as the force has a light and dark side, so does Jedi Survivor. At the time of this review, Jedi Survivor is in a very rough state. I reviewed the game on PS5, and I encountered a myriad of issues. Despite the solid artistic direction, the visuals during gameplay suffer from a weird blurriness, and in the performance mode, the frame rate significantly drops. There was also a consistent issue with the pop-in of objects and textures. Thankfully I didn’t experience any crashes or bugs that prevented progression. However, these issues with overall game performance made it difficult to immerse myself in Respawn’s story they try to tell.
Another issue I have is the story itself. While the story is excellent for the most part, it loses its focus at the last minute. I feel that things should have been changed around a bit. The final boss fight is a fun gameplay-wise but weak thematically. Despite the performance issues and a story that wanes in the last stretch, Jedi: Survivor is still an excellent game. If you decide to purchase Jedi Survivor, you’ll still find an entertaining romp if you can solve its problems.
Reviewer Update: Respawn has released a patch post-launch that has corrected many earlier issues. While the frame rate is still not 100%, it is far more consistent. I also noticed that my field of view option was cranked up to max; reducing that setting helped with the blurriness I experienced in my playthrough. There is still the occasional pop-in, but the instances of it happening are almost gone. I have updated the review score to reflect the game better as it currently stands.