Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review – Capturing The Fantasy
If the only thought in your mind upon completing 2019’s Jedi: Fallen Order was that you wanted more, then I have excellent news. Picking up where its predecessor left off, Jedi: Survivor isn’t just more of the same but more of virtually everything, with meaningful advances and improvements across the board. It’s a longer game with greater levels of customization, more enemies, more diverse approaches to combat and puzzles, and more storytelling and character development for its compelling cast of characters. While some structural and story choices start to wear thin, Jedi: Survivor is nonetheless a step up in almost all the ways that matter. It also manages to capture a lot of the tonal and thematic ideas that work about this fiction, helping cement its place as one of the best in the long history of Star Wars games.
As we rejoin Cal Kestis, there’s little of the step back in power that some action game sequels attempt. He’s a full-fledged Jedi Knight, with all the Force powers and lightsaber tricks you worked so hard to earn last time still in place. Robust onboarding quickly gets into the action and story, making you feel powerful and capable. The flexibility of playstyle expands from there, with new saber stances and equipment that provide choice in confronting the galaxy’s dangers. The downside is that most upgrades to Cal’s use of the Force feel more like twists and tweaks rather than wholly new powers, but it’s a small price to pay for well-paced action from beginning to end.
Combat and dueling are excellent, demanding a Jedi’s patience for defense to master. It’s impressive to balance battle encounters across a big game like this so that they remain challenging at every step, but Cal’s new adventure manages to do so. A wide variety of formidable foes await, each demanding observation and canny button work. A few late-game bosses rely on frustrating cheap tricks, but they always make for climactic and affecting encounters.
I adore the mobility and navigation challenges, which nail that sense of controlling a Force-attuned hero leaping and swinging through seemingly impossible paths. Like the combat, a satisfying upward slope of complexity keeps traversal engaging throughout – no small feat in a game this big. Several scattered optional puzzles are also fiendishly clever, and I enjoyed them as a departure from the action.
While Jedi: Survivor includes several unique planets to visit, it grounds the experience in a single frontier world called Koboh, with more than a little Old West inspiration. Large swaths of the game unfold in the different corners of this semi-open world planet, filled with rumors to track down, bounties to hunt, and secrets to uncover. I like the locale, but by the end, I was growing tired of running in circles to the same destination after so many prior visits. Thankfully, whether on Koboh or visiting planets like Coruscant or Jedha, a new fast travel system makes navigation between meditation points easy.
Customization is foundational across the game and its reward systems, from tweaking hairstyles, jackets, and saber colors to character perks and powers. That extends to increased ownership over the world, through the ability to enhance a cantina with a garden, an aquarium, new visitors, and even musical tracks. I felt invested in the adventure and the improvements I found along the way.
Across its lengthy campaign, Jedi: Survivor takes an initially meandering course to find its plotline but eventually coalesces into a story about disparate people searching for a safe home. The moment-to-moment character interactions and dialogue help elevate the lack of focus, with some sweeping melodrama in the best traditions of Star Wars fiction. The distinctions between love and attachment, and the dangers of both, often lurk in the background of Star Wars stories. Those themes take centerstage this time, with memorable and rewarding results.
Developer Respawn Entertainment clearly took a measured and thoughtful approach to analyze what worked and what didn’t in its last Star Wars game, and Jedi: Survivor feels like a worthy attempt at evolution. It captures the magic of Star Wars as well as anything in the current canon, and it’s a stellar adventure in its own right. Still, nailing the fantasy of being a Jedi? Doesn’t hurt.
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