REVIEW: Star Wars Jedi: Survivor (PS5)
May 16, 2023
Written by Jamie Galea
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was a game that a lot of people initially underestimated. As the first Star Wars game following the disastrous Star Wars Battlefront II (2017), plus it being Respawn Entertainment’s first game to not be a first person shooter, suffice to say there was a fair bit of trepidation. Yet despite all this, it impressed as a genuinely good action game that merged Soulslike combat with Metroid-esque ability collection and robust platforming. With a sequel all but assured after its success, does Star Wars Jedi: Survivor retain what made Fallen Order special, or does it get lost in the sea of middling Star Wars products released over the last few years?
Taking place some five years after the events of Fallen Order, the crew of the Mantis have split up and gone their seperate ways. Taking control of Cal Kestis once again, we join Cal as he finds himself aiding Saw Gerrera’s revolutionary campaign against the Galactic Empire. After a botched heist on Coruscant, he finds himself crash landing on the frontier planet Koboh. From there, he’s thrown into an entirely new saga where the crew of the Mantis reunites to stop an ancient threat in their quest to find a new home away from the threat of the Empire.
Immediately one of the bigger issues I have with the game is that it takes a good while to really get going. While Fallen Order also had a lengthy prologue, it knew when to not overstay its welcome, plus it was a good way for Respawn to show their storytelling chops. Survivor doesn’t have that, with its opening Coruscant section goes on for far too long.
It’d be one thing if it only just dragged, but it also feels aimless. Particularly since it also focuses on a crew of characters that you never really get much time to gel with, meaning the events that transpire just feel like they’re happening for the sake of anything happening. It’s not until a few hours into your time at Koboh where the story really kicks off, but at that point you’ll know for certain you want to see out the rest of the story.
Fortunately, the act of playing Survivor is generally a much better time. The game refines and expands on Fallen Order, and it’s a much better experience all round. You gain access to all your previously learned lightsaber stances fairly quickly, and you’ve even got two new ones to play around with. Each stance offers up some great pros and cons as far as speed or power or defence go, but the game never really punishes you for your choice of stance, everything works pretty well.
My money is on the guy with the lightsaber.
The game still maintains its combination of approachable Soulslike combat, Metroid-esque item acquisition and backtracking, and Prince of Persia style platforming. While they’re a refinement than a revamp, all these systems still work well together. Combat is still a joy, and the act of pushing Stormtroopers off high ledges never gets old.
In particular, the platforming gets a massive buff, with Cal getting some new abilities to make traversal more enjoyable, plus some of the previous games rough edges are smoothed out. In particular, grabbing robes is far, far less fraught. Respawn definitely feel way more confident about the platforming, as there’s more of it across the game, and the levels are designed in such a way that platforming feels like a natural and satisfying challenge.
The biggest overall change is from Fallen Order is that everything is bigger and more expansive. While you won’t have as many planets to explore this time around, each planet you do visit is generally much bigger with a lot more to do in it. To give you an idea, the game now has mountable creatures you can ride around on, because you’ll need their speed and abilities to get around these massive worlds. Completing this is a much better map system that does a good job showing you where you haven’t explored and where you’ve been recently, giving you just the right amount of information needed to push you in the right direction.
Even the cast of characters has been expanded upon. While Cal Kestis still won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, he keeps good company. While out exploring, he can now team up with specific characters who offer additional abilities in combat. Even some of the side characters are fantastic, whether it’s the weird crustacean Skoova Stev who charms with an incredible Scottish brogue, or the froglike Turgle, who might genuinely be not only one of the best characters in the game, but of any game released this year.
I absolutely adore Turgle.
Surprisingly, even the game’s customisation even got a bit of an overhaul. There’s now even more options to customize your lightsaber, so if you want to build a total monstrosity, you now have a stupid amount of parts and colours to make your dreams reality. Though the real highlight is the increased ways you can customize Cal Kestis himself. Not only are there more clothing options than just a poncho, but you can even change up Cal’s hair to give him some truly shocking yet amazing looks.
One of the best discoveries in my time with the game is finding a horrible beard and a dirty mullet to go with it, so every time a cutscene plays and the game expects you to take Cal seriously, he delivers his lines while not looking out of place in a contemporary AFL team, and nobody bats an eyelid. It’s incredible, and the fact that so many of the hair styles are a collectible in the game make it utterly worth your time to go seek them out.
Speaking of, probably the thing that most impresses me about Survivor is how it handles its collectibles. In most games these are limited to lore and background reading, and never something I’d ever go out of my way to find. Thankfully, Survivor does a great job of feeding what you find back into the game in such a rewarding way that it makes the act of seeking out collectibles actually enjoyable.
Not too long after you get stuck into Koboh, you setup shop at a cantina known as Pyloon’s Saloon, a rundown bar headed up by your pilot. As you explore the planet and eventually see more of the game world, you’ll come across characters you can recruit to the Saloon which’ll add more for you to do while you’re not exploring. These include being able to spend currencies you come across, display more collectibles, and even tend to an garden.
Look at it. LOOK AT IT. IT’S GLORIOUS.
The one that really surprised me was an honest to god tactics game where you field recreations of enemy units against other characters in the game. Not only do you unlock more opponents by discovering and recruiting them to the Saloon, you unlock more units by scanning them after defeating them. In effect, it makes your bestiary become something much more meaningful than just a fancy gallery of enemies. Best of all, you might not even discover this! It’s completely optional, as is the sidequest that actually unlocks the mini-game.
It is an overwhelming amount of extra content, almost *too* much at times, but you’re never locked out of anything cool if you choose to skip it. You’ll still get a great experience if you choose to focus on the story over building up the Saloon, but the game makes it clear that if you do choose to go out of your way, your time will not be wasted.
With all that said, I would be remiss to not mention the game’s technical issues, something that has been understandably been the focal point of a lot of the discourse surrounding Jedi Survivor. I’ve been playing the game since release on a Playstation 5, and while I’m a little less susceptible to frame rate issues than most people, and have been very lucky to avoid some of the game breaking issues others have had, I’d be lying if I said that the performance wasn’t rough at times.
To their credit, EA & Respawn have been releasing sizeable patches over the last few weeks, aiming to better the game’s performance. As I’m writing this, the game is in a better state than it was at launch, and I have no doubt they will make good on making this game more stable by the end of the year. However, if you are someone who absolutely needs a game to have more rocksolid performance or less bugs, or you’re looking at grabbing the PC version, I would genuinely advise you to wait a little longer, just to ensure it’s a more stable experience.
Yet if you’re willing to dive in now and give Jedi Survivor a go, you’re gonna have a good time. While it’s a bigger and more refined version of its predecessor, it’s already working from a strong base, and the improvements to its exploration, platforming and combat make it a fantastic time, and one of the strongest Star Wars products in years. Just be sure to stick with it after the opening, because once you do, the game opens up and really shows its colours, and it’s a hell of a ride.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor was reviewed on a Playstation 5 using a code provided by the publisher.