HANDS-ON PREVIEW: ‘Star Wars Jedi: Survivor’ Is Near Perfect

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Star Wars Jedi Survivor — But Why Tho (5)

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor has been high on my list of most anticipated games of 2023 and after getting to play the game for three hours, well, it’s shot to the top. Developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by EA in collaboration with Lucasfilm Games, Jedi Survivor is the direct sequel to 2019’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. In order to best leave the game’s narrative revealed when you play, this hands-on preview isn’t going to go into the story of the game beyond a brief synopsis.

In Jedi Survivor, you play as a mature Cal Kestis. Taking place sometime after the events of the first game, Cal is a Jedi Knight and feels increasingly dejected with the state of the galaxy. No matter how hard he tries, the Empire just keeps growing. With the memories and expectations of the Jedi Order weighing on him, he has to make decisions on what he’s willing to sacrifice to defeat the Empire, but more importantly, to save those closest to him. An emotional story, the cinematic quality of Jedi Survivor helps push the narrative as Cal explores more complex emotions, giving Cameron Monaghan the runway to showcase his range.

Moving from the story and into the gameplay itself we have to start with how fun it is to traverse the galaxy. As always, Respawn’s attention to creating thoughtful traversal mechanics is what makes Jedi Survivor such a dynamically kinetic game. While much of the traversal looks similar to that of the previous game, one new addition allows Cal to be more agile as you speed through environments: the ascension cable. I mean, everything is better with a grappling hook, right? Yeah, it’s true. Your agility as Cal quickly becomes the most noticeable element of Jedi Survivor, especially if you love platforming.

The team at Respawn also doesn’t overcomplicate its platforming motions. The traversal and the majority of complex movements only require one button press, which comes in handy when transitioning between elements. Moving from a simple jump to another platform to a wall run and then into a wall climb is so seamless that the pure agility you get to experience stands out. That said, while the simplicity of movement is something to call out that makes fast movement nearly effortless, there aren’t any guard rails to keep you locked on the platforms. This means that the difficulty increases the faster you move through any given area. Move quickly and have fun, but that also opens a dynamic difficulty that only punishes you by slowly chipping away at your health if you fall, instead of resulting in death.

Another element of the platforming mechanics that needs to be highlighted is the puzzle designs. The world does feature environmental cues to help you find your way through each section of platforming. But, as you progress, you need to take stock of your entire surroundings. What cords can be pulled to release gates? What objects can be force-pushed to explode? Each environmental puzzle pushes you to see everything as part of one larger picture as you experiment your way through each solution. Additionally, if you find yourself stuck on a puzzle, you will receive a prompt asking if you want a clue or not—the same feature implemented in Fallen Order. By giving the player agency in receiving help, Jedi Survivor truly allows you to play at your own pace. Factor in the stellar Holomap, which offers some navigation assistance without being intrusive and you have the makings for a game that empowers every player to find their own pace, difficulty, and fun within one game.

Jedi Survivor also has new additions to its combat, specifically stances that allow combat variations to feel endless. Because Cal isn’t starting from the ground up, you have immediate access to the double-bladed saber and dual wield stances, and because of this, you’re encouraged to explore different ways to play right off of the bat. And while the last game allowed you to switch between single, double, and duel-wielding, Jedi Survivor offers up five stances in total. With each of these, Cal can feel like an entirely new character when it comes to combat as you explore the different stances.

In Single stance, Cal wields one lightsaber and has even footing for both offense and defense. Double-bladed he wields a double-bladed lightsaber that works as a staff to handle larger mobs and manage crowd control. But for more aggressive players (which is where I found myself) the Dual Wield stance splits Cal’s lightsaber into two and also offers a harder difficulty with a high skill ceiling. While the first three are available early on because Cal learned them in Fallen Order, the remaining two stances come later. Crossguard and Blaster stances also offer more combat diversity, and while I got to see a demo of them, I didn’t get the chance to play myself. Crossguard allows you to deal massive damage but takes a long time to wind up and the blaster gives Cal a long-range attack (and just looks cool as hell).

While you can manage to play through in just one stance, mixing and matching stances based on the enemy type and density is an exciting way to play. Additionally, learning the depth of each playstyle allows you to explore your own interest in difficulty. And on that note, while the game still brings forward elements of a souls game, like checkpoints that heal and reset enemies and the difficulty of losing XP from your last skill-point gain upon dying, the team at Respawn has expanded difficulty choices with the Jedi Padawan difficulty that serves as a level between story mode and Jedi Knight. Additionally, it can be changed at any time during your playthrough, allowing you to explore your own boundaries for difficulty. Add in the detailed and expansive perks and skill trees for your Force powers and individual stances and it’s perfect.

Another addition to Jedi Survivor is the expanded customization system which goes beyond just poncho, BD-1, and your lightsaber colors available in the first game. Effectively building on what players got in the first game, there is a rather robust customization system that now allows you to change Cal’s physical appearance with hairstyle choices as well as his outfit pieces. Additionally, you can still change BD-1, but this perfect sweet baby droid can also be customized with different visor parts, allowing you to give it a distinctive look beyond just a palette swap. Give Cal a pink lightsaber, make BD-1 the same shade, and collect different outfit components and hairstyles to change Cal up too.

All of that lets you make your version of Cal feel unique and caters to completionist gamers looking for collectibles in a really cool way. But even better, knowing that you can find even more features to equip and change helps keep you engaged in exploring the world as deeply as you can. And exploration is key to Jedi Survivor, particularly because it’s so easy to fall into side quests.

It’s not a stretch to say that side quests and main campaign quests are usually pretty distinguishable from one another. But Jedi Survivor builds on the last game and allows the player to seamlessly explore each environment and stumble on new side quests, and ultimately get lost in them. With the new Rumor System, players don’t just stumble upon quests but get the chance to seek them out after hearing about them from others. While each quest can still be completed without finding the rumor first, the Rumor System offers a deep level of immersion that pays off.

If you’re a fan of Star Wars then you know that everything in the world revolves around a story told. Star Wars stories are often based in rumors. There are legends that build around individuals like Luke Skywalker, or rumors of cantinas where smugglers meet, and that’s what Jedi Survivor taps into. While the rumors I played didn’t connect to existing Star Wars stories like the ones I mentioned, they build out Respawn’s Star Wars world and Jedi Survivor is better for it.

The only negative about Jedi Survivor is that despite the jokes that BD-1 scans everything, your best droid doesn’t actually do that. Instead, BD-1 only scans different enemies and wildlife after you’ve defeated them. Instead of pushing an appreciation for the vast worlds you explore and allowing you to search for new and different creatures in peace, Jedi Survivor wants you to kill them in order to scan. It’s a small gripe for an otherwise perfect game, but given that Respawn has created dynamic and beautiful worlds with much to offer, it’s a frustrating element nonetheless.

Overall, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor iterates on the game that came before in fantastic ways. It embraces the things that worked in Fallen Order and adds to them phenomenally. While I haven’t even begun to touch on the narrative elements of the game, the mechanics and gameplay alone are enough for me to say to play Jedi Survivor when it comes out on day one.

Star Wars Jedi Survivor releases April 28, 2023 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and Microsoft Windows (via Origin and Steam).

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