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Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is like an Indiana Jones game with lightsabers
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor leans so much into its ancient tomb raiding it should be rebranded Indiana Cal and the Compass of Hope.
Reviewed on an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080-powered PC but also available on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.
After the disappointing launch of Star Wars Battlefront II, EA needed a win with its next game set in a galaxy far, far away. And it absolutely got that with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order—an action-heavy Souls-lite game that, despite some noticeable warts, was more a resounding return to form for Star Wars games than anything else.
Fast-forward to more recent times and the sequel is finally here.
Jedi: Survivor review
Unlike The Last Jedi, Fallen Order’s follow-up Star Wars Jedi: Survivor isn’t forced to pick up exactly where the last game left off. So like the original trilogy and prequels, developer Respawn Entertainment has sagely chosen to advance the clock a few years and create some curious between-games backstory that gets the player asking compelling questions from the get-go.
The gang that was seemingly besties forever at the end of Fallen Order is now fractured, with returning protagonist Cal Kestis waging a one-Jedi war against the Empire. Understandably, it’s not going so well for him. I don’t want to risk story spoilers, so the less said about it the better. What I will say is that when the credits rolled on my time with Jedi: Survivor, I was very satisfied with how this particular Star Wars story played out.
Admittedly, Jedi: Survivor initially plays things very safe, but by the time you hit the second planet—a place where you’ll spend a lot of time in the game’s main narrative—things start to open up. Respawn hasn’t been tempted by the dark side of a Cal character reset, either. There are some smaller things that don’t carry over from the previous game —namely, BD-1’s upgrades, including health-granting stim count—but Cal keeps all of his Force powers.
As it turns out, there are still plenty of opportunities for new and upgraded powers, which helps tie into the heavier emphasis on RPG mechanics in Jedi: Survivor. Cal eventually unlocks passive abilities, multiple lightsaber stances, and there are even (admittedly rare) instances of dialogue choices and at least one subtle powers choice towards the end of the game. All of these inclusions help add depth to Jedi: Survivor, alongside a compelling cast of side characters who offer more than just occasional quips.
Tonally, Jedi: Survivor is beautifully balanced between hard-hitting dramatic moments and some genuinely hilarious jokes that help to distract from the bleakness of this particular Star Wars era. None of the characters are overly quippy, and I found myself endeared to quite a few; it helps that interactions are often rewarded with unlocks or side missions.
There’s a lot to do in Jedi: Survivor outside of the main quest, even if the running percentage-complete counters let you know that only a few of the planets are where the main development focus has gone. The lightsaber stances, in particular, offer great combat diversity, limited only by the missed opportunity to be able to switch between any of your unlocked options at leisure.
Instead, Respawn restricts you to two stances at a time—assumedly in an effort to make switching more manageable via D-pad on a controller—and forces you to swap out your active two at a meditation point or workbench. This is fine in theory, but it can become grating when you realise that this design necessitates boss-fight respawns at the nearest meditation point, just in case you have the ‘wrong’ stance equipped.
In fairness, there isn’t really a wrong ’saber stance if you take the time to learn them all and unlock their related upgrades. The regular lightsaber stance is balanced between speed, range, damage and defence, so I kept it as a backup in case I ran into an unexpected boss fight and wanted to learn the attack patterns without dying. Other lightsaber stances add or subtract from those core values, which means you can start to specialise.
An easy stand-out is the lightsaber-blaster combination, which I honestly wouldn’t have expected to see in a canonised Star Wars game, but it’s so much fun to play with and ties well into the post-Jedi Order lore. After all, there’s no need to worry about what would and wouldn’t be permissible for the Jedi Order when it’s no longer around. More so when the Empire certainly isn’t worried about how it comes across.
Purists can stick to Jedi-approved lightsaber stances and colours, of course. I spent most of my campaign play-through obsessed with the cross-guard ’saber. It has the look of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber and it plays like a heavy claymore sword. That means extra range and damage, but it’s a lot slower between strikes, so that makes it less forgiving for aggressive types hoping to land multiple strikes.
I’ve since switched it out in endgame to spend more time with the other stances, and they’re equally fun if you lean into their strengths. The double-bladed stance is great for crowd control, the dual lightsabers are good for focused attacks on a single enemy, and the blaster adds some much-needed range. Granted, range isn’t too important if you’ve poured points into Force pull or push upgrades, but those tend to be ineffective against tougher enemies, and certainly in boss fights.
Like the last game, massive difficulty spikes are an unfortunate part of Jedi: Survivor. I’m more tolerant of them when they’re boss fights—particularly the last one of the game—but it doesn’t help when the game feels like it’s occasionally willing to cheat. Fallen Order had hit-registration issues with Cal’s lightsaber, but I didn’t notice them in Jedi: Survivor.
What I did notice was the inconsistency of being able to interrupt enemy attacks, in particular the ones where they glow red. Like Fallen Order, the game teaches you that these are unblockable attacks, which should be dodged to avoid damage (ideally with perfect timing). That’s fine on the surface, but I’m less okay with how you’re able to sporadically interrupt these attacks. Sometimes I’d risk a light attack to interrupt a charged glowing-red boss attack and it’d work. Other times I’d try the same tactic against a regular grunt and they’d ignore the hit that should interrupt, continuing with their big-damage attack.
As an aggressive lightsaber wielder, the inconsistency punishes what could have otherwise been another well-implemented risk/reward mechanic. I’m also not a fan of the return of squeezing through tight cracks to mask loading areas on a game that’s built exclusively for current-gen platforms, and the general texture-handling woes of Unreal Engine 4.
It doesn’t help that most of my time was spent with a pre-patched version of the game that had 20+ crashes on one of the key planets, game-freezing stutters (mercifully, never during combat), sporadic memory leaks and all-too-common audio errors during cutscenes that tarnished those storytelling moments. As I write this review, a day-zero patch is being deployed, so hopefully that fixes a lot of the technical stuff. If it hasn’t and you’re playing on PC, disabling ray tracing stopped the crashes (but not the stutters) for me.
At the time of writing, Star Wars: Jedi Survivor was unplayable on Steam Deck. I don’t just mean in terms of performance; I mean in terms of actually getting the thing to run. I’ve tried to test it multiple times and it either crashes the Steam Deck entirely or gets stuck in a never-ending loading loop. I haven’t been able to have any time with gameplay on Steam Deck, which is a shame because endgame content in particular seems perfectly suited to the platform. While it is a demanding game even on a high-end PC, my hope is the Steam Deck version will be playable given it has AMD’s FSR tech. Sorry, no DLSS here, Nvidia fans.
Is Star Wars Jedi: Survivor worth buying?
Despite these issues, I was thoroughly addicted to Jedi: Survivor from start to finish, and I can’t wait to get back to playing more of it. It’s telling that not even game crashes were enough to stop me from reloading and jumping back in. Jedi: Survivor is a great escalation and expansion of what was started with Jedi: Fallen Order, offering a story that better handles its place and impact in the canon, and it’s one that Star Wars fans should thoroughly enjoy.