A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a young Jedi sets out to save the universe. Still.
No, it’s not the latest Star Wars movie, but the plot of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, the latest video game produced by the Star Wars conglomerate.
Set a few years after the original game, the clunky title Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, we’re picking up with our favorite Red Knight of the Force, Cal Kestis. In the previous game, Cal was revealed to be a Padawan who escaped Order 66 and spent most of Fallen Order being hunted across the galaxy.
It’s been a while since then (as evidenced by Cal’s slight scattering of facial blur, indicating some maturity) but things are, as always, in dire straits.
Cal is now a full-fledged Jedi Knight and the leader of a small group of rebels tasked with obtaining valuable information for Saw Gerrera (the guy played by Forrest Whitaker in Rogue One). However, things obviously go awry and Cal soon finds himself on the run once again, forced to rely on his wits and an ever-shrinking circle of allies. Oh, and there’s also the prospect of a mysterious Jedi utopian planet to track down.
It’s only been four years since the release of Fallen Order, but the difference between it and Survivor is truly remarkable. The graphics are better, and to be expected, with the notable exception of Cal’s face, which looks rather 2D and flat at times, but the gameplay and world are vastly improved as well.
In Survivor, the linear levels of Fallen Order have been built into something much more dynamic: there are secret areas to find, enemies to defeat and hideouts to collect. It feels like a more ripe world for exploration. The soundscape deserves a particular mention. In addition to John Williams’ soaring soundtrack, the game’s designers really managed to conjure everything from the electronic beeps of the Empire’s stronghold, to the rumbles and clicks of an alien campaign; listening to it is like an interplanetary ASMR.
Even better, this time Cal can actually interact with NPCs on more than a perfunctory basis, asking questions, recruiting new faces, and even making friends. It’s a refreshing change from Fallen Order, which often felt like a small cash grab from the developers. And yes, you can change more than just the color of Cal’s poncho in Fallen Order; in fact, you can actually customize everything from her hairdo to her tank top. Hurray!
But obviously no one buys Star Wars games primarily for their world-building – they buy them to feel like a Jedi Knight. At that level, Survivor performs excellently. Cal is a fully trained Jedi at the start of the game, meaning you already have a plethora of Force-based attacks at your fingertips. These include deflecting blaster blasts, slowing time, and pushing enemies around like skittles.
Even better, Cal learns a number of new methods for wielding the lightsaber throughout the game. These include the long-awaited two-handed grip, which is damn satisfying to slash through enemies with. There’s a refreshing variety of enemies to test your attacks against, and as with most RPGs, you gain experience points as you play. These can be used to boost his Survivor, Strength, or Lightsaber abilities, allowing you to customize your playstyle a bit.
There are shortcomings here, mostly to do with the levels. Some of the puzzle solutions are not well signposted at all, resulting in, on my end, about half an hour of frustrated running back and forth, trying to figure out what I had done wrong. That’s annoying, as is the inclusion of “workbenches,” which offer nothing more than the ability to customize Cal’s lightsaber and BD-1.
My biggest quibble is Cal himself. The man is as bland as an undercooked coronation quiche, making it difficult to invest in his journey. Are all Jedi Knights noble and serious like him? If so, perhaps it’s a blessing that there are so few of them in the game. A few hours in Cal’s company and you’d like to give him a bit of a jolt, no matter how much footage attempts to establish his inner turmoil; honestly, it’s a bit of a drip.
But make no mistake, this is a hugely ambitious game, one that has been given a lot of care. It’s also a whopping – at 150GB, I had to strip nearly everything off my PS5 to make room, so consider investing in an external hard drive if you’re valued at keeping all your games in one place. But Star Wars Jedi: Survivor sets out to do many things and mostly succeeds. May the Force be with him.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor will be available on PlayStation 5, Windows, and Xbox Series X/S on April 28