Getting Star Wars fans to care about a new hero was always going to be tough. Fallen Order didn’t really make me care about Cal, but I held out hope a sequel would develop his personality a little more.
Much of Star Wars Jedi Survivor is the same as Cal’s debut. He and his gang of misfit adventurers are out to save what remains of the Jedi Order, and you explore various planets along the way, fighting your way through Empire troops and backtracking as you learn new abilities. However, there’s something more personal to Jedi Survivor’s story that’s a lot more interesting.
Add to that some really smart changes to the combat and traversal and the sequel is a big improvement over Fallen Order. Or at least it will be once the technical issues are fixed.
Choose a stance
Cal’s five combat stances are the big new feature. Instead of one way of attacking with his trusty blue, or whatever colour you’d like now, lightsaber, you can switch between five slightly different ways of attacking.
Each stance doesn’t change much about how Cal fights, instead altering the speed, range, and power of each attack. The new Crossguard stance - think a blue version of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber - is all about slow powerful attacks, while the dual wield is all about speed. Each stance is more useful against certain enemies, but you can only equip two at a time, adding an element of planning to encounters.
The Blaster and Double-Bladed stances quickly became my favourites, but each clearly has its uses, without fundamentally changing Jedi Survivor’s combat.
It’s still all about parrying, countering, and dodging. Pressing L1 at the right time will parry an enemy’s attack, with bosses needing one more than the standard single parry to be staggered. You can then go on the attack while the enemy is vulnerable. Every fight follows that loop of planning, parrying, dodging unblockable attacks, and going in for the kill. Just as it was in the first game, it’s really satisfying, and the new stances add an additional layer to how you approach each fight.
It’s still quite tough too, with the parry window being pretty small on the game’s standard difficulty. Get a sequence of counters right, though, and you feel immensely powerful.
Some of Cal’s attack animations take a little long to complete, with enemies able to start and finish an unblockable attack in less time than it takes Cal to spin around with his Double-Bladed sabre, but you get used to timing your own attacks as you progress.
Slicing through enemies with a lightsaber is hard to get wrong, though, and it’s a lot of fun in Jedi Survivor.
What I would have liked from the combat, however, is a bit more enemy variety, specifically in how they attack. Boss fights in particular all play out in similar ways, as you parry and attack on a relatively small stage. Aside from slams and some grabs that require the spamming of square, simple attacks are all you really have to think about.
A world to explore
Backtracking isn’t as prominent as in Fallen Order too. Like God of War Ragnarok is the best way to describe the structure. Levels are mostly linear paths through large areas that get more open as you progress. Either explore as new paths are unlocked or come back later to see what you missed. Once the story is over, you can travel between each of the large open areas to retread your steps and fully explore each and every path.
I don’t love having to respawn at certain points you’ve activated when you die, Jedi Survivor isn’t a souls game, but the Meditation Points where you save and change stance are really well placed in every level. Only once or twice was I frustrated at having to re-do a section again as shortcuts open up consistently and you can run past combat encounters if you want, with opened doors and interactions remaining after death.
And it helps that the likes of Koboh and Jedah, the game’s two main planets, are a joy to explore. Not just because they’re beautiful and well-designed, but because traversal is brilliant in Jedi Survivor.
Cal’s grapple ability is a great addition. When has a grappling hook not been a good addition to a game? It’s satisfying to use and has been incorporated into the standard wall-running and double-jumping in smart ways.
Throw in uses of BD-1’s skills, multiple kinds of dash, and zip-lines, and Jedi Survivor’s traversal is fast-paced and a lot of fun. I do wish it was a little more challenging at times, to really test my jump timing and grapple use skills, but running around the planets is my favourite part of the game regardless.
The more menial aspects of exploration could be improved though. The holo-map you use to scout the area and find paths is an eyesore and the waypoint system is a pain to use. I found myself just running around hoping I was going the right way, which I guess is somewhat by design.
As I said, Jedi Survivor’s planets are gorgeous, but I wish Jedi Survivor didn’t run so poorly at times so I could explore them properly.
Significant frame rate drops and consistent screen tearing were big problems during the 13 or 14 hours it took me to beat Jedi Survivor, popping up at really strange times.
During big fights, with blaster shots and lightsabers flying everywhere on screen, everything is fine. Cutscenes are immaculate too, so the most important moments are okay. While simply exploring is when it flares up.
Playing on performance mode (I checked out resolution mode and movement was horrible), with HDR turned off, the stuttering and screen tearing in the top third of the screen was unbearable at times.
The game really seemed to be straining as I looked around the large open areas on Jedha and Koboh in particular. The more enclosed planets and ships were mostly fine, but almost any time the game had a vista to render, the performance issues returned.
They became less noticeable as the game reached its conclusion - maybe it was just me getting used to them - but they really need to be fixed as soon as possible for people to get the most from what is clearly a stunning and wonderfully designed world.
Great cast of characters
I’m glad cutscenes aren’t really affected, as Jedi Survivor’s story is a standout. Cal, while still the classic hero type at times, has a vulnerable side and is learning to consider what’s right for him and those he loves, as well as all of Jedi kind.
There’s talk of settling down, finding somewhere to call home, and focusing on his close-knit network. It makes Cal and his story so much more relatable. He’s not just a nice guy with a much better haircut than a few years ago (although you can give him a mullet) who kills bad guys and hates the Empire. He’s a much more well-rounded character, which makes him much easier to care about. Cameron Monaghan’s performance is excellent too.
The wider cast, some roles of which you’ll be surprised by, are equally great, with Daniel Roebuck’s turn as the bullish yet protective Greez a standout.
Jedi Survivor’s overarching story is well written too, with twists and turns coming thick and fast, without ever becoming silly or predictable. It might take you a little while to get into it as you learn each character’s role in the story, but the last few hours are phenomenal.
There are some really cool setpieces as the story crescendos and the game begins to earn its 150GB install size, as well as the funniest single moment in a game this year.
I’m excited to see where Respawn takes the story and Cal next. Jedi Survivor is a brilliant sequel with a world that’s a joy to explore and combat that’s fun but a little shallow. I just hope the performance problems are fixed as soon as possible.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor was reviewed on PlayStation 5 with code provided by the publisher.