EA did a surprisingly fantastic job with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and in doing so – delivered a game that players deserved. The game’s foundation of ideas and mechanics were ripe to be built upon, and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is here to do just that. It’s a worthy sequel that expands the scope of the original in meaningful ways, and exploring this vast map while engaging with the dual saber combat is a fun time. But how does the game fare on a technical level? How has the game evolved from the original, and is it taking full advantage of the PlayStation 5’s hardware? These are the questions that we aim to answer with this graphics analysis of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
Game Engine And Overview
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor continues the trend of ditching the in-house Frostbite Engine in favor of Epic’s Unreal Engine 4. It’s obviously the most practical solution for a sequel, since using the same engine allows for easy transfer of assets and modules over to the newer project without any hassle. That said, Jedi Survivor gets a lot more power to work with this time around thanks to it being exclusive to current gen consoles.
And the developers have done a fair job of utilizing that power in some key areas like draw distance and post processing, but by and large – the visual makeup looks pretty similar to Fallen Order. It also makes complete sense because the developers actually started work on the sequel closer to the first game’s release – so the tech hasn’t evolved in any radical way.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order featured some good looking character models, complete with high level of detail right from the skin meshes to the fine hair and the clothes that were built using physically based materials. We see an older Cal Kestis this time around, and the additional details on his face make for a more mature look – which also makes it look realistic in a way. Players also get to choose from a wide array of options when it comes to Cal’s hairstyle and facial hair allowing you to tailor your Jedi to your own needs.
While there might be a minor uptick in fidelity for the character models, it’s nothing that really stands out. The same story continues over for the enemies, though and many enemy character models seem to be utilizing the same technique used by Jedi Fallen Order. Cal will also be facing plenty of dangerous wildlife through his adventure, and the character models for the same look pretty impressive with the high quality fur on their body that really stands out.
Star Wars Jedi Survivor improves upon the environments of Fallen Order by a significant margin. The developers have done a fantastic job of portraying a grand sense of scale by borrowing tricks that we saw in Horizon: Forbidden West. There’s generous use of height fog for areas that are far away from the camera alongside proper shadowing on distant objects which culminates in a coherent and realistic landscape throughout. The level of detail swapping also looks smooth, and any inconsistencies therein get masked behind the rather thick layer of the aforementioned fog.
One of the more impressive elements of the environment is the fantastic use of dense volumetric clouds that cover the entire skyline. The game takes place during multiple times of day, and the changed lighting reacts beautifully with the clouds to create picturesque landscapes that look really gorgeous. Apart from that, we get to see plenty of high quality textures for the terrain which is appropriately complex in geometry. The foliage here also looks pretty good, and it subtly shifts and swerves to simulate the effect of moving with the winds. That said, the foliage doesn’t react with the player – and Cal can awkwardly clip through the foliage geometry while clambering up vines.
Lighting, Reflections, And Shadows
Switching gears over to the lighting department, we get the same global illumination implementation as Fallen Order than the sequel. Indirect lighting has seen some improvements, but the general lighting does end up looking somewhat flat. That said, the flat lighting could also be a result of the art designers sticking to a rather dull color palette – but these factors do make these environments look pretty muted when compared to other current gen releases that utilize the same rendering techniques.
Jedi Survivor also features better and more accurate reflections from different surfaces like puddles of water and shiny armor plates – and the resolution on the reflections are higher than before . Each material reflects light according to its own properties, so shiny materials like metal will obviously reflect more light out into the surroundings than rougher surfaces. We also get to see high quality reflections in the many puddles and lakes dotted across the map, and they also reflect their surroundings with good precision.
The shadows are also about as crisp as one would expect from a current-gen release, and we didn’t notice any pixelating artifacts on the edges of shadows. Shadows are not only casted from a singular global light source, but also from plenty of additional dynamic lights peppered throughout the environments. As mentioned previously as well, shadows are applied to even objects that are far from the camera – which really helps in giving the world a pretty uniform feel throughout.
Unreal Engine 4’s post processing pipeline has been one of its strongest suits for some time, and it definitely shines in the case of Jedi Survivor. Each swipe of the light saber is accompanied by a generous amount of flowing sparks – which is rendered with high quality alpha particles. Light bloom is also an important part of nailing the feel of the lightsaber, and Survivor does a great job with enhancing the effects to make it feel more realistic and powerful than before.
Explosions are accompanied with dense volumetric smoke that reacts with the light emitted from your lightsaber to give a dash of color to the smoke volumes. Motion blur can obviously be turned off according to one’s preferences, but it does a good job with what seems to be a per object implementation. The anti-aliasing pass still seems to be of the TAA kind – but it seems to be much sharper than Fallen Order which results in a crisper image this time around. It’s possible that the TAA is paired with FXAA for this release – but that’s more of an assumption at my end.
Jedi: Survivor on PS5 offers two graphics modes – a performance mode and a quality mode. The quality mode renders the image at a crisp resolution of 4K with all the graphical bells and whistles turned up with a frame rate target of 30 fps. The performance mode on the other hand, knocks down the resolution to 1440p and instead bumps the frame rate target up to 60fps. Apart from marginally better ambient occlusion on the quality mode, we didn’t notice much of a difference between the overall image quality of both these modes.
Coming over to the performance figures, the frame rate remained mostly stable in the quality mode. There were a few dips here and there, but nothing too serious. The performance mode does suffer from nasty frame drops which makes timing parries and dodges a bit frustrating. The cutscenes are still locked to 30fps, which lends a level of inconsistency to the whole affair as well.
Furthermore, we also noticed a few pop in issues with this mode, and screen tearing while exploring in one specific sequence. The frame rate also dips when there are too many enemies on the screen, and we suspect this has to do with the poor optimization of post-processing effects like alpha particles and light bloom. Even adjusting the FOV slider causes frame drops, which isn’t too surprising because it requires the game to account for the larger peripheral vision. The performance issues aren’t as pronounced as Jedi Fallen Order, but it is certainly present here.
Now let’s talk about the loading times. Jedi Survivor makes good use of the PS5’s SSD storage. The game loads in a matter of 2 to 3 seconds which is pretty good, but respawning from death takes somewhat longer from 5 to 7 seconds. Fast travel also works well enough. So, there’s not much to complain about in this department.
Star Wars Jedi Survivor is a pretty technically competent game, though the team has taken more of an iterative approach to the technical upgrades rather than a radical overhaul from the first game. The developer has made some key improvements to the presentation in terms of the environment and lighting, but we’re not really convinced that it is making full use of the graphical grunt afforded by the PS5. Performance issues continue to present minor frustrations from time to time, and the developer really needs to iron out these issues as soon as possible.