Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review – Master of the Order

Technical issues mar its appeal on PS5, but Respawn's eagerly awaited sequel delivers a strong story, great combat and spectacular exploration.

Posted By | On 28th, Apr. 2023

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review – Master of the Order

It’s always surprising how this year can have so many consistently strong releases back to back. A Space for the Unbound, Dead Space Remake, Hi-Fi Rush – there are so many quality games to enjoy right now, and many more are en route.

So to see a game, even one as highly anticipated as Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, dropped smackdab in this release schedule with heavyweights like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom on the way is cathartic in some ways. Not only is it an incredible experience, despite some baffling technical issues, and a worthy follow-up to Jedi: Fallen Order, but an all-around fun game.

"The opening level takes place on Coruscant, the capital of the Galactic Empire, and next to Bracca in Fallen Order, wraps a tutorial and cinematic mission into an even more compelling opener."

Confession time: The first game wasn’t quite for me. I didn’t vibe with Cal Kestis or the combat at first. Eventually, the world design and Metroid-style approach to exploration stood out, and the strong storytelling and characterization helped anchor the entire experience in ways I wasn’t expecting. It was fun but felt raw in many places – like a concept that had yet to live up to its full potential.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor does and in an immaculate fashion. It builds upon its Lightsaber combat with new techniques, Stances and Force abilities that provide a strong degree of freedom. Its locations feel like fully realized worlds with their own cultures and ecosystems while staying true to the Star Wars identity.

Its story offers higher stakes and more nuanced shades as Cal wrests with new emotional conflicts and revelations. It seamlessly integrates new mechanics and activities that are enjoyable and rewarding into its already compelling exploration. Having it all wrapped up in a package brimming with so much attention to detail and visual splendor is simply incredible.

Set five years after the end of Jedi: Fallen Order, Jedi: Survivor sees Cal Kestis battling against the Galactic Empire. It’s not something he’s excelling at either – even with small victories, the Empire grows ever stronger. The emotional turmoil, coupled with survivor’s guilt and wanting to carry on the fight for the Order, also weighs on him to an unimaginable degree. The opening level takes place on Coruscant, the capital of the Galactic Empire, and next to Bracca in Fallen Order, wraps a tutorial and cinematic mission into an even more compelling opener. It deftly sets the tone for the adventure to come.

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"That uppity patron in the cantina; the stablehand who is seemingly more than she’s letting on; Toa, in way over her head but still trying to do her best – each character feels fully realized."

I don’t want to spoil anything, but you’ll eventually rendezvous with Greez, Cere and Merrin. Other new characters like Zee, an ancient droid, and Monk contribute strongly in unique ways while being fun to hang around. There are also plenty of new threats, including Rayvis and his Bedlam Raiders and a mysterious new Jedi.

However, the storytelling is enthralling and consistently on point. The various emotions in Cal’s reunion with Greez, or his natural interactions with Bode, are done well. While some conversations can get a bit wordy, I never tired of interacting with new characters, learning their stories and what brought them to this corner of the galaxy. That uppity patron in the cantina; the stablehand who is seemingly more than she’s letting on; Toa, in way over her head but still trying to do her best – each character feels fully realized.

Of course, Cal’s interactions with BD-1 are similarly charming, whether it’s observations based on scans or various shenanigans the two get up to. Because they’ve been together for this long and support each other, the camaraderie feels much more emotional, especially as BD-1 witnesses Cal’s stress and sadness first-hand.

Presentation-wise, Jedi: Survivor is amazing – not flawless, but we’ll get to that. The facial animations, voice acting and cutscenes are splendid, while the orchestral soundtrack captures a range of emotions, from tout action to manic tension.

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Visually, there is plenty to love, like the abundant light sources or the detailed textures and gorgeous effects. I can’t say enough about the skyboxes, environmental details and sheer draw distance, but the little details are also worth noting. Cal’s Lightsaber ignites grass as he cuts through it, and mud will stick to his clothes briefly. Of course, attack and enemy animations are also near-perfect.

Like Jedi: Fallen Order, you’ll traverse across different locations, returning to some and discovering others for the first time. While the first game offered various secrets and hidden areas to explore, Jedi: Survivor absolutely dwarfs it in scale and scope. An abandoned building guarded by a shielded turret; a cave with Separatist Droids housing some Priorite, traded in Rambler’s Reach for items like new cosmetics; various chests housing parts to customize BD-1 and Cal’s Lightsaber, not to mention new clothes and hairstyles – the list goes on.

As you progress, new Rumors become available, whether it’s Prospectors disappearing while hunting for Priorite or a DJ and their droid from the core systems wanting to hear the “sounds of nature.” You can ignore them but investigate their general vicinity to know more, and you could recruit new characters, bringing even more functions and vendors to the town.

Further exploration also yields access to Jedi Chambers, large, ancient puzzle rooms that test your mettle. After the first, the rest are optional, but you’ll want to undertake them for the new Perks, which provide benefits like an increased Block meter or replacing enemies with tougher ones to revamp encounters. You start with three Perk slots, but certain Perks can take up more than one slot. However, certain collectibles can be exchanged for more slots and other Perks at vendors.

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"Along with running around, Cal will also do plenty of platforming, and I can’t stress enough how amazing it feels."

There are also Force Tears – challenges set in a void-like realm which range from platforming to combat. The first involved taking on an Inquisitor, two B2 Droids, two Bedlam Raiders and some B1 Droids using only the single-blade Stance. It looked easy enough and quickly became a frantic battle for survival necessitating multiple tries. Completing these awards Skill Points on top of sharpening your skills. Aside from these, you can also pursue side activities like gardening, collecting fish for the cantina and hunting down bounties.

Navigating these massive new locations takes some time, but thankfully, you have mounts that can assist you. They also open up new platforming solutions since jumping off a Nekko can grant more height. You’ll also encounter various winged creatures to hang and glide off of. Fast Travel eventually becomes available, making the journey around each location more seamless. But it’s easy to get lost while wandering around and taking in the sights, perhaps uncovering something you hadn’t noticed till now.

Along with running around, Cal will also do plenty of platforming, and I can’t stress enough how amazing it feels. Chaining wall runs and grapples, timing double-jumps and clearing gaps while searching the environment for solutions and opening up shortcuts feels natural and intuitive. There may still be some jank when jumping on certain parts of the environment, though far less than in the first game.

Overall, the level design is perfectly on point, reinforcing an area’s natural aspects while presenting interesting challenges and puzzles. The new AI companions also assist in this regard, especially when opening up new avenues for Cal to traverse.

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"Just from these options alone, coupled with Force Powers like Confuse or Heavy Pull, there is so much you can do in combat."

You can’t have a Jedi game without combat, though. Many of the same tenets from Fallen Order still apply – Cal has Force Push and Pull, can block and parry attacks with his Lightsaber, and deflect shots back at enemies. He can also grab explosives and missiles in mid-air and launch them back at his enemies, which is always satisfying. However, for the most part, you’re still hacking and slashing through enemies, trying to break through their block to deal uninterrupted damage while dodging unblockable attacks.

Jedi: Survivor doesn’t significantly revamp those mechanics, as much as providing way more options to play with. You have five Lightsaber Stances, each fitting into different play styles and providing useful functions. The single-bladed Lightsaber is your general all-purpose tool, good for parrying attacks and executing combos, but maybe rely on the double-bladed Lightsaber for tackling larger numbers of enemies. The latter is also great at deflecting Stormtrooper heavy weapon fire, though its long animations take getting used to.

You also have the dual-bladed Stance, which rewards aggression but can automatically parry attacks using the Force meter and quickly slash enemies before backstepping. Then there’s the Blaster Stance, where Cal wields a blaster in one hand and a Lightsaber in the other.

It’s one of the stranger options but introduces some much-needed range, while still being balanced by having limited shots. I didn’t unlock the heavy-blade Stance yet, but just from these options alone, coupled with Force Powers like Confuse or Heavy Pull, there is so much you can do in combat.

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"Also, a note on companions: Commanding Bode to dropkick an Inquisitor from behind is as hilarious as effective, and I welcome more of it."

It would all be for nought if you didn’t have worthwhile foes to fight, and to the credit of Jedi: Survivor, it introduces several new enemy types to keep things lively. There are Bedlam Raiders, some with jetpacks and electric poles to pin you down and immediately attack when Force Pulled; shielded Stormtroopers, whose shields can be ripped away and thrown back; heavy Droids that fire almost relentlessly and lob missiles; and much more. Even some beasts can be downright brutal, grabbing and pummeling you without mercy.

You’ll still have plenty of encounters where you outright brutalize foes – it’s incredibly satisfying to Force Pull a Stormtrooper and instantly execute them. While the tougher ones can be brute-forced, ingenuity is often more rewarding. What do you have in your arsenal? What abilities should you pull out at any given time? Just walking into a new fight and thinking about the possible ways to take down opponents makes for a fun time. Besides, you also walk away with less damage taken, though the distance between checkpoints is very forgiving.

Those craving more Lightsaber-focused battles will find plenty of those, especially with the bosses that crop up. Again, no spoilers, but each boss felt unique yet challenging, adding significant nuances to each fight. Also, a note on companions: Commanding Bode to dropkick an Inquisitor from behind is as hilarious as effective, and I welcome more of it.

With so much to love about Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, where does it falter? Performance. On PS5, you can enable Performance mode and play at 1440p and 60 FPS or disable it for 4K/30 FPS. There are also options for Motion Blur, Chromatic Aberration and Field of View. However, the frame rate can be very hit-or-miss in Performance mode. It will run at a smooth 60 FPS but often drop to the 50s or even 40s. This can happen in places like Coruscant, with massive draw distances and hundreds of objects in the background.

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"While I didn’t experience any bugs or other glaring issues, you should beware of the problematic performance before buying."

But I also noticed more erratic drops when entering and leaving Dreez’s cantina. The framerate in cutscenes, which sticks to 30 FPS, even in Performance mode, is also erratic depending on the amount of action. If that weren’t enough, some screen-tearing and pop-in are noticeable in some places.

Playing in 4K/30 FPS does alleviate some of these issues while presenting much more detailed texture quality and lighting, though the pop-in isn’t completely absent. Respawn and EA have already confirmed fixes and improvements in its launch day patch and many more to come later. While I didn’t experience any bugs or other glaring issues, you should beware of the problematic performance before buying.

Even with this asterisk – and I can’t stress enough how significant it is – Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a must-play experience for fans of the first game. It doesn’t rewrite the rules so much as massively build upon, improve and expand on the formula in numerous ways. It offers a human story about home, family and moving on while presenting a likeable cast and memorable locations.

Where the series goes from here is anyone’s guess. I’m not just excited for what’s next, but keen to return and immerse myself in Jedi: Survivor’s worlds even further.

This game was reviewed on PS5.


THE GOOD

Compelling story and well-written characters, particularly Cal and the main cast. Visceral, responsive combat with a wide number of Force Powers and abilities to rely on. New enemies are challenging and fun to fight. The environments are incredible to explore and littered with enjoyable content. Presentation, from the visual design and music, is simply stellar.

THE BAD

Performance sees frequent frame rate drops, especially in specific locations and scenarios. Random screen-tearing.

Final Verdict:
AMAZING
Its performance leaves something to be desired, but Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is still an essential experience for genre fans and Star Wars fanatics.
A copy of this game was provided by Developer/Publisher/Distributor/PR Agency for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.

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