At first, things weren’t going so well with EA and Star Wars: A decade of exclusivity seemed destined to be known as the Horsemen of the Loot Boxalypse. But in 2019, Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order saved the day just before the fade to credits. The deal between the two is pretty much over, but Respawn’s moment in the spotlight is far from it with Star Wars Jedi: Survivor bringing Cal Kestis back for a victory lap. This game is as much of a flex as a sequel can get, with more of everything people liked about Fallen Order piled on and expanded with new systems, mechanics, and flourishes. I played Survivor for roughly four hours and barely made a dent.
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Jedi: Survivor takes place five years after the events of Fallen Order, with a recently-released novel (Battle Scars) between the two. The preview session I attended was set roughly an hour or so into Survivor, skipping all the table-setting for a more spoiler-averse adventure on “backwater” planet Koboh. What starts as a forced pit stop for repairs to your spaceship Mantis and a reunion with its captain Greez Dritus quickly becomes a multifaceted conflict involving the local mining community, a band of Bedlam Raiders and of course, the discovery of world-altering secrets hidden by the Jedi Council.
Cal Kestis in Jedi: Survivor
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I’m not really a lore guy though, Star Wars or otherwise. But I love me some flippy, skippy Metroidvania action and Jedi: Survivor hit me in the face with an expensive, replica lightsaber with “flippy, skippy Metroidvania action” etched into the hilt. Unlike Samus or Alucard who lose all their powers to start a new caper, Cal Kestis gets yoked up and does everything he could do before, but better. He’s heavier, faster, forcier and beardier, able to do sick shit like kicking off walls to reset his double jump and scale surfaces he couldn’t dream of doing in the original game.
Cal is also a lot more world-weary, with pronounced bags under his eyes telling us his quest to disrupt the growing Empire and restore the Jedi Order hasn’t gone well. This makes sense in the greater Star Wars timeline, as we know things only get worse from here, but that crushing reality also feels like a practical vehicle to insert a little more life into Cal, who was sympathetic enough in Fallen Order’s plot but stopped short of being an interesting character otherwise. Respawn’s creative team has done an excellent job of finding a sweet spot here, giving Cal more substance and grit without compromising his overall white meat babyface vibe. He’s still a nerd, but with a little more hair on his chest, you know?
Vibes are a big part of Survivor’s sequel pizazz, as the customization offerings have been blown up like a gaudy hot-air balloon. Both Cal and BD-1 can swap between tons of cosmetic pieces and sift through several different color palettes per “part.” Cal can unlock new hairstyles, clothing, and lightsaber gimmicks, while his droid homie can change bits like his legs, body, lenses, and more. BD-1’s menu in particular rules, with each part change comically smashing into the little bot and rattling his whole frame. The options range from fitting to truly bizarre, and that’s only from what little I saw during my preview—it’s clear that the final product will have even more to play around with.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor secrets and stances
An intriguing element I barely rubbed up against seems to be a base-building component of some sort. As you progress the story on Koboh you unlock a shop and a few other points of interest, along with a hint saying you can come back to this space and expand it over time. I’m super curious about this part and how deep or bountiful it gets, but sadly I spent less time pushing the story forward and more time getting my ass kicked inside out by a Rancor.
Fallen Order had its secrets and optional discoveries, but Survivor stomps on the gas towards Tomb Raider territory. After the opening moments in Koboh leading up to reuniting with Greez, you find yourself in a wide open space with not much stopping you from wandering around. It isn’t quite “open world” levels of bloat and scavenging, but you can uncover things called “Rumors” that send you on substantial side quests with bespoke dungeon-like challenges. And in this preview’s case, a Rancor.
I could’ve ignored this gnarly Rancor and continued with the story that was available to me in this build of Jedi: Survivor— a Respawn representative who clearly felt bad for my very public failures told me as much. But some combination of stubbornness and ADHD hyperfixation overruled common sense and I spent at least an hour on this beast, getting slapped and ragdolled over and over. I got that big bastard eventually, and while I never got to try the flying mount sequence I saw my neighbor enjoying, I got plenty of insight on Cal’s new combat skills. And a round of applause from the folks watching me. Hell yeah.
As we’ve seen in the materials shown up until now, Jedi: Survivor offers a number of “Stances” for players to tinker with. There are five in total, and you can have any two equipped at a time (that could change later; it wasn’t clear to me). We didn’t have access to Crossguard or Blaster, although the game’s combat director showed them off in a real-time demonstration at the end of the event (Character Action sickos will love this stuff). But even with the two returning options from Fallen Order and the new Dual Wield stance, tons of tangible nuance has been added.
Each stance has its own skill tree, as well as basic statistical differences. Damage, speed, and even the pacing brought on by different animations all vary between the stances, and that can have a huge impact on an individual encounter. Against the Rancor for example, with its heavy swings and tricky area of effect mixups, different stances changed how I could react and respond. Did I want the reliably straightforward but limited Single stance or the fast, furious and risky Dual Wield? Or both? I refused to use Double-bladed because I had a shred of pride to maintain, but either way the answer was “calm down, idiot.” It worked!
As thrilling as the sidequest showdown was, it also exposed some performance issues. To be clear, I don’t know anything about the build I was playing, the specs of the machine I was using, or the settings being applied. But the Rancor’s aggressive, screen-filling bulk definitely caused some chugging. This could be a totally moot point by launch time, but It bears mentioning alongside those caveats. I didn’t have similar issues anywhere else in the preview.
Even considering my detour slobberknocker, I didn’t just feel satisfied with my time on Star Wars Jedi: Survivor; I felt a kickstarted enthusiasm for the final release and disappointment I couldn’t keep playing after I left the building. I want to scramble up more ridiculous Jedi parkour segments, I want to pet more Boglings. I want to square up with more ridiculous minibosses tucked away in random caverns. There’s less than a month to go, but April 28 feels so much further away than it did before I got my hands on Jedi: Survivor. As far as previews go, that’s as good a sign as any.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is meditating ahead of an April 28, 2023 release for the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.