Star Wars: Jedi Survivor continues the story of Cal Kestis, a Jedi padawan who escaped the Jedi massacre after Emperor Palpatine's Order 66. It's the sequel to the very well-received 2019 Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
The game is set between the Star Wars prequel movies and the original trilogy, as the Galactic Empire spreads across the galaxy. It's a particularly fertile and relatively undocumented period in the Star Wars timeline, giving the developer plenty of creative legroom. As with all the Star Wars comics and novels since Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is considered to be part of the Star Wars canon.
Technical issues plagued the game's launch, hence the reason why you are reading this review now, a few weeks after the game was released. The game's PC version suffered from stuttering and generally poor performance, even on high-end machines. The console version offered a better experience but with a lower framerate than I'd like. The development team at Respawn (of Titanfall and Apex fame) quickly acknowledged the issues. Several patches have now been released for the game making the PC experience a lot better, and the console version is nigh on perfect.
The game starts five years after the events of the first game. Cal Kestis is now working for Saw Gerrera (played by Forrest Whitaker in the Rogue One movie and Andor TV show), fighting against the Empire in a guerrilla war. With him is his trusty droid companion BD-1, once again performing scanning, door splicing, and mapping duties. When Cal's ship, the Mantis, is severely damaged, Cal seeks out his friend and former ship's captain, Greez Dritus, on the planet Koboh for repairs. Whilst exploring, Cal comes across a relic from the time of the High Republic era Jedi Order and details of the mythical planet of Tanalorr.
The plot seems to have been wrapped around the game design rather than be a story in its own right. The result has Cal Kestis seemingly wandering the galaxy and just coincidently coming across important Jedi stuff, giving him something to do. The tale weaved around Jedi Survivor's various game levels is not one that you should scrutinise. But, of course, this is Star Wars, and who knows, perhaps it is the Force that is guiding us through an otherwise conceited yarn.
Ignoring the setup, the story is still a lot of fun. It seamlessly slots into the established mythos of the movies a lot better than any show on Disney+. Not only does it "feel" very Star Wars, but the hardware and architecture of the game are also absolutely Star Wars, as well.
For this sequel, the guys at Remedy have gone all out to create huge environments and vistas that are straight out of the movies. Whereas the last game felt like a bit of a compromise at times, this one feels like a proper sci-fi blockbuster.
Fans of the movies will recognise many of the items, building types, and droids scattered throughout the game. These little details make the game feel very much part of the Star Wars universe. The settlement on the planet Koboh and the cantina there are of particular note. Unfortunately, the trip to Jedha isn't the same part as portrayed in Rogue One.
Like its predecessor Star Wars Jedi: Survivor takes the punishing Souls-style gameplay and balances it out a little more fairly to give us and full-on lightsaber combat game. It is, very much, more of the same, but feeling just that little bit surer of itself, which is reflected in the level design and overall graphical polish.
Whilst Cal Kestis is a more powerful Jedi Knight in this sequel, compared to how he was at the start of the Fallen Order, he still seems to lack many of his Jedi powers. These are, of course, upgradable as you progress and collect skill points.
The developer successfully set out to make players feel like they are a Jedi Knight, one of the mystical Force-wielding warriors of the Star Wars tales. Armed with a lightsaber, players can deflect laser bolts and slice the enemy (even severing limbs this time- something you couldn't do in the previous game). Some enemies have shields, weapons (and even lightsabers) that require blocking and more strategic attacks for a killing blow.
This is not a button-mashing lightsaber-slasher game. Playing the game in such a gung-ho fashion will only lead to frustration. You need the discipline of a Jedi to get to grips with the rather unforgiving combat system. The perfect timing of blocking and evading the enemy's attacks is as important as carrying out offence strikes. And it's only with practice that this skill can be honed. This means dying a lot but also taking your time to learn how to defend and exploit enemy weaknesses.
Using a similar gameplay technique as the campfires in the Souls games (Darks Souls, Elden Ring, etc.), Each location is peppered with meditation circles that serve as save and fast-travel points. Here Cal can spend skill points across the three Jedi disciplines of survival, lightsaber, and force. Cal's lightsaber stances can also be selected. By using a mediation circle to rest, Cal's health and stems (health kits) are fully replenished at the expense of all the enemies respawning.
I spent quite a lot of time continually challenging one particular enemy near a meditation circle learning how to instinctively block, parry and evade their attacks. Perfecting timing is the mainstay of successful combat in the game.
As well as a Jedi's lightsaber, players also have to master the Jedi's force abilities. These can be used to push, pull, and even confuse the enemy. Force powers also come in handy, moving objects to open paths and areas in the game.
Cal learns several stances in the game, including one that utilises a blaster. Of course, purists may baulk at a Jedi using something as clumsy and random as a blaster, but it is nice to clear the room of easy targets so you can concentrate on the heavy hitters.
The level design is very intricate, with areas designed to open up as the player progresses through the game and Cal's abilities and equipment improve. Whilst combat is very much the main feature of the game, it's also very much a heavily disguised platform and puzzle game. Many of the locations are larger and more open than in the last game, with lots of opportunities to explore and find collectables.
Star Wars is not exactly renowned for its handrails and general health and safety. Unprotected long drops seem to be a staple architectural design throughout the galaxy. Jedi: Survivor continues this tradition, working it into the game mechanics. The environments seem to have more than their fair share of seemingly bottomless chasms and precarious ledges. This means lots of climbing and jumping. To stop things from becoming a chore, shortcuts can be unlocked to avoid repeating precarious traversals.
Star Wars: Jedi Survivor is a worthy addition to the Star Wars universe. It builds on the gameplay of its predecessor with more confidence and an epic feel that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order didn't quite manage. The story offers a good enough excuse to explore exotic locations and battle the Empire, as well as some other unsavoury types, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.