Post by Steve Farrelly @ 01:01am 27/04/23 | Comments
Our 'review in progress' for Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. Check out our thoughts so far and stay tuned for the final verdict soon!
That moment in the early part of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor when you’ve tricked a Storm Commando with the Jedi power Confuse and, after they’ve wailed on their teammate for a bit, glowing green with Light Side Jedi Juice™, ask “did I do something wrong?!” (having just helped you not only dispatch their buddy, but also dismember parts of them), you’ll quickly remember -- or realise -- this is a much darker Star Wars journey than most. At least in the modern sense.
If you never played Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, it’s probably worth starting back there. This isn’t one of those “actually Survivor is a great place to start if you never played the first” moments, the type of line of which is a Jedi mind trick utilised all too often by devs and cheeky PR. In fact, we downright recommend you do, because from the outset, Survivor is a story-heavy sequel in which all of the events of the first game are needed to make sense of just about everything.
There is, of course, an option to get a quick recap of things and the game also kicks off with this, but even in a gameplay sense we highly recommend playing Fallen Order first, because a lot has been addressed in its sequel, but a lot overlooked, too.
This is a review in progress, by the way. A decision we had to make not-so-lightly because of the density of it all. You kick things off on the cyberpunk-looking world of Coruscant (at least in its lower regions), and everything is familiar for those who did play the first game, and tutorial-heavy for those who didn’t, or those who just need to brush up a bit. It’s a stunning playspace, too. A sprawling vertical space with flying vehicles and ivory towers as far as the light-polluted sky will allow the eye to see. It’s also fairly linear which is an interesting choice given the locale, but it serves as a heady introduction to the game’s new storyline that still sees young Padwan-turned-Jedi, Cal Kestis, continuing his fight against the Empire, albeit now without any of his friends from the first game.
"To traverse along walls and down ridiculously slippery and ludicrous (from a game-design sense) slopes and downgrades...”
On Coruscant we’ll learn again how to manage our droid companion, BD-1, how to parry and wield a lightsaber, how to double-jump and look for secret nooks and crannies, how to traverse along walls and down ridiculously slippery and ludicrous (from a game-design sense) slopes and downgrades and, most importantly, how to be a Jedi Knight in these dark and lonely times. Except we’re still not alone and Survivor dishes up a few firsts throughout your tutorial sojourn, not the least of which is the idea we’re going to be seeing a lot of new faces, and certainly a lot more friendly ones, too.
Yet for all its eye-candy and scale, Coruscant is just a blip on the radar. Beyond these opening Star Wars-punk moments, which also highlight some of the game’s immediate pitfalls, is an action-RPG disguised as an action-adventure game. It might seem like semantics, but once you get to the larger mass of Koboh, the game’s second destination and one you need to venture too, a world small galaxy of side-quests and hidden goodies lies in wait. A sandbox riddled with secret paths and environmental puzzles to solve and exploit and even some archaeology to perform. Heck, you can even wrangle yourself a mount here, because… why not?
"So trope-heavy is it that it’s full of old prospectors and tired old jokes that have withstood the test of time, while also being filled with people who sport a certain twang in their voice, alien or not...”
It’s also on Koboh you’ll meet an old friend and move into a dusty old establishment named the Pyloon Saloon, what with this place being a frontier destination and all. So trope-heavy is it that it’s full of old prospectors and tired old jokes that have withstood the test of time, while also being filled with people who sport a certain twang in their voice, alien or not, that lingers on the all-too familiar. It’s not out of place, either. In the Disney+ canon of the Star Wars universe, which used all of the last game’s events and some of its settings within its overarching story, themes are a dime-a-dozen (not that the original trilogy wasn’t also heavy on certain themes) and here we get to see that spread on full display. And given this is a review in progress we’ll keep further surprises from you from that sense, because the idea of discovery in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is one of its key pillars, and one that has us currently exploring every possible hidey-hole we can.
There’s a certain sense of game-scale once Koboh reveals her true self to you, not too dissimilar to the first time you might have played God of War (2018) or Assassin’s Creed Origins and realised, “wow, these aren’t the droids I was looking for”, in the sense that each game was a true evolution of their foundations. And that’s okay. It’s not an open-world game, but it has many elements from some of the best, while still delivering a wholly original Star Wars experience. And the first time I wielded my lightsaber and cut off the arm of a stormtrooper I did it with a muscle memory I didn’t realise had stuck with me. The game is still a punish in the combat department, but it’s massaged more this time. Perks and Abilities help guide your playstyle and there’s a sense that Respawnwants you to win, which was something I felt wasn’t there in the first game.
"A key new element is the Batman-style grapple, which has helped ease the pain of misguided jumps...”
Traversal is also still an annoyance, with rope swings, wall-running, the aforementioned double-jumps, wall-climbing and that ridiculous sliding all still at play, but I must admit the controls feel tighter this time around, or at least more forgiving. A key new element is the Batman-style grapple, which has helped ease the pain of misguided jumps from any one of those impediments, or attempted lines mentioned above, but it’s not smooth, for lack of any better term. But in the face of that I’ve noticed overall world and level-design cohesion is very, very good this time with a contextual layer that really feeds off the landscape and just makes a certain kind of sense. So on that front, while getting around isn’t lump-free gravy, the spaces in which you are moving just feel fantastic.
Visually, Survivor is a cut above, and on PS5 it is a delight. We couldn’t play the game with HDR on because it was a known issue Respawn was addressing (another aspect of the choice to do a review in progress), and I did experience some dips in frame-rate, but we’ve also been told a handful of Day One patches would be coming to each platform, and we suspect a few more after that too, but it is a stunning game to gawk at, with art direction and set-piece design that puts Favreau to shame. And as far as UI and the UX is concerned, this is a clean and stylish presentation that, honestly, can’t be faulted. You get world information on-the-fly to flesh out the game’s lore while also being able to trace back your steps and everything you’ve done thus far, which might sound trivial and as if it should be like that, but too many games don’t make this aspect easy to navigate any more, so it’s a pleasure here.
We unfortunately didn’t get a chance to check out the abilities carry-over from the previous game as we played that one on Xbox One and this on PS5, so that’s also another thing we’re looking forward to checking out in more detail.
With all of that said, the journey so far is a pretty decent one that certainly ups the ante from the first, but more time is needed with each destination, against each mini and main boss and, of course, to see where and how the full story unfolds, so please stay tuned for the remainder of our review, coming in the next few days.