From Our Original Review in Progress
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
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 Respawn wants
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.
"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...”
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.
Welcome back, prospector.
I’m not entirely sure how some people managed to rush their review experience for Survivor. Adding an additional few days of full-on play definitely allowed me to see just how deep this experience goes. And that the Koboh planet, alone, is your investment property; you expand and enliven the place with your exploits and it’s absolutely full
of things to discover and unlock and broaden, even more so than it presents in your first jaunt through it. In so many ways the game takes a lot of cues from Metroid Prime
alongside those alignments mentioned in the above RIP, but it’s also still very much its own thing, which is a pure Star Wars experience with rich characters and an even richer story. But for mine, it’s the small things the game gets right that truly elevates it.
"You’re almost gentrifying the place of its less-than-desirables, otherwise known as the Bedlam Raiders...”
It’s one thing to checklist discoverable items -- and Survivor does do this -- but they’re more often than not tied to quirky characters and also feature a reward of some sort. Tangible ones, too. Whether it’s gaining access to a new type of shop, or making the Pyloon Saloon purdier
or Koboh just more commercial (you’re almost gentrifying the place of its less-than-desirables, otherwise known as the Bedlam Raiders
), how you transform what is the game’s central hub into something totally different to when you first encountered it, is actually a joyful experience. And it’s super-rewarding.
Take the pub for example. When you first visit this place, it is a dive and not even in a Sydney Inner West sense of hipster irony deliberately designed to sap your dollarydoos kind of way; it’s a rundown dilapidated place with few customers and even fewer reasons to visit. But, eventually the game tasks you with sending people back there.
Some of these new acquaintances bring new activities with them, which can in turn force you to explore areas you’ve already visited because there was maybe something there you couldn’t access, that now you can. Here's an example: there’s a fish tank feature behind the bar, you see, and it’s in dire need of some love and maybe some new species to spice it up. Enter Skoova Stev
-- a master fisherman from offworld here on Koboh looking for unique species of fish in varying bodies of water around the planet. When you ask him to help with the tank, the game gives you a list of 12 fish overall it wants you and Skoova to find. It’s not difficult, but it’s also not easy. It’s just incidental
to the world, but it also can’t happen without your input and the end result is a clean tank, new things to look at and happier clientele.
(Incidentally Skoova Stev is my favourite character in the game.)
"In Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, there’s a sense of progress tied to all of this that’s less about displaying a reward and more about reviving something, which aligns in particular with Cal’s morals...”
This is not a new idea to games, either. We built up Ravensthorpe
in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, after all. Or made the village a functioning and bustling place in Ashen
, to keep things closer to home, but in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, there’s a sense of progress tied to all of this that’s less about displaying a reward and more about reviving something, which aligns in particular with Cal’s morals, and it’s great because of this.
You do, of course, get off Koboh and go elsewhere, such as the rocky and sandy plains of the ancient Jedha
, which features giant underground scorpions, decaying ruins and a sandstorm the likes of which you’ve never seen. As well as new and interesting mounts and more people and things
to bring back to your pet-project: Koboh. But these spaces are more traditional gaming areas filled with enemies, traversal and hidden goodies in a more streamlined sense. Everything you wind up doing in the game is done to bolster the Koboh community… you just also happen to be unravelling an ancient mystery from the era of the High Republic
and its loose contract with the Jedi Order
to explore the galaxy, recruit as many races into said republic as possible and probably wind up taxing the shit out of them.
Lightsabers aren’t cheap, you know. The crystals alone…
"Our review was split between early access to PS5 and then jumping onto Xbox Series X|S to just look at the differences...”
Of course, as you might have heard in a lot of post-launch chatter, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for the game out in the immediate wild. Our review was split between early access to PS5
and then jumping onto Xbox Series X|S
to just look at the differences, and in the pre-release aspect of the game on Sony’s deck, it was good. Certain parts of different worlds stuttered here and there, but it wasn’t until the "Day-Zero" patch that things went awry. Performance dipped and it was definitely crying out for some more love. But on Xbox Series X|S it’s been mostly solid (we only got the Series X|S code in retail post-launch form, so no idea on the differences prior).
But it will be fixed.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a hard one to nail down. And it’ll depend a lot on your alignment to The Force. As in, do you have one? Star Wars fans will eat this up and love every second of it. From the lore-laden info drops to the High Republic nods to the droids and their always-and-forever quirky ways. Survivor isn’t a love letter to
Star Wars, it’s a renewal of marriage vowels -- gender, race, planet-of-birth be damned -- to that universe which, in this outing, is probably the most diverse offering ever
within its long and storied history and expansion.
If you’re not Force compliant, but love videogames and especially those of the open-worldish
kind (it’s more expanded path and sandboxey than truly OW), then there’s still something here for you. But you might find it hard to move past, no pun intended, some of the game’s traversal which has only been mildly updated from the first game. It’s better, but it could be
*better*. And if none of the above sits with you, I’ll leave you with this: Star War Jedi: Survivor is slightly outlier in its foundational universe and in its pedigree and influences. It’s a mish-mash that somehow makes a whole, but for anyone keen on what that means, I can only say saddle up and enjoy the ride, because for its shortcomings and intimidation in size, scope and IP density, Survivor is one heck of a frontier game.