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Star Wars Jedi Survivor is already a force to be reckoned with

While at times Star Wars Jedi Survivor feels familiar to Fallen Order, our hands-on preview reveals lots of innovation that should make this an epic adventure.

Cal Kestis in Star Wars Jedi Survivor

Roaming through the outback of a world unknown, my boots scrape against shattered rocks and bogs of sludge. I’ve seen the farthest reaches of the Star Wars galaxy in movies and TV shows before, but the remnants of Koboh are different. Cal Kestis returns for a new Jedi adventure, but this isn’t the naive young boy that Fallen Order presented. Star Wars Jedi Survivor sparked a light of maturity and refinement during our preview, from its ambitious level design to its reflection of a more studied Jedi Knight.

I had just under four hours with Star Wars Jedi Survivor, which ultimately proved not to be enough time within one of Respawn’s new worlds – in the best way possible. Cal finds himself on the cavernous planet Koboh, which is brimming to the teeth with valuable minerals and resources that would make junk dealers like Watto blush. Initially, it feels like Respawn is repeating the successes of Fallen Order’s souls-like world ethos, but Jedi Survivor is far more expansive. Planets aren’t necessarily a mini open world, but a richly detailed biome to unearth galactic mysteries.

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Koboh’s design ethos displays the familiar aesthetic of outback Star Wars planets. You’ve got your abandoned machinery and faded signs of civilisation. But nothing could prepare me for the glee-inducing exploration found within Rambler’s Reach – a town Cal discovers during his travels. If you’ve been crying out for something to scratch a Mandalorian-inspired itch in gaming, then this is sure to satiate that need. Rambler’s Reach taps into the spaghetti western influences that George Lucas adored back in the 1970s. All that’s missing is a rogue tumbleweed wandering across the land.

Cal crosses paths with Koboh reluctantly, following severe damage to the Mantis. Forced to explore his surroundings, it’s here specifically where Jedi Survivor begins to spread its wings. Rambler’s Reach feels like a hub of sorts, especially as the location can be shaped to an extent by the player. Whereas Fallen Order saw brief interaction with NPCs, Jedi Survivor offers the chance to embrace them more deeply. NPCs can provide Cal with knowledge about ‘rumours’ – side quests that may lead to fantastical loot or other surprises. Koboh’s sheer scale accentuates the urge to explore these optional quests.

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I managed to complete the main questline presented in the preview and my imagination is already running wild if this is the scope of just one planet in Jedi Survivor. Beautiful fauna and unique beasts roam the land- though some like the merciless Rancor aren’t so friendly. Some on the other hand can be used to traverse Koboh. The Belter, a delicate bird-like creature, can lift Cal to great heights. The Nekko mount offers ground traversal across Koboh’s rocky plains. But don’t forget about the fauna, though, as it can be collected and grown in a garden within Rambler’s Reach.  We’re yet to see the town’s full potential, but it comes across pleasantly as Animal Crossings-lite.

One shop seen in Rambler’s Reach is run by Doma Dendra, the de facto mayor of the town. Doma sells desirable items to the player in exchange for a material known as Priorite Shards. Such items factor into the revamped customisation options that afford Cal a brand-new aesthetic. We’re talking complete emperor’s new clothes. Want to roam around Koboh with a superb mohawk and a moustache that Lando Calrissian would approve of? Go for it. Combine that with some nifty threads found around Koboh’s sprawling mountainous environment too. Giving Cal a personal feel makes Jedi Survivor feels like our evolution as a Jedi Knight, not just Cal’s. Gone are the days of throwing on any old poncho.

Speaking of cowboy attire, a western-influenced town is nothing without danger to the people, though. In The Loadout’s preview, Jedi Survivor introduces the villainous Rayvis – the leader of the Bedlam Raiders gang – that has bigger fish to fry than our beloved Cal Kestis. So much so that Rayvis relinquishes battling Cal himself, leaving another eager Raider with the task of reducing Cal to nothing but a pale Force ghost. Of course, Cal is more than prepared to dispatch a pesky small-town criminal. Fallen Order’s combat sung, albeit with a few hiccups along the way, and Jedi Survivor’s combat already feels like a soaring improvement.

Cal Kestis on the planet Koboh in Star Wars Jedi Survivor

Single-blade stance returns alongside double-bladed engagements. Both retain their sense of heft, yet Cal’s movement feels more learned and calculated here. Within the five years since we last saw him, it’s evident that his adventures have forged a renewed confidence within him. Using Force Confusion to turn the tides of battle is enormously gratifying, as Stormtroopers or beasts lay waste to your foes. Returning combat stances still effortlessly interplay with Cal’s Force abilities but they don’t hold a candle to the thrilling potential of dual wielding. There’s a high skill ceiling to meet with using dual wielding, which feels appropriate considering Jedi alums like Ashoka Tano and Fallen Order villain Taron Malicos are masters of the Jar’Kai Lightsaber form.

Managing to meet the cost of its demanding skill level does yield fantastic results though. With dismemberment now aiding the devastation of Cal’s attacks, slicing through enemies never felt so badass. In a demonstration post-preview, Respawn shed light on the game’s highly anticipated blaster and Kylo Ren-inspired crossguard combat. While I’m still lamenting that we didn’t get to sample it in our preview, I can wholeheartedly say that the reaction in the room guarantees Star Wars fans will go wild for Jedi Survivor’s combat. Cal can seamlessly intersperse blaster fire throughout his array of Lightsaber swings while using the crossguard stance appears to be a brute force method for victory.

Star Wars Jedi Survivor story trailer hidden details: an image of BD-1 and Cal from the video

One moment that elicited applause came in the form of Cal using the Force to freeze Stormtroopers in the air, before using a Red Dead Redemption-style dead eye system to mark his enemies for execution. Each stance is navigated with ease too. While early comparisons have looked toward Ghost of Tsushima’s combat mechanics, Jedi Survivor thankfully forges its own distinct flavour of combat prowess. Each of these stances, along with Cal’s Force abilities can be upgraded in the same vein as Fallen Order, but a look down each skill tree ensures that Cal’s fighting skills are going to have fans hooked with mastering each form.

Cal’s movement immediately impressed me this time around. Fallen Order often fell prey to clunky jumping and wall-running, proving to be quite the problem in a game full of platforming. Now that Cal is more agile narratively, wall-running in particular is vastly improved.

Star Wars Jedi Survivor at present uses each facet of its gameplay to build on the foundations of Fallen Order with ease. We won’t be spoiling any narrative specifics here, however, Jedi Survivor personally feels genuinely refreshing following the wave of uninspired Disney+ Star Wars series of late. As the Star Wars Jedi Survivor release date approaches, it is clear that Cal’s next journey is teeing up to be something truly special.