Star Wars Jedi Survivor cements itself as an essential action-adventure game. Full of heart, humour, and blisteringly great combat, Respawn's latest Star Wars game is a treat for newcomers and long-time franchise fans alike thanks to its blockbuster-level story.
Five years have passed in Respawn Entertainment’s galaxy. Orders have fallen, leaving rogues and rebels to fall pray to the growing darkness. Yet, in Star Wars Jedi Survivor, there is indeed light. Cal Kestis isn’t a naive scrapper anymore and the Empire’s chokehold on the galaxy tightens by the second. Following a string of subpar TV events and diminishing returns on the big screen, trusting in Star Wars media is a gamble for me as of late. But Jedi Survivor quickly puts those worries to bed.
Sequels are always a tricky endeavour to explore. The Star Wars franchise is no stranger to navigating that tricky path. When I embarked on The Loadout’s Star Wars Jedi Survivor preview, it became quickly apparent that Respawn wasn’t phased by the so-called ‘sequel problem’. Confidence is the key here as Respawn charges forward through the farthest corners of the Star Wars galaxy. Star Wars Jedi Survivor‘s journey begins with the hallmark of any heist in space: problems. The Fallen Order crew has been split up for some time and Cal’s fervent desire to vanquish the Empire remains firmly in place. When the possibility of establishing a new life for Cal and his hidden allies appears out of the Empire’s reach, Cal’s hardest life lessons present themselves immediately.
Don’t worry, there’s no fluff to reclaim your basic abilities from Fallen Order, it’s all systems go from the moment Cal’s boots touch the ground on Coruscant. Those five years haven’t just changed the galaxy, but Cal’s presence too. He’s slicker and gloriously agile. Forget those frustrating movement woes in Fallen Order, because Cal’s traversal assures you that he’s earned the title of Jedi Knight. Equipped with a trusty Ascension Cable and some Force goodness along the way, Cal soars through environments with a newfound sense of dexterity. Uniting this with the game’s supreme feeling combat often had me smiling and exclaiming obscenities out of pure joy.
Operating with the sheen and satisfaction seen in Ghost of Tsushima’s swordplay, the inclusion of Blaster, Crossguard, and Dual Wield stances opens up an array of possibilities to master. While some enemies may benefit from certain stances, the game doesn’t punish you for carving your own path and mixing them up to suit your playstyle. Two stances can be used at any time and I almost exclusively used a Blaster/Crossguard combo to devastate anyone and anything in my way. Jedi Survivor’s combat clicks quickly and once you become a parry expert, walking into arenas of enemies always feels badass.
No matter which stance I opted for, I was greeted by beautifully rendered animations, especially within the Blaster stance. Utilising a fencing-style ethos, Blaster stance’s appearance also poses compelling ethical questions about Jedis using weaponry outside of Jedi traditions. Stances aren’t by any means innovative, seemingly using Ghost of Tsushima as a blueprint. Nonetheless, the versatility of them is a welcome addition to Cal’s arsenal.
Force abilities have also been overhauled and seamlessly cooperate with more experienced Cal’s Lightsaber prowess. Jedi Survivor’s sheer variety of Force and Lightsaber fighting is leaps and bounds above Fallen Order, and will undoubtedly land as the best representation of fulfilling the Jedi Knight combat fantasy for fans. Freezing enemies to unleash the game’s Red Dead Redemption 2-style dead-eye mechanic guarantees that you did indeed shoot first. Lifting, slamming, pushing, and pulling enemies to use as shields and blaster shot fodder feels epically commanding.
These same learned disciplines transpose themselves into Cameron Monaghan’s performance, too. Monaghan is far more comfortable in the role here, adding welcome nuances and complexity to Cal’s demeanour this time around. It’s immediately apparent how fatigued the Empire’s tirade has made Cal, struggling to find the capacity for optimism among the galaxy’s dwindling hope. Yet, there’s a benevolent force, if you will, that Monaghan ruminates within. Cal’s journey is a myriad of emotional dissonances, each one fighting to show itself on the surface of his heart. Thankfully for Cal, the Star Wars Jedi Survivor voice actors cast is full of familiar faces and newcomers to bounce off.
Newcomer Bode Akuna (voiced by Noshir Dalal) is an exceptional addition to the fray, defying the stereotype of a rugged Han Solo-style scoundrel, despite what his stylish getup might say in that regard. Akuna’s facing some plights of his own out there and it’s a struggle that only bonds him closer with Cal and his crew. After all, it wouldn’t be a true Star Wars adventure without a rambunctious crew to tag along. Daniel Roebuck’s Greez returns from Fallen Order, alongside Debra Wilson’s Cere Junda, and Tina Ivlev’s Merrin. Greez’s lovably pessimistic musings are always a treat. Cere, in a slightly reduced role than Fallen Order, is still reinforced by a sublime, empowered performance from Wilson.
Ivlev’s Merrin is a highlight, weaving between her sarcastic drawl to genuinely moving catharsis, especially as Cal deals with coming head-to-head with new baddie Dagan Gera. Gera’s past directly strikes a chord with Cal but he may be too far gone to align his galactic interests with. It is this conflict that opens up Jedi Survivor’s enormous planets across Cal’s mission. And when I say enormous it isn’t hyperbolic. Jedi Survivor’s planets initially present the familiar linearity of Fallen Order’s riff on the SoulsBorne formula, later transforming into positively overwhelming expanses that could contain forgotten villages, derelict temples, and the majesty of a humid jungle. Capturing their beauty in the game’s simple-yet-effective photo mode lets you take it in for a moment too.
You’ll often revisit the same planets for new plot development as previously unexplored areas become available for dissection. Koboh, which acts as a sort of hub world for the game’s side activities, is by far the most comprehensive depiction of Respawn’s ambitious world-building. Strolling through Koboh’s Rambler’s Ranch evokes the Western-tinged flavour of The Mandalorian, complete with the odd Ennio Morricone-style guitar strum. Its mountains are covered in a foreboding fog, concealing a litany of threats at any turn. Elsewhere in the galaxy, destinations like Shattered Moon defy the tried-and-test Star Wars notion of including desert planets – though, of course, there is Jedha.
Jedha is a significant place for Star Wars lore, cementing itself as a cultural touchstone for the Jedi Arts and its spiritual undertakings. Respawn honours this aspect with incredible care, allowing Cal’s connection to the Force to earn a tangible poignancy. It isn’t just Cal’s narrative that forges a connection, though, as customising him into the Cal for your journey is a drastic improvement on Fallen Order’s limited options. Each element of Cal’s aesthetic is interchangeable with outfits you can find or purchase from numerous vendors. Jedi Survivor’s personalisation in this regard is far better than it has any right to be, taking this same ethos into the game’s weaponry and even BD-1.
Lightsabers can be tweaked down to how worn they are. New colourways, hilts, pommels, and emitters take it to another level, causing me to spend a considerable amount of time crafting the ultimate weapon from a more civilised age. Making a blaster only seen in my wildest space cowboy dreams bears the same amount of gratification. These elements can be bolstered by the game’s side content, which includes good old fashion bounty hunting, NPC side quests, and even a touch of gardening.
Although, whether I was venturing off to unearth fresh mysteries or continue toward Jedi Survivor’s astounding conclusion, a series of frame-rate dips and minor visual artifacting did occur throughout my time with the game. My 20+ hours with the full length of the Star Wars Jedi Survivor campaign were played in performance mode, but more aesthetically demanding planets did pull the otherwise smooth 60 FPS down. This is very apparent in cutscenes, which coercers the game into the cinematic 2:45:1 aspect ratio. Cutscenes can end abruptly and break the immersion, albeit briefly, as a bombastic action sequence begins. Fortunately, these performance issues were fleeting and a relatively minor speck in the face of Jedi Survivor’s sheen.
Stepping into the shoes of a Jedi Knight has never felt this good. Beloved games like the Revenge of the Sith adaptation, Jedi Academy, and the redeemed Star Wars Battlefront 2 were on the verge of greatness combat-wise, but Star Wars Jedi Survivor is in another league. Backed by a sturdy story that apes recent Star Wars TV series and cinematic outings with ease, if Cal Kestis wasn’t your favourite Jedi before, he probably will be after Jedi Survivor’s titillating story. Building off Fallen Order’s foundations as a bigger, refined, and heart-filled experience, Respawn Entertainment goes forward to establish Star Wars Jedi Survivor as the most definitive Star Wars game to date.