Skip to main content

Jedi: Survivor is still the best Star Wars wish fulfillment

The sequel doesn’t do a lot new, and it’s still a mashup of other action-adventure games — but that’s easy to forget when you’re tossing stormtroopers around with your Force powers.

Share this story

A screenshot of Cal Kestis in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
Image: EA

We’re living in an age of Star Wars excess — there’s just so much of it. When one show ends, another is set to begin (with a little detour into animation in between), and there are plenty of movies on the horizon.

But when it comes to video games, the galaxy far, far away hasn’t been quite so prolific. That’s what made Jedi: Fallen Order stand out so much. It didn’t have the most exciting story, and its various gameplay elements were all culled from other existing blockbusters. But it was a well-made adventure that let players live out the fantasy of wielding a lightsaber or Force-pushing a stormtrooper off a cliff, and that was enough. The sequel, Jedi: Survivor, doesn’t mess with that simple premise. It simply gives you more — and the kyber crystal shine hasn’t worn off quite yet.

Like the original, Survivor stars Cal Kestis, a former Jedi Padawan who survived the purge of his order and is now acting as a kind of Force-wielding gun-for-hire / thorn in the Empire’s side. The sequel picks up five years later, with Cal and his band of friends — including former Jedi Knight Cere, four-armed pilot Greez, and Nightsister Merrin — having all gone their separate ways. A lot happens, but the core of the story revolves around a mythical planet that a) could be home to some important treasure and b) would serve as an excellent hiding place for all of the Force-sensitive beings who the empire is hunting down.

Survivor becomes a planet-hopping adventure as Cal and his adorable droid pal, BD-1, attempt to locate all kinds of sci-fi MacGuffins in order to get to the planet. You’ll explore imperial bases on destroyed moons, ancient Jedi ruins, and a Wild West-style planet with lots of space to roam. Once again, Cal is far and away the least interesting character. He has a bit of a darker edge here, which you can tell because of his new beard and a late-game plot twist that is in no way surprising. But he’s more of a blank vessel for the player, which is largely fine because the rest of the cast is much more entertaining. That includes returning folks like Merrin and her mysterious, magical ways as well as new faces like a laid-back bounty hunter with an Australian accent and a droid who has been alone for a few hundred years. Best of all are some great villains, including a waif-ish former Jedi with one arm and a vibe that will inspire plenty of fanfiction.

A screenshot of the video game Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
Image: EA

The main storyline has its moments, but it’s mainly an excuse to jump from planet to planet in search of adventure while getting to hang out with — and face off against — cool people from the Star Wars universe. Half the time, I forgot what piece of long-abandoned Jedi lore or ancient compass-like object I was searching for. I just enjoyed the search. I much preferred digging into all of the optional lore, as your helpful droid will greedily scan every enemy, creature, and piece of architecture for future reference.

And just like before, Survivor pretty shamelessly mashes together elements of other games. The exploration is a mix of Tomb Raider and Metroid, as you explore areas full of interconnected rooms, many of which you can’t reach until you unlock the right ability, like a double jump or extended grappling hook. You can wall jump like in Super Mario, parkour across buildings like Spider-Man, and perform killer finishing moves like in God of War. There are Breath of the Wild-style physics puzzles and set pieces where you’re running through destruction like Nathan Drake in Uncharted.

What makes the game work is how it manages to not only connect these various styles of game seamlessly but also make them feel intrinsically like part of the Star Wars universe. Of course Cal can move like Peter Parker and fight like Kratos; he’s a Jedi. And there’s something immensely satisfying about being able to pull off these skills from the movies in a game. I enjoyed using the Force to shove chatty battle droids off a cliff every single time I did it (which was a lot). The series is developed by Respawn, a studio known for action games like Titanfall and Apex Legends, and its expertise at making combat and movement just feel good is on full display once again. That’s true whether you’re blocking blaster bolts with ease or running along the side of a derelict spacecraft.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Survivor is how it manages to balance all of these different elements so that it never feels like you’re stuck doing just one thing. Among the main story missions are ones where you’ll be spelunking through ancient caves, with lots of simple environmental puzzles to solve as well as more combat-focused missions where you take out dozens of imperials or a new group of surprisingly tough raiders.

There are a few frustrating moments. The platforming sequences can be thrilling, but they can require trial and error; it’s often impossible to see what’s up ahead, so the only way to figure out your next move is to die and try again. Things also get very dark... in terms of visuals, not tone — to the point that I regularly missed teeny-tiny details that I needed to spot in order to proceed. There’s a hint system when you’re stuck, but it’s not very helpful.

A screenshot of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
Image: EA

This was all true of Fallen Order, and Survivor mostly follows suit. But aside from the largely forgettable story, it does add some notable things, expanding on the elements that made the original work. Chief among these is the lightsaber combat. There are a handful of new styles of lightsaber techniques you can master, and you have the ability to equip two at a time, letting you easily swap between them in the midst of a battle. I eventually settled on two preferred modes of wielding the blade. One, where I had a standard lightsaber in each hand, was great for dealing with enemies quickly, but I also mastered a Kylo Ren-style cross guard lightsaber for the times I needed to deal a heavy blow.

You also have a much greater and more fluid set of movement abilities. By the end, you’ll be able to combine them for some riveting platforming sequences where you’ll run along walls, dash through the air, and swing from a grappling hook without ever taking a moment to touch the ground. I’m usually terrible at these games, but Survivor made me feel like, well, a graceful Jedi.

Also: now you can ride mounts that look like Chocobos.

Survivor expands on what you can do outside of those main missions, too. That includes the requisite side quests, which are generally a big improvement when it comes to storytelling, like a string where you have to defeat a series of bounty hunters before they can hunt your bounty. But there are also a handful of smaller, more frivolous diversions. There’s the customization, where you can really geek out about the color and materials of your lightsaber. You can now really shake up how Cal looks, too, with lots of different outfits, hairstyles, and beards that you can, weirdly, gather from treasure chests. My Cal looked like Fezco from Euphoria decked out as a Star Wars smuggler.

There’s also a new element that is almost like a light base-building mode. Cal’s friend Greez (the pilot) is now the proprietor of a saloon on a frontier planet where you’ll be spending a lot of time. As you complete missions and explore, you can recruit new characters to come hang out at the saloon, giving you more options to talk to people and take on more missions. But you can also do things like grow a rooftop garden from seeds you find on various planets and work with a talking sea snail to collect fish for the saloon’s aquarium. From what I can tell, these don’t have much of a material benefit, but they’re fun little distractions, and they help you get to know characters who are a lot more interesting than the main campaign story. (You can also continue doing this stuff after the main story wraps up.)

So no, Jedi: Survivor isn’t any less derivative than its predecessor, its story is bland, and Cal is still boring as hell. But once again, none of that really matters: this is the closest most of us will ever get to feeling like a Jedi, and at that, the game succeeds. The sequel builds on the original in small ways, without messing up the parts that made it work.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor launches on the PS5, Xbox Series X / S, and PC on April 28th.