Preview: Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
We were invited out to Los Angeles last week by developer Respawn Entertainment and publisher Electronic Arts to preview Star Wars Jedi: Survivor ahead of its April 28 release. After a three hour preview… we were yearning to play more.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor picks up five years after the events of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. By way of background, we throughly enjoyed Fallen Order, and whether out of necessity or convenience (probably both), a lot of this preview will be by way of a comparison between the two. Overall, Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts appear primed to put out a sequel which does exactly what the fans want: expand upon what was already good and improve on some of the more common complaints.
If you have not played Fallen Order, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a third-person, single-player, action adventure game in which you play as Cal Kestis, a Jedi Knight fighting against the Empire in the time period after the events of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and before Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Battle is primarily hand-to-hand combat with lightsabers, although some ranged attacks are available. As you play and gain experience, Cal will level up and can use newly gains skill points to learn new skills and techniques to better confirm to the player’s preferred play style. A main story tracks Cal’s adventures across numerous planets, while various side quests, collectibles, puzzles, and bosses will occasionally interrupt providing additional content separate and apart from the main story.
The main story of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor has been closely guarded to prevent spoilers. We know that in the five years since Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Cal and his crew have gone their separate ways, and – at least at the start – Cere Junda and Greez Dritus are nowhere to be seen. Cal continues to expand upon his training, now as a Jedi Knight, and with BD-1 by his side explores and continues to try, largely unsuccessfully, to avoid run-ins with the Empire. For the preview, we were dropped into the story about an hour into the game. The Mantis (Cal’s ship) has crashed on the planet of Koboh, and Cal is searching for parts to fix it up and get back out into space. We will not spoil the story here, but we can report that after only three hours with the game, the story was compelling and we were ready to keep going and learning more about Cal’s journey.
Any story is enhanced by the visuals, and perhaps here is where the Star Wars Jedi: Survivor really outshines its predecessor. Obviously, with Survivor releasing on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S (along with PC), one would expect graphical improvements from Fallen Order, which was released in 2019 for PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One, but given the short turnaround time for a AAA game, we were somewhat skeptical about how much of an improvement would be seen. Any concern in this regard has vanished. The graphical quality of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is, quite simply, stunning, even when comparing it to playing Fallen Order on PlayStation 5 after its re-release on that platform in 2021. Whether looking at cutscenes or gameplay, expansive vistas or closeups of NPCs, the improvements in quality are noticeable and significant, and frankly not done justice by the below screencaps, although they give a taste.
The gameplay of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is largely the same as it was in Fallen Order, but with some improvements around the edges. Put simply, if you enjoyed the gameplay of Fallen Order, you will enjoy the gameplay of Survivor. New to this installment is the use of the “Ascension Cable” – basically a grappling hook. There are various defined spots to which Cal can grapple with a simple click of the left trigger.
On a related note, the Ascension Cable replaces use of the left trigger for Cal to attach to a climbable surface – a button click that felt wholly unnecessary in Fallen Order and is now thankfully automatic in Survivor.
Also new is “Force Confusion” and “Tame”. Force Confusion allows you to confuse an enemy for a short period of time, during which they will attack other enemies. This is particularly useful when confusing a large creature such as a Bilemaw into attacking a host of Scout Troopers. Tame allows Cal to mount certain creatures to traverse certain environments.
This is a good time to discuss the Holomap. The Holomap was a somewhat controversial element of Fallen Order. The prospect of designing a map for the expansive, mostly outdoor, multi-level and interconnected worlds that Cal must navigate through is a challenge. And placing those maps “in-world” – meaning they are a BD-1 projection and therefore can only show what Cal has explored with limited additional information – is a design choice that can be respected. But navigating these worlds can be confusing. At times this promotes exploration and allows the player to deviate from the main story, even if unintentionally, but at times all you want to do is get on track and find the next objective and the Holomap just feels like it is not helping in that endeavor.
Survivor iterates on the Holomap, but perhaps not as much as this player would have liked. Added is a path showing where you came from. At times when lost this can be helpful insofar as it can help you from unintentionally backtracking, but it doesn’t really help when you are lost and don’t know which way to go. Multiple times in the three hour preview I got “lost” and was gently assisted by a roaming developer on how to get back on the path to my objective. Fast travel has been added, allowing Cal to move between discovered meditation points with ease. This, along with the new mount system, does help the player to get around easier than in Fallen Order, but a system where the Force shows you some pathing to your objective (and only to the edges of what you have explored) would have been a welcome QoL addition and feels like a missed opportunity.
Finally, also new to the gameplay are two new stances. In addition to Single, Double-Bladed, and Dual Wield lightsaber stances, we now have “Crossguard” and “Blaster”. Crossguard is a powerful stance dealing massive damage while requiring long wind-up times, and Blaster is what it sounds like – a ranged blaster (not lightsaber) attack. We were not able to preview these two stances, but they were showcased in a live demo at the end of our playtime. They looked incredible and will certainly add nice new gameplay mechanics, especially the addition of a ranged Blaster.
Without revealing anything about the story of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, we can share that the world itself feels much more alive than it did in Fallen Order. For example, in our preview Cal explores Rambler’s Reach, a small town on Koboh. The NPCs there feel alive, speak about “Rumors” to investigate (i.e. side-quests), and there a shop run by Doma Dendra, who sells cosmetics (including music that can be played in the Cantina in Rambler’s Reach) for a currency called Priorite Shards.
The added interactivity with the NPCs – whether in the form of expansive, choice-based, dialogue, shops, or simply the improved clarity of their sidequests – is a welcome improvement. Speaking of cosmetics, there are significantly more options for both Cal, his lightsaber, and BD-1.
Battle and skills operate largely the same as they did in Fallen Order, although there are significantly more skills in Survivor.
Also new are Perks, which are passive traits that can be set into slots (Cal has three Perk slots to start, and some Perks require more than one slot).
We said it before but it bears repeating, if you liked Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, you will like Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. Survivor does what you want out of a sequel: it keeps the core of the successful and well-received first game while providing meaningful improvements in both graphics and gameplay. We will be release day players of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor for sure.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor launches in retail and digital storefronts on April 28 for the Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 and PC.
Travel and accommodations to the preview event, as well as the images used in this preview, were provided by Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts.