Jedi Survivor Review
It’s not often that I start a review with a hot take but I feel that I need to in order to give context to my thoughts on Jedi Survivor. The last three movies of the main Star Wars franchise were a bit of a mixed bag and that’s probably being kind to Episodes VII and IX. However, for me, Episode VIII was the best of three and mostly because it seemed to present the idea that a Jedi could potentially look at their darkside and not murder younglings. The movies, to me, seem very definitive in who is good and who is bad when it comes to Jedis and Siths. There are morally grey characters like Han Solo but he’s neither Jedi or Sith. I genuinely feel that Episode IX would’ve been far better had Rian Johnson been left to it and continued his version of Rey’s story as she seemed to be one who might embrace her darkside but remain a power for good; perhaps a true balance to the force?
In any event, that never happened and we got Episode IX. Thankfully, though, the Star Wars games seem far more able to tackle this without completely enraging the fandom. Jedi Survivor continues Cal Kestis’ story some time after the events of Jedi: Fallen Order. Cal’s original team of Cere, Greez and Merrin have dispersed and we catch up with Cal on Coruscant doing some work for Saw Gerrera. As events unfold Cal is forced to flee with new bandmate Bode and Cal’s ever faithful droid, BD-1. This time around you start with all the skills you spent most of your time in Fallen Order relearning which is great as I will always find force pushing foes off the edges of platforms kind of funny. Cal hasn’t wasted the intervening time and has a few additional tricks up his sleeve this time around.
Depending on the enemy or wildlife type, you can now use the force to convince them to fight with you. A handy tool when faced with crowds of enemies, giving you time to focus elsewhere before they remember they’re meant to be shooting at you. These skills can be upgraded and this process has changed little from Fallen Order. You also get to learn some new fighting stances too, opening up more skills to upgrade. Too many, in fact, to fully upgrade all the abilities in a single playthrough. This is no bad thing as it forces you to find a style that you like and upgrade accordingly. Some stances are great in close quarters like the double-bladed stance, whilst the Kylo Ren-style cross-guard works best against the bigger enemies; it’s slow but it deals some serious damage.
This additional variation opens up possibilities in terms of what type of Jedi you want Cal to be, something that was missing in Fallen Order. If you wandered around the planets enough you could get enough skill points in a single playthrough to have all the skills. In Jedi Survivor, depending on your style, you could put a lot of points into your force skills rather than your blades or, heaven forbid, you decide you want to use the blaster; so uncivilised. Add to this the plethora of clothing, hair and facial options for Cal you can create some rather creative looking Jedis. I also love the fact that every take-off from a planet is still an event that you see in real-time, even if we can no longer customise the Mantis.
What is a shame, however, are the little niggles here and there that really start to gnaw at you the more you play. Chief among them are FPS drops and stuttering, especially when moving from a cutscene back to gameplay. This gets exponentially worse during fights that include a cut-scene that make some fights really tough to beat. Most enemies in these fights will strike or use an ability almost immediately after the cutscene has finished. However, the drop in FPS and the lag can be so bad that you miss a block or dodge entirely, probably die, and you’ll have to go back and start the whole fight over again. One fight in particular was so frustrating to beat due to this issue — as there were three separate cutscenes that went back to the battle — and boy, the stutter at times was horrific.
It occurs, to a lesser extent, whilst traversing the world and there’s fewer mudslides this time around too. It’s a shame that there are these drops as if there’s one thing Respawn really knows how to do, it’s make moving around feel awesome. Titanfall, Apex Legends and of course, Fallen Order, all felt really fun to move around in and Jedi Survivor is no different. When you’re stutter free and you time everything right traversing the gorgeous looking locations are rather fun. Add this to some judicial use of force powers and your lightsaber and you suddenly feel almost unstoppable. Whilst most fights are fun the boss battles are a touch underwhelming but they were much the same in Fallen Order and perhaps that’s no bad thing. It makes the world and the story the highlight rather than making each boss battle some bombastic set piece.
The story really is front and centre for me and whilst some may see it as perhaps a bit trite and some of the twists foreseeable, I enjoyed watching Cal come to terms with who he is and his place within a universe that has tried to kill him several times. He rightly feels anger towards the Empire and those who have sought to chase him down and kill those that stand in their way. The entirety of Fallen Order highlights just what the Empire is willing to do to eradicate those who may oppose them and restore the Jedi Order, especially its opening. As we progress through Jedi Survivor’s story, the world around him seems to continue to take from him what he cares about most and his desire to be a good Jedi sees him suppress much of how he feels.
Eventually it all comes to a head and, without spoiling anything, we see, perhaps, just where the movies may have gone had Episode IX proceeded as planned without effectively retconning most of Episode VIII. Good cannot exist without evil, though it isn’t quite that cut and dry. It was a fear of the darkness inside himself and the actions of others that contributed to Anakin’s turn towards the darkside. His fears consumed him and the Jedi’s practices, particularly that of no attachments, perhaps isolated him even more and made him easily swayed by Palpatine. The same restrictions are what, initially, holds back Cal but once he affords himself the ability to feel and, more importantly, express those feelings openly, he becomes much more resolute in his battle against the Empire. It perhaps highlights the fact that, ultimately, it is a choice to turn to the darkside often occurring when those who are perhaps more empathetic are given little chance to express themselves.
Whilst some may not agree with either take I have on Cal’s journey or Anakin’s, it says a lot about the story Respawn have woven that it can infer some interesting takeaways that can be applied elsewhere in this sprawling franchise. Ultimately, though, Jedi Survivor is a pretty safe sequel. It keeps what Fallen Order did well, and added some extra things to do like bounty hunting. There’s heaps of cosmetics to hunt down to make your version of Cal, his weapons and BD-1 yours. The new locations are interesting and there’s a surprise appearance of a Star Wars mainstay if you go deep enough into the side-missions.
So it’s a shame that all of the good work done by the team at Respawn to deliver a competent sequel is undone by a rough launch and technical issues that persist despite post-launch patches. The FPS drops and stutters are particularly annoying as they can make already tricky situations more difficult than they need to be. It’s also important that we factor in these issues when assigning a score or a recommendation to a game. I do feel Respawn will set right these problems in time as they did with Fallen Order but as it stands at time of writing, the graphical issues are a big issue and they need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
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