When Disney acquired Lucasfilm and the entirety of its intellectual property including Star Wars, they went on to say that the expanded universe was through and that the official canon only pertained to the films and anything that was produced from that point on. That cut included all the games, books, comics and the handful of cartoons that were released up to that point. Respawn‘s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was the first big game project after the acquisition, and it certainly was not my favorite Star Wars game. However, its sequel, Jedi: Survivor, turned it all around for me.
Fallen Order was, admittedly, a bold attempt at trying to deliver a worthwhile chapter in the overall continuity of the franchise, but try as I tried, I just couldn’t get into it as a game. It was messy, clunky, and slow to me. I wanted to see its story through, but after three attempts on different systems, I ended up just giving up on it. But with Survivor that all changed. It’s a much snappier experience, and in pretty much all regards, it’s the Star Wars game that I wanted to play when I first saw Fallen Order.
My first glimpse at the first entry in Cal Kestis’ adventures happened during the last E3 that was ever held in Los Angeles, before the pandemic hit and got the last nail into its coffin. At the time, I was excited for the prospect of playing a Star Wars game that borrowed elements of both Uncharted and Dark Souls and blended them with a generous serving of continuity within the overarching story of the franchise.
Sadly, the end product proved disappointing, and that’s exactly why Survivor is such a revelation: it’s everything Fallen Order isn’t, and in that, it fills in all the potential its predecessor had and crashed so hard in trying to achieve. Obviously, a lot of work must’ve gone into fine-tuning the groundwork of the first game in order to get it so right with its sequel, and it’s the result of looking at what was less than tolerable in that game and getting it just right in Survivor.
It’s all in the seemingly simple things, like traversal not requiring an extra button press to take place, allowing to so easily switch from surfaces without having to hold a trigger, or how the game treats Force use in a much more organic fashion, having you contextually switch from one to the other at the touch of an on-screen prompt. That prompt had everything to be overbearing and take away the creativity when solving environmental puzzles, but it doesn’t due to how it works in the first place, by only being visible the closer you are to whatever is sensitive to the power needed for that particular scenario.
Another part of Fallen Order that drove me off the wall was its map and how cumbersome it was to navigate. Due to the more open-ended nature of that game, I had to constantly refer to it in order to try to get my bearings, which very rarely happened due to how finicky the game’s whole map interface was. Shifting to Survivor, it’s still an open map adventure to be sure, but it’s much easier to keep track of where to go thanks to a smaller map that’s always at the corner of the screen, which when opened quickly points to your location and wastes no time with having you endlessly scroll it along.
Then there’s the combat, one of my main nitpicks with the previous game, where it tried to be more in vein of a Souls-like, and in that it mostly succeeded, but was too prone to locking you into hard to avoid traps in the way damage worked in Fallen Order. At higher levels and with more skills unlocked, Kestis would be able to withstand more punishment, but that didn’t exactly fix the main issue that the game had, with it being clunky and slightly janky when it came to contacting hits with your foes and vice-versa. And while button-mashing your way through battles is still a thing in Survivor, it just feels like I’m in more control of Cal than ever before.
Jedi: Survivor is also brilliantly designed in the way it treats you with new abilities and re-introduces you to old ones. Instead of yanking everything you’ve got off the bat, it instead opts to gradually show what the main character is capable of both in and out of fights, while out and about traversing the tutorial area of Coruscant, the planet-wide city that’s the capital of the Empire.
It gives you what you need at an even pace, and when something that’s brand new pops up, it’s served in very off-the-cuff fashion, such as when Cal is with one of his buddies and can’t seem to find a way to climb to an out of reach ledge. Oh, because of his days as a junk scraper as was shown at the beginning of Fallen Order, he’s able to fashion a hook of sorts in order to latch on to that ledge.
Okay, sure, it’s still an extremely videogame-y way of doing so, but at least it tries to convey a story reason for the protagonist to be able to come up with a solution on the go instead of simply granting him said skill and be done with it. And as you move along the game, more of this type of situation springs up in similar fashion, showing that there was an amount of care among the writers, too.
Speaking of them, the people behind the script, that is, there’s plenty to praise them for trying their best in fitting this game within the confines of Star Wars continuity. Along with the upcoming Star Wars Outlaws, which was just announced this week during Microsoft’s Xbox Showcase, Jeid: Survivor takes place during the classic trilogy. Survivor happens years before A New Hope, only a little while after the infamous Order 66 during Revenge of the Sith that ravaged the Jedi order and opened up the way for the Empire to be formed. Now a Jedi Knight, Kestis is part of a crew that works to sabotage Imperial rule from within.
Granted, I’m not 100% familiar with the entirety of the previous game’s story to tell if every single of its characters are back in the new game, or if any that show up at the start are returning ones. But thanks to the starting refresher, a 5-minute long video that skims through the plot of Fallen Order, the plain threads are clearly marked and are enough not to get in the way of Survivor going about its business, that is, providing more adventuring for our plucky Jedi to get busy slashing and jumping ridiculous heights about.
In just about every department imaginable, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a superior game to Fallen Order. In fact, it’s the game that its predecessor should have been in the first place. If that were the case, I would’ve been able to fully enjoy the campy story that makes up the driving plot that these games are building up as they go along.
Survivor is in every way a very fun and enjoyable game to play in and of itself, which just happens to be Star Wars, and for that, it’s made even better, especially to fans like me. The fact that it is a product within that franchise doesn’t get in its way whatsoever, and that’s something that’s rare to see nowadays.