A few days ago, I finished Star Wars: Jedi Survivor. It took me a while between limited time and the release of Diablo IV, but I loved (almost) every part of the game. I am planning to complete all the achievements, which I rarely do because the game is very fun to play (I did the same on the prequel, Jedi Fallen Order). It took me around 33 hours to complete the story plus many side quests and some free roaming, which is quite a lot but still a reasonable amount of time for a game like this.
I am going to say this right here: From Software and any other soulslike game should take notes on how to create a (smaller) open-world soulslike from Jedi Survivor, and, in general, from the Jedi series. I'll die on this hill.
There are many things that make this game great for both Star Wars fan and not (I believe). First, the amazingly crafted level design. To be fair, only the starting planet (Koboh) sticks more to the open-world formula, while the other planets are smaller and more “tunnel-like”. Actually, there are only two real planets you'll visit, but this makes sense story-wise, and if the results are like this, I prefer quality to quantity. In any case, you'll find everything that made (IMHO) Dark Souls a great game, speaking of level design. Checkpoints are carefully placed, not too sparse and not too clamped, and unlocking shortcuts gave me that sense of satisfaction that Dark Souls used to give me. Moreover, and this is what really struck me, the rewards for exploring and wandering off in optional areas or buildings are absolutely balanced compared to the effort you have to make to get there. his is something that the dark souls series lost along the way, with optional paths that are hard as hell and almost no rewards because "iN dArK SoULZ yU shOulD SuFfeR GiT gUD" (note: I feel entitled to this complaint after thousands of hours on the souls series + elden ring). In Jedi Survivor, if you find an easier optional path, you should expect a small reward (e.g., a cosmetic or a collectible), but for harder challenges, the reward will be higher (a stim, a force shard that grants you an ability or more life). Overall, the game is BALANCED, and not once did I feel I was unjustly punished or that the difficulty was artificially raised, except for one enemy, which is clearly a meme regarding some complaints about the first game.
Bosses are interesting, and while occasionally they pose a good challenge (I was playing at hard level), they are satisfying to watch and fight. Moreover, when you are fighting more than one boss at a time, the game does a good job of making sure that you can always have these enemies in your field of view, even if they scatter.
The enemies are similar to the previous game, but there are many new ones as well, most of them taken from the Clone Wars story arc, and honestly, I am all for it (more on this later). While there are cannon fodders, in line with the Star Wars canon, there are also higher-tier enemies and mini-bosses that have been made in unique ways, so it is actually FUN to fight them, even if there are more than one enemy in the same place (looking at you, Elden Ring).
There are new stances (i.e. types of lightsabers) compared to the two you got in the previous games, for a total of five:
Spoilers on stances
- single lightsaber (default and in previous game).
- dual-bladed lightsaber (in previous game).
- We finally got the dual lightsabers as a weapon (before it was just a combo).
- We got a pistol and sword combination! That was incredibly cool and just top-notch with the overall theme (more below).
- A kind of long sword lightsaber (reminds me of Kylo Ren's), slower but more powerful, which I personally found a bit goofy (it would have been nice to have a spear instead) .
Another aspect that has been dramatically improved is Cal's (the protagonist) customisation. In the previous game, you could only customise the bloody poncho, but now it's role-play galore, and I love it. You can customise hairstyle, beard, and three slots of clothes (jacket, shirt, trousers, and shoes). Some cosmetics can be found anywhere in the world, while others can be purchased with collectibles found throughout the world. The lightsaber can still be customised in every aspect, along with BD-1 (your droid) and (spoiler)
your gun. This leaves A LOT of room for role-play, and I took advantage of it, changing Cal's aspect and lightsaber's color depending on what was happening in the story.
There are also (fewer) customisations available for the main hub, in the form of gardening (you'll collect seeds around the world) and an aquarium for fish. I feel there were more options planned for customising the hub, as some conversations between two NPCs might hint, and that maybe they were cut at one point.
Other than that, the platforming is fun and well-paced between slower areas and faster ones, and the puzzles are not too hard (I am terrible at them, so if I managed to solve them, anyone can). One thing I didn't like too much were the puzzles in the Jedi chambers. Occasionally they were a bit too complex and long. However, these areas are completely optional and usually give perks as rewards, which is a nice addition but still totally optional.
Another thing is the Star Wars aesthetic and feel. The world, the characters, and everything is what you would expect from a Star Wars game, and in this sequel, they kind of went with a more “western” feeling. This is quite common in any Star Wars media set outside the “core planets”, TBH, and it's perfectly fine. The first game had an ominous theme, as you were seeing the empire grow and close its fists on many planets and people. In this game, the empire feels more far away, especially on Koboh and the overall atmosphere, at least in the first half, is less heavy. It is actually strange how little of the empire we see in the beginning, but the game gives us a reasonable explanation in the end. On the other hand, thanks to the fact that we are seeing a lot of enemies from the Clone Wars arc, the developers probably wanted to give us some of those vibes. And to be honest, they absolutely succeeded with me. There were occasions where you were surrounded by droids that talked and attacked like we are used to seeing them, and it really felt like playing in one of the movies/TV show settings. I loved it, and I'm sure that any Star Wars fan will do as well.
Speaking of droids, the game also perfectly nails the overall Star Wars comic vibe. Listening to enemies talk to each other was probably one of my favorite activities, and a worthwhile one. Droids are the funniest, both among each other and in how they react to your actions in combat. I genuinely laughed a lot of times because of their and other NPCs interactions (thank you for existing, Greez). Droids are not the only talkative ones, as imperials and raiders also engage in discussions (even between each other). The game goes even further to create a kind of a "gimmicky" boss-fight:
Story and boss spoilers
During an incursion on an ISB base, you fight all kinds of enemies in a very tense situation, which is an important part of the story. When you are almost at the end, a boss fight starts along a corridor. You see the boss's health bar filling up, and then the boss's name appears: "Rick the Door Technician".
A figure appears, and it's a regular guy, a basic imperial infantry unit. It dies in one hit.
I don't know why, but I died laughing.
Nonetheless, the game can (and does) take a more serious tone as one progresses, and it balances these two aspects in a good way (no goofy or stupid interactions in serious scenes, no awkward characters that don't fit the story).
You can also use allies (other NPCs part of your main crew) in battle (although only during specific sections dictated by the game). They will fight with you on their own, but you can "call for help", directing them to attack an enemy. I was careful with this mechanic, tough. In general, when the presence of NPCs with you is that scripted, it can likely lead to awkward results if you steer too much off-course. What surprised me was instead when I wandered off while with an NPC to fight a legendary enemy: since these are optional challenges, the NPC does not follow you into the fight (yeah, I tried to cheat with that), but it will wait for you outside and even ask you how it went after (if you win, of course).
All those are beautiful touches that reminded me that a game can be fun not only gameplay-wise, but setting- and story-wise as well.
Speaking of story, it's also good that (I believe) it's not mandatory to play the first one before playing this game. Sure, you'll understand more about character relationships and who they actually are, but there is a hiatus in the story between Fallen Order and Survivor, and the story will tell you what happened during that hiatus while progressing. There is also a nice recap of the story of the previous game accessible from the main menu, which can be handy for sure. Fans of the older Star Wars things will love it for its setting, but it is clear that the game winks at one of the most recent Star Wars multimedia projects: The High Republic. There are tons of references, and the story actually moves around past High Republic events and relics. I haven't read or watched a single thing about the High Republic, otherwise I'm sure I would have picked up some references.
Finally, we also got what (I think) many of us were asking for:
WE CAN FREAKING USE THE DARK SIDE.
Granted, Cal is still a good guy, but I am surprised at how much they let us dip into the dark side of the force. And it's part of the story, not optional. I thought it was also just a one-time thing, but it actually becomes part of your core skill set, bringing also changes to the background of your skill page. It's awesome, well-crafted, and again, the characters react to you using it (both enemies and friends). Thank you, Respawn.
All this stuff eventually brings us to the end of the game. As with many video games like this, Jedi Survivor will not throw you into the new game plus immediately, but it will let you explore and do stuff before, leaving you with the choice of when to actually start a new game. Again, some very nice ideas here:
New game plus spoilers
- First, when you finish the game, a screen will pop up telling you that you can still play the regular game and then decide to jump into new game plus. This is a nice idea, and I, personally, prefer it over the black screen with a single choice, "Start new game? Y/N".
- The second screen tells you that you'll carry over everything and that there will be new skills and lightsaber colors (and from the screen, you might guess what they mean).
- New perks will be present in NG+. They are totally optional, and each gives a fun way to spin up the game in case one gets bored: more damage, randomization, and higher difficulty. Since perks are replaceable at each checkpoint, it is a really convenient way of tweaking the game, and I like it a lot.
And of course:
HUGE spoiler it will ruin a surprise I'm warning you
Vader makes his own appearance in his totally cool and badass way.
Overall, the game is an improvement over its prequel in any way. Annoying things like the map's legibility have been improved too, it is now waaay more legible. I still find it a bit weird that the protagonist needs to "remember" past experiences to unlock some abilities. This worked well in the first game, as Cal was traumatized by Order 66, but it feels a bit out of place here (considering that those experiences are very recent). Nonetheless, I have to say that this happened only on a couple of occasions, and it served as a narrative trick to unlock “technical” abilities, rather than force powers (like it was in the first game). The other ways in which you learn to do new things (and thus unlock new areas of the map) are either by finding tools or through interactions with crew members.
I got some freezes (three) on some loading screens during the last sections of the game, but I do believe it's my fault for not updating the GPU drivers. The game tells me that the ones I have are known to cause some issues, but my lazy
ass person can't be bothered. Moreover, compared to some other experiences on PC (link to a Kotaku article), I have to say that mine was overall smooth. Sure, in larger and more packed areas (like the main hub in koboh) the game staggers a bit sometimes, but nothing annoying (I played at high settings), and again, probably my fault.
Again, I loved the game as much (or even more) as I loved the prequel. I might be biased because I love the genre and the Star Wars universe, but in a world where there is a constant competition on who has the largest open world, it is refreshing to see a limited, but excellently crafted, game.