On a cold Thursday evening in June, I realized my thirst for Star Wars action could no longer be sated by replaying old games or the Old Republic MMO. I justified the now hefty price tag of a brand new game as ‘post-exam stress relief’ and finally got my hands on the sequel to Respawn Entertainment’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. A game which, while flawed in some aspects, almost single handedly redeemed my faith that good offline single player experiences without heaps of microtransactions and DLC could still exist, and provided a good Star Wars story to boot. Does Survivor follow on from this, or was the success of Fallen Order a fluke?
Warning: minor spoilers ahead!
One Small Step for Cal
In many ways, Jedi Survivor plays it quite safe, but this is exactly what makes it the amazing sequel it is. Respawn knew where to innovate and where to leave things alone. Pretty much every mechanic in the game is an expansion or improvement on something from the first one. The combat in the first game was fun, but at times limited by having only two lightsaber forms and a limited array of force powers. Survivor doesn’t take any of this away and you start the game with Cal being just as strong a Jedi as he was when you left him, just ten times more handsome and brooding. Getting to jump in and have all my abilities from the first game was such a good feeling. They didn’t artificially nerf Cal just to make you get all his powers back during the sequel, which happens far too often. From there, Respawn just builds on your skill set. During Survivor, you receive a handful of new force powers (such as the ability to use Jedi Mind Tricks in and out of fights) and three new permanent lightsaber forms, for a new total of five. All of these forms play very differently and everyone I’ve met has a favourite (it’s the blaster for me, if you were interested).
If they manage it, Star Wars Jedi will easily go down as the best Star Wars trilogy since George Lucas’ originals
Combat is so much more customisable and engaging due to the fact that every encounter plays out very differently according to the specific combination of stances you have active at any time. Some have criticised the fact that you can only use two stances at once in the field and must change them at respawn points, but I really like this. It forces players to consider what two stances to pick and modify their play style around that. If you have the blaster and double-bladed saber, for example, you’ll be deadly at range and against groups of enemies, but won’t hit too hard against tougher foes or bosses. Platforming and exploration is also miles better – not least because Respawn followed the one golden rule of platforming games: a grappling hook is always a good idea. With the ability to dash in the air and grapple to far ledges, the world really opens up. Nowhere is this more evident than the two big hub planets Cal explores this time around, full of secrets and areas you can access later with the right abilities, and all containing treasures from upgrades to boss fights to a goatee. The customisation has evolved far beyond its poncho-reliance in Fallen Order, and now you can customise every aspect of Cal from his hair to outfit to droid with the same wonderful lightsaber building from the last game.
One Giant Leap for ‘Calkind’
I have more mixed feelings about the story. I really liked Fallen Order and how it seamlessly integrated Cal’s story into existing Star Wars canon without treading on the toes of existing threads, but still feeling like his quest had some importance. The final showdown (spoilers!) against Darth Vader is still one of my favourite video game moments of all time, as it felt like everything had been leading to that confrontation. However, this game’s story feels a lot like a sidequest for the most part, with Cal trotting around a brand new planet to find High Republic relics and fighting an old Jedi turned bad that no one has ever heard of. For Star Wars nerds like myself there’s a lot to like – seeing the High Republic come to life for the first time in canon outside of books and comics is stunning, but the story overall lacked the gravitas of the first game.
That is, until the third act where absolutely everything kicks off. It gave me whiplash with how quickly it all went wrong for Cal, but it’s executed wonderfully well. Even after having major twists spoiled for me before playing, I was still surprised by how well the game lulled me into a false sense of security and then pulled off its big moments. There aren’t many earth-shattering twists here: the new guy who wasn’t a character in the first game and turns up out of nowhere was a spy? Insanity! But I don’t want to play down how good the tension and sympathy built for the entire cast of characters is. It’s one of those really good stories where you leave thinking “hang on, am I the baddie?”. I’m thoroughly excited for what’s next for Cal, and how he will deal with the consequences of his actions in this game, and I pray that Respawn sticks the landing and produces another banger in a few years.
It’s hard to see where they will go from here mechanically, because Survivor already provides such a refined and complete experience. But if they manage it, Star Wars Jedi will easily go down as the best Star Wars trilogy since George Lucas’ originals.