Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review: A Franchise Spirals Deep into Fear and Anger

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor tells a story of great power and complexity.

Star Wars: Jedi Survivor
Photo: Electronic Arts
Editor’s Note: While the impressions of Jedi: Survivor’s content in this review are genuine, the game is another in an ever-expanding list of high-profile titles that have launched in an unacceptable state in terms of performance and optimization. The console versions fare best, but even there, the best performance can only be had by capping the framerate to 30fps in Quality Mode. The PC port fares worse, where even high-end hardware can experience severe problems with framerate stuttering, visual artifacts, and crashing. Post-release patches have already made major strides to fix these issues. As such, we recommend that interested players wait on a purchase until the game itself has been patched to a far more reasonable state.

There’s been an awakening in the Star Wars universe, and it’s not quite the one that Andy Serkis’s Supreme Leader Snoke was growling about in the very first trailer for Star War: The Force Awakens. It’s actually closer to what Count Dooku was hissing at Anakin Skywalker during their duel in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith: “I sense great fear in you, Skywalker. You have hate. You have anger. But you don’t use them.”

Yes, there’s fear and anger lying just under the surface of the newer Star Wars stories, but those are emotions that remain largely untapped outside of divisive efforts like Andor and The Last Jedi. The average Star Wars story is almost defined by the conflict between the twee, toyetic aspects of the franchise and the darkness at its center. This is the conflict that mildly hurt Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, a fine game that nevertheless was unable to marry the inherent coolness of wandering the galaxy looking for adventure with the very real trauma of people having survived a war, let alone one that ended in a fascist insurrection.

That tonal failure is one that Star Wars Jedi: Survivor has come to rectify, with a story of great power and complexity that doesn’t sacrifice either of those things when the wacky aliens start showing up. That much is clear even before you begin the game. The very first image you see after the studio logos is the now-derelict Jedi temple on Coruscant, lights completely dark as life goes on around it. Starting a new game pulls the camera back further to reveal our hero, Cal Kestis—a little older, a little wiser, but already a lot more tired than he was in Fallen Order—being taken into custody for five long years of coordinated terrorism against the Empire.


Unfortunately for the Empire, that moment is a ruse, part of an elaborate heist put together by the gang of rebels led by mastermind Saw Gerrera, the grizzled veteran soldier of the Clone Wars. The sequence that follows is a dazzling, manic sojourn through various parts of the planet in pursuit of an imperial stooge while Cal, still in possession of the vast majority of his Force powers from Fallen Order, mows down Stormtroopers by the dozens and a few new rebel allies figure out an escape route. But it’s not enough, and for all their efforts, the Empire is able to turn a successful heist into a shockingly merciless bloodbath, leaving Cal and his new best friend, Bode Akuna, on a tattered Mantis ship looking for a safe haven.

This, apparently, isn’t an anomaly, with the would-be rebellion as we know it in the original trilogy still struggling to be fully born, while suffering setbacks from an Empire hell-bent on exerting its hegemonic dominance, and much of the story’s power comes from the oppressive emotional weight of so few standing up to so many. Jedi: Survivor isn’t just a slick name on the box. There’s hope when Cal finds out about a distant planet called Tannalor, where Jedi once hid from persecution during the High Republic era. But the road getting there is littered with enthralling cautionary tales, fallen Jedi who’ve since thrown hope to the wind, desperate parents making hard decisions to survive. And all the while, Cal’s old crew from Fallen Order is in no rush to jump back on the front lines, for various completely justifiable reasons.

YouTube video

The main thrust of Jedi: Survivor’s story is about Cal being caught between the determination to keep fighting a losing war and finding a convenient hiding place for those incapable of the kind of resistance that this war demands, and the game makes a strong case for both courses of action. It’s not entirely wall-to-wall grim, as there are plenty of snappy, funny bits of dialogue, as well as some truly inventive and breathtaking alien landscapes and creatures. There’s also physical humor—light moments where you get to literally stop and smell the space roses. There’s even a few spare, surprisingly well-executed moments of romance sprinkled throughout. But never once does the game let you forget that it could all come crashing down at any moment, and when it does, it’s astonishing in how effective and brutal it is.


At the very least, fighting the good fight is as hard-hitting and cathartic as ever. By and large, the game doesn’t mechanically rock the boat too much in terms of changes from Fallen Order, but the addition of a grappling hook mechanic adds a new gravity-defying jolt to traversal. The biggest change comes from the combat, with three new lightsaber styles: Dual Wielding, Crossguard (think Kylo Ren’s claymore lightsaber), and a ranged blaster/lightsaber combo. Each one has its uses throughout the campaign and mastering them all feels far more integral for success than the late-game addition of a double-edged saber was to Fallen Order.

Still, even with those additions, Jedi: Survivor continues its predecessor’s good work in the running/jumping/climbing/parry-and-dodge combat style of action gameplay. Where it differs is in focus and scope. Despite perhaps one dusty desert biome too many, the game’s new planets are enormous semi-open worlds teeming with well-written NPC stories, new unseen wildlife, and hidden dungeons right up there with some of From Software’s best in terms of challenge.

Jedi: Survivor leans heavier on letting you play dress-up with Cal, and many of the secret nooks and crannies of the game could hide additional health stims, or it might just let you give Cal a soul patch. Despite a fair amount of simple, breezy quests in Jedi: Survivor, though, none of them seem mindless, which is a blessed sea change as far as most open-world titles go.


Each story has a strong motivation, and ties in rather neatly to the overarching narrative. But there’s definitely room made for things to slow down and the player to revel in being a galaxy-trotting hero at times, mostly on homesteader planet Koboh, which basically acts as a central hub for sidequests. Koboh is the best kind of distraction off the beaten path, as the myriad side activities add to the experience without making itself the main attraction.

But the main attraction, of course, is the story of Cal Kestis as the last of a dying breed of hero in the galaxy—and that story blooms with enthrallment in a middle chapter that explores the underlying emotional perils of life under fascist rule. Jedi: Survivor is a strong entry in the modern Star Wars canon, part of a new subsect of adventures in this universe finding ways to be sci-fi fantasy without ignoring the innate horror and banal evils inherent in the premise. The story paints an impressively dire picture of the new status quo in the galaxy, and it weaves in elegantly with the interactivity of the game, tying it directly into the fact that Cal is still powerful but only one Jedi in a galaxy that fell even when there was an entire army of them.

This game was reviewed with code provided by fortyseven communications.

 Developer: Respawn  Publisher: Electronic Arts  Platform: PC  Release Date: April 28, 2023  ESRB: T  ESRB Descriptions: Mild Language, Violence  Buy: Game

Justin Clark

Justin Clark is a gaming critic based out of Massachusetts. His writing has also appeared in Gamespot.

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