A Review of ‘Star Wars Jedi: Survivor’

Has this much-anticipated sequel to ‘Jedi: Fallen Order,’ a hit game that redefined the Star Wars video game landscape, lived up to the hype?


Here, the American actor Cameron Monaghan reveals the trailer for ‘Star Wars Jedi: Survivor’ during The Game Awards 2022. Photo Credit: Zion Grassl, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

(Minor spoilers ahead) Earlier this year, Respawn Entertainment released a new installment in their Jedi series called ‘Jedi: Survivor,’ a direct sequel to their hit game ‘Jedi: Fallen Order.’ Users play as Cal Kestis, a Jedi Knight, but one wouldn’t know that from looking at the character. He doesn’t follow the traditions of the Jedi Order, trading in the long-flowing robes of the Jedi for more modern and practical attire, such as his signature poncho. This is no surprise; as a young Padawan, he had to go into exile in the wake of Order 66, the event in which the Jedi were massacred. He became a scrap worker on a planet called Bracca, concealing his Jedi identity. Not having completed his formal training and being forced to survive five years as a scrapper, he is a lot more pragmatic and rugged than other Jedi. His more modern, rough ideologies and personality make him much more relatable and likable for many people who see a bit of themselves in Cal, despite the fantasy setting. For example, while most Jedis, including Cere Junda, Cal’s mentor in the first game, were more passive in the conflict with the Sith Empire, Cal is at the forefront of the resistance and does everything he can to rebel against them, whether that is through taking down politicians corrupted by the Sith, saving Jedi Padawans, or the like.

‘Jedi: Survivor’ takes place five years after the events of Fallen Order. Despite how little of the story I’ve completed, I can confidently say that the game is much improved over its predecessor. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Fallen Order’ was already one of the best games I’d ever played. The combat and movement in the game are incredibly fluid, and you can see how much effort the developers put into making the game.

But the fine-tuning that Respawn has put into this game is incredibly evident. Throughout ‘Survivor,’ Cal and his lightsaber feel more like an extension of your body than a character you control. The movement is natural and intuitive, which when combined with fast-paced combat, drags you in for hours without even noticing. As someone who usually fast-travels (teleports to checkpoints) a lot in video games to avoid the laborious process of running around, the movement is so enjoyable and the scenery is so pretty that I found myself barely doing it at all. In fact, the developers purposely excluded the fast-travel feature from the last game, which I hadn’t noticed at all until they introduced the feature back in this game.

For a video game, the character development between ‘Fallen Order’ and ‘Survivor’ has been some of the best I’ve ever seen. Sometime during the five years between the two games, the original gang of Cal, Merrin, Cere, and Greez split up and went their separate ways because of conflicting passions. While Cal is still fighting against the Empire in whatever ways he can, Merrin, a former Nightsister who employs magick, starts to explore the universe on her own, Greez, a gambler turned heroic pilot, settles down and opened a cantina, and Cere, another Jedi in exile, joins a cult researching old Jedi archives.

When Cal reunites with each of them, he has complicated feelings; he feels both happiness over being able to see his old friends again but is also troubled because he felt betrayed when they all left him to go their separate ways. Despite this, he starts to understand that everyone had their own passions and paths to find meaning in life and forgives them, showing a level of maturity that he hadn’t reached back in ‘Fallen Order.’ Cal’s constant reflection on past events – especially his short lessons from Cere – reflects his growth both as a person and as a Jedi throughout the game.

Players are also able to customize Cal through his weaponry and outfit. Each lightsaber is made of four main parts: the hilt, switch, pommel, and emitter. With 52 different parts to discover and mix and match, along with over 100 materials to choose from (and different wear conditions and polishes) and 11 lightsaber blade colors, you can make a lightsaber that perfectly fits your preference. Furthermore, you can customize the blaster you end up unlocking and your droid, BD-1. While playing the game, nothing excited me more than opening a chest and finding a new weapon part to choose from. On top of that, there are twenty-two sets of clothing to choose from and a plethora of hairstyles and facial hair options, so Cal can dress however you want.

Beyond the aesthetics of the game, the gameplay itself is both extremely fun and skill-based. Combat revolves around parrying or dodging enemy attacks in order to break their block bar, which leaves them vulnerable to your lightsaber swings. You need to block right before the enemy hits you in order to parry, and the timing gets super tight when there are multiple enemies all shooting and slashing at you.

The game also offers five difficulty levels, ranging from Story Mode, which is the easiest, all the way to Jedi Grand Master, the hardest. The higher the difficulty level is, the more damage enemies do, the more aggressive enemies are, and the shorter the time window you get to parry is. I decided to choose Grand Master since I love challenging games; in this mode, you need to be frame perfect within fractions of a second to parry successfully. Otherwise, the enemy lands their hit and you lose half of your health bar from a single blow. I’ve been stuck on a single boss fight for over two hours and the struggle has been relentless since just one mistake could cost you your life and force you to start the fight all over again. Still, it is this challenge that makes the game so addicting, and the feeling of triumph you get when you finally beat an enemy you’ve been struggling with for a long time is unrivaled in any other games I’ve played.

For as much fun as the game is, the initial launch of the game on PC was plagued with performance issues, as has been the case for many big title games that have launched in recent years. Almost every news article released during the launch of ‘Jedi: Survivor’ discussed the issues on launch: low frame rates, constant stuttering, pixelated images, and unsynchronized audio. There was even a bug where the clothes that an enemy wore would stretch out and cover your screen, making it impossible to see any enemies.

Since many games are developed with consoles in mind, namely the PlayStation and Xbox, porting the game onto PC causes many problems. Other AAA games released in recent years – such as ‘The Last of Us Part I,’ ‘Hogwarts Legacy,’ ‘Elden Ring,’ ‘Wild Hearts,’ ‘Forspoken,’ and ‘The Callisto Protocol,’ to name a few – have all had abysmal performance issues on PC, much like ‘Jedi: Survivor.’ Even as developers continue to fix these issues through later patches, people can’t help but wonder why the games are allowed to be released in such conditions.

Anecdotally, the low frame rates were one of the first things I noticed; the game starts with a cutscene, and I was extremely worried when even that was laggy. After that, however, the game ran relatively smoothly. I didn’t have high frame rates, but at least there were no spikes when I encountered enemies. The picture quality was fine for me too, and I was still in awe when discovering new planets and seeing the stars and moons with ray tracing on. Performance was subpar for sure compared to its predecessor, ‘Fallen Order,’ but it wasn’t unbearable, most likely because I played a couple of days after launch, at which point the developers had already started to release patches to fix some of the issues. While I’m not justifying the release of games in these unbearable states, as time passes, more patches will be released to ensure the game runs smoothly, so it shouldn’t deter you from getting ‘Jedi: Survivor’ (especially if you’re planning to play on console, where these issues don’t even exist).

Even with these issues, the game has still been really fun for me. We are only seven months through the year, but I can already confidently say that this will be one of the best games released this year, especially since I am a Star Wars fan (mostly for the use of lightsabers in the seroes). In a year as stacked with high-profile game releases as 2023, that really says something. Whether you’re also a fan of the franchise, the game genre, or just curious, I cannot recommend this game enough.

Throughout ‘Star Wars Jedi: Survivor,’ Cal and his lightsaber feel more like an extension of your body than a character you control. The movement is natural and intuitive, which when combined with fast-paced combat, drags you in for hours without even noticing.