2019’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was, in many ways, a historic video game. Not only was it EA’s first big-budget Star Wars IP not named “Battlefront,” but it was also the publisher’s first major success story with a non-live-service, single-player-only title. At a time when EA was canceling Star Wars projects left and right, Fallen Order was received with a collective sigh of relief.
Despite its commercial success, Fallen Order was far from perfect. It pulled from an impressive list of gaming greats—Metroid, Dark Souls, Uncharted—yet rarely managed to reach beyond its inspirations. The result was a competent action-adventure game that had the potential to be so much more.
Kestis Strikes Back
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor capitalizes where Fallen Order failed. Respawn Entertainment’s sophomore Star Wars effort continues the story of Cal Kestis and his ragtag group of friends as they search for a potential Jedi haven called Tanalorr. Along the way, you’ll battle imperials, tame beasts, and unlock new Jedi abilities, all while exploring an open world rich with secrets.
Jedi: Survivor is a bigger sequel all around, with more characters to befriend, more combat trees to unlock, more customization options to tinker with, and more content to enjoy. It’s a beefy game that’ll easily last you 30+ hours, and most of it is a joy thanks to some welcome quality-of-life improvements over Fallen Order.
As good as it is, Jedi: Survivor could have been even greater with the right time and touch. The game’s combat shows its age compared to the likes of Elden Ring and Ghost of Tsushima. Difficulty spikes abound. Perhaps most egregious, the game was plagued at launch by performance issues, many of which persist, weeks later.
But none of the above can negate what Jedi: Survivor nails—and that’s an incredible cinematic narrative filled with laughs, gasps, and tears. It’s not a perfect game, but Jedi: Survivor punches a clear cut above its predecessor, making it a must-play for Star Wars and drama lovers alike.
A Globe-Trotting Epic
Functionally, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor operates similarly to its predecessor. As heart-led hero Cal Kestis—now a Jedi Knight—you must navigate the galaxy in search of various sci-fi MacGuffins while fighting off evil Force-sensitives.
The game opens on Coruscant with a lengthy linear sequence that harks back to Fallen Order. Here, you’ll navigate hallways, find stim upgrades for BD-1, and even duel with an Inquisitor. Finish that segment, however, and it becomes clear that Survivor is its own beast.
A few hours in, you’ll land on Koboh: a vast planet with woodlands, mines, bogs, and more. Here, you’ll reunite with Greez Dritus, who has spent the past five years building his own cantina. After meeting some new faces, you’re set free to explore Koboh—whether that’s furthering the main quest, investigating side “rumors,” or simply tending to the cantina itself (more on that in a bit).
This open world is easily Survivor’s biggest deviation from Fallen Order. Though both games are Metroidvanias at heart—with Cal unlocking new abilities that help him explore more of the galaxy—Survivor gives you more agency over what you do, when. Once you leave Koboh, you’ll find yourself on yet another non-linear planet with its own characters, quests, and unlockables. While you’ll eventually follow a guided story path, you’re always free to return to past locations via a handy fast-travel system.
In my early hours, I explored an abandoned mine in search of secrets, only to find a challenging Rancor I couldn’t overcome with my current skills. Thankfully, I always had the choice to do something else and come back later. To be clear: Survivor doesn’t offer anything close to the “go anywhere, do anything” mantra of Elden Ring or Zelda. But there’s enough variety here to give players a similar sense of freedom.
Balancing the Force (and Your Extracurriculars)
The open world may sound appealing, but Jedi: Survivor’s real claim to fame is its narrative. Fallen Order wasn’t exactly a slouch with its storytelling, but somehow, Respawn’s upped its game in nearly every way with this sequel.
The writing is sharp. The mocap is smooth, and the performances are stellar. Everyone—from Cal to the central antagonist—has nuance to their character. I found myself chucking at Greez’s one-liners and outright gasping whenever the story took a turn. In an industry where good stories are hard to come by, Respawn has hit a grand slam with Jedi: Survivor.
Survivor’s narrative greatness extends beyond just the main story beats. The game’s side quests feel meaningful, with interesting characters and tangible rewards. There’s Caij, a mysterious Nautolan who enlists Cal to hunt down bounties throughout the galaxy. There’s DD-EC, an aspiring DJ who plays music you collect at the cantina. And, of course, there’s Turgle, the comic relief character who’s winning the hearts of Star Wars fans everywhere.
Greez’s cantina serves as the hub for these side stories. As you progress through the main story, you’ll routinely return to Koboh and its local watering hole. What starts as a rundown pub devastated by raiders soon becomes a flourishing home for rebels, droids, and other odd folks. Before long, you’ll be conversing with familiar faces and uncovering new rumors to pursue.
There’s a lot to do in Jedi: Survivor, so much of which I haven’t even mentioned. You can compete in Holotactics—Survivor’s equivalent of The Witcher 3’s Gwent or Horizon: Forbidden West’s Machine Strike. You can plant seeds you collect via a rooftop garden, or customize Cal and BD-1 with new clothes and color palettes, respectively. Not every excursion is worthwhile, but when there’s so much variety here, it’s hard to find fault.
Where the Mantis Loses Steam
Where Star Wars Jedi: Survivor stumbles, sadly, is with its combat. The sequel builds upon the Souls-like gameplay of Fallen Order—only now with more skills to unlock and more combos to master. Layer on a perk system that lets players tweak the combat to their exact playstyle, and you have all the workings of a classic.
Unfortunately, Jedi: Survivor falters under its own weight. The addition of multiple lightsaber “stances” seems promising on paper, but there’s little the game does to differentiate one from another. Unlike Ghost of Tsushima, where switching stances is core to defeating different enemies, Jedi: Survivor seems content to let players settle on whichever two stances (out of five total) look and feel “coolest.”
There’s little rhyme or reason as to when certain stances should be used. Even the game’s enemy database fails to offer useful guidance. Despite playing on Jedi Master difficulty (the second hardest), I was able to brute force my way through most of the game without much thought or strategy. The only times I swapped out one stance for another was when I felt fatigued by the combat—a feeling that, by hour 20 or so, had certainly set in.
If you’re looking to hack and slash with reckless abandon, Jedi: Survivor offers plenty of satisfaction. But if you’re looking for the tactile, responsive gameplay of Sekiro or Elden Ring, you’ll be left wanting. (There are exceptions; one late-game boss in particular floored me with its sheer spectacle.)
Combat isn’t the only issue. Jedi: Survivor struggles with performance—especially on PC, but even on consoles. Expect frequent frame-rate drops, tearing, and pop-in. (I had more success in Quality Mode over Performance Mode.) The game also has some brutal difficulty spikes, though—just like Fallen Order—you can tweak the difficulty at any time without repercussion.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a great game that could have been exceptional. Cal Kestis’s latest adventure is full of welcome improvements—from fast travel to streamlined traversal—and the open world has plenty of novel side quests worth exploring. Most important, Jedi: Survivor offers a thrilling story that gives even contemporaries like Andor a run for their money.
Technical issues and lackluster combat hold the experience back. If you’re a stickler for buttery smooth performance, you’ll be left wondering whether or not Respawn can or will iron out the issues. If you’re a Dark Souls diehard, you’ll be left wondering what all the fuss is about.
And yet, for everyone else, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is absolutely worth playing. It’s a rare game that exceeds despite several key issues, and the more I reflect on its narrative and core themes, the more impressed I find myself.
Beware spoilers, and go in with zero expectations. Jedi: Survivor will win over your heart, just like it did mine.
A Second Opinion on Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Written by Punished Backlog contributor Mark Bowers:
Let me get straight to the point: Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a very good game. In fact, it’s among the very best Star Wars games I’ve ever played.
That being said, it is a deeply flawed game that holds itself back from being great.
Performance issues aside, the game is fun. It’s a rare AAA platformer hiding under the mask of a Soulsborne-style game. What holds it back more than anything, though, is what everyone wants the most: being a Jedi.
Living in the Shadow of Greatness
Fallen Order and Survivor have done a better job than any previous Star Wars game at making me feel like a Jedi. Few things are as satisfying as deflecting a blaster bolt back at a Stormtrooper with a perfectly timed parry. But the combat as a whole is clunky and oftentimes frustrating. If you miss a block, you can get destroyed for it. The game is merciless with recovery times. And the force melee attacks simply don’t make sense—I feel like I’m only using one button in most of my fights.
Survivor’s combat feels unintuitive and, frankly, unimaginative—especially compared to what, in my opinion, are perfect combat experiences in Ghost of Tsushima and God of War: Ragnarök.
Where Ghost and Ragnarök succeeded in balancing unique weapons and stances, Survivor falters. The player is limited to two stances at a time, and the process to switch between them is tedious. I imagine that Respawn was going for a more build-focused approach, a la Elden Ring, but there just isn’t enough customization available to make it work.
The end result is limitation and frustration. Personally, I’ve defaulted to dual welding and crossguard as a light/heavy combo, but this feels less like a build and more like a patchwork solution to the bigger problem of complicated and unintuitive attacks.
Again, I really enjoyed the game and its characters. BD-1 has become my favorite Star Wars droid, and I love watching Cal evolve as a Jedi. But in a world where combat is king, Jedi: Survivor has fallen short in trying too hard to be something it isn’t. If the combat was as fluid as its contemporaries, I’d happily give the game a 9/10, but I can’t bring myself to do so. It’s the one flaw preventing the game from being great.
Well, that and the launch performance… Thanks, EA.