Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of a scruffy ginger fellow and his little mechanical mate. PCGamesN recently got the opportunity to travel to LA to play a chunk of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor – the sequel to the cinematic, if in places underwhelming, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Our hands-on session took place around an hour into the main story, and began, as many things do, with Cal Kestis in a spot of bother.
Cal destroyed the Holocron detailing the whereabouts of young Force sensitives at the end of Fallen Order, and much like them, he’s on his own. His overall mission is a mystery, but we know that it’ll be just him and BD-1 (still cute as ever) aboard the Mantis when the Star Wars Jedi: Survivor release date rolls by. After a scrape with the Empire, his ship needs repairs, and he knows that erstwhile companion Greez Dritus will have the required parts.
This is where Jedi: Survivor starts to get interesting. Cal and BD-1 are forced to land on a planet called Koboh and seek out their old pilot who’s set up shop there. Landing a ways away from Greez’s cantina, I set off with my droid and began exploring the almost open world of Koboh.
The first notable difference between this and Fallen Order was the space I was afforded when exploring the environment. The Metroidvania elements are still there, but instead of branching narrow paths, there are areas in which I was allowed to venture with nothing but a vague direction of my objective. The map from Fallen Order remains the same, but now you can use BD-1 as binoculars to scan and plot routes, dropping markers in the hopes of discovering Koboh’s many secrets.
Cal has a few more traversal tricks up his sleeve this time around, too, with a Mario-style wall jump available from the off, and, most exciting of all, the ability to grab a climbable surface without input from the player. He feels a tad more dynamic in Jedi: Survivor and the exploration is satisfying because of it.
The narrow, puzzle-laden paths are still there, but they feel more worthwhile when – to cite Koboh’s landscape as an example – paired with a large settlement or a large section of grassland. The incidental combat also feels different with Jedi: Survivor. Squads of stormtroopers patrol the landscape in a credible way, and the openness of their surroundings enables you to pick fights on your terms rather than them simply being obstacles in your way. As such, combat is a fun distraction from the exploration as well as feeling both natural and empowering.
While there is also the usual array of fauna attacking Cal at any moment, the skirmishes on Koboh seemed to be slightly more skewed to the humanoid variety. I was pleased to see this, as wailing on a misshapen blob of flesh isn’t ever as satisfying as force-pulling someone and hearing them call me names as I stick them with the pointy end. The barks from the various enemies, particularly the clone wars droids, were varied and surprisingly funny – I’m not sure about the mileage of the chatter, but it didn’t grate during my time with the game.
Combat has seen quite the expansion from the first game. In Fallen Order, you had only two combat stances – single and double-bladed, with dual-wield attacks as a subset of either. Jedi: Survivor adds dual wield as a fully-fledged stance, and allows you to unlock four others – single, double-bladed, crossguard, and the blaster – for a total of five. Each of these has its own skill tree, and from my experience, each feels unique and earns its place in the lineup.
The combat itself feels like it’s evolving with the openness of the environment; you have more creative freedom to choose your own path and also to choose which brand of destruction you want to unleash. The new stances – dual wield, crossguard, and blaster – each fill a unique role and offer compelling reasons to learn them, other than the fact that they all look rad. The dual-wield stance is hyper-aggressive, while the crossguard is the slowest by far but hits the hardest, requiring a much more methodical approach to combat.
Speaking to Jason de Heras, design director of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, I asked about how the team attempted to manage juggling the additional creative freedom within combat without making the game too complex:
“That’s always the design – the big macro design problem – when making stuff like this. Well, the first thing is that there are five stances, but we made the decision early on that you could only carry two stances at once. That’s one way we can get the player to invest in two [stances] at most, and they could figure out which works for them, and which one doesn’t work for their playstyle.”
Using the d-pad, you can switch between your two stances at will. This creates some interesting combos and forces you to think about your particular build before entering combat: do you go with the crossguard and the double-bladed so you can deal with any volume of enemy, or do you pair the dual-wield with the blaster, whittling your enemies down from afar before finishing the job with a flurry of strikes?
Of course, the combat is only as complex as you make it. You can get away with mashing the attack button with the occasional block, but you’re rewarded with some real spectacle if you manage to master some of the more advanced moves. One particular technique stood out from a demonstration at the end of our demo when Cal approached a group of Stormtroopers, lifted them all in the air with the Force, and charged his blaster to target each one. He then proceeded to dispatch them all in one barrage, before twirling his blaster and holstering it in true gunslinger fashion. Not very Jedi, but cool nonetheless.
The additions to combat and increased scope of exploration are welcome additions and do feel like a natural progression from Fallen Order, but ultimately, like pretty much anything else that comes from Disney’s Star Wars, it isn’t doing much to push the boundaries of what we’ve seen before. I know for many, including me, that’ll probably be enough to get them through the story, and hopefully, find Cal’s place in the wider world of Star Wars.
It isn’t long now before you can get your hands on Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, so take the time now to check the system requirements to make sure you’re prepared for every Star Wars Jedi: Survivor enemy and boss battle coming your way. If you absolutely cannot wait to continue Cal’s story, check out our list of the best Star Wars games on PC or even the best space games to get your intergalactic fix before the release date. Make sure you pre-order the game so that you can start playing from day one.