Star Wars Jedi Survivor review: A Force for good but with a dark side
(PS/Xb/PC) **** Age: 15+
Star Wars represents as much a commodity as it does cinematic stories riffing on religion, westerns and hero tropes. Take your pick from merchandise, TV spin-offs, theme park attractions and, of course, games (up to 100 of the latter, by some estimates).
But the hit rate – in games at least – veers from dross (Kinect Star Wars for example) to acceptable (Force Unleashed) to quite-good-if-wasn’t so damn-buggy-and-repetitive (Fallen Order). So here comes FO’s sequel with quite the weight of expectation on its continued exploration of a young Jedi finding his powers and learning to undermine the Empire.
It’s somewhat sad we have to spend a portion of the review tabulating the bug quotient up front but that’s what happens when games are released before they’re ready. If you’re a PC owner, you’ve probably read the damning reports about the shambolic state of that version. Eurogamer describes it as “a technical failure on just about every level”, which begs the question why EA deemed it acceptable to release in the first place. But it’s a commodity, remember? Presumably, corporate pragmatism felt it necessary for the PC version to stay in step with its console brethren and cynically hope that patches would soon lift it out of the mire.
On console, however, Survivor runs much more smoothly, with only a handful of glitches evident. In fact, it’s quite the spectacular view, from the dizzying neon-lit cityscape of Coruscant to the Wild West canyons and cliffs of the planet Koboh.
Neophyte Jedi Cal Kestis grew into his Force powers during the story arc of Fallen Order and he retains those abilities as Survivor begins five years later. He’s still a fugitive from the Empire while aiding the resistance in remote locations.
We begin in Coruscant on an infiltration mission, experiencing a mix of Uncharted-like platforming together with lightsaber battles and the telekinesis power of the Force. First impressions register the phenomenal level of detail, although much of the scenery is non-interactive. Still, the Force power is intoxicating. It never gets old, whether that’s shoving a droid soldier off a high platform with a wave of the hand, or pulling a group of stormtroopers closer for a finishing blow.
After what is effectively a tutorial level, the stage moves to the dusty planet of Koboh where Kestis seeks the help of cantankerous old mate Greez Dritus. His saloon becomes an open-world hub for much of Cal’s subsequent adventures, set amid a sprawling plain surrounded by caverns and gorges.
Cue lots of optional but engaging side quests – for which the rewards seem mostly to be pointless cosmetics – and a main plot line involving the rescue of a dilapidated droid linked to the glory days of the Jedi Order.
There’s a real beauty to Koboh and its many dangerous enemies. Survivor takes you on quite the odyssey as Kestis contends not just with the Empire’s troops but a gang of rogue villains called ravagers. However, it’s never very difficult and few can withstand his blend of lightsaber thrusts and Force control, such that it’s only in numbers can they truly threaten the Jedi.
Survivor follows the Fallen Order template but has improved it in many areas, for instance, adding fast travel to eliminate the drudgery of re-traversing long distances. The extra intricacy of blade stances – one blade, two blades, etc – give more options depending on the type of enemy faced, even if the new blade/gun combo doesn’t quite ring true for a Jedi.
Cal’s burgeoning range of Force powers – such as Confuse, which tricks foes into attacking each other – also brings pleasing diversification into how you might tackle encounters.
You could fairly accuse the makers of bloat, in that many side activities seem to exist purely to pad out the running time. Cal also resembles too much of a blank canvas for him to be a character you could truly love.
But Survivor gets a lot of its sequel foundations right (PC version excepted, obviously) and offers many hours of undemanding fun for you to live out the power fantasy of becoming a Jedi knight.