Review: Star Wars Jedi: Survivor – A Whole New Cal-iber | GameLuster (2023)

I remember playing Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and thinking of all the ways they could improve what was already a stellar experience. It was a bit linear for my tastes, and I found it lacking in both customization options and depth of combat. Respawn Entertainment has turned all that on its head when developing Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, improving upon everything its predecessor accomplished while barreling into entirely new territory. There is now a plethora of customization options, bigger and denser planets, and a satisfying depth to combat opportunities. That’s not even to mention the host of new characters you’ll meet along the way, making for an altogether much less lonely experience this time around.


If you like loot and upgrades as much as I do, you’ll spend a large chunk of the game hunting down the collectibles and treasure scattered across each planet. Respawn has thankfully provided us with a holographic map of sorts, which I found incredibly handy when navigating the many twists and turns of each planet. Much like in Jedi: Fallen Order, the map keeps track of where you’ve explored and where you haven’t. Additionally, there are map upgrades available to find towards the end of the game that reveal the locations of chests, treasures, and data discs, so don’t worry too much about combing every inch of the desert. You’ll likely have to come back later once you’ve gotten some new traversal abilities anyway, so don’t sweat missing a few collectibles here and there the first time through. Maybe take in the view a little, since the game offers a ton of stunning locations to explore.

The puzzles you encounter are relatively straightforward, typically relying on timing and execution rather than complexity. There are certainly plenty of them scattered throughout the galaxy, from High Republic meditation chambers to ancient, hidden tombs, along with all the ensuing rewards. There were a few puzzles that I had to scratch my head on for a few minutes, but it was typically a case of me overlooking a hidden element or needing a fresh perspective. There is an option to disable tooltips for which force powers to use in certain situations, which I imagine would make the puzzles even more straightforward when left on.

Traversal itself is rather fun, and there are plenty of ways to get around. The rate at which you unlock new abilities feels well spread out, and every time you do it unlocks new areas in previously-visited sections of the map. It never feels artificial either; the climbable elements around the map are blended in so well that I actually wound up missing them a few times. They’re not all that hard to spot when you’re looking carefully (and since unlocked paths are displayed in green on the map), but I really appreciate that Respawn took the extra effort to make things look like a seamless part of the world.

It’s hard not to compare the traversal sections in Jedi: Survivor to the Uncharted series, and Cal himself has often been called the Nathan Drake of the Star Wars universe. There are certainly a few tropes from the series in here, but the game differentiates itself enough and actually steps up the formula in a few impressive ways. There are a lot of notable sections where I got caught up in the thrill of jumping, wall-running, swinging, and avoiding hazards. It was nice to be surprised given that I’ve been running along digital walls for over two decades now. The mid-air dash that you unlock in particular is utilized exceptionally well in the level design, with some creative uses for it presented pretty much as soon as you acquire the ability.


Jedi: Survivor steps things up with its customization options, featuring far fewer ponchos and instead offering a wide variety of different styles. Customization options include hair, facial hair, jackets, shirts, and pants. You can clad Cal in everything from traditional Jedi robes, scavenged clone armor, or even a stylish bomber jacket. I found myself changing Cal’s appearance quite often, as the game offers no shortage of cosmetic rewards throughout and you’re able to modify your style at any time in the menu. While I might question the logic of finding different options for facial hair in random chests scattered throughout the galaxy, I certainly appreciate being able to deck Cal out with a full beard.

Respawn hasn’t cut any corners with weapon customization, either. You’re able to change every part of your lightsaber and blaster. The saber is broken up into sections, including the emitter, vents, switch, grip, and pommel, while the blaster features a barrel, trigger, and grip. With plenty of components, materials, and colors to choose from, you can build a lightsaber that looks like it was meant to be wielded by a paladin or one that looks like you just fished it out of a trash compactor. You can make a slim, inconspicuous blaster or an exotic hand cannon. The workbench even lets you adjust a slider for weapon condition, as well as preview what your gear will look like in each lightsaber stance.

Even BD-1 can be customized this time around, and I’d be lying if I said the animation for swapping out his parts wasn’t adorable. With all the hard work he does, he deserves to ride around Cal’s shoulders in style. Customization might not make or break the game for most people, but I appreciated the ability to be properly color-coordinated at all times. The first step to resisting the Empire is establishing a brand, after all.


I played through Jedi: Survivor on Jedi Grandmaster difficulty, which features maximum enemy aggression, damage, and severely reduced parry timing. It was a bit brutal, especially with some of the story bosses. They have some cheap tricks that’ll one-shot you, but it’s rewarding once you finally come out on top. It goes without saying that the experience will be much more manageable playing on Jedi Knight mode, the normal difficulty, where the modifiers to aggression, damage, and parry timing are half as severe.

I found the combat itself to be simply stellar. Positioning and timing are crucial, and it pays off to have a modicum of patience. There’s a rhythm to be found in most battles, and you can punish even the most aggressive of enemies once you find it. Managing your resources is key since you’ll often be going tit for tat with enemies trying to drain their block meter before your own. I found it incredibly useful to take advantage of force powers to whittle down the stamina of my foes, before rushing in to finish off their guard with a quick jab or parry to leave them open to further punishment.

Compared to Jedi: Fallen Order, where you faced mostly the Empire and its inquisitors, Jedi: Survivor features an impressive lineup of foes that manage to keep things interesting. The empire is still there, sure, but it’s more of a background force that helps to break up the tedium of fighting raiders and beasties. Even with its more robust lineup, Jedi: Survivor manages to introduce you to new enemies at a fair pace while increasing the complexity of combat encounters as you progress. The unassuming B1 droids are soon joined by their more intimidating B2 counterparts, and that’s just the bottom of the raider ladder. And while they might prefer to soften you up with their droids first, the human element of the raiders is no less threatening to go up against. It’s not just the raiders either; each faction in Jedi: Survivor employs a variety of troops and tactics to keep you on your toes. From the Bedlam raiders, the Empire, and the many beasts you’ll encounter on your journey, there’s always a new challenge around the corner.

As far as challenges go, there are plenty to face in Jedi: Survivor. You’ll find optional bosses in the form of beefed-up variants of normal enemies off the beaten path, as well as Force tears which pit you against various obstacles in a challenge room. This can include challenges such as defeating waves of enemies using a specific lightsaber stance, facing off against unique boss encounters, or crossing convoluted obstacle courses that draw upon every traversal ability you’ve learned in interesting ways. Some of the force tears were quite challenging, taking upwards of a dozen attempts or more, and others I was able to clear first try.

Stances, Powers, and Perks

Something I appreciate is that Jedi: Survivor starts you out with most of the abilities Cal had by the end of Jedi: Fallen Order. Sudden amnesia in terms of progression is common in RPG sequels, but Cal hasn’t suddenly forgotten how to double jump or use his force powers. The only thing players will have to start from scratch with is collecting stim canisters as well as health and force bar upgrades.

The newer force powers at your disposal can easily turn the tide of battle when used at the right moment. I found it especially fun to turn enemies against each other with the confusion ability, helping even the field against overwhelming odds. There are also plenty of environmental opportunities to be taken advantage of, with many an imperial goon wishing OSHA regulations were a thing in the Star Wars universe as they’re sent sailing past an open ledge. With the right combination of abilities, you can easily wipe a platoon of stormtroopers off the map in mere seconds.

The five available lightsaber stances provide both a layer of complexity to combat as well as a limitation. Of the five, players can only run two stances at a time and can only swap stances at meditation points. That said, each stance offers something unique in terms of the balance between power, mobility, and range. While this artificial limitation to two stances annoyed me at first (especially since Cal carries a second lightsaber whether or not you have a stance that requires it), I eventually appreciated the fact that I had to decide what kind of fighter my Cal would be. I wound up falling in love with the hybrid blaster stance and double-bladed lightsaber stance, with which I could reasonably tackle most combinations of enemies.

The blaster excels at single-target elimination while benefiting from a ranged advantage, but you can’t avoid the fray entirely since replenishing your blaster charge requires attacking with your lightsaber. I found using both the lightsaber and blaster to hamper my enemy’s guard up close was a surefire way to overwhelm them, and you can even fire off blaster bolts while chaining a lightsaber combo. The double-bladed saber, on the other hand, cuts down swaths of enemies like they’re nothing. This stance doesn’t have as much per-hit power behind it as the others, but it makes up for it with wide, sweeping attacks and increased mobility. There’s one force ability that groups nearby enemies nice and compact in front of you, resulting in a kind of blender situation when paired with a spinning lightsaber dash.

Story and Characters

We drop straight into the action in Jedi: Survivor, with Cal wall-running and being a general Jedi menace around level 2046 on Imperial-controlled Coruscant after a brief introductory section. This bit reminded me of all the hopes and dreams I had regarding Star Wars 1313, the now-canceled Boba Fett game from LucasArts, minus the cool jetpack. But hey, at least Bode is having fun with his.

The pacing of the story is pretty solid, thanks in part to the fact that new traversal abilities often unlock at pivotal story moments, which then open up a host of new paths to explore along previous areas. It feeds a rather fulfilling cycle, and whenever I found myself growing tired of exploring the world I could jump back into another story mission to keep things fresh. Likewise, if I ran up against a frustrating boss I could saunter back out into the world in search of upgrades or experience.

With about 18 hours worth of story content alone, you’re going to spend a decent amount of time with your crew. For me, characters are where Jedi: Survivor really shines. Everyone has their own motivations, their own reasons for following or opposing Cal beyond the fact that he’s the main character. Not everyone agrees with the way Cal does things, made evident by the fact that he’s not even with the rest of the Mantis crew when the game starts. Everyone has gone off to pursue their own goals, which don’t include fighting the empire head-on like Cal.

The villains aren’t just straight-up evil, either. They have complex motivations behind their actions, whether driven by ambition, loyalty, or fear. Their goals aren’t evil, but the methods they use to achieve them put them at odds with Cal. There isn’t exactly one main villain in this story, instead having a few throughout, but there are consistent themes of greed, obsession, and betrayal alongside the all-encompassing oppressiveness of the Empire. You’ve got your typical Star Wars tropes, especially around the climax of the story, but Jedi: Survivordoes a pretty good job of turning those tired tropes a little on their head.

There are plenty of exciting action sequences to be had in the main story, made even better by the occasional presence of your companions. Bode and Merrin will often accompany Cal on missions, and they serve as a worthy distraction for enemies since they seem to be effectively immortal. It’s fun to listen to their banter with Cal, as well, and to learn a little more about what drives everybody. There are plenty of emotional moments to be had, with previously distant characters opening up to Cal more and discussing their feelings, the trials they’ve faced, and their hopes for the future.

Some emotionally-charged moments fall short, especially in the beginning, but that may be in part due to the fact that there are some events that happen off-screen between Jedi: Fallen Order and Jedi: Survivor. The novel Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars covers the time between the games, so if you want to know how Greez lost an arm or where Cal met the companions he’s with at the beginning of the game, you’d have to read the book or a synopsis of it.

The ending comes rather suddenly, and I kind of expected there to be more to do after making it to the final planet, which you spend essentially the entire game trying to reach. The only thing that happens when you get there is the final battle, however, with nothing left to explore afterward. You’d think Cal would be eager to explore after finally finding the place, but I suppose something had to be left for the sequel. While Jedi: Survivor itself was a stellar sequel to Jedi: Fallen Order, the ending carries with it a few tired Star Wars tropes that sow the seeds of worry over the penultimate direction of the story going forward. Respawn hasn’t disappointed yet with this IP, though, so I remain optimistic for the future of Cal’s journey.

NPCs and Side Content

There’s plenty besides the main story to keep you busy in Jedi: Survivor, with about 50 hours of side content to experience. Side quests are unlocked through NPCs that send Cal after rumors of varying repute, but with loot at the end nonetheless. You’ll pick up most of these missions in and around the settlement of Rambler’s Reach on Koboh, where Cal operates out of Pyloon’s Saloon, a run-down outer rim cantina run by his old friend Greez. While the cantina starts out essentially derelict, it fills up over time as Cal recruits different NPCs out in the wild. There are some creative characters here, including a DJ droid and a Scottish sea slug in a reverse diving suit. There are plenty of conversations to be had with each NPC you recruit, each of whom has their own motivations, fears, and reasons for fleeing the empire. I found myself growing fond of characters I didn’t necessarily expect to, and equally shocked by a few unexpected betrayals.

Of the available side content, bounty hunting and legendary beast hunts have the most to offer by far. Both send you after optional bosses, but bounty hunting has a bit more to it with players sometimes returning to assault previously cleared-out locations infested with new factions. The beast hunts generally follow tougher or more aggressive variations of beasts you’ve already faced, with one or two surprises thrown in.

Holotactics in particular was a fun side distraction, even if there is a pretty limited number of opponents to choose from. You face off against patrons of Pyloon’s Saloon in a holographic arena, choosing units from the catalog of defeated enemies you’ve scanned to pit against whatever defense your opponent has set up. This goes on for several rounds, each of which must be won in order for Cal to emerge victorious. While it might seem kind of rigged against you, being able to pick units that counter the defense of your opponent is quite the advantage. There is a surprising amount of strategy involved, as the name Holotactics might suggest, especially since every unit you place acts exactly as they would were you fighting them in the real world. I just found myself wishing there was more variety to the battles, especially since each opponent only uses the same pre-set strategy even after you beat them the first time.

A few of the side quests mostly just improve the atmosphere of Pyloon’s Saloon. Fishing, gardening, and collecting music tracks all go a long way toward making the place a little more lively. You get a little loot along the way, but the real reward for me was seeing all the exotic fish Skoova Stev had collected swim around in a nice, clean aquarium. The saloon goes from despondent to downright charming, and it really starts to feel like home after you put in the work.

Getting the latest from Monk is always a treat.

New Game Plus

After completing the main story, the game lets you continue to explore side content and explore the various planet at your leisure. When ready, however, players can dive straight into new game plus. Most side content remains complete, and you get to keep all your collectibles and cosmetics. All skill points are refunded, and after reaching the first meditation point all stances and unlocked perks will be available. Story-dependent abilities remain locked, however, since you could skip most of the game otherwise. That said, if you’re anything like me you’re going to bee-line to unlock the dash because life just isn’t the same without it.

The game also dishes out three new perks and two new lightsaber blade colors as a reward for starting new game plus. You’ll be able to live out your dark-side fantasies for Cal with the red dark-side saber or send a collective sigh throughout the Star Wars fandom with a funky rainbow saber that changes color each time you swing it. It’s probably not canon, guys, don’t worry.

Of the three new perks, two alter combat quite substantially. The Trendsetter perk simply shuffles cosmetics on death, but Warrior adds tougher enemy variations to combat encounters, and Purity increases all damage from both Cal and enemies. A single blaster bolt will take most of your health bar with Purity active, making you carefully consider your positioning and ensuring that you take advantage of every power at your disposal. On the flip side, it doesn’t take much more than one or two hits with Cal’s lightsaber to take out even the toughest enemies, once you’ve gotten past their guard that is. It turns combat into a dance of death where even the smallest misstep is punished.

Performance Issues

I played Jedi: Survivor on the Xbox One S, where it struggled a bit to keep textures loaded. It honestly seemed like the longer the game would run, the less able it was to keep textures loaded consistently without popping in and out. Rebooting the game often solved this issue for a few hours, but it would always inevitably pop up again if the game was left open. While the game has a quick resume feature, you’re better off not using it until these issues are patched out.

There were also some issues with animations simply failing, with characters a-posing or gliding across the screen. While I don’t want to say that the game crashed all the time, in the 60 or so hours I spent playing it I must have been booted out at least a dozen times. Sometimes it was my fault, like when I fiddled with my appearance mid-conversation and crashed the game, but other times it would simply cut to black mid-combat. It was definitely more likely to happen if you let the game run a long time, as with the textures.

Despite some troubling performance issues, there is still a solid experience underneath it all. With everything that Jedi: Survivor has to offer, I never grew tired of the experience. I don’t normally replay games, especially not right away, but I just had to dive right back into this one with new game plus. The increased difficulty and complexity of combat encounters provide an entirely new experience the second time around, as well as an increased sense of satisfaction once I finally overcome a particularly tricky battle.

But what did you like most about Star Wars Jedi: Survivor? From the depth of combat, emotional story beats, or the many conversations to be had in Pyloon’s Saloon, there’s a lot to appreciate in the world Respawn has created.

Austin played Star Wars Jedi: Survivor on the Xbox Series S with his own copy. It is also available on PlayStation 5 and PC.

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Despite a variety of performance issues, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor presents masterful storytelling, in-depth characters and combat mechanics that deliver thrilling and enjoyable gameplay moments.

8/10: Radiant - Austin Recommends
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