star-wars-jedi-survivor-preview-header-image-1366x768, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Hands-on Preview

Disclaimer: The writer of this Star Wars Jedi: Survivor hands-on preview was provided travel accommodations and stay on behalf of Electronic Arts (EA) and Respawn Entertainment. The items discussed in the preview/impressions are from a work-in-progress build and might not reflect the final product. The tested preview build was played on a PC with a controller.

Before Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order, it had felt like years since I was genuinely invested in a Star Wars game. That’s not typically the kind of deep experience that you would get from playing Star Wars: Battlefront or Battlefront 2. Those experiences primarily focus on blasters, bombs, and fulfilling the fantasy of strapping on Stormtrooper or Republic boots for life on the ground as a soldier.

At the time that Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order had stepped on the scene, there was a void of deep, single-player experience Star Wars games, let alone one that hadn’t been told time and time again. How much more could we expect to learn about Luke, Leia, Han, or Chewy? Don’t get me wrong, their stories are compelling and spawned the start of the Star Wars universe. However, being a fan of stories such as Star Wars: Rogue One, it’s hard to deny that there are other compelling stories to be told in a galaxy far away.

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Fallen Order offered something new, a vertical slice of Star Wars history being told in a galaxy where millions, if not billions, of other stories exist. The Galactic Empire’s efforts to expand by crippling ecosystems from the endless siphoning of resources from those galaxies surely spawned other stories of survival and rebellion. 

Many looked to the purveyors of peace and freedom to fight wars and battles that some were too weak to fight on their own. Those warriors being the Jedi. At the collapse of the Republic, the Jedi were left to rebuild in secret, in hopes of one day being able to live in peace without being hunted for their connection to the Force. That is where Cal Kestis, a survivor of the Jedi purge, began his journey. And that’s precisely where Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order leaves us, springboarding a new adventure for Cal, Greez, Cere, and newly joined Merrin in tow. 

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is Respawn and EA’s attempt to recapture the magic of an untold story of an agile redhead Jedi named Cal. Of course, he wasn’t quite ready for the testaments and trials at the start of Fallen Order. But, by the time the game wraps, spoiler if you haven’t played it, he does fulfill his duties and is knighted in the field. Something not typical of Jedi, as pointed out and mentioned in the upcoming Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. And, after playing roughly four hours of it, Cal definitely has more than Jedi mind tricks up his sleeves. 

Widening the scope

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One of the first impressions I got from Star Wars Jedi: Survivor was that Respawn was casting a much wider net this time. That is, at least, what was presented in the gameplay session. In Jedi: Fallen Order, the game very much adhered to its Metroidvania roots. Areas on the map would leave a lot of room for backtracking, although seemingly true to its Star Wars roots in terms of how it was displayed, left a lot of room to be desired by navigation and ease of use. 

In Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, it seems there is much more emphasis on open space exploration versus the spelunky-driven backtracking from the original. As well, you no longer have to use the left trigger to climb, and there were button prompts to drop to a ledge below. Cal can now also climb ceilings and use an ascension cable when prompted. There wasn’t an indication this would be a use-at-will mechanic and limited to grates, certain walls, and when the icon appeared.

In the content that I played, there were cliffsides and caves, sure. However, there were wide open spaces with cascading pools of water amidst the dry regions on the planet Koboh. Cal ends up on the planet to seek out parts to fix the damaged Mantis ship. And, as I set out on foot, there was more to the town of Rambler’s Reach than I had anticipated. This is in contrast to the ledges and pathways of Dathomir or Zeffo from the first game. It feels very much like necessary evolution to expand Cal’s skillset as a Jedi. 

Seeing is believing

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The demo started off right away with a massive Trontoshell, a turtle-like creature, in the distance. With BD-1 in tow, Cal can now use the trusty droid as a set of Macrobinoculars called the BD Visor. I felt like this was a clever way to advance BD’s usage as a companion but also offer familiar tactical gear used in Star Wars lore. This was also where I was introduced to the game’s new waypoint marker system. 

You can now place points of interest on your map. They aren’t shown as guided or lit beacons outside of the map,  so switching back to the map to check your location is still part of the game’s DNA. 

Filled but not full of NPC interactions

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What would a wide, more open-world experience be without NPCs? While on the planet Koboh, there were quite a few people to speak with. But, it seems they aren’t just there to fill space or break up monotonous exploration. Many, if not all, of the inhabitants had something important to say. Whether that was rumors about a group of miners that had gone missing or the friction caused by The Bedlham Raiders – a raucous gang terrorizing Koboh – there was something of substance and sometimes small conversation trees to experience when interacted with. Even MXNK-6, a local droid bartender, served up some great commentary while serving up drinks. It was almost reminiscent of what you would expect from robots in The Outer Worlds or Fallout.

During one of the NPC interactions, there was mention of some explorers that might have gone missing in one of the caves. Opening the map allowed me to see exactly where this rumored entrance was, and I pursued it. The trail did end up with a nice surprise – a snarling Rancor. The beast was no joke, swiping away with one-hit kills. I didn’t have enough time to keep dying and trying. However, it did showcase the sheer variety and diversity of wildlife in Jedi Survivor.

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Space critters gone wild

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During my time spent in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, there were a number of creatures and wildlife from the Star Wars universe that made appearances. Throughout the map, I encountered many Rawka, Mogu, Shiverpede, Bilemaw, and the aforementioned Rancor. These creatures vary in size; however, Cal has a new ability to somewhat counter some of their overwhelming stature. His new Force Confusion ability highlights characters green, leaving them stumbling or in a semi-incapacitated state. In Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, we got a taste of a similar ability with BD-1 able to hack droids and use them to fight alongside you. This is a welcomed ability considering many of the new enemies that they all boast they can get the best of this Jedi.

Outside of the Force Confusion ability, Cal can now tame some creatures. There were only a few instances where this happened during my playthrough. However, taming a Belter – a flying pterodactyl-like creature – allowed Cal to glide into previously unreachable areas or simply cut down on the time it took to reach them on foot. 

New moves, new enemies

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Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is more than just a continuation of Cal’s story and where he’ll eventually find his place in the galaxy. The story takes place five years after the events of the original. This has of course allowed the Empire to grow stronger, building its forces and shaking up new rivals in the galaxy. But, Cal has grown stronger, even seeming a little weathered, while running missions with Saw Gererra. Which was a big surprise to me, considering how unhinged Saw appeared in the Star Wars: Rogue One film. This also gives some context as to when Cal’s story takes place in the Star Wars timeline. 

In the preview, there were more than just creatures nipping at Cal’s heels. A few new enemy faces joined the fight. The Bedlam Raiders are a gang that’s been causing trouble for the locals on Koboh. They are led by Rayvis, a real chad-like Gen’Dai that’s part machine, part jerkface. But, other iconic enemies now join the battle. 

Some of those encountered were the B1 Battle Droid and B2 Super Battle Droid, both of which had a heavy presence in the prequel trilogy. Admittedly, the droids did offer a nice variety for enemies but also delivered lighter tones with their dialogue. Another enemy type was the BX Droid Commando, which was the most troublesome of the three with its ninja-like flips and strikes. There were times when the diverse enemy cast of droids and Stormtroopers really began to test my ability to manage Cal’s skillset. The blaster fire from both man and machine will undoubtedly bring back familiar combat with dodges, parrying, and striking, all playing crucial roles to survival.

There are a few changes to the way Cal can fight. One thing that has been revealed is the new stances, five in total. While dual saber action was only a portion of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, it is now a stance that you can switch between. In the playthrough, I did make good use of the single, dual, and double-edged lightsaber stances. Each offered its own perks, mostly being speed vs power. I did find that there was always a nice balance of power and speed when wielding the dual sabers, making quick work of weaker enemies. And, there were times enemies felt much easier to combat while wielding a single blade, such as the BX Droid Commando. These stances can be assigned to the d-pad left or right, allowing for fluid combat options. Cal also has a block/parry gauge that can be exhausted, leaving him susceptible to attacks when used up.

The future is Kestis

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After spending four hours during my playthrough of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, I feel Respawn Entertainment is building something very promising. There was so much more that I wanted to explore on Koboh, NPCs I wanted to talk to, and more enemies I wanted to spar with. I can see how a region like Rambler’s Reach can deliver hours of gameplay even if that’s just one stop on one planet. If that’s any indication as to what the rest of the game has in store, there is a lot of promise in Cal Kestis’ future. Not only as a Jedi but offering more untold stories on familiar planets.

If you’re hoping for more of the same from Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, you’ll definitely get that with familiar moves, like Cal’s Jedi double jump and use of the Force. However, the evolution comes in the form of new combat styles, enemies, NPCs, and an expanded terrain to explore. The experience felt much more action-focused. However, that doesn’t take away from the compelling Star Wars story that EA and Respawn are offering up. And, from what was shown, there are definitely going to be some hefty tales to tell in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. 

Everything felt like a necessary evolution despite mildly shifting its genre. Although it might not scream action-adventure Metroidvania, many of those elements are still present while still being crafted with care for Star Wars fans.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor releases on April 28, 2023, for the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.