Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Preview – Engaging Gameplay and Breathtaking Worlds

Not Just Surviving, But Thriving

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After a hands-on preview of Cal Kestis’ next steps into a larger world, it’s clear that Star Wars Jedi: Survivor has all the signs of an all-time classic.

Over the 45 years since Star Wars first debuted in theatres, countless games have tried to put their adventures directly into our hands. Few have succeeded, as well as 2019’s Jedi: Fallen Order from Respawn Entertainment and EA. This ambitious foray into “Soulslike” territory is one of the best pieces of Disney-era Star Wars content to date, melding a new set of heroes and gameplay mechanics with familiar themes in a post-Clone Wars tale and finding critical and commercial success.

Now, Star Wars Jedi Survivor is almost here, promising to raise the narrative and interactive stakes in some big ways. We were fortunate enough to be invited to a preview event held by EA and Respawn in Los Angeles last week, where we got to play the game’s early hours, and can safely say—the Force is strong with this one.

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Jedi: Survivor picks up five years after the previous game—for those of you keeping complex timeline charts at home like me, that’s 9 BBY, the same year as Obi-Wan Kenobi—and sees protagonist Cal Kestis’ familiar team scattered to the winds. Our demo picked up after the game’s opening mission, with Cal and his faithful droid BD-1 surviving “another happy landing” on an unfamiliar planet, Koboh. To repair the Stinger Mantis, they must seek out Greez Dritus, its former captain and Cal’s friend.

“From environments to character models and effects, Jedi: Survivor is truly a next-gen spectacle.”

Like Bogano before it, Koboh is a great “hub” world to acclimatize to Jedi: Survivor‘s controls, and full of its own mysteries. It quickly became apparent that the student has become the master, as the sequel’s gameplay has been refined in many intuitive ways.

I was immediately relieved that holding L2 to climb is no longer required, for starters. Often the Soulslike combat of Fallen Order is praised, but I equally enjoyed seeing the Uncharted or Tomb Raider-esque style of exploration applied to Star Wars worlds, and so far Jedi: Survivor‘s environments did not disappoint in that department. Navigating its mix of structures and terrain felt even more natural and intuitive than before.

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Of course, being a next-gen exclusive gave Respawn the power to render some truly massive environments. One such environment features a gargantuan creature called a trontoshell—imagine a turtle mixed with a Star Wars-style dinosaur—and as I explored, I could keep track of my overall progress by noting where the big fella was (and how much of the screen he occupied) until I ended up within its reach.

From environments to character models and effects, Jedi: Survivor is truly a next-gen spectacle. Luckily the map screen has seen a welcome facelift to make navigating those giant areas easier. This was an ambitious feature which proved unwieldy in the previous game but has been overhauled and refined to become an indispensable tool.

“Like the exploration elements, combat has been improved greatly as well.”

Like the exploration elements, combat has been improved greatly as well. Jedi: Survivor will feature five unique Stances for Cal—the returning Single, Double-bladed, and Dual Wield styles, plus the new tanky Crossguard form and a final form where Cal can just shoot far-away foes with a Blaster. While we only had access to the returning trio of Stances, I was pleased to find each has been refined and overhauled, particularly the Dual-wield. They feel more unique and distinct, making which two you’ll equip between save points a pretty critical decision.

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Cal still has the usual Force powers like push and pull at his disposal, along with the ability to slow time or confuse enemies into attacking each other, and relies on BD-1 to toss him a stim pack to heal. Like the various Stances, these abilities can still be enriched using Skill Points once Cal gains enough experience. Even within the relatively short timeframe of the preview, I truly felt I was making the game my own with the investments I made in the skill trees and the Stances I equipped.

Speaking of customization, however, one of the biggest things I was thrilled to see was the wealth of personalization options on offer, even from the get-go. Fallen Order dabbled in this department, with unlockable colour options and such, but Jedi: Survivor takes it to a whole new level. For example, you can choose the style for each individual component of Cal’s lightsaber, on both halves, then choose its material and even the level of polish on each component.

There are both more areas to customize and more parts to choose from, even including Cal’s hair and beard. It offers the personalization of previous games like Jedi Academy where players create their own avatar, but with the solid characterization of the previous game.

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(Be sure to try swapping out BD-1’s various components in the full version—his adorable animations are as charming as any of his silver screen predecessors.)

Following the main path eventually takes Cal into a confrontation with the imposing Rayvis and his Bedlam Raiders, as teased in the game’s trailers so far. After a thrilling duel of a boss fight with one of his enforcers, I was free to roam the settlement of Rambler’s Reach, and learn about the ways players can help it flourish in the final version. NPCs can be recruited to help enrich the frontier town, another welcome detour that will surely make Koboh feel more like home than isolated Bogano.

Other NPCs will offer Rumours, side quests that offer risks and rewards. We were forewarned about a particularly interesting detour before our playable session, and when I sought it out, I got a painful reminder that when Cal is slain, he has to seek out and damage the foe who felled him to regain his EXP and full life force. While the Prospectors didn’t warn me I was in for such a rude awakening on this one, it seems these side quests will run a full gamut of challenges and rewards worthy of players’ time.

“Fallen Order dabbled in this department, with unlockable colour options and such, but Jedi: Survivor takes it to a whole new level.”

By the time my preview with Jedi: Survivor drew to a close, I was fully caught up in its story and systems and eager to play more. Shortly after Greez begs Cal to “be something more than a lightsaber” and stop throwing his life away, an unforeseen development draws him toward a mysterious anomaly that might offer hope… or destruction, and I can’t wait to see where the story goes from there in the final version.

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As a conclusion to the preview, we were shown a demonstration of extremely high-level combat features, with the game’s director of combat unleashing Cal’s full arsenal of skills upon an unending horde of Stormtroopers, and it was truly awe-inspiring. While a blaster may be an uncivilized weapon by some Jedi standards, Cal has some extremely cool tricks up his sleeve with it, right down to a “high noon“-worthy combo. This just might be the best lightsaber combat engine to date.

Everything about Jedi: Survivor looks bigger and better in all the right ways, and it’s truly poised to stand among the best games in the storied franchise. You can experience the next leg of Cal’s journey, and make it your own, when Star Wars Jedi: Survivor launches April 28 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

Chris de Hoog
Chris de Hoog

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