No matter how good or bad its mainline movie entries have been as of late, the Star Wars series is one of few franchises so uniquely positioned in the public consciousness that it's probably never going away again. But while The Rise of Skywalker has some hardcore fans begging for a break, it's the likes of Andor that prove quality stories can still be told in the galaxy far, far away. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order did the same for the IP's video games, delivering a fantastic experience off the back of the controversial Star Wars Battlefront 2. Roughly three and a half years later, its sequel demonstrates Star Wars games have never been better.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a follow-up in the same way God of War Ragnarok was: it may seem to be retreading familiar ground, but play it for yourself and it's revealed just how much bigger and better it is compared to the predecessor. This is a huge continuation of Cal Kestis' story, packing new planets to explore, so much more side content, and welcome quality of life improvements. With only the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic instalments providing it competition, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is comfortably one of the franchise's best-ever games.
We always thought it was throughout our short but sweet review process. However, it wasn’t until less than 24 hours ago that we could actually confirm it. Prior to a Day 0 patch, the game was suffering from severe frame rate drops and terrible screen tearing. While we appreciated the experience so much, it was impossible to look past what was an unacceptable launch state. However, version 1.02 has saved Star Wars Jedi: Survivor at the final hour.
The Performance Mode now actually sticks to its target of 60 frames-per-second at a 1440p resolution — most of the time. There are still minor frame rate drops here and there, but they’re absolutely nothing compared to what was standard before. In addition, screen tearing has been wiped out completely.
The excellent experience at the heart of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor would always shine through, though, and the smooth frame rate now makes it so much easier to enjoy without any stumbling blocks. Bringing back its breezier take on the Dark Souls formula, it's paired with vast worlds to explore. There's a laundry list of side content to complete and collectibles to find, and it all feeds back into your home base: the Pyloon's Saloon on Koboh.
Following a story-focused introduction, Cal finds himself on the backwaters planet in search of somewhere to repair his ship. The place turns out to be a lot more important through later plot developments, but one of the game's more satisfying loops is bringing life back to Rambler's Reach Outpost. Taking on quests and meeting people in other areas, you're able to recruit them and bring friendly faces back to the cantina. It makes exploration so much more rewarding, with the promise of new conversations and the potential of more missions should you stumble across a welcoming figure.
In fact, it's the characters that really make the narrative. While what you're working towards is interesting enough — a new home for the Jedi on a planet called Tanalorr — it's your crew aboard the Mantis and those back at Pyloon's Saloon that'll make you care about the plight most. Charming, charismatic, and witty, they're a joy to engage with and are genuinely worth taking the time to talk to.
And even if you don't find a fresh face for your home base, exploration is addictive, with a moreish approach that'll always give you one more location to rummage through. With both verticality and a wide span of ground to traverse, you could easily double your playtime beyond the core 25 hours it takes to beat the story.
Combat hasn't been expanded quite as much compared to Jedi: Fallen Order, but a new stance system allows you to pick what type of lightsaber you wish to wield and then dictate how you use it. Modes like dual wielding, twin blades, and even the option to use a blaster work in different situations, based on the opponent and how many of them there are. It's a neat little evolution of what was there before, giving you more ways to feel the Force.
The mechanics of a usual FromSoftware joint return, with Meditation Points acting as Bonfires, death resulting in you dropping your accrued experience points, and a slightly higher difficulty curve than other action-adventure titles. However, with multiple difficulty options at your disposal, you can still customise the experience to your needs.
Respawn Entertainment also brings back the Metroidvania structure, teasing powers and abilities you'll gain later on in early areas. Fuelling that rewarding loop of exploration further, puzzles are engaging and really test your knowledge of Cal's tool set. Inventive ways to use your skills are found, with customisation options for Cal, BD-1, and your lightsaber the prize.
It's all rounded out by the little quirks of the Star Wars universe: fantastic music and really funny dialogue. The former is simply breathtaking, with tracks that feel like they could have been ripped straight from the films. The latter, meanwhile, really is one of Jedi: Survivor's greatest elements. Take a pause before jumping into combat and you'll hear droids and stormtroopers deliver some really witty conversations about how they'll be the ones to off the Jedi — only for them to feel a lightsaber sticking through their robotic innards seconds later. Top quality stuff.
The visuals aren't, though. They're actually fairly inconsistent: a lot of cutscenes look outstanding but the moment-to-moment gameplay most certainly doesn't. Of course, in-game action was never going to look as good as the cutscenes that see the game's file size balloon to 147GB. What would have vindicated the PS5 version is good support of the DualSense controller, but its features are used sparingly. While you'll occasionally feel haptic feedback kick into gear or the adaptive triggers provide a bit of resistance when using the Force, it doesn't happen anywhere near enough.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor does what any successful sequel should do: it expands on the foundations of the first game and does everything better. Combat is just as enjoyable and offers more options, exploration is on a whole other level, and the Metroidvania elements make for engaging puzzles and satisfying rewards. Easily one of the best Star Wars games ever made, it hands 2023 yet another crowning highlight.