Star Wars has always been a hit-or-miss franchise when it comes to videogames — sometimes, you get an amazing product, such as STAR WARS: Knights of the Old Republic, and sometimes you get a soulless cash grab like the 2015 release of STAR WARS: Battlefront. This is all to say that you never really know what you're gonna get. In the case of Respawn Entertainment's STAR WARS Jedi: Survivor, you don’t get a soulless game, but you also don’t get a great experience — due to technical issues.
2023 has thus far provided us with many AAA games. However, not all of them have been released in great condition; from bad PC ports to seriously lacking optimisation, the quality that publishers have chosen to launch their games in has varied greatly this year. Some, like the recent Resident Evil 4 Remake and Dead Island 2, have shown it is quite possible to have a smooth experience on launch day (this doesn't mean bugs are not present). Looking at Jedi: Survivor this is sadly not the case. For GameGrin’s review, I chose to make use of the Xbox Series X, because as Xbox fans know, games for this console normally release with a performance and quality mode (same as the PlayStation 5) which allows players to prioritise FPS (frames per second) over graphical fidelity. Unfortunately, even when using performance mode (supposedly 1440P and 60FPS), I was experiencing crashes and FPS drops — playing in quality mode was almost nauseating due to the wild tug-of-war the game was having with itself. I even went as far as disabling the Motion Blur, Film Grain, and Chromatic Aberration features in performance mode to no avail. Players on PC are reportedly suffering worse issues than the console versions (currently sitting at “Mixed” on Steam), and the controversial anti-cheating/piracy technology known as Denuvo has been confirmed on the PC version. It is worth noting that the game is using Unreal Engine 4 just as its predecessor did, so it isn't like the team at Respawn did not have experience working with this technology.
Publisher Electronic Arts has confirmed stability and performance patches will be done in the coming weeks.
With all that being said, let's discuss the rest of what Jedi: Survivor has to offer. Being the sequel to the 2019 release STAR WARS Jedi: Fallen Order, players will see Cal Kestis five years after the events of the first game. The crew of the Mantis (Greez Dritus, Cere Junda, and Merrin) have gone their separate ways, and Cal is fighting the Empire for Saw Gerrera’s rebel forces. This takes him to the Imperial Capital planet of Coruscant (sublevel 2046 to be exact), it is here that we meet a familiar face from the first game — The Ninth Sister. Formerly a Jedi by the name of Masana Tide, now an Inquisitor for the Empire; in Jedi: Fallen Order, Cal defeated this particular antagonist on the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk by cutting her right hand off. Showing that hope still exists inside Cal, he tries to turn her back to the light side by reminding Masana of who they used to be — sadly, his effort fails. Though not a huge part of the sequel's story, I felt this was a great way to show us that Cal is still the same person we know from Fallen Order underneath his now gruff appearance.
The opening mission also introduces us to the new character of Bode Akuna; a human mercenary whose wife was killed by the Empire. Bode is a man who is just trying to provide for his daughter Kata, and will do anything to ensure her future. While traversing Coruscant, Bode proves to be a handy ally, using his jetpack to fly around and remove obstacles in Cal’s way.
Eventually, the story takes Cal Kestis to the world of Koboh in the Outer Rim territories. This is when the game really shows its changes when compared to Fallen Order, allowing open-world exploration (with mounts) and side quests in the form of Rumors from various NPCs living at the Rambler’s Reach Outpost. The town can also be improved by Cal’s actions, such as fighting raiders, collecting seeds, and looking into events around the map; personally I love when developers create a reactive setting like this. Soon, vendors will become available and the dusty town starts to be more lively. Without going into spoilers of the game's story, I will briefly mention that elements from the High Republic era are heavily present throughout the game and fans of Star Wars lore will have a lot to enjoy.
As for customisation, STAR WARS Jedi: Survivor offers players a great deal. This includes aspects of Cal’s appearance: such as his outfit, lightsaber, beard, and hair options — should I give Cal a buzzcut? You will also be able to tinker with your droid buddy BD-1’s look. Beyond cosmetic changes, players will have a range of accessibility options to mess around with as well — such as enabling/disabling arachnophobia (removes all spiders from the game), lightsaber dismemberment effects, and some colour-blind options. In my case, I had to disable the controller vibration settings, as just about everything you do in-game seemed to cause it to go off — which was very distracting for me.
A new feature in the form of Perks joins the various Skills and lightsaber Stances you can unlock. When you first gain access to Perks, you will have three slots available; however, some Perks require two or even three slots to equip. As you play throughout the 25ish hours of the game, you will unlock more slots, enabling you to equip numerous powerful Perks. These can provide bonuses to your abilities, such as increased damage or they can be passive bonuses like health recovery over time. Personally, I normally go for a high damage build when playing games like this, putting points into skills and perks that maximise my aggression while avoiding things that will boost my survivability — a glass cannon strategy.
Combat in Jedi: Survivor feels great, though, not as difficult in most cases as the first game could be. For me at least, this was a welcome change, as I did not think the difficulty of some of the enemies from the first game made sense with you wielding a lightsaber. There are larger enemies and bosses in Jedi: Survivor which could still give me a hard time, but Stormtroopers and B1 battle droids do not last long once you set your sights on them. In fact the B1 series droids go down after a single strike from your lightsaber just like in the movies which I appreciated.
New fighting styles are also available for players to use and upgrade with perks and skill points. Cal can now choose from five different fighting Stances: Single Blade, Double-bladed, Crossguard, Blaster, and my personal favourite Duel Wield (the fastest lightsaber Stance). Each Stance offers something different — such as the Red Dead Redemption-like deadeye of the Blaster Stance — and has its own Skill tree connected to it, making it so you have to become better with that Stance to use it effectively. This really underscores the customisation of combat for the player.
While the first game incorporates certain elements from the soulslike genre, the sequel doubles down on that premise. Once again, enemies will respawn when you rest at a meditation circle, and bosses will require you to learn their movements. Now another feature joins that list, as Jedi: Survivor introduces Scavenger Droids. These act in a similar way to the Crystal Lizards in DARK SOULS or the Scarabs in ELDEN RING. Once a Scavenger Droid spots you, it will run away and try to burrow underground — kill it before it does this, and you will get a reward.
It is a shame that behind the FPS drops, stuttering, long load times, texture pop-in, and crashes, STAR WARS Jedi: Survivor is really a fantastic game that I want to love. These issues are currently preventing people from fully enjoying what could have been a great experience and an amazing addition to the Star Wars franchise. I hope EA and Respawn Entertainment learn from this plagued release and do not launch a game before it is ready in the future. However, I feel that wish is a lost cause in this day and age of the videogame industry.
UPDATE: Some of the game's technical issues have been alleviated by a post-launch patch.
STAR WARS Jedi: Survivor is now available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor (Reviewed on Xbox Series X)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
STAR WARS Jedi: Survivor has everything a fantastic game should have as far as features. Sadly, what it lacks is optimisation from its developers. This has greatly hindered one's ability to enjoy the experience on all platforms.