Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review: Lost to the Dark Side

An excellent game marred by it's rushed release.

During a trip to the UK earlier this year, I grabbed a pack of my favorite candy: Skittles. I just wanted a snack for the evening, but no one told me there’s no grape Skittle in Britain’s version of this classic treat. Instead, these bags offer an unfamiliar tang: Blackcurrant, and it’s disgusting. It felt like coating my tongue in cough syrup and swigging sand as a chaser. I couldn’t get the rotten aftertaste out of my mouth. That one flavor hampered the entire experience.

That snack was much like my time with Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, a great game marred by technical issues and performance problems that soured the whole ride. No matter how great the best parts feel, you’ll never forget the moments when its woes drag it down. There’s a beautiful game below the surface here, but after chugging through 20 hours of poor optimization, crashes, and consistent bugs, I can’t say it’s worth the struggle. This is a textbook example of a rushed product, and it’s worse in every way for it.

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Cal Kestis, Jedi Abroad

What makes Jedi: Survivor so interesting, despite the flaws, is the story and its lead, Cal Kestis. In Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, players resume the role of Cal, one of the few Jedi left roaming the galaxy far, far away. It’s been several years since the events of Jedi: Fallen Order, and Cal continues taking the fight to the Empire. Disrupting supply runs, targeting corrupt senators, and starting rebellions alongside Saw Gerrera are just some ways Cal continues to hold the title of The Empire’s Most Wanted.

Star Wars Jedi Survivor cal kestis
Screenshot by Tai Hofmann

While he’s grown stronger during his travels, Cal’s efforts don’t amount to much against the oppressive might of the Empire. Senators see replacements, his rebellions fail spectacularly, and many of his friends die during each skirmish. Cal’s got nothing to show for all that hard work, and he’s grown bitter and tired because of it. The fight’s wearing him down, and though he’s not the tepid little fugitive he was several years ago, that fear gives way to resentment.

star wars jedi survivor cal kestis
Screenshot by Tai Hofmann

It’s an exciting change of pace for the protagonist, and seeing the rise of the Empire from his perspective is as fascinating as it is heartbreaking. No matter what Cal tries, he can’t make a lasting difference, and he’s running out of options. Thankfully, he finally gets a breakthrough that could fundamentally change his fight.

A Story For a More Civilized Era

In Jedi: Survivor, Cal stumbles upon a centuries-old secret. One that could help him, his friends, and his allies escape the blossoming oppressive regime. To do this, he’ll have to get his old band back together and take another ride through the galaxy as it becomes increasingly dangerous.

This isn’t a story about an attempt at fighting the Empire that we all know won’t end well. Instead, Jedi: Survivor opts to tread new territory. You’re on the run this time around, just looking to remove yourself from this overdone era of the Star Wars franchise.

Screenshot by Tai Hofmann
Screenshot by Tai Hofmann

Jedi: Survivor uses otherwise untapped ideas for non-written Star Wars media, and it’s better for it. Since its inception, the franchise has used the Skywalkers and their legacy as a crutch. One that’s narrowed almost every story in this vast universe down to a single family with emotional baggage and daddy issues.

Yeah, I know there are standout successes like Andor and Rogue One, but I cannot express how little I care about that Star Wars era. We get it. Palpatine takes over, Vader’s his asshole sidekick, and the Rebels fight them for ages. It’s just not entertaining for me anymore.

Having the story revolve around something other than the Rebel political struggle helped me realize how magical this universe can feel when you try out new ideas. This galaxy is massive, and you can tell so many good stories in it. A group of ragtag outlaws aiming to outrun the Empire’s influence is believable and unique. It’s a premise that makes sense for a battered and exhausted Jedi like Cal and a group of Rebel wannabes tired of taking losses.

Star Wars Jedi Survivor galaxy
Screenshot by Tai Hofmann

Swinging Sabers Never Felt So Good

As you make your way through Jedi: Survivor, you’ll have to fight through hordes of enemies. How you fight is up to you. In the original title, Cal only had access to single and double-bladed saber styles, but that’s been expanded in the sequel. Cal can use different stances, each with their own move sets. Single, Dual Wield, Double, Blaster, and Crossguard stances have advantages and shortcomings.

The Double stance excels at tackling hordes of enemies but struggles with one-on-one combat. Dual Wield exhibits blistering speed but comes at the cost of having short range. The Blaster stance gives Cal mid-range options thanks to a gun and fencing form, but it needs him to charge his blaster before using it. Crossguard delivers decisive and powerful blows at the cost of speed. Finally, there’s the trusted Single stance. It’s the most balanced option with the least shortcomings but no outright strengths.

Star Wars Jedi Survivor saber stances
Screenshot by Tai Hofmann

During my playthrough, I paired the Crossguard stance with Dual Wield. The former was a powerful option that let me make short work of bosses and bigger foes, while the latter let me quickly dash through smaller enemies. And the hum of a lightsaber swinging through the air never gets old. It doesn’t hurt that every fight gets that glorious Star Wars OST to boost the impact.

Star Wars Jedi Survivor skill trees
Screenshot by Tai Hofmann

To further augment Cal’s fighting style, players can use skill points they amass during the game on different skills that give Cal new lightsaber moves, force abilities, or stat increases. Where you focus these boosts can fundamentally transform how Cal plays. I reset my skills to check the differences, which were often surprising. No matter what path you choose, you’ll see Cal grow into a Force of nature by the time the credits roll.

jedi survivor perk skills page
Screenshot by Tai Hofmann

If you felt there weren’t enough options already, you can add additional effects via the Perk system, which gives passive boosts to Cal on top of his already established character. Pairing these systems together makes for the most fun force-driven game since 2008’s The Force Unleashed. By the end of the game, I was a Force pushing, Crossguard swinging, Stormtrooper slaying beast.

The Force is Strong This Cast

Cal’s found family comes along for the ride while you’re slashing your way through Stormtroopers, battle droids, and bounty hunters. Merrin, BD-1, Greez, and Cere all return, and each has changed since their time in the original title.

Apart from BD-1, Cal’s plucky little robotic sidekick, everyone moved on from Cal’s mission against the Empire. Greez owns a tavern on Kobok and spends his days making friends and “Greezy Money” from the locals, intent on ignoring the ongoing conflict. Cere gathers Jedi texts to preserve their dying culture, while Merrin travels alone across the galaxy.

Jedi Survivor main cast
Screenshot by Tai Hofmann

When it’s time to gather the team, there’s tension, and I wasn’t expecting the game to hit emotional notes between this team so well. Learning what happened between the crew and how they lost touch takes time, but it’s a story worth investing your time into. I found this subplot just as interesting as the main game. It’s a testament to how vital even your side characters can be in the Star Wars Universe.

The standouts in the cast are Cal and Merrin. The rogue Jedi and former Nightsister’s relationship is fascinating and well crafted. The moment these two meet up, you can feel the atmosphere shift. There’s something between the pair, and experiencing this bond gets better with each chapter.

Cal and Merrin’s relationship also leads to an interesting subplot that questions the beliefs of former Force-sensitive in ways I’ve begged the movies to for years. We get to hear how these two feel about being the sole survivors of their respective orders and what they think should become their previous ways of life. I hope we see more stories like this from Respawn because the movies aren’t leaving the Skywalker storyline behind soon.

Along with the original roster, Cal’s new friend Bode joins the Mantis crew on their quest to outrun the Empire. This jetpack-touting gunslinger is witty, charming, and funny in ways familiar to Han Solo but nuanced enough to feel like a different character.

Each Mantis crewmate bounces well off the others, and they feel like a team that loves being around one another instead of a group of people thrown together for the sake of adding extra characters.

Buggy, Broken, and Exhausting

Despite everything that makes Jedi: Survivor great, its shortcomings make it a chore to explore. With over 40 hours in the game, I can’t profess to a single hour without a significant bug, glitch, crash, or immersion-breaking issue. Heading up to the saloon, I’aren’twalls that looked like they came from PS2-era titles.

jedi survivor missing textures
Screenshot by Tai Hofmann

Exploring the wilds of Koboh, I’d land on roofs that didn’t even have textures.

star wars jedi survivor missing textures
Screenshot by Tai Hofmann

There were even points in Jedi: Survivor where I’d fall through the map. And these instances weren’t uncommon.

If these issues were only visual, they’d be annoying but wouldn’t ruin the experience altogether. The woes don’t stop here, though. They impact gameplay and performance from start to finish. There were some moments in the game when controls would stop functioning, and AI wouldn’t speak.

Several combat encounters also saw me die in the most nonsensical ways. Sometimes I’d stand up, not taking damage, but die, heading straight to the respawn screen.

A game-breaking bug also forced me to jump repeatedly at the wall to open a moving elevator so that I could continue onward. Thank god for online guides. Without this odd suggestion, I would have lost over four hours of progress.

All of these issues take what should be a fantastic game and make almost every hour I had with it a nightmare, and this is on PlayStation 5, where problems were supposedly less frequent.

PC players had it far rougher, with beefy machines costing over $10,000 struggling to render Jedi: Survivor. Games shouldn’t come out like this in 2023. Just because you can patch it later doesn’t mean you should release it. I can tell there’s a fantastic game buried underneath the mountain of bugs and problems, but it’s marred by so many that it’s hard to see the intended package.

A Map Far Too Cluttered

Outside of the pitiful performance and lack of optimization on even the PS5, there are a few other problems, though these aren’t nearly as bad. For one, the map in Jedi: Survivor in several worlds is too big. Koboh, specifically, is miserable to navigate. Once I pulled up the menu after rolling the credits, I thought of the old Assassin’s Creed games. That’s never a good sign.

I’d rather have several worlds a quarter of the size of this planet. That’d give us more unique locales to explore and make moving around the map less of a headache. Video guides exploring this one planet for 100% completion sit at over six hours. There’s such a thing as too much to do, and Jedi: Survivor mimics the sins of Ubisoft’s open-world formula. I don’t see myself returning to this title anytime soon; one ample reason lies below.

Star Wars Jedi Survivor koboh
Screenshot by Tai Hofmann

Verdict

While Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a fantastic title, I can’t recommend it in its current state. Game-breaking bugs, plentiful performance problems, and immersion-crushing glitches are rampant here. You’ll likely see significant issues no matter what system you play on. This is an unacceptable release from EA and Respawn that falls far below what we’ve come to expect from these talented developers. You’re better off waiting out the game’s rough launch window and picking it up on sale a year later.

Press SPACE to Jump Review score 7

Good

ProsCons
An intriguing narrative that doesn’t rely on the SkywalkersMultiple game-breaking bugs
A strong cast of characters that exhibit organic bonds and relationshipsBountiful glitches
Lightsaber stances give more combat freedomConsistent performance issues
Gameplay sees improvements in every area.Slow second act
Excellent sound design and soundtrackInitial villain is a one-note antagonist
Several planets are oversized and tedious to explore

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Tai Hofmann
Tai Hofmann

Writing Lead and Editor for Press SPACE to Jump. My first memory is forcing my parents to play 50-round games of Mario Party on the N64. Now I love games on all platforms and hone in on new releases. Some of my favorite titles include Cuphead, Final Fantasy XIV, God of War, Persona 5, and Super Smash Bros.

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