Star Wars Jedi: Survivor hands-on gameplay report – A sequel with galactic improvements

April 4, 2023
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Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a galaxy of fleshed-out worlds that aims to surpass its predecessor in every way. The numerous spectacles I witnessed within my three hours playing Respawn Entertainment’s upcoming sequel ranged from dynamic vistas, diverse communities, and an ecosystem of friendlies and enemies that your in-game actions directly impact. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is not striving to only be a great Star Wars game but an overall excellent game of galactic proportions. 

Enhanced combat options

One key to living out any Jedi fantasy is the feeling of complete control over the Force and your weapons, and Survivor does not disappoint. There are now five different combat stances to unlock throughout the game as your primary and secondary: 

  • Single – The standard balanced “all-rounder” lightsaber option 
  • Double-bladed – Good for crowd control and keeping enemies at bay 
  • Dual Wield – Great for high-octane and versatile combat, requires finesse 
  • Crossguard – Powerful but slow
  • Blaster – Great for dealing with enemies at a distance and pestering foes 

Yes, you will be able to wield a blaster. Protagonist Cal Kestis can also perform blaster and lightsaber combos, wielding one in each hand to dispatch foes in creative and visually spectacular ways. 

The new options provide unique ways to tackle enemies. The crossguard lightsaber acts like a traditional longsword with slow windup times but deals massive damage to anything it comes in contact with, while dual wield allows you to deliver quick and precise strikes while staying agile. 

“One thing I think we looked at in the first game is that that power curve came in a little bit too late,” said Stig Asmussen, game director at Respawn. “You didn’t really start feeling like you had [power], which is by design, you’re this raw and incomplete Padawan that hasn’t been trained in years. We wanted the player to feel that. And it’s around 60% into the first game, you start to feel like, ‘hey, I got a lot of powers right now that I can use to manipulate and eventually dominate both combat and the environment.’ And we definitely want that to come in a little bit sooner on this game because Cal is further along on his path.”

Early in the game, you’ll have access to three stances and all of the basic Force abilities Cal acquired in the first game. Along with some new ones, including Force Confusion which allows players to turn enemies against each other briefly, and Tame giving the ability to mount various creatures to navigate the environment for faster traversal or puzzle solving. 

The power of PS5

The game looks stunning and has been optimized to take full advantage of what the PS5 has to offer. When flying around the world with the help of a Belter, a new flying mount, it becomes apparent just how massive and detailed the new worlds Cal will explore are, with looming structures in the distance casting vast shadows, enemies on patrol, and glimpses of the unknown on the horizon. All this is rendered in real-time and detailed regardless of distance. 

“With the PS5, we’re really digging the haptics and what the controller is bringing, and it’s been a lot of fun to see how that works with push and pull [Force powers],” said Asmussen. “And a [DualSense] controller, it feels really good, and we’re taking advantage of that. You’re going to feel it on the triggers when you’re doing push and pull. If you really [push] on the triggers, it’s going to give a different response. Compared to if you’re lightly feathering them, and the game is going to react to that. It’s the nuance within the vibrations on the controller that is pretty outstanding. Our audio team and our combat team is really dialed into how the things that are happening in the world, the effects, and everything that are like translating to how it feels in your hands.”

A galaxy of cultures

The galaxy is a lively and beautiful place, and the planets are not just a collection of biomes for the players to run and slash their way through. Cal finds himself temporarily stranded on Koboh, which features a sprawling open-world design. Instead of featuring a core environmental theme, there is a wide range of biodiversity. Open arid sears, dense jungles, and puzzle room-like Jedi Chambers that will test your critical thinking skills and ability to wield the force. 

Koboh is also inhabited by friendly prospectors trying to make a living among the small-town communities who are being oppressed by The Bedlam Raiders, a gang that terrorizes the nearby system. The Bedlam Raiders are also in conflict with The Empire encroaching on their turf leading to an open world that constantly has different factions of people interacting and fighting even without Cal’s involvement. 

A new addition to the sequel is Rambler’s Reach, a place where you will meet colorful characters, plant gardens, and recruit different people you meet to the town to help with repairs or even to be a DJ. These and other activities will improve the lives of the locals and possibly aid Cal on his journey. The game features town-building mechanics for those who genuinely want to make the galaxy a better place. 

Customization & controls 

Like a Jedi honing their skills, Cal’s movement feels more fluid and responsive in this sequel. You have more control over what direction Cal dodges incoming attacks, and platforming feels organic and purposeful. Facial animations and characters’ interactions in and out of combat are more natural. 

Climbing, hanging, and jumping animation reflect what you’re jumping on or toward instead of a generic jumping animation for all situations. There was also a heartfelt yet somber reunion with Greez where the contents of the conversation could be perfectly conveyed with facial expressions alone in both cutscenes and gameplay. 

The game incentives exploration with a plethora of robust cosmetic options for Cal and the many forms his lightsaber can take. I indulged in customizing my lightsaber down to the tiniest details, from accent colors to the sheen and wear on my weapon. 

Cal now has the option to change hairstyles, rock some facial hair, and switch up his clothing to take him from space cowboy to galactic entrepreneur. With a more customizable Cal, lightsaber, and droid buddy BD-1, it’s possible no two players will look exactly the same.

Optimizing Respawn’s Star Wars recipe

Respawn is taking what they learned from Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, optimizing the formula to make Survivor an even more exciting experience.

“The game is built on the fundamentals of the best games that we played throughout our lifetime, like the things that we point out in other games. Can we make that work in Star Wars? It’s kind of a soup, right?” said Asmussen. “We got to make sure that we’ve got all the right ingredients there. We taste a little bit, and it’s like, let’s add a little bit of this. Let’s add a little bit of that. Star Wars is always a part of it, but those tried and true design fundamentals are the backbone of everything that we’re doing.”

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is shaping up to be a spectacular galactic adventure and compelling showcase for what PS5 games can truly offer. The game drops on April 28, and if it wasn’t already on your radar, it should be.

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