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Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Review

Initial release date: April 28, 2023 Engine: Unreal Engine 4 Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows Mode: Single-player video game Composers: Stephen Barton, Gordy Haab Genres: Action-adventure game, Adventure Developer: Respawn Entertainment

"Review Copy Provided by EA"

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a third-person action game that follows Cal Kestis on his second thrilling adventure across a localized part of the galaxy. He battles the Empire, a mischievous Sith, and his own guilt over the people he couldn't save. Importantly, Cal wields a powerful lightsaber and is accompanied by his lovable droid companion, BD-1. The central theme of the game is survival, questioning what it means to survive, have a home, and the costs associated with survival.

The storyline is an impressive Star Wars epic with unique moments that establish it as a stand-alone sequel. Cal and his friends are less nomadic in this installment, with his old friend Greez setting up a bar in a dusty outpost town on the planet Koboh. As players collect more associates, they frequently return to the bar. There, they encounter a diverse cast of characters, including a snail in a diving suit, a pair of mismatched friends, and a robot DJ. Some of these friends join Cal on missions, but most of the time, players will be accompanied only by BD-1.

The game has fewer maps than initially feared, but those that exist are intricate mazes filled with shortcuts and areas to revisit later. These maps are visually stunning and include diverse environments such as deserts, swamps, and exploded moons. Koboh is the largest map and contains sub-levels, secret caves, and treacherous valleys. However, some may argue that there are too many hidden areas to explore. As players progress, Cal and BD-1 gain new abilities, sometimes making traversal overwhelming. Most side quests involve finding collectibles to unlock new customization options, which can be excessive.

The combat system has expanded, with Cal now having five lightsaber stances. Each stance has unique abilities, and players can equip two at once, allowing them to master their preferred styles. The combat system is satisfying, as players can use their Force abilities to outmaneuver enemies in a variety of ways. The developers at Respawn seem to have the most fun with the combat aspect of the game. Players encounter a variety of enemies with distinct personalities, making each battle entertaining. However, adjusting the difficulty doesn't significantly change the gameplay, and fights can feel repetitive. However, improvements have been made, particularly with the inclusion of droids. Cal has become significantly more deadly with a lightsaber over the five-year time jump—dismembering limbs with powerful strikes (affecting both troopers and droids), slicing enormous insects in half, and occasionally drawing his blaster for a stylish finishing move reminiscent of John Wick.

Respawn's ability to create five unique weapons from the same essential saber is truly remarkable.

In addition, Cal now has a blaster. It's one of two new saber stances introduced in Jedi: Survivor, bringing the total to five: single saber, double-sided saber, dual saber, blaster, and crossguard. Respawn has done an outstanding job in creating five distinct weapons from the same basic saber—each stance features its own moveset, upgrade tree, and inherent trade-offs. For example, the double-sided saber boasts an unparalleled reach for crowd control but lacks in power. Dual sabers inflict considerable damage quickly, but lengthy combos leave Cal vulnerable. The crossguard stance (reminiscent of Kylo Ren) functions like a medieval claymore: delivering devastating blows that require a significant wind-up. I primarily chose the blaster and crossguard stance for most of the game because they were the most enjoyable to experiment with. The blaster stance is refreshingly un-Star Wars-like. Half of your attacks become ranged, and you regain blaster ammo by dealing saber damage. Saber attacks in blaster mode resemble fencing techniques, sacrificing power to maintain distance while recharging the weapon. The blaster provides a consistent give-and-take across all stances, and most weaknesses can be mitigated with upgrade points. The weapon trees offer a healthy combination of incremental upgrades and entirely new moves, such as a series of rapid stabs that quickly recharge Cal's blaster. After maxing out the blaster tree and equipping a few complementary perks, I was able to clear entire rooms without using a saber—akin to a cheesy magic build in Elden Ring, and I have no regrets.

Jedi: Survivor's combat resonated with me far more than Fallen Order's. Stances play a role, as does the substantial increase in enemy variety, but I also appreciate the easier difficulty. I rarely lost to a standard group of enemies, and when I did, shortcuts quickly returned me to the action. Health stims are more readily available and are often acquired through story progression, providing a balanced experience. On the default difficulty, I typically had just enough health stims to survive challenging encounters.

However, persistent performance issues with the PC version threatened to dampen my enjoyment. Even with Nvidia's latest driver specifically optimized for the game, my framerate frequently suffered. Passing through doorways occasionally triggered significant framerate drops lasting ten seconds or more. Cutscenes often dipped to 15-20 fps, disrupting or overlapping dialogue, and didn't recover until I regained control. While I'm no Unreal Engine expert, the worst slowdowns seem to occur when the game loads content in the background. Using the galaxy map on Cal's ship consistently resulted in sluggish performance—likely due to the game loading the next destination. Performance on the open sections of Koboh was also subpar. I tested the game on two different systems with Windows 11, both experiencing performance issues. On Steam Deck, the game is "playable" only on the lowest settings, and even then, performance struggles to maintain 30FPS at times.

I hope future optimizations improve the game. Adjusting graphics settings offered little help. The Nvidia control panel provided a framerate limiter, and the only upscaling option was FSR 2.0, which rarely improved my fps while consistently causing blurriness and reduced clarity in Cal's face during motion. I have never missed DLSS more.

Despite these performance issues, the overall experience was still enjoyable. Jedi: Survivor is a more ambitious and confident game than its predecessor, emphasizing well-crafted level design over sheer map size, a rare approach in an era of vast open-world games. Respawn is truly operating at peak performance, having mastered the unique souls-like adventure format they've created.. I ran the game on my Desktop that has an RTX 3070 rocking a i7 10700K with 32GB of DDR4 3200MHz on Ultra settings – 4K 120FPS Ultrawide – on my gaming laptop which is an ASUS ROG M16 with a RTX 3060 rocking an i9 11900H 16GB of DDR4 3200MHz on High settings – 1440P 120FPS Ultrawide – both having Windows 11. For what it's worth, there's a pre-release patch coming a few days before launch, and among the patch notes EA shared with press is "performance improvements across all platforms." Hopefully it'll help, but I'd be surprised if all of those framerate drops disappeared overnight. We are living in a time of bad PC ports after all.

The downside of Jedi Survivor is that its numerous distractions can detract from the core Star Wars experience. Players may find themselves constantly pulled away from the main story to complete side quests and collectibles. Despite these distractions, the game remains entertaining, especially when executing impressive moves against Stormtroopers and other foes.

Jedi: Survivor is a bigger, bolder game than its predecessor that prioritizes tight level design over map scale, a rarity in an age of sprawling sandboxes. This is Respawn firing on all cylinders, having finally figured out what works in its weird soulslike adventure format. Despite Star Wars fatigue, Jedi Survivor is an enjoyable and entertaining game. It may not take significant risks, but it offers a solid experience for fans of the franchise. The game's runtime varies from 20 hours for the main story to 40 hours if players explore every location.

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