Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is one of the very best Star Wars games ever made

When Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was released, it was immediately evident to me that it was one of the best Star Wars video games ever released. The long-awaited sequel, Jedi: Survivor, is every bit as good, and they might be my two favorite Star Wars games I’ve ever played.

Having now completed the story (and most of the side missions, too) it’s time to dive in to a review of the game. This review will be broken down into three parts: (1) the first will be a spoiler-free review of the game overall; (2) the second will be a brief summary of the events of the game’s plot; and (3) the final section will be a spoiler-filled discussion about some of the significant story moments.

So there’s obviously a spoiler warning that needs to be placed at the beginning of this article, so if you haven’t finished playing the game, I’d encourage you not to read beyond the first section. But let’s dive in to a review of Jedi: Survivor.

Spoiler-free Review:

The game picks up five years after Fallen Order, and thankfully all of the skills and abilities that Cal Kestis learned in the first game are still with him right from the start. That helps to make the story feel more believable, but it also sets the stage for how Cal will continue to grow and be tested as this new story evolves. Even one of the great new skills, a grappling hook, is acquired quite early in the game. The gameplay and combat feels far smoother, too, and there’s a ton more freedom of customization – including with combat stances, which players will be able to test and select according to their differing tastes (my go-to quickly became the dual-wield stance).

There are new planets, villains, and allies, but make no mistake: the heart of this story is still Cal Kestis and the friends he met in Fallen Order. Merrin, Cere, Greez, and BD-1 all get their respective chances to shine throughout the story. And for those who were concerned about Merrin’s absence during much of the marketing, be at ease: she is a major player in this story, far more than I ever imagined, and the moments with her were some of the very best in the game. There’s not much I can say here without diving into spoilers, but I’ll just say that those who are Merrin fans will be richly rewarded.

The one area that didn’t impress me as much as Fallen Order was the planets visited. There are still plenty of planets that you get to journey to, but the story seems to more revolve around one or two, and they didn’t excite me or connect with me like some of the planets in the previous game. But that’s more than made up for by what might have been the single-best change in this sequel: a new fast-travel option that allows you to quickly jump around between different meditation points on a planet. It saves so much time and unneeded stress. The entire holomap is also a welcome upgrade, making traveling around on these planets so much easier than it was in Fallen Order, which was one of the more frustrating aspects of the game.

Overall, this is one of the very best Star Wars games that has ever been made. The gameplay is fantastic, but like with Fallen Order, it’s accompanied by a truly terrific Star Wars story. The story of Cal, Merrin, the others, and the galaxy that’s being told in these two games is one of my favorite Star Wars stories we’ve seen in a while.

Spoiler-filled Plot Summary:

The game begins on Coruscant where a captured Cal Kestis is brought to the Pau’an Imperial Senator Sejan, but it’s quickly revealed that it’s all an elaborate plan to steal secret data from Sejan’s ship. Cal’s crew, including the newcomer Bode Akuna, is successful in retrieving the data, but discouraged to learn the Empire is more powerful than they dreamed. The Ninth Sister arrives, and most of the members of Cal’s crew are killed before he, in anger, kills the Ninth Sister.

During Cal’s escape from Coruscant the Mantis is damaged, leading him to go to Koboh, where Greez Dritus has settled down and owns a cantina. On Koboh, Cal finds a droid from the High Republic era, nicknamed Zee, still desperate to complete the mission that Jedi Santari Khri gave her. Cal volunteers to complete the mission, which leads him to discover the Jedi Dagan Gera kept alive in a coma-like state in a bacta tank. He wakes Gera up, only to learn that Gera has fallen to the dark side and is aligned by the Gen’dai warrior Rayvis, who leads the Bedlam Raiders. Gera was corrupted by his all-consuming passion for the well-hidden and mythical world of Tanalorr, a place where he wanted to train a new generation of Jedi but that the Council abandoned.

With this information about Tanalorr, Cal seeks out Cere Junda, who has set up a camp on Jedha, working with the Hidden Path to help Force sensitives in the galaxy. With her on Jedha are her master, Eno Cordova, and Merrin, whose travels across the galaxy led her to help the Path. In consultation with Cere and Cordova, Cal, Merrin, Greez, BD-1, and Bode head off in search of a compass that could lead them to Tanalorr. The search leads them back to Koboh, and it’s Shattered Moon, and brings Cal into conflict first with Rayvis, and then with Dagan, both of whom he bests and kills.

Having retrieved a compass, the crew returns to Jedha and shares a moment together, celebrating their victory, and Cal and Merrin finally kiss. But the next day, Bode betrays them, contacting the Empire, killing Cordova, and escaping with the compass. Cal pursues Bode across the Jedha desert, but Bode escapes after revealing himself to be a former Jedi. While Cal is away, the Jedha base is attacked, forcing Cere and Merrin to defend it from the Empire. But as Cere goes back to ensure that data doesn’t fall into the Empire’s hands, Darth Vader arrives. He duels Cere and, after a lengthy fight, kills her.

Cal, Merrin, Greez, and BD track Bode to an ISB base, which Cal infiltrates. He confronts Bode, meeting his daughter, Kata, and finding out that Bode works for the Empire in order to protect her. Bode and Kata escape to Tanalorr but are followed the heroes. Cal and Merrin confront Bode, and when Merrin is threatened, Cal embraces the dark side to kill Bode. In the aftermath of the battle, the heroes burn the bodies of Cere, Cordova, and Bode, and Cal doesn’t know how he can move forward, scared about how he almost lost himself, but promises to continue what Cere started. But Cere speaks to him through the Force, telling him that he needs to guide Kata through the darkness of her loss.

Spoiler Story Breakdown:

This is a story that dives into all corners of the Star Wars galaxy and pulls them together in a very compelling way, while leaving the focus riveted upon the main characters. At the heart of this story is an exploration of loss, and the fear of loss, and what that can lead to.

Yoda warns Anakin in Revenge of the Sith that the fear of loss is the pathway to the dark side, and Anakin – well, now Darth Vader – shows up in this game just in case we needed a reminder of that. Yoda tells Luke in Return of the Jedi that fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering, warning him that the path to the dark side stems from fear. In this game, we are introduced to a Cal Kestis who is afraid. He’s afraid of what might happen if he lets up and doesn’t keep fighting, and it’s that incessant and insatiable urge that led to the Mantis crew to divide prior to the game’s events (which was all hinted at and set up in the book Battle Scars). He’s afraid of what might happen to his friends, and right near the start of the game, his new friends are killed by the Empire. It forces Cal to embrace the dark side, tapping into his rage to kill the Ninth Sister, saying that in doing so he’s setting Masana Tide free. As a side note, from a storytelling standpoint, it’s great to have one of the big foes of the first game be the one quickly dispatched at the beginning of this one, showing how Cal has grown.

Alongside Cal in the game is Bode, and it’s revealed late in the game that Bode is actually an Imperial agent working to hunt down others. The reveal that he was a traitor didn’t really surprise me, but the game established his backstory and why he betrayed the Jedi: his wife was killed by Inquisitors, and he thought that the only way to protect his daughter was to strike a deal to work for the Empire. So he did. The fear of loss corrupted Bode to the dark side. In a sense, the same could also be said of Dagan Gera, whose story is fleshed out through flashbacks. He wanted to use Tanalorr as a place to train a new generation of Jedi, but this passion consumed him to the point where he couldn’t let it go. The world was attacked by the Nihil, and the Jedi Council decided to shut down the Temple there, but Gera couldn’t let it go – so he became corrupted by the darkness. The three biggest foes faced in this game – with no disrespect meant to Rick the Door Technician, who just might be the best boss encountered – are each former Jedi who were corrupted through fear of loss and fell to the dark side: Dagan Gera, Darth Vader, and Bode Akuna.

Which makes Cal’s story all the more compelling, because he ventures dangerously close to the darkness. At the end of Fallen Order, Cere Junda embraced the darkness in order to save them from Vader, but she has grown beyond that and embraced the light. When she encounters Vader again, he mentions that Cere has grown stronger, but the Jedi responds, “No, I’ve only let go of my fear.” Speaking of Cere, I didn’t expect to be able to play as anyone besides Cal, but the sequence where you get to play as Cere defending the Jedha base from the Empire and then fighting Vader was simply fantastic. Cere’s whole arc in this game was perfect, as she wants to try to re-establish the Jedi Order and save other survivors throughout the galaxy – even joining with the Hidden Path, the same group that Obi-Wan comes to join forces with in Obi-Wan Kenobi, which is really cool (these stories are set around the same point in the timeline, too). It brings up a classic Star Wars theme: Cere fights to save other Jedi, while Cal fights to defeat his enemy. Star Wars typically brings up and interacts with the fact that it matters not just that a person fights, but how and why a person fights. To fight because you hate your enemy and can’t stop until they’re dead might lead to some heroic actions but will be a dangerous place for that individual to live in. The Mantis crew broke up because Cal couldn’t quit the drive to beat the Empire.

But from the start of the game, Cal confesses that he’s not sure if it’s really having any good, because the Empire is just too big and unstoppable. And this drive, combined with his fear, leads him to embrace the dark side – most prominently in the final encounter with Bode. The game gives you the option to embrace the darkness, only it’s no option: you must choose to do it. And when you do, Cal becomes overpowered and can easily defeat his enemies. It’s a fitting and poetic representation of the dark side. When Luke Skywalker asked Yoda if the dark side is stronger, Yoda quickly said, “No. Quicker, easier, more seductive.” And that’s the way it’s portrayed in this game: it’s the easy way out of a fight. It doesn’t necessarily make Cal stronger, but it does make his victory quicker and easier… which in turn makes it more seductive. Which all leads to Cal ending this game in much the same place Cere ended the first one: having embraced the darkness and now left to deal with the effects of it.

Crucially, at one point earlier in the game Cal had confessed to Merrin that he feared embracing the darkness that he saw within him, and Merrin told him that they would pull him back if he did go down the wrong path. And it’s certainly true that in this game Merrin is the one who helps guide Cal the most toward the light (ironically enough, considering she’s a Nightsister). In my opinion Merrin was the star of this game, as any time she was around she seemed to steal the scene. I was thrilled to see her and Cal open up about their feelings for one another and officially become an item, but it was even more thrilling to see Cal and Merrin working together in so many different situations. And I’ll say that the the battle on Jedha, where Merrin fights alongside Cal and then opens magick portals for him to jump through is one of the coolest things I’ve experienced in a game. It was awesome. It was Merrin who connected Cere to the path, Merrin who wants to help other survivors find their way, Merrin who helps keep Cal from going to the darkness. And it’s Merrin who stands alongside Cal in some of the game’s most important moments, both being there for her friend but also proving a formidable ally in the fight. One of my biggest hopes for this game was that we would get to see Cal and Merrin fighting together, and Survivor delivered on that more than I could have imagined. It put a huge smile on my face throughout.

And the game ends on a somber note, with Cere Junda, Eno Cordova, and Bode Akuna all dead – and Cal Kestis trying to process what’s next. He’s still motivated by defeating the Empire, but he also wants to continue what Cere started. And now the crew has gained a new member, with Kata, and though she might not realize it, she’s in the best company possible to help her process what has happened. Cal and Merrin are both survivors, among the last of their kind in the galaxy, who have had to deal with immense grief and loss. They can help Kata, as Cere tells Cal through the Force: “guide her through the darkness.” In the first game, it was Cal who helped guide Merrin and Cere through the darkness. Now, it’s Merrin who is guiding Cal through the darkness, and Cal and Merrin who are guiding Kata through it.

All told, this isn’t just one of the best Star Wars games we’ve played – it’s also one of the best Star Wars stories we’ve seen.

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