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May the 4th be with you all, and now is a great time to be a Star Wars fan (I’m speaking with some authority here). Not only do we have several great TV shows to keep us busy with and more to come, but we also have a new Star Wars game. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is the sequel to Fallen Order, an action-adventure title with Soulslike flavor and plenty of Star Wars fan service. Jedi: Survivor is all that and a little bit more.
This isn’t a full review as I haven’t finished the game yet – honestly I played it to enjoy it at a leisurely pace rather than to progress through the story. Well, that and I had to battle with this game’s hideous PC port before I could play. So this will be more of my impressions of Jedi: Survivor so far. And since I’m not obligated to make anything timeless, I can complain a bit about the technical glitches that plagued the game in its early days.
The journey to playtime
I won’t bore everyone with a minute and overly dramatic retelling of how my PCs (yes, several) and I struggled to get Jedi: Survivor to work. I’ll keep this relatively short. Long story short, it started with the download. I played on PC and it basically downloaded in bursts. The Steam progress bar looked like a cutout of a mountain range. I downloaded it on both my home and work PCs to test it, and it was the same on both PCs, despite having separate internet connections.
I’ll take the blame for the initial graphics lag – I forgot about my usual practice of fiddling with the graphics settings for 20 minutes before playing. So it took quite some time to sit through the opening cutscene – and by the way, why is the cutscene of what is essentially Cal Kestis taking a cab ride scored like it’s an epic battle?
Anyway, I would have forgiven the game for all this if it hadn’t crashed on my work PC when I tried to adjust one of the graphics settings. When I first started playing the game it would crash if I tried to modify any of them, and they were locked to Epic to begin with. By the time the first patch rolled out, it just crashed when I tried to disable ray tracing. That eventually subsided with a driver update, though the game still won’t run properly on my work PC.
Most of these issues disappeared a few days after launch. I also managed to get the game to run perfectly on my home gaming PC that I built – although I did have to scale the games down to medium settings, but I’ll take that in exchange for over 30fps. I’m still having the odd download problem with the giant patches, but it looks like I’ve finally won the battle against the PC port of Jedi: Survivor.
So is Jedi: Survivor any good?
One of my biggest complaints about Fallen Order is that, despite being set in one of the most fraught, desperate times in the Star Wars timeline, the story deals with something pretty irrelevant. For lack of a better way to put it, most of it was more of a Tomb Raider game than about a desperate former Padawan trying to hide from an Empire that wants to erase him.
In Jedi: Survivor, the story makes more of an effort to focus on the urgency of Cal’s dilemma. Since he can’t stop using the Force any more than he can cut off his own limb, it’s very difficult for him to hide from the Empire. When he gets a line on what could be the ultimate hideout – a lost planet protected by a treacherous slice of space – he jumps at the thought that he can help himself and other Force users die under the watch of the Empire.
Jedi: Survivor also confirmed one of my opinions: Cal Kestis is one of my favorite new Star Wars characters. He’s not Grogu, but he’s up there. The sequel gives him a little more room to show off his personality, as he’s no longer in a breathless race against a stubborn adversary to get his hands on a mystical artifact. Well, he is, but he is calmer about it than in the previous game. One of the things I like most about him is that he treats the droids in the Star Wars universe like living creatures, joking with some of them and worrying if they are mistreated. Cal is just a good egg, and I want to see him succeed.
Another thing I appreciate is the art design. Survivor sometimes has a more spatially Western aesthetic – Cal often hooks his thumbs into his belt during cutscenes, for example. This is reflected in the design of the main hub on Koboh, which has a “this city isn’t big enough” vibe. It’s not the first time Star Wars has gone Western, but I always appreciate it when they do.
I still have some residual issues with the gameplay. For starters, I think they should ditch the Soulslike elements. I get it – Soulslikes are very popular. But the enemies that respawn when you upgrade your health at a checkpoint don’t really make sense to me in the game. Even though they’ve added more layers to the lightsaber combat, every time I hit an enemy while playing one of the faster styles, it doesn’t feel like I’m connecting. Those are problems, but they don’t detract from my enjoyment of the game.
I’m also not sold on some of the game’s antagonists. Say what you will about the Second Sister in the previous game, but at least she had a clear motive. I’m not quite sure yet what the villains of this game are trying to achieve. I won’t spoil either, but one character turns Cal on so fast it made my head spin. I actually wondered what I was missing because I had no idea what his problem was with me and my Jedi friend.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a great game so far and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops when I finish the second half. It feels good to be playing a Star Wars game right now – well, post-PC issues, that is.
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