ou may think you’ve seen it all with a series like Star Wars that is over 46 years old. With all of the countless Star Wars movies, TV shows, books, comics, and video games, are there any more “original” Star Wars stories to tell? Are there still creators that can provide genuine surprises for die-hard fans? 

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor answers those questions with a resounding “Absolutely.” 

Developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is the sequel to 2019’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The original game was a hit among fans and critics. It boasted a rich, single-player narrative experience that surprised many. But the game was unfortunately held back by combat, traversal, and puzzle-solving mechanics that unfortunately felt trite and copied from other games that do it better. Nonetheless, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was a success for Electronic Arts and Respawn Entertainment, and a sequel was in the works right away.

Thankfully, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor improves upon every aspect of the original. The already great narrative storytelling is bolstered by even greater production values that make the game a better cinematic experience. And playing the game has never felt more fun as the sequel adds more depth to its combat and exploration, making the game feel like its own this time.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor picks up five years after the original (check out our full recap of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order for a breakdown of what occurred in the first game). The group on the Mantis has disbanded, and Cal Kestis continues his fight against the growing oppression of the Empire. As the game progresses, more is revealed about what happened between Cal and his companions. There are also new allies, as well as new foes, that will assist and test Cal on his journey.

The story of Jedi: Survivor is much more intriguing than the first game, as it deals with heavier moral questions. The first game posed questions about fate, upbringing, past trauma, and overcoming one’s history to forge a new journey. Jedi: Survivor asks different questions. The questions center on sacrifice, obsession, and how much one is willing to give up to fight for what one believes. 

Is the individual forged through heat and pressure the same as the one who entered the forge?

The way the story is told has also been enhanced. This time, the game’s cinematics take on a much bigger focus. Here, the cutscenes and lightsaber fights are highly choreographed, utilize great cinematography, include smartly placed camera movements, and feature top-of-the-line performances from actors like Cameron Monaghan and Debra Wilson. It’s a welcome step up from the first game, offering players an audio-visual experience on par with Star Wars’ most recent TV shows and movies. 

In some ways, the characters take center stage in Jedi: Survivor, even more so than in Jedi: Fallen Order. The cast of characters plays well off of one another, as each has their motivations, philosophies, and moral beliefs that push and pull at one another.  As in any great story, the villains are empathetic, with fully fleshed-out motives and abilities that match the protagonists.  Likewise, Cal’s allies are well written. They think differently than Cal. They disagree with him sometimes, pushing him in ways that make him and the player think about their own convictions.

The final two hours also contain some of the best Star Wars scenes I could think of in recent memory. In the final act, these questions and themes take center stage and are when the acting and choreography shine. It is a hauntingly beautiful conclusion that left my jaw wide open even after the credits rolled.

Much like in the first game, Jedi: Survivor uses the history and lore of Star Wars to serve as a mirror and a teacher for those in the present timeline. The same is true here, as The High Republic is used to help Cal understand his journey.

Throughout the story, players will discover characters, locations, and lore related to The High Republic. Yet, most of this is secondary. The game focuses on Cal and his fight against the Empire. Even though The High Republic’s inclusion is small, it is nice to see The High Republic reaching a bigger audience with Jedi: Survivor. And for die-hard fans, they get to see the era fleshed out even more in an audio-visual medium.

Exploring High Republic temples, chambers, architecture, decor, aesthetics, and side characters was one of my highlights of playing the game. But, the game wisely focuses on the story it wants to tell, set during the Age of Rebellion.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order’s gameplay was probably its biggest downside. Its combat, traversal, exploration, and puzzle-solving elements were more often mediocre.  When those elements worked well, they would create a fun rollercoaster-like experience. At worst, those elements felt like padding or were downright frustrating. 

Remember the first game’s hard-to-use map? Or how all you got from opening a hard-to-reach chest was a different-colored poncho?

Thankfully, Jedi: Survivor acknowledges and fixes a lot of these complaints. Starting with exploration, players will find that the planets and environments are much more expansive and filled with many more side-quests, winding paths, and characters to interact with. Diverging from the main quest is much more meaningful than in the first game. Players will encounter more interesting characters to speak to, bosses that will challenge them, and worthwhile rewards that give the player more customization options. Plus, the map has been updated to make it easier to understand and navigate.

Combat has also been expanded via the addition of new stances. The first game featured two stances: single-bladed and double-bladed. Jedi: Survivor features five. These new stances give the player more options when fighting against foes and make the encounters more engaging. Two notable examples include the lightsaber-and-blaster stance and a crossguard stance. These stances also feature pros and cons that players must contend with in battles. For example, the crossguard stance deals the most damage but is also the slowest. Some foes are also weaker and more susceptible to damage from other stances. Picking a stance that is both fun and advantageous is always exciting. I favored the lightsaber-and-blaster stance as the blaster allowed me to hit faraway targets (yet another issue that was present in the first game, but that is remedied in the second).

Puzzle-solving remains a part of the game’s core design. Like the game’s combat, these puzzles have also been improved. This time, they are more difficult and complex, providing a fun intellectual challenge that isn’t easy to solve. However, just like the first game, it is also very generous in offering hints to help the player progress.

Finally, traversal is also greatly improved. The first game’s traversal didn’t feel unique, especially compared to games like Uncharted or Tomb Raider, which also prominently feature climbing, jumping, and sliding. However, the traversal has improved in Jedi: Survivor as the game throws more exciting challenges. At times, it feels like an over-the-top Ninja Warrior obstacle course. The game will throw extreme dexterity challenges, causing the player to perform finger athletics. Cal will fly through the air, run on walls, bounce off of them, swing from vines, and zip-line down wires, all in one swift motion. It’s challenging and also exhilarating. Not to mention the addition of rideable creatures, a grappling hook, and fast-travel that make exploring the planets easier and quicker.

Performance is probably the biggest critique of Jedi: Survivor from other reviewers. Much has already been talked about the game’s glitches, frame-rate drops, and visual bugs, especially on PC. It’s a point that Respawn Entertainment has already acknowledged on Twitter and is continuously working to fix.

For most casual gamers and people who don’t play a lot of games, they probably won’t even notice these issues. Frame-rate drops, aliasing issues, and load-in textures are “blink, and you’ll miss it” issues for those unengaged with the larger gaming sphere. However, for those who play games all year long and who are engaged with the larger gaming community, these issues are significant and dampen the overall experience. 

I play games for hundreds of hours each year and noticed these issues immediately. More easy-going gamers who just want to experience the story and take in the scenery won’t have a problem. But these bugs and glitches can be extremely frustrating for players like myself that want to experience tense combat and challenging action sequences. Visual clarity and fairness from the game are paramount in these tough battles. But when the game lags at inopportune moments, or when the characters get stuck in the floor or background objects, causing the player to “mess up,” it truly is frustrating. 

Everyone’s tolerance for these issues varies. It’s important to understand what you’re buying and how your experience may vary depending on your experience with games.

Despite the game’s performance issues, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a must-play for any Star Wars fan. It is also a vast improvement over its predecessor in every way. The game’s narrative, action, visuals, production, gameplay, and overall storytelling is a crowning achievement that shows Star Wars can still tell emotional and moving stories that stick with us long after the conclusion.

Score: Incredible