2023 Preview: Can Respawn’s Jedi: Survivor survive Star Wars fatigue?
In an era where Star Wars projects have never been more abundant, Respawn needs to carve its own path
Even though there aren’t any films in the cinema, the rise of Disney+ means there are currently more Star Wars projects than ever before, filling in every second of the canon from the minute Anakin was born until, somehow, Palpatine returned.
While plenty of these are excellent, such as Andor, 2022’s surprise TV gem, there’s still a sense among the hardest of the hardcore Star Wars fanbase that it might be a bit too much. Comparatively, video games have been somewhat Star Wars-devoid. Thanks to a decade-long deal with EA that is soon to expire, we’re only now seeing other studios, like Ubisoft exploring Star Wars projects.
And while EA’s stewardship of the Star Wars license was less than stellar, there was an absolute bright spark, Respawn‘s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Set following Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith, Fallen Order starred Cal Kestis, a Jedi who survived Order 66 by hiding on a junker planet, picking through remnants of the Clone Wars, and trying to make his way in the universe.
However, when his powers were revealed, he was hunted across the galaxy by Sith Inquisitors, a group of fallen Jedi who now hunt the remaining devotees. While Cal managed to escape them in the first game, and even survived a memorable fight with Darth Vader, he’s on the run.
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The story of a lone Jedi in exile is a compelling one for fans, and from the two trailers that Respawn has revealed, we’re interested to see how it plays out, especially as the game, now set five years after the events of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, lands right in the thick of the rise of the Galactic Empire and the construction of the Death Star.
While the story was excellent in Fallen Order, and the cast of characters memorable, an element of the game that could do with some improvement is the gameplay, and from what the team has discussed so far, it seems they agree.
The first game was a very light Souls-like. (Lazer) sword gameplay, with enemies that respawned when you went back to a galactic bonfire. While it shared superficial elements with those games, a lot of the hacking and slashing felt somewhat reminiscent of an earlier generation. A simpler age, if you will.
For Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, combat is a huge focus, and will be key to whether or not the game is a satisfying sequel. Lightsaber stances, which is something that’s only ever been hinted at in the main series films, and far more deeply explored in the side material, will be in the game in some fashion.
“We have five fully realized stances in the game,” game director Stig Asmussen told Game Informer recently. “A lot of it depends on the enemy that you’re coming across. It’s advantageous to use certain types of stances against certain types of enemies, and it’s up to the player to figure that out. It requires the player to break down the enemies and figure out what the best weapon of choice is.”
How that will manifest in the game is yet to be seen, but if it’s similar to something like Ghost of Tsushima, wherein combat is far more devastating and elegant when using the correct stance, then it could really give the players the feeling that Cal has truly developed as an unconventional Jedi master.
The actual levels themselves seem much larger in the sequel, with move traversal, and broader areas to explore. The team has said that it’s taking more inspiration from Metroidvania-type games, so those could mean that the planets that Cal finds himself on are more like hubs than the fairly linear levels of the original.
Another interesting development in the trailer shown during The Game Awards was the arrival of Bode Akuna, a mysterious mercenary who seems to form an alliance with Cal. This character will serve as an AI companion for some of the game, although not much is known about him, or his back story.
The game’s villain appears to be the mysterious white-skinned figure that was submerged in the Bacta tank during the game’s original trailer. They are seen briefly with a character that we think might be the Ninth Sister, a Sith Inquisitor that Cal defeated, but crucially didn’t kill in the first game. How they fit into the larger narrative is unclear, as is how Cal found them, and how long they’ve been in that tank.
“The team has said that it’s taking more inspiration from Metroidvania-type games, so those could mean that the planets that Cal finds himself on are more like hubs than the fairly linear levels of the original.”
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order left many questions unanswered, with most of the main characters still alive, and seemingly scattered to the wind as Cal explores the galaxy with BD-1, we’re interested to see how they’re all incorporated in the sequel.
Nightsister Merrin, one of the most interesting characters in the first game, has been absent from the trailer so far, so we really hope they aren’t excluded from the game. Cere Junda is confirmed to return, seemingly on a mission to restore the archives of the Jedi temple.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor has a great opportunity to carve out its own story in an era of Star Wars that’s becoming less and less mysterious. So before Disney commits every single sneeze in the Star Wars universe to film, we can’t wait to see what Respawn does with its brilliant cast of characters.
However, the real question mark is over just how evolved the combat of the sequel is, and whether it brings the quality level of that part of the game in line with previous Stig Armussao titles.