Star Wars Jedi: Survivor improves on its Fallen Order forerunner in just about every way

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor preview
(Image credit: EA)

In Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, I'm biding my time, watching a large orange beast known as a Bilemaw take out a group of Stormtroopers and scouts. The creature spews out an unpleasant brown gunk over the unfortunate fellows below, and suddenly the monster's name makes perfect sense. Moments before, the Bilemaw was asleep. But that changed quickly when I used my Force powers to shake things up a bit. Thanks to Cal's new Force Confusion ability, I'm able to influence the beast for a short time, and turn it on nearby enemies. Rising from its slumber, the sludge-spouting animal makes quick work of the Stormtroopers for me… but it's not long before the effect wears off and I'm its next target. 

After dodging a barrelling headbutt from the beast, I use the dual-wielding lightsaber stance to deliver a flurry of hits with two separate blades. Every movement from Cal feels more fluid than his previous outing in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, carried with a confidence the protagonist didn't have before. Cal has clearly grown from the Padawan he once was, and his connection to the Force is stronger than ever. 

While the combat itself is very familiar, as someone who recently dived into Fallen Order, it's plain to see throughout my time with Star Wars Jedi: Survivor that just about everything has been built upon, with new Force abilities, additional stances, a wealth of cosmetic customization options, and the introduction of new means of traversal added in too. This game feels bigger in every sense, and just as I used the Bilemaw to take out my foes instead of attacking them head-on, the new powers have been brought in to encourage different approaches in combat.  

"We wanted to introduce new powers that could make you approach encounters in different ways. So that's kind of our high level goal as designers," says design director Jason De Heras. "You know, push and pull, you could do different things to certain enemies that make you play a certain way, or an encounter may end faster, stuff like that. So more agency for the player to approach encounters in different ways. I think it was kind of always the goal. And we see what power works and what doesn't and we work with Lucasfilm and make sure it feels authentic where it can." 

A new world 

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor preview

(Image credit: EA)

"The twin stance was something we always wanted to do in the first game, but we had to cut it for time. So that was obviously one of the first things we worked on to flesh it out."

Jason De Heras, design director

My time with Star Wars Jedi: Survivor begins an hour into the adventure on the planet of Koboh after the Mantis crashes. I set out to find ship parts, but it's the mention of one name that sends my excitement soaring: Greez. The loveable four-armed pilot now owns a Cantina on Koboh, and nothing motivates me more than the prospect of a reunion. Just a few minutes in, though, I'm greeted by an impressive vista from a plateau, and I'm prompted to use BD-1 like a binocular to scope out a tall creature in the distance. Once I place a beacon on it to act as an anchor point on the holomap, I take a moment to soak in the view. From the off, this planet feels much bigger than anything I explored in Fallen Order – promising so much to discover and explore. 

Survivor still retains the metroidvania style set-up of old, with blocked paths that you must navigate or puzzle your way through, but it's vastly more open. Koboh is also teeming with life, and not just of the hostile variety. So many local residents dotted around the locations will speak of notable areas or occurrences that trigger side missions. As keen as I am to see Greez again, happy distractions line the way – and I'm always rewarded for doing so, be that by way of new unlockable cosmetics, Force Echoes, or Force Tears. Just like Fallen Order, I find it hard to tear myself away from exploration, but it's even harder here since this planet has so much to offer.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor preview

(Image credit: EA)

Not only that, but the expanded means of traversal bring freshness to exploration. Now that Cal has restored his abilities, he's more agile, and can make use of new ways to reach areas. The Ascension Cable grappling hook, for instance, is a welcome addition that zips me across walls to latch onto vines to be climbed. Cal can also now wall jump between tight spaces to access higher platforms, and I occasionally found myself climbing across ceilings. The ability to tame creatures is also a great addition, with the Nekko for traveling across distances on land, and the flying Belter that lets me glide through the air. 

To aid this sense of fluidity, you can now fast travel from meditation spots. As De Heras explains, making Cal feel better in terms of combat and traversal was something the team were eager to bring to the experience of Survivor, along with additional lightsaber stances, of which there are five in total. 

"In combat, Stig [Asmussen, director] refers to him [Cal] as Cal 2.0, and that is making him feel better on sticks, more agile in combat, more confident through the animations," De Heras says. "The twin stance was something we always wanted to do in the first game, but we had to cut it for time. So that was obviously one of the first things we worked on to flesh it out. And then from there, we kind of had our three stances. And then we kind of say, 'Okay, where do we want to go with the other two?' And that's kind of what was the driving force behind that. So for game design and gameplay, make Cal feel better in traversal and combat." 

Old friends  

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor preview

(Image credit: EA)

While the improvements and new features in combat and traversal definitely excite me, the characters and the bonds they share continue to be the biggest draw for me. Once I find my way to Greez's cantina in the town of Rambler's Reach, I'm welcomed in by a bartender droid called MXNK-6. The saloon is full of its regulars who can all be interacted with, which just makes everything come to life with so much character. There's one frog-like fellow by the name of Turgle, for example, who is easily a new favorite and I find myself talking to him any chance I get. Of course, it's not complete until Greez finally enters the picture, and just as it's a reunion for Cal, it really feels like I'm seeing an old friend again. 

The relationship between the pair and the conversations they share continue to be highlights – just as they were in Fallen Order. What's most interesting, though, is that my presence in Rambler's Reach actually has an effect on the town, and new shops and activities open up as a result. As I discover, Survivor will see you encounter different outposts that you can influence by recruiting residents around the locations to come and assist your journey. I didn't get to see too much of this new feature, but I love the idea of having a direct effect on places I visit as Cal, and with the chance to open up new elements in the outpost, there's added incentive to do more. 

When my session came to an end, I didn't want to stop playing Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, which I think says it all. There is so much to do and see, so many new things to discover, and yet, with so many features returning, I felt right at home in this follow-up to Fallen Order. The wealth of new features, quality of life improvements, and, obviously, new narrative stakes, makes everything feel bigger and better – and as an experience that builds on just about everything that came before, it's clear Respawn is striving to make this a Star Wars adventure anyone can enjoy. 

"We wanted to make sure we take Cal on a new adventure, introduce new characters," senior director of production Kasumi Shishido says, "and even for people who don't really know the story of Fallen Order, they can pick up this game and just kind of enjoy [it] and have fun and experience a good Star Wars story."

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is due to launch on April 28, 2023 on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S. Look ahead to more exciting releases with our roundup of new games for 2023

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.