From the outset, Jedi: Survivor presents itself as a more refined version of Jedi: Fallen Order. The preview event took place on Koboh, one of the initial planets that players will explore upon the game's release later this month. Immediately, the prospect of exploring Koboh becomes captivating as Cal is equipped with all the abilities he had discovered by the end of Jedi: Fallen Order, in addition to a new grappling hook that allows for rapid traversal across certain gaps. Cal's movements are more satisfying to control, with added weight and precision. When he jumps, he no longer floats as he did in Jedi: Fallen Order, and in combat, Cal feels more deadly and proficient with his lightsaber.
"Cal now has a bit of swagger, and that was intentional. We wanted the player to feel that," explains Game Director Stig Asmussen during a break from the preview. "Keep in mind, [Jedi: Fallen Order] was the first time for us." Prior to Jedi: Fallen Order, the studio was renowned for creating first-person shooters like Titanfall and Call of Duty. "We were learning while we were making that game - we're still learning - but as we were building it, we got better at building it."
Asmussen and his team have reached a comfortable stride in fulfilling the specific demands of the series they are creating, as exemplified by Koboh. I can confidently attest that Koboh is larger and more intricate than Zeffo, which was Jedi: Fallen Order's most comprehensive planet. Asmussen advised us to stick to the game's critical path to experience as much of the preview as possible, but I couldn't resist the allure of the optional content found on Koboh. One of my favorite discoveries was an ancient ruin with a particularly challenging puzzle that had me stumped for a few minutes. Another highlight was exploring an abandoned mine that turned out to be home to a deadly rancor.
Koboh surprises the series by introducing a small settlement of people trying to survive away from both the Empire and local raiders. Cal encounters this settlement early in his visit to the planet, and the game presents various options. Cal can converse with the townspeople, embark on a side quest to explore the mine mentioned earlier, or trade with a merchant who rewards you with cosmetics for crystals found in the game. Additionally, Cal can visit a canteen teeming with colorful characters, including a suave droid bartender named MXNK-6. While not mechanically groundbreaking, the inclusion of a hub world significantly contributes to making Koboh feel less like a level in a video game and more like a place that could actually exist in a galaxy far, far away.
"We've improved as storytellers," Asmussen says. "During the development of the first game, we had to make essential decisions like determining how high Cal could jump before we could discuss how to decorate a particular corner to give it an authentic, lived-in feel."
I wasn’t able to access all of Cal’s new tools during the preview, such as the crossguard lightsaber and blaster pistol, but towards the end of the event, a Respawn developer demonstrated their use. The new weapons, when paired with Cal’s Force powers, offer a more imaginative approach to combat. In one instance, the developer lifted a group of scout troopers in front of him and shot them all out of the sky with a flurry of blaster bolts. While it may not be the most traditional Jedi method of eliminating foes, the move looked impressive nonetheless.
During the demonstration, the developer also used all five of Cal’s combat stances without needing to rest at a meditation circle to switch between them. In the preview, I was only able to map two stances to the d-pad. While I wasn’t able to ask any questions about this during the event, I suspect that players will eventually be able to freely switch between all of Cal’s combat styles.
If the prospect of a complex combat system sounds daunting, you have the option to approach Jedi: Survivor more like an RPG. Cal's progression is spread across various skill trees, each dedicated to a different aspect of his abilities. In addition, a new perk system lets you further enhance Cal's combat skills. As Asmussen noted, you can earn enough skill points to unlock all of Cal's skills, but you can also choose to specialize in abilities that fit your playstyle. The customization options have also been expanded, with a more comprehensive clothing system and the ability to change individual parts of Cal's outfit, hair, and facial hair.
After experiencing the preview, I left feeling even more enthusiastic about playing Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. Although the game feels like a safe sequel, I did not get to witness some of the more intriguing new mechanics, such as Cal's capability to tame mounts and fight alongside NPC companions. However, I do not believe that these additions will fundamentally alter the series. If Jedi: Fallen Order failed to captivate you, then Jedi: Survivor is unlikely to change your mind. Nevertheless, for everyone else, Respawn's initial vision has been significantly improved, promising a more expansive and impressive game. The release date for Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is April 28th, and it will be available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.