Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Hands-On Preview – Elevated in Every Way

The force is strong with this one.

by Noah Nelson
Image: Respawn Entertainment

Star Wars is undoubtedly one of the most popular franchises in pop culture history. Some Star Wars movies, tv shows, and video games have been better than others, but one that looks to stand the test of time is Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. With the exceptionally positive reception of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the first game in the series, Respawn has nowhere to go but up with Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.

Recently, I was graciously invited by EA to participate in a hands-on gameplay preview of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor where I got to play four hours of the game. Though what I played was an early version of the game, and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor still has less than a month until it releases, I can confidently report that Respawn has taken the amazing foundation that Fallen Order established and elevates everything in almost every way.

A Long Time Ago… – The Story

Image: Respawn Entertainment

We know that the story of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor picks up five years after the events of the first game. With that in mind, the hands-on preview that I played started one hour into the game and, by design, didn’t feature much context.

Related: Star Wars Fans Think Starkiller Could Be in the Jedi Survivor Trailer

Cal and BD-1 crash land on a planet named Koboh where they reconnect with Greez who used to pilot the Mantis but now runs a cantina. While looking for ways to fix the Mantis, Cal and BD-1 make dangerous discoveries that lead to something much bigger.

That’s all I can say about the story, but what I can confidently share is that the writing and pacing of the narrative are much better. From the relatively short time I spent with Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, I was impressed with the unexpected twists, emotionally impactful writing, and cohesive story progression that felt fulfilling and measured. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor’s writing and pacing are really brought to a new level.

…In a Galaxy Far, Far Away – The Open World, Exploration, and Level Design

Image: Respawn Entertainment

One of the biggest upgrades to Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is the open world, exploration, and level design. There are sections of Survivor’s world that are very large, allowing you to travel to whatever looks interesting, and there are sections that are more linear, but even those have plenty of distractions.

The Open World and Exploration

For starters, the open world areas in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor are vast and very inviting. As you explore Koboh, you’ll come across Greez’s cantina which is part of a central town called Rambler’s Reach that acts as your home base. Here, you’ll be able to check out shops and unlock new vendors as you help people across the galaxy.

In my playthrough, there was no way to unlock sections of the map; you get to a high point, use the BD Visor as binoculars, and ping areas that look interesting. As you explore those areas, the map gets revealed. This is an amazing way to keep exploration grounded and focused on gameplay rather than feeling like a checklist of waypoints.

Image: Respawn Entertainment

Also, there is no mission or quest log. In Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, you have one main waypoint which is the main story. Everything else is learned by word of mouth. As you talk to any of the NPCs that populate the world — none of which have exclamation points above their head or are marked on the map — you’ll maybe hear a rumor which is then marked on the map in a general location. This decision, again, makes for grounded gameplay that is curiosity-driven and, honestly, feels like it could be a revolutionary step forward for side quests.

The decisions to exclude a quest log and waypoints are genius as it keeps the flame of adventure roaring within the player. Thanks to the gorgeous geography of the landscape, there are hidden caves to explore, crevasses on hilltops to check out, and so much more. It’s very quality over quantity and intentionally player-trusting much like Elden Ring — which has the best open world to date — and I can’t wait to get back into Survivor and see what’s next.

The Level Design

While the attention to detail and level layout in Fallen Order was good, Survivor takes it to the next level — you don’t need the Force to sense a pattern here. The visuals in the landscapes, lighting, and minute details along with the expertly crafted familiar Star Wars sound effects make Survivor a feast for the senses.

Image: Respawn Entertainment

The open world level design makes you want to keep exploring by just barely hiding that exotic-looking building behind the ridge of a plateau or burying a droid station up against the walls of a canyon. The more linear sections usually feature a few branching paths, plenty of shortcuts, and, in general, bigger areas to noodle around in. It speaks for itself — the detail and diverse level design of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is something to behold.

Two areas that held Fallen Order back were its confusing map and the lack of fast travel. I’m proud to say that the map in Survivor is similar, but enhanced. Its overall design is more readable with better marked open and closed areas and you have a player cursor on the map that has a progression line that tells you where you have been recently. Also, there is fast travel from Meditation sites!

Image: Respawn Entertainment

As a last note, there is clearly a lot of love for Star Wars within Respawn Entertainment — and it shows in the gorgeously detailed and immediately immersive world design. The new characters are loveable and the droids are accurately hilarious. What more could you want in a Star Wars game?

Cal Got a Glow Up – The Customization and Collectibles

The Customization

In terms of exploration, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor keeps players interested by drastically improving the customization and collectibles. Cal is now a handsome man with the fashion sense to ditch the ponchos and change out his pants once in a while. You can customize Cal’s hair, beard, shirt, jacket, and pants, as well as select the color you want. These are unlocked just like they were in Fall Order, in those lovable boxes littered around the whole world, but opening them is much faster and has a ton of different animations.

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Related: Goodbye Ponchos! Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Revamps Customization in Exciting Ways

You can also customize BD-1 from head-to-toe and pick individual colors for select parts of its body. You’ll also be able to swap out individual parts of your lightsaber, select individual colors for select sections, and choose the level of wear and polish.

The Collectibles

When exploring, you’ll find Priorite Shards which is a new currency that can be used at Rambler’s Reach shops. You can spend your Priorite Shards to unlock even more cosmetic options. On top of that, getting lost will help you find Jedi Chambers which are puzzle areas, Force Tears which offer permanent upgrades, and, of course, more Stim Canisters. With all these quality collectibles to experience, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor has multiple threads pulling you back into the great wide world.

Just Like the Simulations – The Combat and Mini-Bosses

The Combat

Cal Kestis starts Star Wars Jedi: Survivor knowing everything he did at the end of Fallen Order, so right from the jump, you can force push and pull enemies, throw your lightsaber, and double jump. All of these combat features make for immediately engaging and creative fights — and then it gets better.

Image: Respawn Entertainment

In Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, there are five stances: single, double-bladed, dual wield, crossguard, and blaster. I didn’t get to play with crossguard or blaster; I only saw gameplay that looked insanely fun. However, the three stances available during my hands-on preview showcased the variety of combat playstyles available in this game.

Each stance plays very differently, features its own light and heavy attack speed and feel, and has individual skill trees with specialized abilities. For example, the dual wield stance heavy attack puts Cal into a force meditation state that, if attacked, allows him to immediately parry and counterattack which is great for close quarters. On the other hand, the double-bladed heavy attack does a big AoE lightsaber throw which is excellent to take out crowds.

The much more varied and satisfying finishers, the tactile nature of sheathing your blade after a fight, the fluid stance switches mid-combat — all of it works together to make the combat in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor incredibly addicting.

The Mini-Bosses

Image: Respawn Entertainment

There were a few mini-bosses in Fallen Order, but the mini-bosses in Survivor look to take the Soulsborne-esque difficulty to a new level. After exploring a random cave, I discovered a Rancor mini-boss that would either one-shot me or take a massive chunk of my health down with just one hit (and I was playing on medium difficulty).

After dying a few times to the Rancor, a helpful dev told me that switching to the double-bladed stance is most effective against this particular boss. With that advice, I reentered the arena and managed to kill it on my first try. It was a legendary fight that spoke volumes to the engaging level of mini-boss difficulty, the versatility of different stances, and the overall fun that can be had with Survivor’s combat.

Final Thoughts

Image: Respawn Entertainment

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is going to be truly incredible. From what I played and experienced, the game already plays and looks like a dream. Everything that worked in Fallen Order is elevated and everything that didn’t work has been reworked to great effect.

If you haven’t played Fallen Order, you have less than a month to enjoy it in preparation for Survivor. I can’t wait to play this game and am very much looking forward to the full release.

About The Author

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From his early days of blog-style music, movie, and game reviews to working as the Esports Writer at Coastline Community College, Noah Nelson has found a home with Gamurs Group. He has been helping gamers everywhere with Destiny 2 god rolls, Warzone 2 DMZ missions, and collectibles in any indie game on Attack of the Fanboy and PC Invasion for a year and a half. He has a Bachelor's Degree (with a Magna Cum Laude) in English Rhetoric and Composition with a minor in Journalism from CSULB. His fondest gaming memory is playing Sly Cooper 2 after begging his mom (for hours) to play it before his birthday and he still cries myself to sleep remembering the time he accidentally saved over his 99% completion save file in Kingdom Hearts 2.