It has been several years since Star Wars fans met Cal Kestis, a lost Padawan who was uprooted from his new life by a vindictive Empire hunting his kind down. Players got to experience a journey in which he developed his Jedi skills and grew alongside a crew of misfits and outcasts. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was a breath of fresh air for series fans with Respawn Entertainment once again showing the quality of single-player adventure the team is capable of putting together. A lot is changing, story-wise, for the upcoming Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, but like its main character, this sequel is showing several signs of growth. Shacknews recently had a chance to try it out for the first time.
While Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order ended with Cal's crew a tight-knit unit, Survivor begins with everyone having gone their separate ways. Cal's only remaining friend is the trusty droid BD-1. Our demo began roughly an hour into the campaign with Cal and BD-1 crashing the Stinger Mantis onto the planet Koboh, which is a brand new location built for this game. The ship is busted, but Cal and BD-1 just so happen to have landed on the planet where their old friend and pilot Greez is residing. Knowing he's the right person to help fix the Mantis, it's time to trek to a nearby village called Rambler's Reach.
The on-foot expedition to Rambler's Reach should look familiar to anyone who has played the original. Respawn hasn't tampered too much with the formula. Players travel across a lengthy map, climb a variety of surfaces, swing across pits, and solve a slew of environmental puzzles en route to an objective. There are a few new tools to use, mainly tied to BD-1. Specifically, the little droid helps out with the BD-noculars mechanic, which has Cal look through his visor as a makeshift set of binoculars. While Cal is zooming in on distant objectives, BD-1 can also ping points of interest, in case players need to keep track of them for later. For cases like those, like in Fallen Order, it's possible to unlock shortcuts as Cal progresses. This is especially helpful as Cal needs to return with new skills later to explore some new paths or unlock collectibles.
There are plenty of unlockables to be found, too, with boxes containing a variety of customizable items. Cosmetic customization looks to have gone deeper for Survivor, as it's now possible to customize Cal's outfit, hair style, and facial hair, as well as BD-1's colors and design patterns.
Fallen Order's combat has been refined for Survivor. Cal can equip two different stances at a time. Our time with the game offered the single lightsaber, the double-bladed lightsaber (available out of the box this time around, as opposed to being an unlockable stance in Fallen Order), and Ahsoka Tano's signature dual wield stance that splits the lightsaber in two pieces. More exciting is what lies ahead, as Cal can unlock two other stances. The Crossguard stance is a more powerful stance with a long charge-up time that results in some of the strongest moves in the game, while the Blaster stance gives Cal a long-range option and allows him to strike from afar. With the ability to mix and match stances, Survivor's combat looks to be much deeper than its predecessor's, though it's still possible for one to approach combat the same way as they did for Fallen Order.
Survivor, like the game that came before it, utilizes a Souls-lite approach. Many enemies, like the different variety of Stormtroopers or the multitude of wild creatures, will attack directly. Blindly swinging at them can work, but will rack up incoming damage over time. The key to winning is to successfully parry blows, especially on higher difficulties where enemy damage is amplified and parry timing is shortened significantly. Cal can heal for short bursts with Stim Canisters, but once they're gone, they're gone until Cal can reach a Meditation point. Just as in the previous game and as in the series that helped inspire it, it's possible to fully heal and recharge the Stim Canister count at Meditation points, but in exchange, all enemies will be respawned.
Even in the few hours of this preview, Cal ran into a slew of different enemy types from different factions. As noted, Stormtroopers and other Imperials are on Koboh hunting for Cal and working to complete other objectives for the Empire. A separate enemy faction called the Bedlam Raiders, led by a hulking brute named Rayvis, is looking to seize control of Koboh by intimidation and force and has an army of Clone Wars-era Battle Droids to aid them. Plus, while they aren't a faction, Koboh is filled with wild fauna, such as the giant reptilian Bilemaw and the ape-like Mogu, which can wear Cal down with brute strength.
In addition to Cal's lightsaber techniques, many of his Force abilities return. Players can combine pushing and pulling with the Force to perform various combos. A new ability called Force Confusion allows Cal to exercise a Jedi Mind Trick to temporarily persuade simple-minded humans to attack their allies, though players can eventually refine it to confuse wild beasts. Even without Force Confusion, players should not hesitate to pit warring sides against one another. There were a few instances where Stormtroopers were used to dispatch pesky Battle Droids and a Bilemaw was used to crush intrusive Imperials.
In a pinch, Cal can slow time for a brief moment to give him a chance to strike fast, though this ability has a long cooldown. On top of Cal's skill tree, Survivor features equippable perks that can be found out in the field. Players can load up to three perks at a time, mixing and matching them for specific situations.
After finally making it to Rambler's Reach and meeting Greez, another new element of Survivor begins to emerge. The town is nearly in shambles and looking to rebuild. Town leader Doma Dendra offers her services as a shopkeeper, but also asks Cal to enlist any potential recruits to help restore the town. Upon first entering the village, the only active venue is the nearby cantina, run by a unique two-headed droid bartender named MXNK-6 (a.k.a. Monk), which is where Greez has been hiding out. Like Mos Eisley on Tatooine, this cantina is home to some unsavory characters, but ones who could always use a helping hand from Cal here and there.
That leads to another aspect of Survivor that we didn't have a chance to explore with our time. Talking to various characters may unlock Rumors, which are Survivor's side quests, and will give Cal something else to do aside from take the beaten path. Rumors will further flesh out the story, present new challenges, and maybe offer some rewards. These side paths will feature even greater use of Survivor's environmental puzzles. There was one we found on the main path involving magnetic bombs, which Cal could move around with his Force Push ability to open up new paths.
This is only the start of what Star Wars Jedi: Survivor looks to offer franchise fans. Other brand new mechanics await, including companion attacks, as does a deeper story that not only ties in with the events of Fallen Order, but also shows a potential to turn Star Wars as a whole on its head. If nothing else, this is already promising to be a loaded second chapter of what Respawn hopes will be a trilogy. Players won't have to wait much longer to reunite with Cal Kestis. His story continues on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S on April 27.
This preview is based on a PC build provided at an on-site event held by Electronic Arts. Lodging and entertainment were provided by Electronic Arts.