Star Wars Jedi: Survivor‘s story and ending is more Revenge of the Sith than Return of the Jedi. But while some players might have been looking for a more hopeful chapter in Respawn Entertainment’s lightsaber-swinging series, as someone who’s not necessarily a Star Wars fan, this sequel hit the mark.
Star Wars has never gripped me, force or otherwise. Not sure why. It’s a classic, and I’m a big fan of the genre, but it’s always felt like if I didn’t imprint on it as a kid, then I missed the sail barge. The series has often delved into grim waters, but in the end, we know the heroes will win, and there’ll be a ceremony where the Wookie gets nothing. That feeling after the climax of The Empire Strikes Back is temporary because we know Return of the Jedi is right around the corner, but for a moment, it’s so sweetly bleak. However, when experiencing the Star Wars Jedi: Survivor story, the bad vibes are there from the beginning and rarely let up, creating a world that feels darker, more mature, and inviting for someone like me.
Warning: story spoilers for Star Wars Jedi: Survivor follow!
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor’s story isn’t optimistic
Cal Kestis is failing again in this follow-up to Fallen Order. The previous adventure saw the hero learning about who he really is, acquiring a ship, assembling his crew, and trying to make a difference in the universe, but at the beginning of this game, most of that seems to have fallen by the wayside. Five years have passed, and we see Cal on Coruscant, running with a new crew and still attempting to oppose an even stronger Empire.
This situation immediately feels different, like the playfulness and banter between these new characters is a thin veneer, ready to be demolished for our amusement. The laughs don’t last; even though the plan seems to be working out for the team, things take a sharp turn when the real threat — an old enemy — shows up, and the killings begin.
All but one of these new allies is slain in front of us. It happens so quickly, and they never had a chance. We knew them just long enough to get a sense of their personalities and goals, to hear a few of their inside jokes, watch them relax on a liberated yacht, and realize their deaths would affect Cal.
He had stories about all of them — “Remind me to tell you about the Carida job sometime” — their training, the chance encounters that brought these individuals together, and reasons to trust each one. That’s something Survivor does quite well, giving small bits of dialog to lower-level NPCs so they feel more alive and worn. Most of it isn’t just needless banter as much as something that hints at deeper characteristics.
Even the enemy peons have lines about where they are, if they like being there, and sometimes what they’re looking forward to. Stormtroopers bemoan their current assignment, while droids think there’s a chance of winning or point out their bad luck. Then we murder them with varying degrees of mercy. In the long run, however, it makes the world feel more lived in and helps spread the doom and gloom. The galaxy is at war and is not a fun place right now.
This makes it easier to slip into the worlds, especially Koboh, where Cal reunites with Greez, and we hang out for a bit at a saloon. It’s the point in the game where things feel somewhat relaxed, assuming we aren’t reminded about our slain comrades too much. This area is full of side quests, giving us a reprieve from the greater threat that awaits, but even during these smaller errands, we encounter echoes of the past that show how tough life can be on the planet.
So many are dead, and several of them for stupid reasons, adding some flavor to the sadness pie we’re already experiencing. Everyone in the bar is also depressed, living under the tyranny of the Bedlam Raiders. Most of them don’t want to be there but don’t have the resources to leave, so they warn Cal to do so instead. When he proves himself capable, the residents ask for help because everyone has a friend who is either in danger or needs to be avenged. It’s tough out on the rim, and there doesn’t seem to be much hope around the corner.
While on this new planet, a discovery offers more threats and at least one opportunity, but that glimmer of hope won’t linger. A quick trip to Jedha provides a fun distraction, but it’s easy to see that all of this is ripe to be burned down and Merrin, the girl who likes Cal, won’t even leave with him, at first anyway. His old friends aren’t particularly ecstatic upon seeing him again, but there is a tiny bit of warmth felt. Most of them have moved on, however, they have new purposes or are just old and want to retire. Everyone is standing against the Empire in their own way now and the reunion is brief.
Things with the promised land look shaky and Cal is the one who released Dagan, the person who seems like the big threat for the game, so he’s brooding about that. It feels like the temporary alliance of members from both teams can’t catch a break at first, but in what looks like a final confrontation, there’s a small victory.
There are only two moments of the game where it seems like the hero genuinely stops for a second and forgets about his trials, the daunting tasks ahead, and the many looming enemies. The first is a kiss, a joyous moment stolen in the fleeting calm before combat with a giant robot ensues. Jedi don’t seek companionship or whatever though, so we get the whole ‘life is precious’ speech later, to remind everyone to take some time to love, because they could be dead soon. The kiss felt passionate and like the only thing that mattered at that time.
What happens during the Star Wars Jedi: Survivor ending
The other moment near the end of the Star Wars Jedi: Survivor story, after we believe the villains are all defeated, involves tea and a cozy campfire. Everyone is looking forward to a new safe home and there’s even another kiss, but all of that is right before an obvious, and yet, still heartbreaking betrayal.
That character was too cool to be good. The final confrontation is already tough because it is clear what has to and will happen. There’s a kid involved, and if it already wasn’t bad enough, they had her sing to make sure we realized that our actions, though justified, were going to break up a loving family and ruin her life in the same way two of our main characters had experienced also. These events messed Cal up badly, showed him visions of his friends suffering because they followed his lead, pushed the Jedi closer to the dark side, and the multiple-person funeral at the end drives home how much this adventure has cost.
The outcome isn’t positive, even the final scene has foreboding music over something that should have felt inspiring – and I loved it. I’m never sure when I dive into something based on Star Wars, but this is the way to pull me in more. Not necessarily saying that everything needs to be morbid all of the time, but seeing what Cal is going through endeared me to him, impassioned his reasons for fighting, and I find myself cherishing the survivors even more. I want another, and I may even check out one of those movies or TV shows they do for these games while I wait. It can’t be bleak all the time, but we need some of that for sure.