LONDON: For as long as there has been “Star Wars,” there have been spin off computer games, all the way back to the arcade classics of the early 1980s. The phenomenal success of the franchise has meant that the games cover more or less all of the genres, from flight simulators, strategy and resource management to more epic role-playing games like “Knights of the Old Republic.” The games are in a sense both a mirror of the technology of the time as well as the culture.
With that in mind, the latest edition, “Star Wars Jedi: Survivor,” combines the power of the PlayStation 5 with the character development of the more sensitive modern hero.
This is the second game for lead character Cal Kestis. In the first, “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,” Cal is on the run following the massacre of the Jedi, with his initial focus on hiding his powers and avoiding trouble.
By the end of the story, he was a more fully formed leader and resistance fighter against the all-powerful Empire, which is where this game starts, and such is the scale of the narrative arc that there is a fair balance of time-watching cut sequences versus actual gameplay.
That makes “Survivor” as close to an immersive “Star Wars” film that we have across the vast number of titles that preceded it. Beyond the stunning renditions of classic locations from the films, along with the iconic music and sound effects, the key to the title’s true homage to its cinematic peers is its combat engine.
Cal can choose from a range of lightsaber configurations — including the color of the blade and design of the handle — and can learn, by acquiring skill points, a vast array of different combat moves. Many involve combining use of the Force or whether Cal is up against one or multiple enemies. Whilst there is a balance of art against the carnage of button smashing, it tends to reward the former, which makes for a genuine sense of being in the shoes of a Jedi warrior.
Beyond combat, the second main aspect of gameplay that needs mastering is around the gymnastic abilities Cal uses to move around the various worlds he visits. It is essentially space parkour, with Cal running along walls, flipping and sliding his way across seemingly inaccessible environments. Again, this is high-adrenaline fun, but there is a trade off as the vast worlds Cal inhabits are not truly open and accessible, but rather hide a set route that the player must take to proceed.
The game’s main story tells of how Cal comes to terms with being one Jedi up against the Empire that has killed so many of his friends. The main character carries an aura of loss and isolation with him as he travels from planet to planet, reinforced by the fact that his best friend is the droid BD-1, who also helps with practical things like providing health top ups and hacking computers.
“Survivor” is a bigger and more ambitious game than its predecessor, with a number of side quests and micro-missions giving variety and more choice to the player. There is humor in the dialogue, and the ability of Cal to sense “Force echoes” allows for depth and detail of this impressive snapshot of the “Star Wars” universe.