Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is the culmination of the series’ rocky gaming history

I’ve played Star Wars Jedi: Survivor’s Coruscant heist opening multiple times at this point, and every time I play it, I can’t help but think about what could’ve been with Star Wars 1313, the franchise’s most infamous canceled game. 

The idea of an Uncharted-like game about Boba Fett fighting throughout the Coruscant underworld is such an excellent pitch that I’ve grieved the loss of a game I never even had a chance to play for over a decade. Playing through Survivor’s opening doesn’t elicit feelings of disappointment about 1313, though. Instead, I feel happy that at least some fraction of that idea was able to be realized.

Survivor’s Metroidanvia-like level design and Lightsaber-and-Force-based combat are much different than what was promised from 1313. However, the idea of cleverly climbing and fighting across a seedy-looking level of Coruscant during a heist was still realized. Reflecting on the lost project ahead of this year’s Star Wars Day, I had a revelation about Respawn Entertainment’s latest game. Despite technically being a sequel to just Fallen Order, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor feels like the culmination of over a decade of Star Wars games, both released and canceled, that came before.

A walk through Star Wars gaming history

Growing up, two of my favorite video games were the original Star Wars: Battlefront II and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. To this day, 2005’s Battlefront II is my favorite game of all time, not only because of all the great memories that I had with it but also because it feels like an authentic Star Wars simulator where multiple eras, planets, and characters are preserved in incredible detail. Survivor feels like it has the same keen attention to detail.

Players may not visit as many planets as they do in Battlefront II, but each location in Survivor is densely packed with content and immaculately packed with detailed environments and characters that faithfully represent the High Republic, prequel, and Imperial eras. While the aesthetics feel as detailed as Battlefront, the gameplay fantasy pulls more from The Force Unleashed.

Rancor fights from Jedi Survivor and Force Unleashed.

LucasArts took God of War’s formula and applied it to Star Wars, and for years provided the best Force user power fantasy in gaming. Survivor’s combat is a lot more like Dark Souls than God of War, but it’s one of very few Star Wars games since The Force Unleashed that achieves and maintains that enthralling Jedi power fantasy. The Force Unleashed felt like LucasArts’ last great Star Wars hoorah before things sputtered out with a disappointing sequel, Star Wars Kinect, as well as Star Wars 1313‘s promising announcement and devastating cancelation.

Although LucasArts is gone, it left all the right ingredients for whoever would pick up the Star Wars video game mantle next, though it would take EA a while to get there. Survivor would eventually take learnings from these earlier games, as well as EA’s rocky decade exclusively making Star Wars games.

The EA Star Wars Era

After obtaining the exclusive Star Wars video game license in 2013, EA tried to revive Star Wars Battlefront. While their games did match the immaculate detail of the original, both were rife with controversy. The first was derided for its lack of single-player content. Later, its sequel caused massive controversy at release because of its pay-to-win loot boxes. While EA moved quickly to make them less intrusive, it sullied the reputation of the EA Star Wars era.

As this was all going on, a new game titled Star Wars 1313 was in development at Visceral Games under Amy Hennig, one of the minds behind the Uncharted games. The project was reportedly a linear single-player action-adventure game about smugglers, but it didn’t align with EA leadership’s vision for Star Wars games at the time, so it was canceled.

Star Wars fans did not take this hat trick of Star Wars gaming blunders lightly. Thankfully, change came in 2019 with Respawn Entertainment’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. That title proved that an action-adventure Star Wars game about a ragtag group of survivors during the Empire’s reign was a good idea despite 1313‘s unceremonious cancellation. Its success showed that there was a market for single-player Star Wars content.

Fallen Order’s success only allowed Survivor to get bigger and better in almost every way. It has better combat, a more complex story, more detailed and content-rich worlds to explore, and set pieces that make hardcore Star Wars fans like myself remember what came before.

Bode helps Cal up in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.

Survivor is a Star Wars game that feels like it has learned something from every released and canceled title that came before it and is all the better because of that. We’re entering a new era of Star Wars, where EA no longer has exclusive rights to the franchise. New games are in the works at studios like Quantic Dream, Ubisoft, Zynga, and even Skydance New Media, where Amy Hennig is once again working on a new game.

As we enter this new period of Star Wars gaming history, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, even with its flaws, seems like it could stand the test of time and be the pinnacle of what a modern Star Wars game should look like. It’s the treasure at the end of a long road of video game successes and failures.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is available now for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.

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