Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is right around the corner. The sequel to the highly successful Jedi: Fallen Order will take place years after the first game as our heroes go on a new adventure.
The franchise takes its cues from Star Wars: Battlefront franchise, which had two novel companions (although only Battlefront II had a story mode to connect the characters from the book to the game). Since the Jedi franchise is all story, it is unsurprising that Fallen Order did not have a companion novel.
Now with Jedi: Survivor taking place five years after the events of Fallen Order, there was an opportunity to give context to the mindset of the Mantis crew leading into Survivor.
And while I am sure there are essential nuggets in Jedi: Battle Scars that will play into the game, the overall story is a miss, focusing more on a romance to push character development than a parallel between different uses of the Force.
**Mild Spoilers for Jedi: Battle Scars**
The Mantis crew of Cal, Cere, Merrin, Greez, and BD-1, are now a well-oil strike team machine fighting the Empire while warding off the Haxiom Brood Syndicate. While trying to deal a devastating blow to the Brood and get them off their back once and for all, they run into Imperial Forces and encounter a rogue Keshiri Stormtrooper who claims she wants to defect. The Keshiri, Chellwinark Frethylrin (Fret), says she is an analyst and uses her knowledge of the base to help the group escape.
This encounter leads the team to a wealthy business person based on Hosnian Prime, who finances cell groups fighting the Empire and hires them to find a valuable technology that could turn the tide of the Galactic Civil War.
The dynamic of the group shifts, and their bond is tested as they realize each other’s motivations are different. The Mantis crew must find the technology and keep it out of the Empire’s hand while avoiding the Inquisitor, Fifth Brother, who is hot on their trail.
Battle Scars reflects the Mantis crew’s leftover traumas of the events from the Clone Wars through Jedi: Fallen Order but primarily focuses on Merrin, which in theory is smart—Merrin hastily joined the Mantis after they defeated Malicos and the Nightbrothers on Dathomir. This novel delves into her dealing with unresolved anger toward Count Dooku and the Separatists. She cannot avenge her fallen sisters with their actual murderer, but she can take that out on the Empire, whose leader is also responsible.
Cal wanting to take down the Empire, Cere wishing to build something for future generations of Jedi, Merrin getting revenge, and Greez wishing to stay away from all of it should have been enough conflict to carry this story. And would give each member of the crew more to do.
Instead, a romance for Merrin is thrown in solely to bring out trust issues, uncovering this clash in motivations. The romance feels forced and unnecessary, and because the main plot revolves so much around Fret, it is a slow and painful race to the last chapter.
The plot is not the only area where Jedi: Battle Scar fumbles. Merrin’s development depends heavily on her relationship with Fret, which does not work. Their attraction is written to be lust at first sight instead of a true romance that would be a realistic progression of Merrin sorting out her trauma. Instead, Fret has similar trauma and fury with the Empire that Merrin feels more comfortable with and can use her magick to its full potential around Fret. If Merrin was using Fret to channel her pent-up frustrations toward her power (and the dark side) without realizing it, that could have been a fascinating reflection of Merrin’s coping.
But Merrin does fall in love with the Imperial, which increases the situational drama when the relationship becomes a love triangle: Fret’s ex-girlfriend, Irei, appears and becomes a central part of the story’s MacGuffin. Neither Fret nor Irei is interesting enough to care about their well-being (not even for the sake of Merrin). Once they serve their purpose, an excuse is brought forth why they have to disappear.
Merrin makes a point to note that she will probably never see Fret or Irei again at the end of the novel, and I hope so. But if that’s the case, then what was the point? We only get a little from the Fifth Brother, which is a shame because he is threatening in the few scenes he appears. Had the trailer not shown certain characters, this novel might have had some genuine stakes. We learn some of the Fifth Brother’s trauma and why he truly believes in his mission as an Inquisitor. His anger could have been an excellent parallel to Merrin and Cal’s journey of how they all were forced into situations beyond their control and suffered from the failings of others. I mentioned this is an element we could explore more of after Jedi: Fallen Order came out, and this novel attempts but struggles to show this with Merrin.
The bright spot is the dynamic between Cal, Cere, and Greez, with Cere at the center. Cal and Cere were brought together in the first game when the latter saved the former from the second sister (aka her former Padawan Trilla). However, their priorities have drifted apart since destroying the Holocron with the names of Force-sensitive children.
Cere is still battling her demons with the dark side and losing her former Trilla at the hands of Darth Vader. An encounter with the Fifth Brother shows how powerful she is and how much she holds back. An irrational attempt to reach the Fifth Brother almost puts everyone’s life in danger, and, as frustrating as it was to read, her failings make Cere enduring. But it also makes Cal and Greez’s frustrations understandable, especially when they have to deal with a relentless Inquisitor who may not be as strong in the Force but is physically stronger.
Greez airs his frustrations in a wordy bit of dialogue:
Cal is surprised that he has been with this team for five years, and no one is on the same page regarding their mission to stop the Empire. And while parts of that seem irrational for a small group to make a significant difference, this is a common moral dilemma presented in Star Wars. Yes, per Greez, a small group might not have much impact, but many of these small groups will become cells of the Rebellion. Cere is more focused on helping others like Cal out in the galaxy who are either on the run or Force-sensitives at risk. Cere is concerned with the future, while Cal is worried about the now, and both are right.
I also wish Maggs afforded Greez some more time to be mad at the others for brushing off his warnings. As the comedic relief, Greez is relegated to the game’s background but is one of the most practical voices in Battle Scars. And he suffers the most significant loss in the novel. This is not a spoiler, as it is in the trailer for the game, but Greez has a cybernetic arm in the trailer. Well, we read how that happens in Battle Scars, and let’s just say it’s in service of his found family. What happens to him is a turning point in the novel and the most compelling part, but he seems to get over it quickly because the story has to move into the third act, and there is apparently no time to have lingering anger in the group.
The description from the story trailer of Jedi: Survivor:
“The dark times are closing in as Cal Kestis seeks out a safe haven far from the reach of the Empire. Follow Cal and his crew’s increasingly desperate fight as the galaxy descends further into darkness.”
Jedi: Battle Scars presented a possibility of living off the Empire’s radar, and Jedi: Survivor appears to follow this thread.
Aside from the technology presented in the novel (which is a spoiler and might not show up in the game), the Mantis crew stops at a new planet called Zimara which is also off the Empire’s radar. It is in a system “tidally locked,” so one side is consistently daylight and the other always nighttime. Most residents live on the nightside, where the temperatures are cooler, and work on the dayside. The planet is mainly inhabited by settlers who want to remain off the Empire’s sensor. This feels like a good location for the game as a neutral space with a marketplace, a repair shop, and a library—all valuable places for a player.
I cannot recommend Jedi: Battle Scars, but I leave room to change my mind depending on the game story of Jedi: Survivor. I hope that Lucasfilm publishes more stories with these characters, whether novel or comic. They deserve better.