Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Story Thoughts

After years of waiting, 130+GB, and many download hours, gamers can now hop back into the shoes of Jedi Knight Cal Kestis as he navigates his way during the Galactic Empire era.

The gameplay and specific criticisms of bugs on PC is a story for another day, but as far as the ACTUAL game story, it works…mostly. But the last act is such a head-scratcher that it weakens excitement for a possible third installment.

**Spoilers for Jedi: Survivor and Jedi: Battle Scars**

The Story

The team learn about the history of the High Republic Jedi and Tanalorr | credit Respawn and Lucasfilm Games, image courtesy of @GamersPrey

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a story placed within the prime of the Empire, so it wisely begins in the heart of the Empire, Coruscant. Cal Kestis is a prisoner brought to Senator Sejan on Coruscant as leverage for his political ambitions; unfortunately for the Utopau politician, it’s a trap! 

Cal and his captors are a part of Saw Gerrera’s faction, who have targeted the Senator’s intel on Imperial bases. Unfortunately for Cal and the team, they are ambushed by Imperials and the Ninth sister (still alive), and things go downhill. Everyone except Cal and new teammate Bode dies trying to escape, but Cal sends the intel to Saw.

Seeing how much the Empire has grown despite their efforts discourages Cal. Adding to the Stinger Mantis taking a hit, he visits his old friend Greez for parts and repairs on Koboh.

From there, Cal learns about a hidden world discovered during the High Republic era, safe from the Empire’s reach, and deals with several interested parties while reconnecting with his old Mantis crew. And face why they grew apart.

The game movie is almost four hours close to Jedi: Fallen Order, with 14 mandatory bosses (versus nine in the latter). There’s a lot more action and less story. Great for gamers wanting more bang for their money, but it involves some far-reaching reasons for more battles that affect the narrative.

The peak into the High Republic was crafted solely to be the MacGuffin, but it could have leaned more into the similarities between Dagan and Cal. 

The Characters

Cal is working for Saw Gerrera when we first see him | credit Respawn and Lucasfilm Games, image courtesy of @GamersPrey

Since five years have passed between games, the mystery of where the characters are in the galaxy interweaves well with the narrative as Cal reunites with his old team based on how he left things.

Cameron Manaham captures a worn-down Jedi after five years of fighting the Empire with little to show. He still carries the trauma of losing the only home he has ever known in the Jedi Order. Now, five years after the events of Jedi: Fallen Order, Cal harbors anger at his former teammates for abandoning the cause and, thus, abandoning him. But “the cause” is what Cal thinks is the only way to fight the Empire, directly and violently. His journey towards discovering what Cere and Merrin have been doing and accepting that there are other ways to resist the Empire exceeds his arc from Fallen Order. In that game, Cal’s story progression was shaped by Cere and Cordova’s vision of rebuilding the Jedi Order. In Survivor, Cal starts as a visible, present enemy of the Empire but ends in the shadows, focusing on the future.

Greez tries to impart some wisdom on Cal | credit Respawn and Lucasfilm Games, image courtesy of @GamersPrey

Greez is particularly well-served coming off of Jedi: Battle Scars and his story there ties in perfectly. The Latero has retired from piloting, running a bar on Koboh (a generic American south planet), and dealing with the Bedlum Raiders (a generic gang name). Greez is wearing a prosthetic arm to manage since the Fifth Brother sliced off his old arm. But that has not dampened his spirits or ability to have second-hand caution for Cal. He wants Cal to get out of the insurgent business before he loses something he can’t replace. Nevertheless, he points Cal to where he can find parts for the ship, instigating this story. Greez foreshadows Cal’s upcoming internal conflict and reunion with Merrin and Cere.

Whether you have read Jedi: Battle Scars or not, Cal and Merrin’s relationship and where they end up works. All of Merrin’s development is in the companion novelwhere she lets go of her endless pursuit of revenge for her fallen sisters. She has a less engaging romance with an Imperial analyst, but the story does reveal Merrin’s pansexuality, which is not mentioned in the game. 

As for Merrin, outside of her relationship with Cal, she is more sure of herself as someone who has traveled the galaxy and settled on how she can help others. She provides a lot of subtle humor with quips, but she also warns Cal, like Greez, not to be consumed with fighting. In the end, Merrin is in a good place and has come to terms with the fact that Dathomir does not need to define her. 

Cal and Merrin reunite and reconnect | credit Respawn and Lucasfilm Games, image courtesy of @GamersPrey

Unfortunately, her arc happened off the game screen, but she is a fighting companion in battles, allowing her exposition to flow more naturally.

The most rewarding relationship in Jedi: Survivor comes from Cal and Cere. When the two finally reunite on Jedha, Cal learns that Cere has not given up the fight but redirected the energy to help others. Cere, Merrin, and Eno Cordova (still alive) are a part of the Hidden Path (a network that Merrin discovered from her galactic travels).

First introduced in Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Hidden Path is a network of people who help others on the run from the Empire, especially Force-sensitive and Jedi survivors of Order 66. Cere, Eno, and Merrin are also rebuilding a Jedi archive.

In a reversal of Jedi: Fallen Order, where Cere takes Cal’s lead in destroying the holocron, Cal becomes inspired by Cere’s mission and takes up the cause after her death.

Normally, I would be pissed about this predictable outcome for Cere, but her arc is well-realized. And you get to play as Cere when she battles Darth Vader and puts up a good fight, giving him battle damage. And her death is the most moving part of the franchise as she dies in Cal’s arms. He is understandably devastated but takes a different lesson from this death and chooses to carry on Cere’s legacy. To fight by protecting those who cannot defend themselves. 

Cal learns what Cere has been up to all these years | credit Respawn and Lucasfilm Games, image courtesy of @GamersPrey

I am more pissed at the cause of her death and the subsequent tacked-on plot that was both predictable and shockingly absurd. 

Despite Bode fighting alongside Cal for most of the game, it is not surprising that he works for the Empire. And he could have just been a traitor, a man who is simply trying to keep his daughter safe in an unforgiving galaxy that sees a secret planet as salvation. His betrayal is hinted at as he mentions protecting his daughter several times and is highly interested in Tanalorr from the beginning.

However, there was no reason for Bode to be another Jedi. But Star Wars video games want their last battles to be Jedi vs. Jedi, which could have still been the case with Cal vs. Dagan. 

With Bode being a former Jedi, there are many suspended states of disbelief: why didn’t Cal, Cere, Cordova, or Dagan sense him? That’s three Jedi Masters, and we are supposed to believe he masked his Force sensitivity from them? The all-knowing Emperor is also becoming less so with each backroom deal his Imperials make. There are also no rules of which Jedi on the run gets killed on site and which ones the Empire tries to turn to Inquisitors.

However, it DOES make sense that a power-hungry Imperial officer would seek to use a Jedi on the run to their advantage. But these Order 66 survivors are piling up. Making Bode ANOTHER Jedi survivor was the one misstep and relied too much on caring about him enough to understand his responsibility for the death of Cordova and Cere.

WTF is this? | credit Respawn and Lucasfilm Games, image courtesy of @GamersPrey

Thankfully, Bode is a one-and-done villain, as the story leaves no room for him to survive. But now the Star Wars Jedi franchise is stuck with an overused plotline in Star Wars: adults babysitting a child with no parents. And unfortunately, Kata is not as interesting as Grogu or Omega. I am unsure how players could care about Kata because the writers constructed her character almost entirely in exposition. 

The emotional weight of Cere’s death should have remained the focus of the last act, and throwing Bode and his daughter into the mix was unnecessary and dragged the story. 

Also, having Bode burned next to the Jedi he killed (one directly and one indirectly) is low-key insulting.

I am not sure what the reasoning was to bring Eno Cordova into this story but to reveal he is alive, relegate him only to repair the compass to Tanalorr, then kill him in such an uneventful way is a head-scratcher. He deserved better.

And Rayvis, while not a main antagonist, is incredibly compelling, and his relationship with Dagan is fascinating. Rayvis is not afraid of Dagan but is loyal because the Jedi defeated him in battle. His death was bittersweet, and I would not mind seeing him again during the High Republic.

“He was so consumed by Tanalorr that he completely lost his way. Reminds me of my fight with the Empire these last few years. Let’s just say I don’t want to end up like him.”

Cal Kestis discussing Dagan with Merrin, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Dagan connects to Cal from his memories| credit Respawn and Lucasfilm Games, image courtesy of @GamersPrey

I will end with Dagan, whose story held some untapped potential.

Any High Republic is exciting, and having characters from that era appear in the Star Wars Jedi game franchise is a win. I only wish they would have dug more into why Dagan was obsessed with the sanctuary during the height of the Jedi. Dagan becomes so obsessed that he kills his fellow Jedi when they try to retrieve the compasses to Tanalorr, leading Santari to fight him and place him in a bacta tank. Due to his actions and mentioning to Rayvis that the two could dream up a new war on Tanalorr, Dagan might have ultimately wanted a place to rule and would have ended up becoming a Sith. 

For this story, however, the parallel between Dagan and Cal is pretty straightforward, and maybe that is why they felt the need to add a less overt similarity with Bode. 

Canon Contributions

The team makes it through the Abyss to Tanalorr | credit Respawn and Lucasfilm Games, image courtesy of @GamersPrey

For many, Master Dagan Gera and Master Santari Khri (and the droid ZN-A4) are the first representations of the High Republic era they have seen. Santari created the compass to navigate the Koboh Abyss and allow Dagan to discover Tanalorr. Both she and Dagan are in the Jedi archives on Jedha. When Cordova discusses the two, he mentions that a group of marauders invaded Tanalorr shortly after the Jedi established a temple there, and the subtitle has (Nihil) next to marauders. I doubt that is a mistake.

The concept of hidden worlds like Tanalorr is not new in Star Wars canon nor new to the High Republic era. The way Dagan was obsessed with Tanalorr seemed like the place had some dark side power (Adding that it has become an obsession for Bode). It would not be the first time a location was a dark side entity. The Cave of Evil on Dagobah was a dark side vergence. Perhaps there is a tie to the world where the Nameless originated from the High Republic novels. The Nihil are somehow involved with the Koboh Abyss, so this story has a good chance of getting more context in future canon.

We see the “bleeding” of a kyber crystal on-screen for the first time. A Jedi who has turned to the dark side can corrupt a kyber crystal by pouring their negative emotions into it, making it red. Dagan immediately does this when he emerges from the bacta tank, having stewed in his hatred for over a hundred years. The scene is quick and occurs right before the first Dagan boss fight, but it is a canon first on-screen.

Cal says goodbye to Cere who tells her to guide “her,” through the darkness | | credit Respawn and Lucasfilm Games, image courtesy of @GamersPrey

We also have another Force-sensitive child post-Order 66 with Kata. I am sure she will be included if there is a third installment, which is rare for recent Star Wars gaming. What that story will be is hard to predict as Lucasfilm is limited in the interactions between the Jedi and Empire during this period. Former Jedi either end up dead at the hands of Vader (like Cere and Trilla) or each other (like Bode).

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor lived up to its name for sure, and time will tell when we see Cal Kestis and the Mantis crew again.

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