In traditional Star Wars fashion, Respawn Entertainment’s Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is a darker and deeper sequel a la The Empire Strikes Back. But the actual structure and plot are quite far from feeling like a riff on the most beloved Star Wars film. Our heroes suffer some losses, and Cal Kestis, the protagonist, undergoes changes that bring him dangerously close to the Dark Side. His journey and the story that shapes it are more complex than anticipated though.
On a surface level, Survivor appears to be an expansion of everything that Fallen Order did back in 2019, and that applies to the game itself, the worlds available to explore, and the story guiding it all. However, the sequel does way more layered character work and is just busier overall. In other hands, all the added narrative weight could have sunk the ship, but the writing by Danny Homan and his team, coupled with Stig Asmussen’s firm direction, never misses its shots.
Spoilers ahead for the entirety of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
The Star Wars prequels told us that fear is the path to the Dark Side, and the villains do indeed walk a path of fear in this memorable story. It’s also an obstacle that Cal must overcome, much like Cere Junda, his unexpected master in Fallen Order, once did. But Survivor chooses to focus on two mental states of the survivors we meet as the tale progresses. To be fair, almost every major player in the game is a survivor of sorts, but the key parts belong to Dagan Gera, Bode Akuna, and Cal Kestis. Kestis sees what becomes of those who are sunk by the obsession with their respective fights and are fixated on overprotecting what little they have left.
In a breath of fresh air for Star Wars audiovisual media, Dagan Gera comes from the High Republic era, a period well known to those fans who’ve been reading recent Star Wars novels and comics. That age spans a handful of centuries and ends shortly before the events that lead to The Phantom Menace, the beginning of the Skywalker Saga. The Jedi of the High Republic were a mix of space sheriffs and shining knights from fairy tales; they were loved by the Republic’s citizens and proactive, versus the more passive monks of sorts we met in the prequel films.
Dagan Gera discovered the mythical planet of Tanalorr, which was hidden behind the supposedly impassable Koboh Abyss nebula. Realizing the value of such a location, he became obsessed with the (admittedly good) idea of building a temple on the planet, safe from the nefarious Nihil and away from the Jedi Council’s more traditional views. The Nihil, however, made it to the planet and launched a surprise attack that caused the Republic to withdraw from it and destroy the compasses that allowed safe travel through the nebula.
In the eyes of Gera, that strategic decision was a betrayal, causing him to rage against the Jedi, but long story short, his close Jedi friend, Santari Khri, cut off his arm and trapped him inside a bacta tank. Centuries later, Cal finds this tank on Koboh and frees the Jedi who could help him take down the Empire. Instead, he gains a new opponent, as Gera is still hellbent on building an army on Tanalorr that can cleanse the galaxy of evil forever.
Adding insult to injury, the Jedi of the present day in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor are all but extinct, fully erased by a Galactic Empire he considers pitiful. I’ve got my complaints about Dagan turning on Cal so quickly after emerging from the bacta, but there’s something really cool and fresh about a Jedi gone bad that is as mad at the bad guys as the heroes.
His obsession and personal quest of protecting Tanalorr from invaders also extends to Rayvis, a fearsome Gen’dai warrior and leader of the Bedlam Raiders, who has been waiting for Dagan’s return all this time (His species is long-lived.) because of an oath. Before he’s ultimately felled by Cal, he’s given the chance to give up a pointless fight and join forces against Dagan, but he’s too far down the rabbit hole and refuses to put an end to what he’s been doing for far too long. Cal’s attempt to deactivate the fight mirrors what happens in the first hour of the game as he beats the Ninth Sister, also obsessed with hunting him down after her defeat on Kashyyyk in Fallen Order.
Eventually, Dagan also meets his end because he just won’t abandon his misguided quest to create an army of Jedi who are warriors instead of protectors. We all know how that worked out for the Jedi of the late Republic, who got lost in a fight born from the failure of democracy and the hubris of the Order itself. Surviving and charting a new path forward, which is what Cere and Cal have been trying to do ever since Order 66, wasn’t enough for him.
Bode Akuna is perhaps an even more interesting foe, as he’s presented as this faultless proto-Rebel for most of the story before he reveals he was too good of an ally to be true. (The fact he was okay with every decision made by Cal was a huge red flag.) While he plays his cards close to his chest, we realize he’s got an obsession of his own as soon as the mask comes down; we’d heard stories about his daughter a couple of times before, but we didn’t know he was yet another Jedi survivor who’d lost his partner to the evil Inquisitors.
His struggle lands closer to that of Anakin in the prequels, as he fears losing the person closest to him above everything. He isn’t fully on board with the Empire either, only collaborating with the Imperial Security Bureau (ISB) as a means of protection for his daughter while he finds an exit for them both. Tanalorr is the perfect exit, but he’s so obsessed with overprotecting his daughter that he won’t even trust Cal and his allies, who also want to get as far away as possible from the Empire, just like him.
The final confrontation with Bode is really sad, since he rejects all the offers to build something new alongside Cal and Merrin and throws away all the good he had done before in order to chase a solution that his daughter doesn’t even want anymore. Cal was also struggling with the “good fight” when the game started, barely damaging the Empire despite his best efforts and many sacrifices, but the gradual return of his friends shows him there are alternative ways to persevere in the face of relentless evil.
The terrible betrayal of Bode understandably moves Cal closer to the Dark Side than ever before — and I’m quite certain he’s not completely out of the woods yet. But he’s able to succeed and find the light thanks to the cautionary tale of Cere’s own story of trauma and how she almost gave up and became a monster after losing her Padawan to the Empire.
Obsession appears to be in the rear-view mirror for Cal and his allies, but the third chapter in the Star Wars Jedi storyline almost certainly will deal with the fear of losing in its purest form, as the Jedi Knight is now tasked with raising the daughter of his former friend and enemy as well as building something new on Tanalorr, all while learning to control new emotions alongside Merrin now that the Order and the “no attachments” rule are gone. May the Force be with him.