Why Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Hasn’t Gone Full Open-World

Jedi: Survivor isn't the open-world Star Wars game some fans wanted Fallen Order to be, but the game still benefits from open-world ideas.

Star Wars Jedi Survivor
Photo: EA

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is shaping up to be a phenomenal game and that rare kind of sequel that makes its already great predecessor feel outdated by comparison. Specifically, Survivor‘s larger environments offer opportunities that Jedi: Fallen Order simply did not. Then again, many fans and critics of Fallen Order previously said that they believed that game would have greatly benefited from larger environments and more activities. In some ways, Surivor‘s design is simply addressing those requests.

However, while Survivor is a much more open game than Fallen Order, it is certainly not an open-world title in the modern sense of that phrase. It’s closer to an expanded version of the Metroidvania/Soulslike exploration elements that helped define the Fallen Order experience. Of course, that news may disappoint some who simply wanted Fallen Order to be an open-world Star Wars game.

Well, the Survivor team seems to be well aware of those open-world requests and, like so many other fan requests, they seem to have given the proper respect and consideration. While you could see Survivor‘s world design as a middle-ground compromise between Fallen Order‘s style and requests for an open-world game, the team simply believes this design approach is the best way to enhance the other things the game is trying to accomplish.

“For me it’s less of…this is how you correctly make a game and that we’re just making a version of something that is ‘Not that, but close,'” says Dori Arazi, Cinematic Director for Jedi: Survivor in an interview with Den of Geek. “It was a choice to make the game this way. We want to tell an emotional character story. We want to make the player a part of this emotional character story. The design of the game is based on the kind of journey we want to take the player on. The game is designed around that and not necessarily as a shortcoming for something else.”

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Having played Survivor, I can say that the game certainly doesn’t feel like it secretly wants to be an open-world game or that it was made as a kind of compromise for those who wanted Fallen Order to be a more traditional open-world adventure. Actually, as someone who loved Fallen Order‘s Metroidvania elements, I really respected how much of the game still feels like a Metroidvania title. According to Jedi: Survivor Narrative Technical Director Joanna Robb, that was kind of the point.

“We never lose sight of our Metroidvania roots,” Robb explains. “The essence of that game formula is to acquire a new tool and then to go ‘Aha!’ You understand the environment in a totally different way. So as we were building content in the Valley [an early Survivor area], which is very expansive, it was very important for us to never lose sight of that formula and never deprive players of that sense of excitement and exploration when they’re going through it.”

Indeed, many of Survivor‘s more open elements seem to enhance was is still, fundamentally, a Metroidvania kind of game.

“I think the openness fits so well with some of our new mechanics in the game,” Robb says. “For one, we added the extension cable for Cal that you can use to get to far away points. He also learns the beast tame Force power which allows him to ride on animals throughout the Valley, which makes it much easier to get around and open up new areas to get to…you’re able to move through the environment in more open ways. So it makes sense that we would support that with content that has more openness and lets you think about distance in a different way. But the Valley is also full of places of interest that are meaningful Metroidvania puzzles or, in some cases, little side dungeons.”

It’s a fascinating approach. At a time when open-world games dominate the Triple-A scene and even previously notable Metroidvania titles eventually adopted that open-world design formula (Arkham Asylum to Arkham City, for instance), open-world can sometimes feel like an inevitability. Yet, based on what I played, Survivor‘s mounts, expanded exploration options, additional sidequest, and fast travel points (all common open-world mechanics) all do seem to enhance its core Metroidvania qualities.

We’ll see how the final version of Survivor fares when the game is released on April 28, but, like so many other aspects of the experience, the game’s expanded environments feel like a promising part of a potentially exceptional Star Wars experience.

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