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Meeting up with game director Stig Asmussen during a recent preview for Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, he had no reservations about correcting my misconceptions. “To be fair, it’s not open world,” he clarifies as I share my experience with the game. “It’s wide, but it’s still a handcrafted experience. We’re super deliberate in what we’re doing, but there are definitely more options and paths for the player to explore.”

Electronic Arts invited GLHF to the preview event. We sat down with the game for three hours, getting a good grasp of the game’s early area. The sheer size and number of areas was what left its mark on me, but Asmussen gave me a bit of clarity on what I was playing, and how the team came to build Jedi: Survivor.

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“[The design] was more of a learning experience when we made the first game,” Asmussen tells GLHF. “We said; ‘OK, how do we make a Star Wars Metroidvania in 3D? What does that mean?’ We were learning on the fly with the first game, and from those lessons, we looked at how we would like to approach a sequel. One of the things that we wanted to do was just expand, and give the player more freedom to explore different areas with new abilities – if they want to.”

But it’s not just the world that’s expanded. While the scope for world design has increased, so has the scope for character writing. Cal Kestis has grown up, and it’s important for the player to feel that immediately. Hence: beard. “It’s about maturity. In the first game, Cal was raw. Not even close to a fully cooked Force user, and you felt that in the game,” Asmussen explains. “In this game we wanted to start off with more confident characters. There’s been a five-year jump, and we wanted players to feel that, in the controls, and in how Cal negotiates combat scenarios, navigates the environment, and – to a certain extent – dominates them.

“It allows us to increase the stakes very early on, where we had to have a little bit of a slower power curve on the first game. It was something that were all really excited about. ‘Let’s not not pick it up and make it feel like it starts where the last ends, let’s make it feel like a fresh game that’s still familiar.’”

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From the start, Jedi: Survivor feels set to embrace both faithful players of the original, as well as brand new fans looking to jump into this branch of the Star Wars universe. It does that both with a variety of difficulty selections to please those masocore experts and story-focused newbies alike, along with individual settings allowing you tweak enemy aggression and the parry timing window. If you want a steep challenge but you’re rubbish at parrying, you can open that window up and jump into a tougher difficulty, if you so choose.

“Star Wars is not a niche franchise, we want as many people to play it as possible,” Stig says. “It’s difficult because we have to account for a lot of different approaches that people are going to have and I think, for us, we try to hit that sweet spot in the middle. Once we do that, it’s a case of tuning numbers. That’s a favorite go-to of Jason Harris, our design director – ‘it’s all just numbers, I just gotta go in and tweak a few numbers.’

“That might work for combat, like parry windows, but how do you solve puzzles? Everybody is going to have a different thought process and approach for that,” Asmussen continues. “One of the things that we do, and what we’ve found a lot of success with, is just playtesting the heck out of the game, and getting it in front of as many fresh eyes as possible.

“We look at the numbers that we get, and we make adjustments, and then we test again, we make adjustments, and we test again. We keep doing that process until we feel like we can do something like this event today,” he says, referring to the preview build.

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It appears to have worked. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor leaves a bigger impact on the player from the start, and as long as you tweak those parry windows to your liking, it’s looking set to be a solid Star Wars adventure.