Last month, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor hit store shelves and digital storefronts worldwide. The game was overall well-reviewed though some critics noted that the story wasn't as compelling as the first one, as well as some technical issues detracting from the experience. Regardless of what one may think of the story, however, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor repeats one element many fans hoped it wouldn't.
Both of the Star Wars Jedi games focus on Cal Kestis. A survivor of Order 66, Jedi: Fallen Order followed the character as he was hunted by Inquisitors and learned about what it meant to be a Jedi. Jedi: Survivor picked up a few years later, seeing him embark on a new journey for a place safe from the Empire's grasp. Both games, however, feature a small appearance from Darth Vader, and the series needs to get over its dependence on the character.
Darth Vader's Role In Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Jedi Survivor
In Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Darth Vader only makes a single appearance throughout the game. After a vicious lightsaber battle with Trilla, the Second Sister, Cal Kestis is able to defeat her in the Inquisitor fortress. Cere then has a heart-to-heart conversation with Trilla trying to get her to see the error of her ways. This conversation is cut short, however, when Darth Vader arrives. He quickly kills Trilla for failing him and proceeds to attack Cal and Cere which resulted in a nerve-wracking escape sequence.
Darth Vader appears once again in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. In it, he leads an attack on Jedha and players control Cere as she defends it from the Empire's invasion. This portion of the game climaxes when Cere battles Darth Vader in one of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order's best boss fights. While for a moment it seems as if Cere may win, Darth Vader is ultimately able to get the upper hand on him and kills her in the duel. The problem is that while both of these appearances work as cool set-piece moments, neither of them really works in the story.
Vader Raises the Stakes, But Only Shortly
When Disney took over LucasFilm in 2012, the company began using Darth Vader fairly often as a kind of stakes-raising element. He tends to appear whenever the creative team needs a character to be put in mortal danger and to make audiences sure that there is a chance they might not make it out alive. This happened in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: Rebels before also being used in Jedi: Fallen Order.
The issue with the character's role in the first game is that he had neither been seen nor mentioned at all up until this point. In fact, Trilla's fall to the dark side and the temptation Cere faced with it seemed independent of Darth Vader's involvement. The story, quite literally, had nothing to do with the character up until that point outside his connection to the Inquisitors in Star Wars. The same cannot be said for Jedi: Survivor. Up until the character appears, seemingly out of nowhere, Darth Vader had nothing to do with the narrative of the game. Once again, he wasn't mentioned at all throughout the length of the game until he just appears. There isn't any real build-up to it and mostly just seemed to have been used as a way to raise the stakes and kill off a character before retreating, never to be mentioned again.
Ultimately, Darth Vader is a narrative tool the games need to grow out of. In both instances, the character doesn't have anything to do with the plot and is mostly used as a way of temporarily raising the stakes in the story. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor already learned to live without the Inquisitors, so future sequels could learn to function without Vader. For now, however, the inclusion of Vader remains an odd crutch for the franchise.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is available now on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.