Sometimes it’s not fair to tell people they’re playing a video game wrong—in fact, it’s more often than not unfair to tell people they’re playing a video game wrong. But Star Wars fans, I beg of you, as you gallivant through the galaxy in Jedi Survivor, use something other than the single lightsaber.
This distressing (distressing!) information came to light yesterday, when EA Games’ Star Wars social accounts posted a bevy of interesting statistics about players’ adventures in the world of the excellent Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, a video game about dressing up a pretty boy so he can stab things with his laser swords. And other stuff. But it’s mostly the dress-up and stabbing.
Anyway, it’s not good news, folks: too many people are giving Cal a crew cut, when the preferred hair options should be the default Survivor, Choppy Forward (the choice of those with elite taste, i.e., myself), and Windswept. But anyway, even worse news: just 8% of people are using the best lightsaber stance in the game, Blaster, barely eking its way from bottom place position.
Now in some ways, I understand. You don’t unlock the blaster stance until a quite a bit into Jedi Survivor, and at that point in the game players are likely more used to the already available stances; they’ve also sunk skill points into their ability trees to enhance them further. When you can only use two stances at a time, I get that investing in the last two you unlock might not be of interest. I also understand that Star Wars is by and large a story of Jedi propaganda, and thus fans have been indoctrinated to generations of stories where it’s perhaps considered untoward for a Jedi to use a blaster pistol. You’re playing a Jedi game. You wanna be like the Jedi from the movies and have your lightsaber, so why would you shoot a gun when there’s a zillion other games to do that in?
Like I said, I get it. But this is an injustice that cannot stand. The blaster stance is the best stance in Jedi Survivor, and I’m not just talking mechanically, but thematically as well. Mechanically it’s superior because it’s much easier for a Jedi to simply shoot someone shooting at them instead of running towards them batting their laser sword around (especially in hectic instances of group combat where you can find your stamina bar depleted and can no longer deflect bolts, and you really want that one asshole over there to be dead on the ground). The blaster stance eventually unlocks the ability to have custom charged shots Cal can deploy, from overcharged power shots that can level normal foes or even interrupt otherwise unblockable attacks, to a ricochet volley that gives you crowd control in a stance that is otherwise largely dedicated to one-on-one combat. Your blaster evens the odds in Survivor’s often varied combat situations, where Cal is asked to deal with threats at close and long range at the same time. Out of Force juice? My guy, just shoot them.
But that’s all gameplay. I’ve also got arguments in favor of the blaster stance as the superior narrative choice for Cal Kestis and his journey as a wandering Jedi resistor in a galaxy increasingly in the grips of the Empire. Silly enough as it is that Cal runs around not at all hiding that he’s a Jedi Knight to anyone and everyone (he practically yells it at everyone he meets), the blaster stance at least gives a little more pretense that he’s not a space wizard. The way Cal learns the stance too—being gifted a blaster to use by his mercenary ally Bode Akuna as the two work and become closer to each other—is an important step for his character. Cal sheepishly tells Bode that his former Jedi master frowned upon blasters. Cal is a child of the Clone Wars, a padawan who came of age only to be thrust into an interstellar conflict on a scale unlike anything the galaxy had seen in generations. He was surrounded by blaster fire as he grew up on the front lines, he watched the same master that shunned the weapon ultimately cut down by them during Order 66.
A lot of Jedi Survivor’s narrative is about characters wrestling with their place in the Imperial machine, from collaborators to resistors, and figuring out what they can do as individuals and as groups to, well, survive. In doing so, those characters also have to confront the fact that things have simply changed as much as the galaxy has. Friendships that were once close grow apart, romantic dalliances wax and wane, people’s desires in the grip of a galaxy under fascism change. Cal accepting Bode’s gift of a hand-me-down blaster pistol—something that only becomes more poignant as the game develops—is a moment where Cal chooses to put some of his doubts and some of his Jedi past, and some of the traumas tied to it, behind him and find a path for himself that is not strictly Jedi, but simply his own. Cal is still a Jedi; that is a very important part of his personhood and identity. But times change, and so must Cal, and in learning to put aside the doctrine and dogma he grew up with, he must find his own tools to continue fighting the Empire. You see that in him as he takes up the blaster, and it’s a touching moment of evolution in his journey.
Also: it cannot be stressed enough that with the blaster stance, you get to stab and shoot people. In many ways, Han Solo was right—ancient weapons and hokey religions are no match for a blaster by your side. But when you can have both, por qué no los dos?
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