The game director takes StarWars.com inside the latest trailer.
The wait for Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is almost over, but it turns out there was another surprise left for fans. At Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023, Respawn Entertainment, Electronic Arts, and Lucasfilm Games debuted the final gameplay trailer for the highly-anticipated game, a sequel to 2019’s hit Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Jedi: Survivor picks up five years after the events of its predecessor, with Jedi Cal Kestis still in the fight against the Empire; the new trailer features fresh looks at gameplay, enemy encounters (a rancor!), and allies, which all point to an intense adventure in a darkening galaxy. With Jedi: Survivor set to arrive April 28, StarWars.com spoke with game director Stig Asmussen ahead of this trailer drop, discussing some of the trailer’s biggest moments and more.
StarWars.com: To start, with the game just weeks away from launch, I'm curious how you're feeling right now.
Stig Asmussen: Things are going great. The teams are super excited for what we're going to share with the fans and how they'll react to Cal's next chapter in the journey. I’m also super excited for the team, the studio, our partners. You know, so much blood and sweat has gone into this over the last several years and we're just wrapping it up. So really, it's a special time for all of us.
StarWars.com: The final gameplay trailer will have debuted at Celebration simultaneously with this interview. There's a lot going on in it. I just wanted to go through some of the bigger moments, and maybe you can offer your insight into what we're seeing, or things you remember from the making of the game.
First, Cere’s narration and mentoring of Cal.
Stig Asmussen: Obviously, the relationship is really important. It’s critical. That’s why we decided to see it through the lens of Cere’s narration, her perspective. And we’re kind of giving a hint, a sense of how the relationship has shifted and grown over the five-year gap. Clearly, she’s proud of what Cal’s become since the beginning of Jedi: Fallen Order. There's this parent level of concern, though, that she has. It's still there. She's always going to look out for Cal, but there's only so much she can do to protect him, right? These are dark times. The galaxy's full of danger and Cal is constantly being hunted, so she's keeping an eye out for him, but she knows that she can't ultimately always protect him.
StarWars.com: Next up, the companion gameplay.
Stig Asmussen: This is a big deal for us. It's a huge step in the evolution of the game. We always are looking for new ways to tell story, and we wanted to make sure that we could carry some of these companions into gameplay. That's why we came up with a system called ‘Characters in Gameplay,’ and it's featured in the trailer. It's really about experiencing how Cal and his companions — like Bode Akuna, like Merrin — fight side by side together, how they solve puzzles, and negotiate the different planets that they're traveling to.
A lot of what we've shown so far, there's these cinematic flourishes, like take downs, that you see in regards to combat. But I will highlight that there's also assist mechanisms that the player can use to kind of call upon their friends in the heat of battle with a button tap, and these unleash special attacks. We've got it limited with a cool down, but using these types of buddy tools will help the players negotiate tricky scenarios in combat.
StarWars.com: Was that something that you wanted to do in the first game, or was it something that came up during the ideation of Jedi: Survivor?
Stig Asmussen: I think the closest thing that we had in the first game is the Mantis hubs. We had a hub in Kashyyyk where you could go around and talk to different characters. And then we started, within those conversations and how we were doing that, we asked ourselves, can we leverage a way to carry some of these experiences along while you're playing the game and you're facing off against enemies, or negotiating the different elements that we have in the environments?
StarWars.com: The rancor battle.
Stig Asmussen: I mean, talk about things that we've wanted since the first game! We've been talking about rancors for a long time. Everybody was super happy about that, and I'm sure there's going to be a lot of chatter about it from what we're showing in the trailer.
It's one of the most iconic moments from the original trilogy. And it's something that we've been, like I said, talking about bringing to life for years and now it's reality. So it's kind of an exciting addition. The beat unfolds in the game in an unexpected way, too. But it does feel natural and we hope that players respond to it the same way that we have on our team.
StarWars.com: Cal using the Force to draw out the AT-ST driver and then just throwing him away [Laughs.], which looked like a lot of fun.
Stig Asmussen: Originally, we were going to cut open the lid with a lightsaber. But I saw that scene and I'm like, “This totally works. Let's run with this.” It's actually a lot more powerful, and it's not something that I was expecting that we were going to have in the game like that. Way before we were working on the trailer, one of the comments I made is, “That is a trailer moment. We're gonna see that in the trailer.”
StarWars.com: Finally, Cal and a new character using the Force to capture a device.
Stig Asmussen: That's an iconic moment in the game. It's something that I don't really want to spoil and dig into anything right now. Players will just have to jump in to experience it for themselves.
StarWars.com: Okay, okay. So it looks like Cal battles all kinds of foes in the game. When you have a protagonist that's so powerful, is it a challenge to create worthy opponents?
Stig Asmussen: It's not [a challenge] in Star Wars, that's for sure. That’s one of my favorite things about Star Wars. The library of enemies is so vast and diverse, there's already ready-made enemy types and we are still able to create new ones. I think of it as, it's really kind of like a set of toys for us to mix and match and, I mean, we did that when we were kids with Star Wars figures. My kids were doing it when they were growing up, as well, and this kind of diversity, it just supplies endless matchups for our encounter and combat designers. And it ensures that Cal’s always challenged.
But we can also build upon different species. We've got the Gen’Dai, found in the trailer, which gave us a great opportunity. We know this is a long-lived species, incredibly strong. On top of that, they can regenerate limbs. These are honestly great ingredients for challenging combat. And the fact that the way Rayvis approaches combat in such a structured discipline, refinement, this sense of chivalry, it just makes it a standout moment when he and Cal square off.
StarWars.com: When we first talked about Jedi: Survivor, you called out ray tracing as a real advance that was going to impact the game. A year later, what would you say it's brought to the experience?
Stig Asmussen: I think it's allowed us to really dial in, and get very, very quick results, because it's all real time. It's allowed us to dial in and author our lighting setups with a level of precision that we didn't have in the past. You know, our lighting artists are great, but it's limiting when you have a bake solution, where you set up lights and you have to wait — sometimes several hours — to see the results, and then you fine tune. And with ray tracing, that turnaround time is a whole lot faster and the level of quality that we're seeing is even better than we had in the past, as well. I think a year ago we were still kind of sinking our teeth into it, trying to understand how to leverage it, and I'm really happy with the results and how our lighting team has pulled it off.
StarWars.com: As the game nears release, is there one element or innovation that you're especially proud of?
Stig Asmussen: No, I wouldn't say [that]. I think really what's special about our game is the sum of the parts. There's a lot of different things and systems and mechanics that we have in the game. And seeing those come together is really what makes it special. We don't hang our hat on one piece of technology. It's really about creating great systems that allow our designers to do things and our artists to do things that we really didn't consider. It's about creating a bigger box. We still have a box, but the box is bigger, and what we can do inside it is far more than it was on the first game.
StarWars.com: There's a definite focus on Cal's friends in this trailer, and I'm wondering if you'd say friendship is a theme in the game.
Stig Asmussen: It's always been a theme since the first game. It continues on for Jedi: Survivor. You can argue outside of Prauf, Cal was alone at the beginning of Jedi: Fallen Order. Finding a group of friends that he could count on, really like a true family, was an essential element of the story. And Jedi: Survivor certainly continues this ingredient. Where it leads, you're going to have to play the game and find out.
StarWars.com. Last question. What are your hopes for the reception of the game and what do you want people to get out of it?
Stig Asmussen: Primarily, what I always say is, I want to put a smile on the players’ faces. I want people to really enjoy their time with it and have fun. This honor that we have as developers and working on this franchise, we can never take that for granted. If people have fun, that's what I always say — it's all about fun. If people have fun and we took them on an experience that got them away from their day-to-day, then we're doing our jobs.