Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars by Sam Maggs bridges the gap between the 2019 video game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and its highly anticipated sequel Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. Cal Kestis and the Mantis Crew return in this novel, detailing one of their adventures in the five-year time gap between both games. This review will not spoil anything from the new book but may go into spoilers for the first game.
Following the events of the critically acclaimed video game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Cal Kestis, Cere Junda, Greez Dritus, Merrin and BD-1 set out to fight against the tyranny of the Galactic Empire. On a seemingly routine mission, they encounter someone who will test their dedication to the cause and their bond as a found family.
Hope and found family are two of the many core themes of Star Wars. This story by Maggs centres on these themes specifically by testing the crew’s bond and offering them all new hope. As Jedi, Cal and Cere have similar goals and objectives. However, Greez and Merrin are not. While they support their friends, their objectives are not inherently the same and instead follow different missions.
Straight from the get-go, Maggs throws the audience and the Mantis Crew straight into the action and perfectly juggles moments of epic setpieces with moments of calm character-building. Just when you think things are getting too slow, you are thrown into a new battle, and when you’re overwhelmed with the action, you get a moment to breathe. Sometimes these moments of calm can drag on longer than they need to. But considering the games are more action-focused, I understand this approach here.
Cal Kestis, the player character of Fallen Order, is one of this book’s two main characters. He and the rest of the crew are characterised consistently by their past appearances. Maggs manages to expand their bond as a family. She showcases their love for one another while displaying potential rifts between them. Therefore, this causes a lot of tension in their family dynamic.
The Mantis Crew (bar BD-1) get chapters told from their perspective, so we get to see into the headspaces of all these beloved characters. Because of this, it allows us to bond with these characters even more than we were able to in Fallen Order. Exploring Cere’s mindset after losing Trilla is a definite highlight of this, especially because it affects her relationship with Cal’s mentor.
The title of the standout character for this novel, however, does not belong to Cal but to Merrin. She is the latest edition of the crew and only joins them in the last few hours of Fallen Order, but she receives the least exposure to the audience of the whole team. Maggs expands on her character and makes her just as much a protagonist here as Cal if not more. If Fallen Order left you wanting to know more about her, you would surely enjoy reading this book.
Overall, this book’s main objective is to set up Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. Whether it succeeds or not, we must wait and see when Survivor launches in April. However, it succeeds in hyping up the highly anticipated sequel game. After reading this book, I am desperate to know what becomes of these beloved characters.
I enjoyed the majority of this story. However, there were elements that I wanted to see more from. Not only that, but I felt some plot points were over-developed. I can’t help but think that the structuring could have used some work, but that’s only a minor flaw. It’s likely that playing through Survivor will affect the way I feel about this novel and the story it tells. Whether that is for better or worse remains to be seen.
Battle Scars isn’t for everyone, but if you enjoy Fallen Order’s characters, there is something here for you. The characters and their relationships are the driving force of the book. There are plenty of references and easter eggs to the game and its mechanics that will be enough to entice fans of the gameplay. Considering everything, Battle Scars is certainly worth a read but not a vital experience.
Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars is available to buy now in both physical and audiobook editions. There is still enough time to read before Star Wars Jedi: Survivor launches on PC, Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5 this April 28th.