Embracing the Darkness

BD-1 and Cal aboard the Stinger Mantis in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor - Image courtesy Respawn Entertainment, EA, and Lucasfilm Games
BD-1 and Cal aboard the Stinger Mantis in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor - Image courtesy Respawn Entertainment, EA, and Lucasfilm Games /

Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Survivor introduced many new elements into its Fallen Order sequel. Tapping into the dark side is just one new feature players can eventually take advantage of — and it’s more than just another way to rapidly defeat nearby enemies.

When you allow Cal Kestis to “Embrace the Darkness,” he enters a red-tinted fit of rage during which he becomes nearly unstoppable. The player is forced (pun intended) to rely on this mode to defeat mass numbers of enemies toward the end of the game’s main story.

Once Cal gains that ability in the game, the player can then choose to activate it with the press of a few simultaneous buttons. Fueled by the dark side — if only temporarily — Cal can fight his way through anyone and anything in a matter of seconds.

It becomes a choice the player can make at any time throughout the rest of their gameplay. It doesn’t just align perfectly with the story’s larger message. It’s also a metaphor for real life. Do you choose to Embrace the Darkness, or go on without it?

While this may seem like an innocent — and for some players, fun — game mechanic, it’s possibly one of the most heartbreaking and powerful in-game storytelling methods we’ve seen in playable Star Wars narratives in a very long time. (It’s also an innocent and fun part of the game, to be clear. I’m just taking it deeper, it’s what I do.)

Cal’s moments of “going full dark side” aren’t intended to mean he’s somehow morally grey (we’re not going there) or that he has abandoned the ways of the Jedi. Cal still strives to achieve the same goals he always has. In those moments of panic, something inside him just … breaks. He taps into something that, maybe, has always been there.

Isn’t that all of us, though? Haven’t we all experienced moments of pure, raw emotion where we got a taste of what it might feel like to lose control? Even if you never act on those impulses, chances are you’ve felt that pull to react. That rush of anger, that pull to scream into the void. That barely containable urge to ruin something whole so you aren’t the only broken thing in sight.

It’s human nature to feel. It’s part of being alive, to want to express those feelings.

It’s normal to wonder if everything could be fixed if you just stopped resisting that pull to be the worst possible version of yourself. Plenty of us have done just that — and if you haven’t yet, perhaps you will someday. Once, maybe, or more times than that.

What Star Wars has been saying for all these years — and continues to say now — is that the temptation to lean into the emotions that hurt and lash out in defense is part of what it means to survive.

We all have darkness inside of us. That is the definition of being alive — knowing that at any moment, we could always make a choice that hurts someone else.

It’s the choice to do the good thing, the right thing, the hard thing, that makes you whole.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is available now on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.

Next. Respawn’s Stig Asmussen breaks down Jedi: Survivor’s companion gameplay. dark

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