Title: JETT : The Far Shore
Developer: Superbrothers, Pine Scented
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Superbrothers, Pine Scented
JETT: The Far Shore is one of those video games which reinforces the age-old adage where the journey is better than the destination. The game itself has been on a development odyssey of its own, having been conceived as far back as 2007 and undergoing numerous revisions before release. Some bugs are present with a slow opening that may weed out intrigued players, but yet as a whole, it’s worth the experience as it’s unlike anything else in gaming right now.
This ambitious indie venture is almost like the video game equivalent of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and there aren’t too many games comparable to the experience on offer here. It shares a similar sentiment to something like The Outer Wilds, but the game design and experience aren’t comparable even then. To put it simply, JETT: The Far Shore has gone out of its way to being one-of-a-kind, which makes some of its earlier flaws and issues worth putting up with as you discover truly novel moments.
As a heads up, there is a painfully steep learning curve here, and the controls and mechanics don’t feel as smooth as you would like especially when navigating turbulent situations. Also, given the scope and size of this indie effort, there are glitches and bugs, occasionally forcing you to restart an earlier save as the game sometimes fails to register an objective being met. Sometimes it can also feel like a bit of trial and error, and the erratic controls, cameras, and intrusive mechanics will almost make you want to give up.
As bad as this all may sound, you’ll almost regret not weathering through the early storm of issues because what follows after are moments of genuine awe and wonder. When the game works against the player, it’s frustrating beyond compare, but when things come together just right, it makes it all worth it.
One thing JETT does well is world-building. Here the basic premise presents an almost biblical sentiment of seeking the promised land. The lore convincingly marries quantum sci-fi jargon with theological symbolism. It inspires intrigue from the player as you venture deeper into this complex planet and encounter genuine surprises at every step. This is a journey of wonder and discovery in the truest sense, and unlike the many other space sandbox titles in recent years, everything you discover is imbued with meaning and purpose.
Much work has gone into making this world feel alive, from the storyline involving a team of cosmonauts braving into the unknown to chase the scientifically proven and yet mythological ‘Hymwaves’ to all the technical specifications of the various space technologies involved. Taking a page out of Panzer Dragoon, the game even presents its own made-up language. This kind of attention to detail makes the vast setting of the game feel as authentic as it is mesmerizing.
While there is a great deal of freedom and exploration here, this is a structured narrative experience, broken up into set chapters, with each containing main story objectives and optional detours. Even when things are progressing smoothly, this experience demands patience from the player. When there is an objective requiring you to wait for 20 minutes, you literally wait for 20 real minutes. Sometimes these chapters can feel a little too lengthy, and the inconsistent autosave system doesn’t make that easier.
This isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you’re willing to suspend into this strange universe and live by its rules, the rewards make it worthwhile. These aren’t anything tangible, though, since the game isn’t about combat or resource hoarding; instead, the payoff comes in the form of experiencing something you never expected.
There are two main gameplay segments here, the first involving the titular Jett itself, while the other involves on-foot exploration in the first person. The Jett segments, when they work, are brilliant as you soar through the vast landscape of a planet and gradually make your way to discoveries.
When things get hairy, such as when navigating a storm or being chased by unknown aliens, that’s when the controls and mechanics become a mess to deal with. Still, they’re worth it just to experience the quiet moments, which usually involve the second gameplay segment as players get to explore the game world on foot and immerse into the setting and lore. Just being able to admire all the details and interact with other characters really helps feel more personally involved with the adventure.
As you explore the mysterious planet and discover new forms of life, there’s no collection or extraction of resources, nor is there any combat involved. Instead, when being chased by hostile aliens, it’s about making use of the ship to dodge and evade. The ship itself is versatile, as players have access to boosters to perform tricks like jumps and even things like grapple hooks, yet there are inconveniences involved.
It’s not always smooth cruising, as shield level must be maintained and hazards must be avoided, and what’s even more challenging is making sure the engine doesn’t stall. During moments where urgent attention is required, controlling the spacecraft can feel like an absolute chore. Still, with some practice, things do eventually click.
There are several things to gather, mostly data for your mission, but this is an essentially linear narrative. Yet, it feels like a powerful open-world experience where every area has meaning and purpose. The game’s surrealist artistic style brings everything together, with the visuals almost taking an abstract minimalist approach.
The earlier comparison to 2001: A Space Odyssey is perhaps most evident in the game’s incredible Oscar-worthy soundtrack, filled with sweeping orchestral scores to create an epic and majestic atmosphere. Even as you are going from point A to B in what feels like forever, the musical accompaniment helps to make even the dullest gameplay moments feel special.
JETT: The Far Shore is a slow and methodical game, to be sure, and having the proper patience goes a long way to help you achieve the intended experience. Still, the immersive setting, unique visual style, and powerful music help keep the player engaged throughout.
JETT: The Far Shore is perhaps too unique for its own good and will likely attract polarizing opinions. Understandably, many players won’t have the patience to tolerate the steep learning curve and host of control issues before things unfold majestically. For the right audience, however, this is a mysterious world to immerse into, one where they can experience things no other game can offer.
For better or worse, there’s nothing quite like this brave venture into the cosmic unknown, and it shows how sometimes it’s about a willingness to play by the rules of the universe.
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