Jusant Preview – Things Are Looking Up

I’ve never been the most enthusiastic player of games whose primary draw is that my choices affect the story. If I stick to them long enough, I’ll be sold on the narrative regardless, but getting there can be a daunting task.

For this reason, I haven’t played a Don’t Nod Entertainment game since Remember Me way back on the PlayStation 3, as the studio has made much more of a name since then, developing the Life is Strange narrative adventure series. Thematically, it seems right up my alley, but the constant fear of screwing everything up has made me cautious to get invested. Thankfully, the team’s newest title, Jusant (French for “low tide”), has only one direction for me to go – upwards.

Jusant is about a nameless explorer who comes across a massive earthen pillar that stretches far into the sky. Based on the demo I played, we don’t know if this is the first time she’s found one of these or if she even knew about it before, but the ruins and other traces of civilization she finds compels her to begin the most daunting climb I’ve ever experienced in a game. You, controlling her, approach the first hand-hold, and the game immediately lets you know what kind of experience you’re in for with the first tutorial on how to proceed upwards.

In most games with this kind of climbing, it’s an easy, almost automatic process. Assassin’s Creed games just ask that you look for your next hand-hold while holding the analog stick, Insomniac’s Spider-Man just has you hold the trigger down to sprint your way up skyscrapers, but Jusant lets you know in the first button-press of the ascent that this is going to be a process, and that’s meant to be the point. If climbing were too easy in this game, it would likely be accused of being a “walking simulator.” Instead, using both triggers to individually control the player character’s hands instantly communicates that Jusant won’t make it easy on you.

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In this physics-based climber, the player will need to keep close track of not only their avatar’s body position but also elements like sun exposure and the relative position of their belay line to catch them or swing across chasms. I don’t think I’ve played a game in a long time that made me so carefully consider movement, and while the result is certainly a workout for your trigger fingers, it makes every new peak feel earned and satisfying.

You aren’t climbing in a void, though. As you climb, you’ll begin to find and learn details about the abandoned civilization that once dwelled on this pillar and how they all came to be there – seemingly after an event called “the Jusant,” as every journal you find is dated with the length of time since then. I don’t have much of an idea yet what exactly happened, but looking down once you’ve climbed up high enough will give you a breathtaking view of what almost looks like an ocean floor, minus the water. I’m excited to learn more about what is happening in this unique setting and where every other person is now.

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The demo I played was around two hours long (three if you count the few times I was stuck, but we’ll forget about that for now), and I spent those two hours already falling head over heels for this strange but rewarding experience. I’m starting to understand my cat’s fascination with climbing because I won’t be able to get this game out of my head until it launches this autumn.

Jusant is coming to a PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and PC via Steam in 2023

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