Last month, my life as a stressed-out video game industry reporter hit its all-time high in terms of being insanely swamped. The month was filled with a slew of highly anticipated releases, including new additions to popular franchises such as Assassin’s Creed, Forza Motorsport, Hot Wheels, Ghostrunner, and League of Legends. As if that wasn't enough, I also had to keep up with hidden gems and major AAA releases like Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and Super Mario Bros. Wonder.
The constant stream of games to review back-to-back was undeniably stressful and exhausting. However, amidst the chaos, there was one game that provided a much-needed respite. Jusant, a lesser-known title, offered a relaxing and meditative experience that acted as a welcome break from the intensity of the other games I was constantly playing and reviewing during the extended review process.
Jusant, the newest creation from renowned game developer Don't Nod, takes a bold departure from their previous titles like Life is Strange and Tell Me Why. This game diverges from the traditional dialogue-driven and choice-filled experience that the studio is known for. Instead, Jusant presents itself as a minimalist adventure, devoid of any dialogue, where players embark on a challenging journey to ascend a towering structure in a desolate world plagued by water scarcity. It is a subversive and innovative departure for Don't Nod, showcasing their ability to push boundaries and captivate players with unique gaming experiences.
Jusant, despite being a departure from Don't Nod's previous work, is undoubtedly one of the studio's finest games since the conclusion of the beloved Life is Strange series. The game's trigger-based control scheme adds an element of excitement to the otherwise mundane tasks of climbing and traversal, making it an enjoyable experience.
Furthermore, Jusant keeps players engaged with its constant introduction of new ideas and unexpected twists throughout its five chapters. These captivating elements overshadow any minor issues that may emerge during the game's five-hour playthrough. When in need of a moment to unwind and immerse oneself in a game, Jusant is undoubtedly an excellent option to consider.
Jusant's Sublime Minimalism
Jusant, a game that prioritizes visuals over storytelling, presents a world where water seems scarce. Through dialogue-free scenes, the game portrays a desolate landscape devoid of its life-giving element. However, amidst this dryness, the main character possesses a small companion named Ballast, a creature made entirely of water.
Their shared goal is to reach the top of a massive tower emerging from the seafloor. The game's intentional minimalistic approach extends to its visual design, as it showcases vibrant colors juxtaposed with smooth low-poly-style textures. This aesthetic choice enhances the concept of a tower and an ancient society that has succumbed to the forces of nature, now slowly eroded by time.
In this captivating narrative, the true story behind the tower unfolds gradually, leaving players to decipher its history through a series of emotional and cinematic scenes. The player's journey is enriched by the discovery of scattered notes and letters left behind, offering glimpses into the past society that once thrived within this towering structure.
Additionally, stunning murals and delicate seashells provide an intriguing auditory experience, whispering vague fragments of the tower's forgotten soundscape. As players ascend through each chapter, they are rewarded with a heartwarming sight – the gradual return of flora and fauna to the previously desolate sections of the tower.
Jusant's message about humanity's relationship to the Earth and the importance of treating the environment with respect is one that will resonate differently with each individual. However, it is clear that society needs to acknowledge the need to give back to nature as much as it takes from it. The imminent global water crisis, as warned by UNESCO, further emphasizes the relevance of Jusant's story. As people delve deeper into Jusant's narrative, they will likely find that it becomes increasingly pertinent and serves as a reminder of the urgent need to protect and preserve our natural resources.
Scaling Heights in Serenity
Despite the heavy themes portrayed in Jusant, it can still be considered a relaxing game due to its unique approach to narrative engagement. Players have the freedom to choose whether to delve deeper into the story or simply focus on the climbing mechanics. Jusant introduces players to its climbing mechanics gradually, beginning with simple exploration and a basic jump button commonly found in 3D games.
However, as players progress through the game and navigate the towering structure, more complex climbing techniques become necessary to reach their desired destination. Ultimately, the level of relaxation experienced in Jusant is determined by the player's own engagement with the narrative elements and climbing challenges.
In the world of Jusant, the primary activity is the thrilling and sometimes treacherous act of climbing. Whether it be scaling rocks, conquering cliff faces, or even hitching a ride on the backs of insects and animals, climbing is the main focus. The controls for climbing in Jusant are uniquely designed, as each trigger on the controller corresponds to the grip of a hand.
This means that to ascend a wall, I must first point the control stick in the direction of a hold I wish to grab onto, and then press down on the trigger to secure my grip. This level of control adds a sense of realism and immersion to the gameplay, making each climb a challenging and rewarding experience.
The use of triggers for climbing in games is a surprisingly natural and intuitive control scheme. While most games rely on the control stick or a specific button for climbing, VR games like Synapse have successfully incorporated the use of triggers for this purpose. Similarly, console games like Jusant have demonstrated how triggers can effectively be used for climbing mechanics.
In these games, players are also required to manage their character's stamina, occasionally taking short breaks to allow the stamina meter to refill. This slow-paced experience adds to the overall relaxing nature of the adventure, enhancing the player's immersion in the game world.
Playing Jusant has been an incredibly satisfying experience for me, thanks to its real-life tactile feedback. The act of pressing the triggers to climb upwards not only provides a sense of accomplishment but also puts me in a relaxed trance-like state. It's the perfect game to play while listening to a podcast or other music, as it allows me to fully immerse myself in the virtual world while enjoying my favorite audio content.
While climbing, there are moments where the occasional spurts of Jusant's audio enhance the overall experience, adding to the feeling of being in control and taking my time to conquer the tower at my own pace. Playing Jusant has served as a much-needed respite, allowing me to recharge my own stamina after a month filled with playing and reviewing numerous other games.
Don't Nod adds an exciting twist to the core climbing gameplay loop by incorporating various systems and tools. One such element is the use of ropes, which play a critical role in the game as a resource similar to stamina. The towering walls are adorned with pitons, which act as anchor points for the climbers. As I ascend, I remain connected to one of these pitons through my carabiner, and I even have the capability to place additional pitons along the way.
This becomes crucial because if I venture too far without replenishing my rope supply, I risk running out of rope. Hence, the search for pitons serves as the game's checkpoint system. Moreover, the rope serves multiple purposes, allowing me to swing or wall run across large gaps, adding an extraa layer of excitement to the gameplay.
Jusant constantly adds new elements to the traditional climbing mechanics, making it a unique and engaging experience. The game introduces various challenges such as sun-scorched spots that drain stamina faster and wind that greatly enhances jump distance. With each passing half-hour, the core climbing is recontextualized in different ways, keeping the gameplay fresh and exciting.
Despite its relatively short duration of around five hours, Jusant manages to incorporate these twists without becoming overly difficult. In fact, there is no significant fail state except for falling back to the last piton. However, the inclusion of these dynamic systems adds a touch of excitement and variety to the climb, making it an enjoyable and memorable adventure.
Unfortunately, during my gameplay experience, there were occasional moments where a missed jump, poorly placed piton, or overshot wall run led me to an area where the game didn't anticipate my presence. These instances would sometimes result in the locking of certain controls, causing the camera to jitter, or leaving me with no natural means of escape.
Although there are typically multiple paths available for players to traverse through the level, these moments highlight how Don't Nod still expects players to adhere to specific routes. This contradicts the sense of freedom and free-climbing that the gameplay aims to convey. Fortunately, these occurrences were only triggered by a few climbing errors throughout my adventure.
Playing Jusant was a gratifying and meditative experience for me. The game offered a unique and simplistic satisfaction as I climbed up a towering structure filled with vibrant colors, all without being interrupted by an overwhelming narrative. It was refreshing to see Don't Nod, the game's developer, venture into new territory and experiment with different styles of storytelling and gameplay. While Jusant may not serve as a respite for other players during the busy month of October's big game releases, it still provides a short yet fulfilling experience that allows one to decompress and be pleasantly surprised time and time again.
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Jusant offers a refreshing departure from traditional gaming experiences with its minimalistic aesthetic, engaging climbing mechanics, and thought-provoking environmental narrative. While occasional technical hiccups and a relatively short duration slightly temper its brilliance, the game's unique blend of serenity and excitement makes it a worthwhile and memorable journey for those seeking a break from the norm.