Jusant | PREVIEW | XBOX SERIES X
''No raccoons were dropped to their demise in the making of this Preview''
Developed: Don't Nod
Published: Don't Nod
Genre: Action Puzzle Climber
Release Date: Fall 2023
Platforms: PS5/Steam/Xbox Series XS
*Preview copy provided to me by Don't Nod*
Jusant is an Action Puzzle Climber releasing this fall and it is developed and published by Don't Nod. With Don't Nod constantly upping their ante with atmospheric and narrative based games like Life Is Strange, Captain Spirit and Tell Me Why, they now set their sights on a brand new way to play by creating an Action Puzzle Climbing adventure. But do they succeed in taking this direction? well that's something we will be taking a look at in this early preview of the games first two hours. So let's go!
Experience climbing like never before in this action puzzle climber and mediative journey to reach the top of an immeasurable tall tower and uncover clues along the way. Challenge yourself at your own pace, explore different paths, and unravel the secrets left behind from a bygone civilization with the help of a mysterious companion
''Oh no, I didn't bring toilet paper''
In the current climate of big sprawling open-world titles and the over abundance of simulation games, something new needed to be inserted into the gaming climate and Jusant does just that as it breathes fresh air into the gaming spectrum with its unique focus on vertical exploration. Similar concepts can be seen in recent titles like Disney's Illusion Island, a game that squarely focuses on adventure and exploration over combat, and so too here does Jusant put atmosphere and climbing over intense combat. I mean, I'm glad for this considering I'm terrified of heights, so If I had to climb and fight at those heights, then watch out below, because I'd end up crapping myself and the result of that would one nasty birds nest. Yes, sorry birds, next time I'll feed you like Ace Ventura instead. The games core mechanic revolves around climbing, where players utilize LT and RT to transition between their left and right hands while scaling your rocky or dirt terrains. If you've played VR titles like Horizon Call Of The Mountain, then you have a rough idea of what I'm talking about - by pressing Left Trigger, you can grab and reach with your left hand and vice versa with Right Trigger activating your right hand. Doing these in pattern and unison with each other will allow you to climb like you're scaling these treacherous terrains in real time by yourself. It can take some getting used to at first as you constantly have to keep one button held down to hold your grip on a ledge or mountain, but when you get really good at it, you can be a freak like me and spam both Left and Right Triggers as fast as you can like, TCTCTCTCTCTCTCT, and do super climbing zoomies up a path like you're a little bug running across a tile floor.
However, getting too excited, again, like me, can actually be a double edged sword as the rope you get in order to scale these large cliffs does have its reach limits. This is where the game requires strategic placement of Pitons via the X button and tactful use of ropes. When climbing a mountain, whether it be temple cement, wooden boards, rock placements, you will run into two scenarios, both of which can anger you or leave you in danger. First scenario is you forget which hand you used to grip with and accidentally let go, thus making you fall and catch yourself at the beginning of the last Piton you made. Which... I admit I did more than I should've because one minute I'm climbing thinking about how beautiful the scenery is, but then see a little bug friend crawling on the wall and getting excited, and then proceed to wanting to touch it, and then end up falling. Oops. The second issue you run into is lack of rope length, which can cause you to not be able to advance, but by placing extra Pitons with the X button, with your limit being three that are able to be placed, it will allow you to continue your traversal alongside a mountain side or raising and lowering yourself using LB and RB in order to position yourself for a giant swing to another ledge or pulling yourself up at a quicker pace to save time. The climbing along the walls, mixed with the rope gliding and swinging, kind of feels like a marriage between Assassins Creed and Tomb Raider in a way, only in a more relaxing atmosphere to enjoy. Plus I don't have to listen to Lara Croft every five seconds scream and moan about stuff for every movement she does. Seriously folks do not play the recent Tomb Raider games without headphones... people... might think some things.
''One of the many butt clenching moments''
Continuing on about the games overall controls, Jusant isn't only about hand climbing overall with the trigger gripping, as again, there's a huge emphasis on the role of ropes and how you utilize them to your advantage. Whether you use them to grapple onto high ledges, use X to throw your rope and hook onto a platform to yank down to create yourself a bridge to continue on your current path or an entirely new one, or reeling your rope in by holding B to suck it in like we as kids always used to do with tape measurers. Come now, don't act like you never did that as a kid, we all did. With a large emphasis being on verticality and climbing, there has to be more to it than just that right? well kind of. No, there's no combat to be had in this game, but sometimes, not even your rope is enough to get you to new heights and new areas and so you need a new mechanic to use that people tend to take for granted, the good ol jump button. Unlike Square-Enix forgetting about the jump button early on in their MMOs like Final Fantasy 11, Don't Nod didn't forget, and instead made it a vital part to your success. As you climb your heart out, you will come across hard to reach grapples to latch onto, to get them to them, you may press down on your Left Stick to prime your character for an aggressive jump straight up or left and right, followed by one tapping of Button A for smaller jumps, or double tapping Button A for large gap jumps. This increases the level of intensity to each climb, even without combat, because should you do a double jump, but forget to grab on using the left and right triggers, you could lose your grip and fall and swing to your previous starting Piton. You see now why I said it was so important to place your 3 Pitons along your traversal? it can be a total clench your booty moment and make you feel like Stallone just dropped you in Cliffhanger. Were not done with all the early gameplay features just yet though, but we'll swing back around to them very soon.
If you're familiar with Don't Nod and their previous entries as the aforementioned titles like Life Is Strange, then you know they have a past of making games that are very stylized with a painting and cell shaded like aesthetics. It might not set the industry on fire, but their games simplicity in using design and art over the latest bells and whistles is what gives their games an extra layer of charm, and this rings true here for Jusant as well. Once again, graphically, Jusant sets itself apart from a lot of the titles you see nowadays released as you move through what feels like an animated canvas that is awash with vibrant hues and panting brush strokes. The duality of this achievement lends well to both its aesthetically beautiful environments as you move through hot desert canyons, cool windy breeze temples and lost civilizations of people who once lived high up in the mountains, and adds to the immersion of its gameplay, especially when climbs turn a bit disorienting due to the unconventional angle you have to take on. Listening to the ambience of wind or music while climbing up long mountains and cliffsides, looking down at the world below you, or birds chirping and flying, bugs and monsters in their natural habitat running and moving about as you find new puzzle pathways - it makes the graphics themselves feel like its own unique and personal character. I can just hear Bob Ross now in my head talking about ''Ok now, so we need to just a take a dab of this little blue here, give it a little tappy tap, and lets make the sky a little happy blue, add in some happy trees and perfect''. He's better than me anyways, I'd be like bring on the ANGRY RED FOR THE APOCALYPTIC END OF THE WORLD SETTING, MWHAHAHA. But...that's me and my issues, you don't need to hear about those, so were moving on.
''If you sneeze, you die''
While the game does a lot of things great with its rope mechanic, trigger climbing keeping you immersed, great atmosphere with secrets to find to discover what happened to the native people that used to inhabit each biome you discover.. it can make you feel a bit disjointed from time to time, due to its climbing challenges. While its not overly complicated to get the hang of things, it is still important to be aware of your surroundings because being inattentive to your surroundings can have a chance to land you in situations you may not want to be in, such as trapped in a corner of a room, stuck on a ledge without enough rope or stamina, or even not knowing where to go next and being stuck for a decent period of time because you're dumb, just like me. The game doesn't hold your hand and TELL you where to go, so quite a few times you're left to yourself brainstorming on what to do next. This is both a strength and a weakness since players who want instant gratification might say screw this I'm done, and invested players here for the long run, stay and keep immersed. But there are several ways to get around a potential feeling of tediousness, should you happen to get stuck, this being the inclusion of ''little monster friends'', both for private use with a creature called Ballas and random burrowing monsters that scale the mountain sides. First off, the inclusion of little monster friends scaling the mountain side is not only cute, but also a bit ingenious. This is because while you climb and get stuck on various terrain, you'll come to a point where you cant traverse any further, but then you'll look and see these little tiny bug creatures going tctctctct along the walls, don't worry, they wont harm you, they're here to aid you on your journey. Simply reach and grab them or jump and hang onto them and they will take you along a new path around your environment, allowing you to get higher on a cliff, find a new section to grab onto or new Pitons to latch against for a breather.
Last but not least in your long line of mechanics, you have the Ballas, a small little blue monster friend that lives in your pouch. Having this little guy on your side throughout your journey through the biomes of this world, it will aid you as the player in revealing new paths to discover and helping you interact with the environment itself. After unlocking your first biome by placing a magical seashell and blowing a horn like you're summoning aid from Rohan, it will go through a beautiful animation of a Stargate like portal, that sets in motion the next game mechanics you'll be using, which is bringing the environment to life. Using Ballas to scan your area, should you see a dormant plant on the wall, your Ballas will send a blue energy wave, and should you be in range of the plant, will activate it to blossom and either scale up and around a mountain for you to climb on and use its spikes as grapple areas like climbing a bean stalk, or a plant will open up and unleash its tiny nub branches to cling on to continue climbing your way to new paths. This dynamic is both jaw dropping and intriguing because the flora works in mysterious ways depending on whether its in the shade or in the heat. In the shade, you have all the time in the world to climb, however, should they be in the heat, you got roughly 10 seconds to climb as fast as you can before they burn up and are no longer usable, causing you to fall. Early in Jusant's opening hours, it was surprise after surprise. Much to my delight
''Please don't eat me, Audrey 2''
Jusant is a game that constantly urges players to hone their skills, master their tools and strategize with your stamina management to rest when your character is tired from both exhaustion or when they get too hot from the heat. The mysteries of the games tall towers, which are central focused on themes of your exploration, adopting to new challenges, atmospheric music and scenery that amplifies your experience as you scale large diverse biomes that offer a rich tapestry of flora, fauna, arid wind swept slopes and bioluminescent tunnels - leaves you with a sense of awe and the want to keep going. There's a real layered story here with mysteries to uncover, one that we may not fully understand yet here in the opening hours of the game, but I feel once we get our hands on the full release, those answers will easily fall right into place. Currently as of this preview, a demo is not available to public, however starting August 28th, all players will be able to get a tiny taste of just what this game has to offer, as a Public Demo becomes available for free via STEAM. Be on the look out!
In conclusion to my Early Preview, Jusant ended up being more than just a climbing simulator and instead became a mix of strategy, art, narrative and exploration that allows players to immerse themselves in gameplay at their own pace, while also offering you puzzle challenges alongside scenic beauty. Will the final game keep up the expectations? hard to say, but I can say for sure, Don't Nod and Jusant as of this moment, are off to a great start, and it's a title to keep your eyes on when it releases this fall.