Jusant Preview - Jus(an)t Over The Hills

Published: August 24, 2023 12:00 PM /

Previewed By:

A spread-shot cover of Jusant, showcasing the games logo, and the main character walking towards a rocky pillar that goes off-screen.

If there’s one thing you have to applaud Don’t Nod for, it’s their drive to toy with how stories are told through their games. While their bread and butter reside in Telltale-styled episodic content like Life is Strange or Tell Me Why, their flirtations with how mechanics can affect context and pacing are always fascinating. It’s also why Jusant is alluring before it even leaves the gate. Check out our Jusant preview to learn why.

This is the newest upcoming title from French studio Don’t Nod Entertainment, fresh off the heels of releasing Harmony: The Fall of Reverie in June of this year. Jusant follows the adventures of a lone wanderer, who travels through a world that has now relegated weather, like rain, to a myth. Together with a homunculus-type creature called Ballast, you stop at the base of a rock tower, and begin climbing to the top, uncovering the history of the people who lived along the seemingly endless cliff face.

As stated previously, Don’t Nod’s protocols for narrative progression are always cause for inspection, whether it’s the aforementioned Harmony, 2020’s Twin Mirror – even their debut title Remember Me. Jusant appears to be setting off in a completely different direction, as cutscenes and gameplay are absent of dialogue, hoping to drive the story beats through aesthetics alone.

The result so far appears to be a hypnotic mix of unique art direction, sound design, and an ultimately free-flowing climbing experience.

An in-game screenshot of Jusant, showcasing the player climbing a sandy cliff face with lowering stamina.

There is an air of caution in regards to how the control scheme can be perceived. When preparing to climb a cliff face, you’ll automatically attach your rope to nearby anchor mechanisms or make a piton in the ground yourself. On a gamepad, you alternate between the left and right triggers for your hands, aiming with the left stick to stretch and climb around, setting a game feel somewhere in-between Assassin’s Creed and Manual Samuel.

When Jusant casts its tutorials aside, the game shows signs of something promising. Paths branch out, the fluidity of the controls comes to fruition, and the extent of what Jusant is aiming for springs to life. Not just their own idea with what to do with Assassin’s Creed’s climbing mechanics, but how it crafts an identity of its own.

It’s an exhilarating climb, that’s for sure. Jusant’s sound design plays a large part in the scale and atmosphere of traversal, the winds whistling across the weathered rocks, the crumbling shards of stone underneath your feet. When music plays a part, it’s to the beat of a challenge, not willing to overwhelm you in moments of ambiance.

An in-game screenshot of Jusant, showcasing the player character interacting with the games mysterious creature, Ballast, who sits on their shoulder.

That being said, Jusant’s claims to be an action-puzzle game aren’t put to the test during the first few chapters, either. There are certainly obstacles, like when you come across scuttling hermit crabs that can be used to traverse higher up walls, and that would’ve been fine. However, any puzzling aspect that the game might have so far is reduced largely to reading the environment.

It’s not a detriment for Jusant to be solely about climbing cliffs and discovering a world beyond the clouds, but the term “action-puzzle” was not relevant during my time with it. While certainly aiming to emulate the likes of titles in the same genre, like Ico, RiME, or The Last Guardian, a lot of those comparisons start and stop at the aesthetic presentation. Is that a bad thing? Also no, since Jusant is able to present itself as the driest sea-faring experience you’ll ever have.

No, really. Despite Jusant completely lacking any sort of aquatic value in its introduction, it has the minerals to contend with Sea of Thieves for its oceanic quality. There are moments where you’ll get a chance to look at a misty horizon, and despite no actual recognition of what lies beyond this world, it manages to capture the same feeling of looking out towards a raging ocean. It’s sea-punk without the sea, and that’s commendable.

An in-game screenshot of Jusant, showcasing the character climbing on a blue vine that stretches across the man-made building.

There is some uneven footing when it comes to detailing the world’s past. Despite no dialogue, the game is chock full of text logs chronicling the lives and tribulations of many who lived inside this cliff. They harbor resentment towards the harsh realities, hope in what lies beyond what they know, and shock at the knowledge lost when it comes to water as a resource. However, this is all packed in furiously dense logs that are hard to parse.

At the same time, it’s contending with the happy apocalypse Jusant is trying to set up. The vibes are immaculate, both completely despondent and willing to hold a small kernel of hope in the effort of individuals, a silent motivation that can imbue the player with pride. Once the preview ended, that hope resonated with me for a short while, hope that led to excitement, excitement for what was to come.

Jusant Preview | Final Verdict

While Jusant was revealed during one of the busiest showcases for games this year, let it be said now that it's shaping up to be something special. Indeed, actually playing it, and seeing how it forms alongside the more unspoken elements of its own design is an endearing adventure. Is it a cautionary tale of climate change? Is it Don’t Nod elevating the formula of Remember Me? Whatever the case, Jusant holds hope, and hope is what you need sometimes.

Jusant was previewed on Xbox Series S with a copy provided by the Publisher over the course of 2 hours of gameplay. Screenshots were provided by Don't Nod Entertainment.

Previews you can trust: To ensure you're getting a fair, accurate, and informed review, our experienced team spends a significant amount of time on everything we preview. Read more about how we review games and products.



Have a tip, or want to point out something we missed? e-mail us at [email protected] or join us on Discord!