Jett: The Far Shore is an ambitious game. I respect that. You step into the moon boots of Mei, an 'anchorite' tasked with taking the first steps on the alien planet humanity is seeking to colonize. Straightaway, there's a strong environmental theme introduced that runs through the game. When you leave your home planet, you pass through landscapes of smoke-belching towers and environmental degradation. The destination you arrive at is decidedly more bucolic. At least, it is at first.
Gameplay is divided into two sections. Sometimes, you wander around on foot, wandering the Ground Control spaceship or talking to the other vanguard space explorers who join you in the new world. This is mostly done to advance the story and give you a big old exposition dump. The dialogue is so poetic that this isn't too much of an issue. Most of your time, though, is spent cruising around in your personal spaceship, completing various missions. This is fun at first: the planet yawns out in front of you, begging to be explored. But some of the missions are incredibly finicky and the controls end up being too clunky to execute tasks enjoyably.
Jett: The Far Shore - Aiming for the Stars
Where Jett: The Far Shore really shines is in its evocative and immersive world-building. Following the acclaimed release of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP in 2011, expectations for the next release from game studio Superbrothers have been high. They haven't lost their knack for narrative and inventive storytelling. The ambient soundtrack builds from muted, robotic interference to soaring, euphoric soundscapes in moments of revelation, and spiky, techno squalls to ramp up the tension. This provides a satisfying backdrop for the meditative, surreal odyssey that Jett: The Far Shore takes you on.
The planet Mei alights on is full of otherworldly flora and fauna. There's plenty of curious creatures to scan; some might provide useful parts to upgrade your ship whereas others will chase you and sap your shields and energy cells. The world design is immersive and evocative, the sense of being a newcomer to an alien planet inescapable. Your first few hours exploring and meeting the planet's inhabitants for the first time is incredibly compelling. The ultimate goal for Mei is to make contact with a strange but powerful signal called the Hymnwave which emanates from a nearby mountain called Tor.
As I say, there are shades of environmentalism to the narrative. Having exhausted the resources of their home planet, the only hope for humanity in Jett: The Far Shore is to take shelter in another solar system. Sound familiar? Superbrothers give us a sobering vision of what to expect if we follow our current trajectory on Earth. Interestingly, the people of Jett: The Far Shore have developed a strong spirituality in response to their plight. The characters all believe they're fated to rediscover their lives on this new planet thanks to the alien Hymnwave which drew them there. The reality turns out a little differently.
The parallels to the idea of Manifest Destiny that colonizers used to justify their pillaging of pastures new are hard to resist. When will we learn how to live harmoniously with our environment?
However hubristic this appears to the player, the dialogue is still absolutely stunning. I haven't enjoyed writing in a game as much as Jett: The Far Shore in a good while. Every line is imbued with poetry, with a tendency towards the magical realist, and the narrative becomes increasingly psychedelic as time goes on. The meditative qualities of the writing mean the dialogue and scenes of exposition are actually some of the most enjoyable moments. It's not often you say that about a game.
Jett: The Far Shore - Crashing Back Down to Earth
At first, controlling the ship feels fluid in a novel way too. Superbrothers clearly put time into setting the gameplay apart from other space exploration games. It's not especially realistic and feels weirdly arcade-y, but is satisfying regardless. Roaming around with your Scramjets, boosting over hills, and interacting with the environment is lots of fun.
Unfortunately, the close control called for by certain missions as you progress is simply non-existent. Fiddling around with the ship's grappling hook to transport certain items led to several particularly sweary bouts of frustration. The eponymous 'jett' that you travel around in feels great when idly traversing the alien landscapes but really struggles when you try to do anything else.
The missions also get repetitive after you hit the game's mid-point. There are some novel moments where you have to work out how to use your environment to deal with a certain foe but these tail off quite quickly. Most of the time, you'll just be completing tedious fetch quests or trying to find a particular plant without really knowing where to look. I usually like it when a game refuses to hold your hand but there were more than a few irritating periods where I had no idea what I was supposed to do.
Another issue is the multiple game-breaking bugs that I encountered during my playthrough. One particularly frustrating moment saw my ship clip through the floor and land in a blocky netherworld that I couldn't progress or escape from. In the end, I just had to reload my game and start again from the beginning of the mission. Considering the immersion is otherwise a strong suit for the game, this is a real shame.
Overall, I did enjoy my time spent wandering the mysterious oceanic world of Jett: The Far Shore. As I said, I do appreciate ambition in game design, especially from an indie studio. This time, though, I wonder if Superbrothers had bitten off more than they could chew. The moments you have traversing gorgeous alien environments really are memorable. Sadly, they're hampered by clunky controls and repetitive gameplay.
TechRaptor reviewed Jett: The Far Shore on Epic Games Launcher for PC with a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.
- Stunning Visuals
- Poetic Dialogue
- Clunky Controls
- Repetitive Gameplay