Jusant review: Spellbinding climbing adventure

Jusant review: Spellbinding climbing adventure
Images via DON'T NOD | GGRecon

Written by 

Ava Thompson-Powell


31st Oct 2023 15:30

As someone who’s been a huge fan of DON’T NOD’s vast library of games ever since I explored the world of Max and Chloe in Life is Strange, I’ve always been intrigued to see just what the studio will pull out of the bag next.

DON’T NOD has mastered the art of creating breathtaking games with a wonderful art style, full of all the bells and whistles of gorgeous sound design and worldbuilding that I’ve now come to associate with them.

Jusant is just another spellbinding entry into their catalogue of games. While its premise of climbing and exploration is a simple one, the execution is second to none and has it reaching up for a position with other stellar, memorable games like 2012’s Journey.

GGRecon Verdict

Jusant is an absolute gem that rewards you for slowing down, taking stock, and exploring its breathtakingly designed world.

With a unique art style, gorgeous soundscapes, and a world you’ll want to keep exploring, Jusant is one game I’ll likely remember and regard highly for quite some time.

Onwards, or upwards

An image of the character climbing in Jusant
Click to enlarge

As is expected with DON’T NOD games, the score, worldbuilding, visuals, and overall feel of the game are breathtaking. Taking on a quasi-claymation-like quality, Jusant features fantastic animations and equally brilliant, intuitive controls as you and the nameless protagonist explore this gorgeously crafted vertical world.

On PS5, you’ll use the shoulder buttons (L2 and R2) to imitate your hands, pressing one and letting go of the other in order to climb up a surface without falling. This adds a weighty tactile sense to climbing that really connects you to the environment.

You’ll then use the thumbstick to reach for a handhold on a ladder or plank, for example, and I love how in-depth this process is and how intuitive it feels; It’s a reflection of Jusant’s ethos as a whole, asking you to slow down to enjoy the smaller moments within it.

What’s more, you’ll have to keep on top of your carabiner and rope, too, meaning you’ll have to wind it in at certain stages to free up capabilities to continue scaling Jusant’s incredibly vertical map (all without vertigo, might I add).

The climbing mechanic is Jusant’s crowning glory, and it’s not an easy process to learn at first, either, as you try to reach for handholds or sidle across planks, all the time using that shoulder combination to reach one hand and the other further and further along (or up). It’s a challenge to get right, adding an additional sense of gameplay I’ve not really seen elsewhere before - and it may just be the most lifelike way to do it outside of a VR capacity with a gamepad.

On top of that, you’ll be able to swing across wide open spaces, shimmy across ledges, pull yourself up, and double jump up rocky cliff faces to get where you need to be. Another thing that DON’T NOD has done is to take care to allow players to get back down to previously trodden areas, with tucked-away corners providing ways to get back down to an area that wasn’t initially obvious before.

Getting into the rhythm of tapping and letting go of R2 and L2 to smoothly zip up an area is a feeling like no other, and it became something of a game with myself while playing as to how smoothly I could get from point A to point B without stumbling or slipping up.

You’ll also need to manage your stamina resource by placing additional points when climbing a particularly large surface to recoup - though if you fall, you’ll be fine (as you’ve likely already secured your rope), freeing up most of the gut-through-the-floor feelings caused by slipping and having your character tumble down the path you’ve so carefully travelled - though it still did happen at times for me as the character lets out a little shriek.

Those that came before...

A Cairn in Jusant
Click to enlarge

As you explore this ruined Tower and navigate through derelict buildings of past lives lived, you’ll uncover letters and other correspondence that help you to understand exactly what went on here and how the civilisation came to terms with their changing environment. It’s the usual method of worldbuilding and adding lore to an area otherwise devoid of humanoid characters, but the writing in this is compelling enough to keep you interested in locating more and learning about the residents as you progress.

While doing so, you’ll find out how the characters were able to create these large, laddered methods of traversing their home, and read conversations between characters like Mo and Yeke and their ‘romantic’ date for two (which you’ll find more tidbits about as you go) or Bianca, alongside those who lived in this community and are now having to adapt to the inevitable, looming change of life.

Additionally, shells can be obtained and listened to around the world - which showcase a small, repeating cutscene a la Life is Strange with soundscapes to give insight into what previously went on in an area: Is there an old workbench with tools strewn around? You may hear some hammering noises or splashing sounds, or the sound of water trickling throughout the world - you’ll even get an up-close look at some of the finer details for a more complete picture of what went on there.

Cairns and altars are hidden in the environment that can be interacted with for those set on that 100% completion score, meaning you’ll be rewarded for slowing down and taking the time to explore the world and ruins of Jusant.

It’s all very Everybody’s Gone to The Rapture, where you’re an intruder on the long-past lives of those that lived here; a fly on the wall navigating and exploring the remnants of many bygone stories.

Where do I go from here?

Using the Ballast's skill in Jusant
Click to enlarge

One thing that’s likely to be received one of two ways is how Jusant in no way, shape or form holds your hand: there’s no map here, no marker or HUD. It’s completely up to you to figure out how to navigate the environment, and for the most part, I like it - particularly as someone so used to being overburdened with ‘go here’ and ‘do this’ commands that put the process of thinking on the back burner.

It’s not without its caveats, though, and I absolutely had my fair share of moments where I was genuinely stumped as to what I needed to do next and was unable to proceed until I’d really stepped back to examine where I was.

If that does happen, however, your companion is here to help. Blue, big-eyed, and incredibly sweet-looking, this cutie, known as the Ballast, can be used to inspect the area around you to find ‘secrets’ located within the world in the form of big rings of light.

They can also help you to progress through certain areas that you may not otherwise be able to access, as they can generate an ‘Echo’ that will cause plants to grow that can then be climbed, or golden, glowing sparks will come to life and lift you up to harder to reach areas mid-climb.

What this does mean, however, is these moments of progression were much more special to me, with a sense of accomplishment settling in whenever I traversed a particularly challenging bit of rock or worked out the path I needed to take next.

There's magic on this Tower

The protagonist and Ballast in Jusant looking at a large, rocky creature
Click to enlarge

It’s not all climbing in Jusant, as ultimately, there’s more to the story. With your blue companion in tow, you’ll uncover Jusant’s eerily empty, beautifully handcrafted environments and restore greenery to certain parts of the world as your character’s markings glow alongside white etchings on pillars around you all doing the same.

You can also activate frescos, which are gorgeous murals to be found that, once interacted with, also light up blue and glow. It’s all part of the worldbuilding that makes Jusant’s world so mysterious - begging you to push on to learn more and more about what happened here, and who these people were.

The Verdict

A dark interior in Jusant
Click to enlarge

Jusant is an absolute gem that rewards you for slowing down, taking stock, and exploring its breathtakingly designed world.

With a unique art style, gorgeous soundscapes, and a world you’ll want to keep exploring, Jusant is one game I’ll likely remember and regard highly for quite some time.


Reviewed on PlayStation 5. Code provided by the publisher.

For more recent reviews, check out what we thought of Super Mario Bros. Wonder, Spider-Man 2, and Ghostrunner 2.

Ava Thompson-Powell
About the author
Ava Thompson-Powell
Ava is GGRecon's Evergreen Editor. With a BA (Hons) in Media & Communications, she was previously the Evergreen Editor for Dexerto. When not in the land of evergreens, she's playing her favourite games, including Dead by Daylight, The Sims, Second Life, and Red Dead Online. Oh yeah, and she's a huge Taylor Swift fan.
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