Jusant game Steam Next Fest demo preview mountain climbing magic Don't Nod

Jusant Teased Fantastic Views & a Compelling Mystery in Its Mountain-Climbing

Jusant was one of my personal favorite trailers in the marathon of showcases kicked off by Summer Game Fest, and I quickly jumped on the demo when it was announced as part of Steam Next Fest as well. This demo was a short and sweet slice that took half an hour or so to complete, but it left a stellar first impression with regard to the game’s setting and movement mechanics.

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You play a nameless wanderer walking through what seems to be a dried-out seabed with abandoned shipwrecks strewn about and get control as you reach a truly imposing mountain that rises into the clouds. You have a retractable rope that clips to the various climbing routes up the mountain, a few pitons you can place to anchor for jumps and make checkpoints, and an adorable blue buddy hanging out in your backpack.

Jusant game Steam Next Fest demo preview mountain climbing magic Don't Nod

I was expecting some grand climbing views and chill vibes from the mood established in the Jusant preview, but I was pleasantly surprised by the subtle mystery surrounding why you’ve arrived at this cliff in the first place, as well as how towns of increasingly complex rock-cut architecture and wood scaffolding raising ever upwards became abandoned in the first place. Also, your little backpack buddy is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to local fauna. From crabs along the dried seafloor, to birds perched on structures and soaring around the skies, to even more imaginative creatures popping up as you ascend, the setting feels uniquely vibrant even if the human structures are empty and the landscape is arid.

As for the climbing itself, the controls are initially a little tricky to get used to, but I appreciated getting the hang of the system since it made me feel in a similarly clumsy place to that of a novice climber. Holding the right and left triggers lets you grip with your corresponding hands, and you reach for another hold by pushing the left stick in a certain direction. Even in the demo, fun challenges introduce you to other mechanics like jumping between handholds or rappelling down and running along the cliff side to build momentum for an even bigger leap. You can’t just freeform boulder up any surface in sight, with routes being indicated by anchors on the wall your carabiner will clip into. But even with that said, the climbing sequences in the demo felt satisfying to tackle and broken up by the structures you reach, which may reveal shortcuts to let you rappel to lower areas and fragments of notes left behind by former residents.

Jusant game Steam Next Fest demo preview mountain climbing magic Don't Nod

Getting into the rhythm of grabbing handholds and charging jumps started to feel really good even if I missed a few of my jump targets at the start. The inputs are simple enough, but something about the way it felt to control, at least on gamepad, does definitely give the climbing a meditative feel promised in the game’s trailer announcement. These beginning areas were a great balance of figuring out your route and also turning the camera around to gawk at a gorgeous view or another structure to explore. I’m excited to see how much stamina management comes into play in later segments, since I only really had to worry about it a couple of times when I was still rusty on the controls and messing jumps up and just had to go back a short way to top it off.

When I got to the end of the Jusant demo, I was dying to keep climbing up and see what new biomes and higher settlements lie ahead. Jusant’s graphics are suitably epic and breathtaking, and the notes of sound design like the creaking of wooden scaffolding you’re crossing or the clicks and zips of your climbing gear make you feel even more immersed as you play.

Jusant game Steam Next Fest demo preview mountain climbing magic Don't Nod

The demo ends on a satisfying note, with your reaching a structure that you see far in the distance in the intro cutscene, a huge stone spire with a horn at the top. Blowing the horn activates some sort of magic, seemingly involving your backpack buddy, bringing lush green grass around your feet and tree trunk-sized flowers even starting to snake up the mountains. I certainly came away from this slice eager to see more of this world, and the full game drops in fall of 2023 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X | S, PC via Steam, and Game Pass.

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Jacob Linden
Jacob is a freelance writer for The Escapist and the writer of the column Expedition, which explores compelling side stories in new and classic games. He started writing for The Escapist, and games media in general, in fall of 2022 after a year writing blogs for small brands and news for smaller websites. He plays a ton of different genres but has a soft spot for sprawling RPGs like the Souls series or Skyrim, and he firmly believes that Pokémon Emerald is the best game in the series hands down. He has a degree in Film & Television Production and is also published in Esquire, Polygon, and Popular Mechanics.