I'm sorry, Assassin's Creed, but scaling a cathedral by holding down one button and pressing forward for 30 seconds is not cool. You know what's cool? Jusant is cool.
Don't Nod's upcoming game Jusant makes climbing the star of the show. Scaling one of its imposing cliff faces or crumbling towers means reaching for handholds and alternating the grip on your left and right hands, setting pinions in the wall to catch your fall, bracing yourself for nail-biting jumps, and swinging over gaps.
As soon as I saw the game revealed at the Xbox Games Showcase I knew I needed to try it, so I was pretty psyched to see it's now got a free demo as part of Steam NextFest. I love when games make the act of movement and traversal through a space the focus—most big budget games abstract it these days, but there's something wonderfully satisfying about the feeling of conquering a landscape through your own determination and skill.
Even just in its short demo, Jusant's already got that feeling in spades. Climbing towers in games has become so rote it's a regularly mocked cliché, but Jusant makes it fun again, turning every section of wall into its own simple but effective puzzle. There's a wonderful tension to climbing that requires this much thought—despite the game's generous safety ropes, it's always very present in my mind that a wrong move could see me fall, and that adds a spark of danger to every climb despite Jusant's quiet and peaceful world.
Surprisingly for a Don't Nod game, the actual story isn't grabbing me—fairly generic notes and wordless cutscenes that feel like they could be out of any emotional indie platformer of the last decade fail to paint much of a picture—but the game's desolate landscape and empty ruins are the perfect backdrop for a quiet but difficult journey. Reaching the top of the demo's lighthouse and looking down at all the dusty cliffs I've scaled is the kind of moment of calm satisfaction that I wish more games could conjure.
I'm not sure how Don't Nod got to here from their usual narrative adventure fare, but I applaud the experiment. After this demo, I can't wait for the final release.