Windows Central Verdict
Jusant is peaceful and relaxing, easing you into a quiet mood of contemplation and wonder. It's beautiful from every angle, engaging to play, and tells an intriguing tale filled with a surprising amount of magic. The occasional bug, stutter, or moment of frustration only briefly interrupt Jusant's aura of calm.
The Tower is shrouded in history, creating a deep and believable fantasy world
Jusant is gorgeous, with stylized visuals melding flawlessly with unique art design
The softly told story of a land gone dry and a creature made of water is intriguing and ultimately emotional
The climbing mechanics and puzzle-like environments make for relaxing gameplay
Controls occasionally feel overly imprecise, leading to frustrating moments during climbing
Small bugs and performance issues
Why you can trust Windows Central Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
The oceans have vanished, leaving behind a husk of a home, all but devoid of life.
The Tower may be a shell of its former glory, but there is history to be uncovered, secrets to be found, and magic to be discovered. To accomplish any of that, though, you'll have to climb. Jusant places you in the hands of a mysterious but talented rock climber, and tasks you with reaching ever-increasing heights on The Tower. Accompanying you is the Ballast, an even more enigmatic creature made of water.
During your time in Jusant, you'll be wrapped in a cocoon of calm, exploring the quiet Tower at your own pace, and taking in the breathtaking vistas alongside a stunning soundtrack. The story of Jusant goes deeper than I ever thought possible during my brief Jusant preview, though, weaving further magic between these stones. I can't help but remember the few times Jusant broke that carefully constructed bubble of relaxation, but I'll certainly never forget my experience with this special game. Here's my full review.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by DON'T NOD. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.
What is Jusant?
- Price: $24.99 at Microsoft (Xbox) | Steam (PC)
- Release date: Oct. 31, 2023
- Developer: DON'T NOD
- Publisher: DON'T NOD
- Genre: Puzzle-adventure
- Players: Single-player
- Install size: 8.9GB
- Playtime: 6+ hours
- Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, PlayStation 5
- Xbox Game Pass: Xbox, PC, cloud
- Reviewed on: Xbox Series X (primarily), Windows PC (tested)
Jusant is a puzzle-adventure game developed and published by French company DON'T NOD, most-known for its work on Life is Strange and Tell Me Why. This time around, though, the powerful narrative choices and emotional stakes of DON'T NOD's previous games are set aside in favor of a more subtle approach. Jusant features no spoken dialogue or branching narrative, and instead focuses on exploration.
Players will use a variety of tools to climb The Tower, a vast spire of rock that was once home to humans, before the oceans dry up. You will learn a lot about The Tower and its history in your mission to reach the top, and you'll get help from your adorable companion, the Ballast. It's a straightforward and relaxing game with simple controls, no fail states or game overs, and low stakes. Depending on how thorough you are in your exploration, Jusant can take 6 hours or more to complete, possibly longer if you seek to find 100% of the secrets.
Jusant review: Performance and stability
- Overall, performance is very stable and smooth in Jusant, even during the most intense climbing sections.
- I encountered two areas with noticeably lowered frame rates and some stutters, and one hard crash in the last biome of the game.
- I also regularly encountered a bug that caused the character to get "stuck" on an object or piece of terrain, requiring frantic jumping to free them.
In my Jusant preview, I didn't comment much on performance or stability because I already knew the team was working on a significant number of fixes and improvements for launch. I'm pleased to see that DON'T NOD followed through on their word, because the review copy I got of Jusant looked better, sounded better, had smoother animations, suffered from fewer bugs, and boasted better performance than my preview. For the vast majority of my playthrough, there were no issues.
It's not perfect, though. While frame rates were buttery smooth most of the time, two larger areas saw noticeable dips accompanied by stutters. Fortunately, this never lasted more than a minute or two. I also saw exactly one hard crash, while attempting to scale a wall in the final biome of the game. Finally, I was able to pretty consistently replicate a bug in which the character became "stuck" on basically any object or protruding piece of terrain that wasn't part of the obvious path, freezing in place straight as a stick. I was always able to get out of these sticky situations with some reliable button mashing, but it's the only bug I noticed, and it happened a lot, so it's worth mentioning.
Jusant on PC
Being an Xbox Play Anywhere title, I was able to boot up Jusant on my Windows PC using the same code I used to review the game on Xbox Series X. There were expanded settings to the graphics, as well as proper keyboard control bindings, giving PC players the experience they expect over console-only games. I was able to comfortably play Jusant at around 120 FPS with all settings maxed out at 1440p on the Lenovo Legion Tower 7i (Gen 8). The performance was rock solid and the game felt great, but I have to admit that frame rate isn't as high as I expected for running on a 13th Gen Core i9 and NVIDIA RTX 4080.
Still, it's undeniable that Jusant looks so good at max settings, even better than it does on Xbox Series X (and I was already impressed by the visuals there). If I chose to lower the visual settings a little bit, I could've pumped those frame rates a lot higher, but then I'd have to give up this eye candy. Stability seemed identical to the Xbox version, although I couldn't as thoroughly test for any areas of slowdown or crashes.
Jusant review: Visuals and soundtrack
- Jusant uses stylized visuals to paint a vividly imagined, unbelievably vertical world.
- It pairs the lovely visuals and defined art design with a gorgeous and emotional soundtrack.
- Overall, Jusant is a great-looking game on Xbox Series X and Windows PC, and will have you constantly stopping to admire the views.
I'm one of many that firmly believes photorealism is far from the only way to make a beautiful video game, and Jusant is further evidence of that. I was impressed with DON'T NOD's unique art style in Harmony: The Fall of Reverie, and I'm impressed again here. Jusant looks a little like an animated show on the surface, but with a dramatic flair to its colors, lighting, and depth of detail. The DON'T NOD team has used this art style to fabricate a hauntingly beautiful world that appears empty on the surface, but is actually swarming with lost history and signs of life.
Since my preview, Jusant's lighting and animations have noticeably improved, making an already good-looking game feel smoother and more realized. I adored exploring this world, and I spent a significant amount of time simply admiring the views during climbs. Jusant does an excellent job making you feel its verticality and pulling you into the world it creates. It's all supported by an excellent, gorgeous soundtrack that gently rests in the background most of the time, letting the world do the heavy lifting, but swells in perfect time with powerful moments. It's all very well done.
Jusant review: Story and world
- While Jusant is designed like a laid back, casual puzzle-adventure game about climbing, it does have a story.
- It's deeply entwined in the unique and enigmatic lore of Jusant's world, surrounding The Tower and the mystery of the missing oceans.
- It's subtle and leaves plenty of questions unanswered, but is also powerful and thought-provoking.
I'm not certain what I was expecting from Jusant from a story perspective, but even my brief preview shattered those expectations. Playing the full game shattered them again, taking me in directions I didn't quite expect. Jusant does have a narrative, one that's intrinsic to the world you're exploring. It's mysterious, and you will never know everything, but it's also breathtaking in its beauty and grandeur.
You are an unknown, talented climber with curious tattoos, accompanied by a creature composed entirely of water, known as a Ballast. You're exploring The Tower, a vast spire of rock that was once home to many humans — until the endless oceans surrounding the Tower that gave it life dried up completely. Your mission is to reach the top of the Tower and learn about the humans that used to live here... But there's also signs of an even older civilization, one that was a mystery even to the humans that are already long gone.
There is wonder and mystery in Jusant, and more than a little bit of magic. It's a surprisingly emotional, subtle narrative that I won't spoil. Suffice to say, explore this world, learn from all the secrets you find, and fill in the gaps however they fit for you. No matter what, prepare to be struck by the ending chapter, as the culmination of every step you took to reach the top.
Jusant review: Gameplay
- Jusant is designed to be a relaxing, casual, and approachable puzzle-adventure game.
- There are no enemies, fail states, or game over screens, just you and the climb.
- The climbing mechanics and accompanying puzzles are satisfying and intuitive most of the time, apart from occasional frustrations with imprecise controls.
There's no risk of failure in Jusant; no chance of you careening off the Tower to your certain demise or coming face-to-face with ancient horrors seeking to end your life. All that changes is how long it may take you to find the next path forward, to parse how to progress up the Tower using the abilities and tools at your disposal. Jusant's gameplay is designed to be relaxing and approachable, with even its puzzles being fairly straightforward.
The gameplay is climbing, and exploring. Your character is surprisingly versatile when it comes to doing this, too, with an intuitive rope system and pitons, astounding grip strength, and absolute fearlessness when it comes to facing the edge of a cliff. Your companion, the Ballast, also helps you on your quest, opening new paths forward with its unique abilities. All-in-all, Jusant is exactly what it aims to be: a meditative experience that encourages you to take your time and find your own path, to explore the Tower at your own pace.
Sometimes, it can become difficult to understand where to go next, but there's no worry of failing because you took too long, and there are no "wrong ways" in Jusant. Any way forward either leads to a secret, or to the next place you need to go. The only real frustration or stress you'll encounter in Jusant is how the controls can occasionally, inconsistently feel incredibly imprecise, not responding at all how you expect them too when you reach for the next handhold, jump for a ledge, or try to swing on your rope to a distant platform. These moments shatter the calming magic a little bit, but they're fortunately few and far between.
Jusant review: Accessibility and approachability
- Jusant is a very approachable game, but its mechanics do require constantly holding down controls.
- There are a solid number of options to tweak the control sensitivity, inversion, and vibration, but not to change any to a toggle or even rebind (on a controller).
- You also get options to customize the audio, including for headphones users, as well as several options to tweak the interface and font size for better legibility.
Jusant isn't a complicated game, and doesn't require a ton of options for customization. In this respect, it still does a solid job, with various options to customize the controls (specifically the sensitivity, the inversion of various controls, and vibration), the audio (with granular sliders and options for headphones users or mono audio), and the interface (such as ways to make the font more legible). However, there is one area where Jusant doesn't feel very accessible.
Its climbing mechanics by necessity require you to almost constantly be holding down at least one of the triggers and simultaneously manipulating the joysticks. There's no option to make the triggers a toggle instead, which I feel would massively aid players with certain physical challenges or disabilities. You also have no ability to edit the control scheme on a controller like you do with keyboard and mouse, which is disappointing to see. Overall, Jusant is a step above a lot of other indie games I've played recently.
Approachability wise, it's a similar story. Jusant is a simple game that's easy to grasp, but there are instances where it can become very unclear where to go. Jusant doesn't have much of a HUD, simply highlighting interactable elements and sometimes giving tooltips for new tools or controls, but there's no option to get a pointer in the right direction if you need it. Still, I'd say Jusant is a very approachable game that almost anyone can pick up and enjoy, as long as Jusant's accessibility includes them.
Jusant review: Final thoughts
You should play this if ...
✅You want a few hours of relaxing, beautiful gaming
Jusant is peaceful, and quiet, and just plain lovely. The Tower is wondrous and filled with secrets and beauty. The accompanying music is full of emotion. And the story comes with a surprising amount of magic. It's a relaxing 6 or so hours of gaming, and that's just what a lot of people need.
✅You love exploring original worlds full of secrets
The world of Jusant is quite different from our own, even if they use the French word for "ebbing tide" as a reference to the cataclysmic disappearance of the oceans. If you love exploring original worlds, Jusant has a beautiful one for you (and there are plenty of secrets).
You should not play this if ...
❌You want action and challenge in your games.
Jusant isn't out to challenge you, even though it does have puzzles. It's also not packed with action, with not an ounce of combat anywhere in sight. If you need either (or both) in any game you play, Jusant isn't it.
❌You struggle to hold controls for extended periods of time
Jusant is a fairly approachable and accessible game, but I can see it being a challenge for those with disabilities or physical challenges with their hands. Jusant requires that you hold down the triggers for most of the game, while simultaneously manipulating the joysticks. This may cause fatigue or pain for some players, and there's unfortunately no way to change that.
Jusant may be one of the best Xbox games of the year. Granted, that list is unbelievably long. 2023 has been an incredible year for gaming in general. Still, Jusant is a great game, and one that I can see a lot of players immensely enjoying. It's relaxing in the kind of way that it makes the stress melt off of you. It's the perfect way to end a long day of work. Jusant doesn't overstay its welcome, either, giving you just enough time to fall in love with this fictional world before hitting you with its emotional climax and sending you on your way.
Frustrations with some bugs and imprecise controls aside (and accessibility woes considering those same controls), Jusant is a lot of fun. The handcrafted crags and rocky cliffs, dotted with the dusty remnants of human civilization, invite wanton exploration; the painted vistas splattered with soft light and warm hues melt into the original soundtrack, highlighting each chapter with delightful swells. Jusant is exactly what I hoped it would be during my preview, and that's amazing. I also recognize that it's the exact kind of game a lot of people sadly wouldn't give a chance to, which is why it's a perfect fit for Xbox Game Pass. Yeah, it's a day one addition, so you have little excuse not to play it for a bit and ascend the Tower.
Jusant is another fantastic game from DON'T NOD, letting players explore a beautiful world drastically changed by environmental disaster. It's relaxing and low stakes, but enrapturing with its visuals, soundtrack, and world.
Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.