JETT: The Far Shore Review (PS5) – With every new gaming platform there’s always one title that can be identified as a turning point for how people view said platform, and for mobile gaming there’s a good argument to be made that Sword & Sorcery by Superbrothers is that game – or at least, it was for me.
As such, hearing that Superbrothers was working on a new game, this time a PlayStation console exclusive, meant I immediately wanted to check it out.
What I found in JETT: The Far Shore is a truly human game about exploration, community, and survival in the face of obliteration. JETT”s narrative asks difficult questions and puts it to you to answer them, though the gameplay in between those big story moments only seem to ask one question.
Will the story be intriguing enough to distract you from the fact that you’ve done the same thing in every level. The answer? Well, sometimes.
JETT: The Far Shore Review (PS5) – Out Running Oblivion
Just So You Know, Your People’s Future Is In Your Hands – No Pressure
The premise for JETT: The Far Shore will forever be relevant, because it’s all about trying to find a new home, not just for yourself, but for your people and their survival. The people who take the first steps into the unknown so that those who follow after them may be able to tread a safer, more secure path take on great sacrifice when they choose to do so.
That’s who you play as in Mei; a member of a scouting group hand selected by the overseer and commander Jao, whose task is simple: travel to a far shore across the stars in hopes of finding a home, so that her people may survive.
The stakes for everything you do in JETT are therefore immediately placed as high as they can be, and it takes its time in the beginning making sure that you understand what your mission really means. If Mei and the group fail, not only are their own lives forfeit but the lives of everyone they left to protect and everything they’ve ever known.
So it’s a slow burn at first, with a critical focus placed on your mission and the people you’re travelling with.
A slow start isn’t so bad considering you can hit the credits in approximately 10 hours, but while it hampers the gameplay it evolves the story further. It’s evident that the story in JETT: The Far Shore is what’s at the game’s core rather than an inventive gameplay mechanic or loop, and it’s a choice that only mostly pay off.
While the beginning can feel slow, JETT does an excellent job of keeping you intrigued not just with your mission but with a cast of rich characters and great writing meshed cohesively with its art style and visuals.
What doesn’t help however is the gameplay when you’re jetting around and scouting the land. There were moments within the narrative that despite my actions feeling menial, they felt more imperative than anything else in that moment because my task is soaked in the deep weight of the story.
That kind of distraction never lasted very long, and I soon found myself wanting to complete my tasks in the jett quickly so I can get back to the ground control and talk to the other scouts to further the narrative.
Flying By The Seat Of Your Pants
The gameplay that is to be found within JETT: The Far Shore is in large part the scouting and exploration of your new home in your jett, a vehicle which hovers above the ground and can glide at higher altitudes for a short period of time with the right momentum.
You’ll spend the majority of your time in its cockpit, speaking to your co-pilot, Isao, as together you figure out small puzzles to complete your objectives generally by scanning the area for a particular item to throw or scanning the area to find a ghlokeblum to bolster.
It’s essentially those two different things for each mission, and across the 10 or so hours you’re liable to spend with JETT, the repetitive nature of it makes the sections of the game that are likely supposed to be the most engaging more dull than anything.
That’s not to say the foundations of the gameplay like exploration and observation need to change, but any variety in your actions only really comes at the very end and by that point it feels too little too late.
It also doesn’t help that your jett has certain limitations which stop you from just holding down go and forgetting about it. If you do want to do that, then you’ll need to find a steady stream of vapours, otherwise your engines de-stabilize and you stop dead in your tracks while the ship repairs itself. These limitations are very in keeping with the game’s theme of surviving when it feels like everything can be against you, like having engines that can’t sustain high speeds for long periods of time, but it really only dampens your enjoyment of what’s supposed to be the game’s main gameplay draw.
But when you begin to get in some kind of flow while you’re zooming around, popping up into the air as you cross an ocean on a brand new planet, soaring towards the sun, it truly is a beautiful sight.
A peaceful air almost washes over you every time you find yourself going aloft, crossing the new landscape, discovering different kinds of plants and organisms and interacting with them through your ships few tools.
It’s these moments that are everything to the jett gameplay, and it’s where the narrative and gameplay intertwine so well as you’re in awe of what your seeing while listening to Isao talk about the gravity of everything you’re doing there, and how hopeful it can be for their people’s future to see what can be such a peaceful land at times.
Survival At What Cost?
JETT: The Far Shore does have a sense of relevancy that will be there not just today but for years to come, but when all is said and done I was left unsure if everything really delivered the way it was meant to. To get into this I’m going to have to talk about narrative details, so consider this your spoiler warning.
When I said before that JETT asks difficult questions for you to answer, what I mean by that is you’re essentially asked to question the value of your own survival. We’re the most intelligent species as far as we know, but does that mean we must go on forever more? Will it really be a great loss to the entire cosmos if humans were wiped out? Or would the universe continue on, impassive, as it always has, and always will?
Jones, your scout captain is of two minds in this issue, and while JETT is by no means abdicating for the end of humanity – they travelled across space just to survive, after all – it is asking you to question the cost of that survival.
When you arrive on the far shore things start going wrong right away, and soon you’re without a communications array, Mei and Jones almost die getting caught in a cave about to collapse, and there are plenty of wildlife that are not exactly happy to see you on their turf.
Also, the magnetic signal that drew them to this shore in the first place makes it impossible to place any electronics within close proximity of it, and each day for a time the sun decides to shine down so brightly it turns your jett’s operating systems to shambles. Everything feels against you, like you’re not meant to be there.
Consider what you might do, were you tasked with finding a new home for humans. How would you want to establish a home? Through violence, domination, and cruelty towards the land and the life you find there, or would you try and find a symbiotic way of peacefully co-existing, respecting and understanding that you’re not the only living creature on that planet.
Just Missing The Mark
The story comes to a head when you have to “battle” a massive being called a kolos in order to free a vital piece of your equipment from its grasp. The experience shakes Isao to his core, and he puts it to you whether or not those concessions are worth it. They’re an inherently peaceful race who want to live in harmony with the world, not be pushing against it, so needing to cause harm in any way puts them in a deep moral issue.
In the end, though, they complete their mission, establishing a connection to the Mother Structure, and relaying all the information they’ve collected. You’ve done all you can and there’s nothing left but to head into torpor, a kind of cryo-sleep, until you can be collected by your people. You do survive, and though you don’t know it, it’s likely that your people survive and are able to establish a community.
So, you’re asked the question but it’s ultimately not up to you, or Isao, or any one individual. Whether it feels worth the price, we’re pre-ordained to want to survive so the best we can do is try and stumble forward. Oblivion will come for everything eventually, but that doesn’t mean we won’t try and outrun it.
The ending was therefore predictable and when the credits came, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it other than I felt nothing really about it. The big questions that JETT asks are left relatively unanswered since you can decide for yourself if you believe that Mei’s people are able to build a new home, and it doesn’t really dig deep enough to have any meaningful conversation about the issues its trying to get you to think about like colonialism and manifest destiny.
The Final Directive
JETT: The Far Shore can be good game to dig into for a weekend, or to capture great looking screenshots while you cruise around open waters, towards an unknown horizon. It is a peaceful and relaxing experience that makes you want to sit in the game’s world for much longer than the gameplay really has any right to hold you.
Its narrative doesn’t really hit its mark however, and the lackluster gameplay mixed with a few stuttering and freezing performance issues don’t make for the immensely compelling time I wanted JETT: The Far Shore to be.
JETT: The Far Shore is available on PS5 and PS4 on October 5, 2021.
Review code generously provided by the publisher.