It’s no secret in video games that trailers can sometimes be deceiving. Sure, they can show off pretty visuals with cool music, but it’s not always clear what the actual game is. What will I be doing when I have a controller in my hands?
When Jett: The Far Shore was first shown off by PlayStation in June 2020 it presented itself as a sci-fi game with a grandiose premise, sharp visuals, a bold soundtrack and a cool looking ship. However, these things don’t add up to a game.
Those elements are all present in the final product, but there’s not much else to Jett: The Far Shore. There’s no combat, there’s no resource management, there’s no leveling. A game can survive without those things, but it does make explaining what Jett: The Far Shore is a bit difficult.
The 11-hour journey is about a group that leaves their home planet hoping to secure a way of life on a new world. There’s no detail into why they need to find a new world, but I’m happy to buy into a space exploration game. I got chills during the cutscene that showed the spaceship leaving the planet to arrive at the new one. The music swelled to a crescendo and sold the importance of the moment. However, just like a comedy that puts its best jokes in the trailer, this scene, which featured in Jett’s first trailer, is probably the best in the game.
When arriving at the new world, your ship, aptly called a jett, is how you discover landmarks, flora and fauna. After a slow, dialogue-heavy intro, I was excited to finally get into the jett, which behaves like a hovercraft. However, it didn’t take long for what I expected to be the good part to no longer be fun.
Your jett overloads if you accelerate for too long without easing off the power. That may add a sense of tension when you are trying to escape an alien creature, but ultimately it just annoyed me that I had to let go of the right trigger every few seconds.
On top of that, I was constantly fighting the camera. Changes in elevation are not fun and there are plenty of them on the world. The ship can get turned around while the camera will stay put. The camera will also back too far away from the ship at times, making perspective difficult as you navigate a mountain range. Once tighter areas are introduced, the flying goes from sort of fun to outright annoying.
After the premise is presented, the story and gameplay shift into something out of The Martian or Interstellar. Surviving as the first settlers on a new planet is difficult. That concept ends up being the focus of the gameplay and the story as Jett: The Far Shore progresses. The world fights you between its terrain, its environment and some of the giant creatures you will encounter.
You play as Mei, one of the scouts in the group, who is a voiceless character. You can steer conversations by selecting a topic, but that doesn’t affect the story. The other characters are voiced, but speak an alien language. That may add a bit of realism, but it’s frustrating when you are flying the ship and having to read subtitles at the same time. There were a few occasions where I used the PlayStation 5’s gameplay capture to replay a minute or two because I couldn’t read the subtitles while trying to pull off a maneuver in the jett.
You are tasked with completing tasks like exploring an area, finding a place to set up a shelter or clearing out a creature from your outpost. There are no side missions, but you can explore the planet at will as somewhat of an open world.
The story introduces some fantastical concepts that created intrigue after a dull first four hours. As I got into the story, that curiosity wasn’t rewarded with a resolution. The game ends with so many loose ends and unresolved questions to some of the more interesting concepts.
What Jett: The Far Shore’s story does well doesn’t outweigh what the gameplay doesn’t. Overall, the negatives are more prevalent than the positives, making it a game not worth recommending. The story isn’t memorable enough and the gameplay isn’t fun enough to stand out. It has some positive elements, but the total package is something I have a hard time believing anyone would find truly enjoyable.
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