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The RPS Advent Calendar 2023, December 16th

Secure ropes

A close up of Horace the Endless Bear looking at a big pile of presents with his name on, next to a plate of cookies with a glass of milk. It's the 2023 RPS Advent Calendar!
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun

We come to the sixteenth door of the advent calendar, but unfortunately it's quite far up above you. You're going to have to climb.

Keep a firm grip as we go. It's Jusant!

A zoomed out shot of one of the cliffs you climb in Jusant
Image credit: RPS/Don't Nod

Alice Bee: I started meditating a few weeks ago, which means I'm now one of those pricks who says "ooooh, you must try [thing that is new to me]" at everyone they meet, like the first time someone at work tries Huel or discoveres Sufjan Stevens. My mind is extremely cluttered and loud and some quiet is, it turns out, good. Jusant is, despite it being a game where you leap from perilous heights and hang from ledges by your fingertips, a very quiet adventure.

You're climbing a tower - a huge, natural pillar of rock that is in effect a sort of vertical climate, with dry desert at the bottom and some more moist bits as you get higher up. There used to be much more water, but something made it all go away, and your mission, you intuit, is to bring it back. There are no people, no NPCs, and no dialogue is spoken. Along the way you walk through the layered histories of several different civilizations: you find spinning statues akin to prayer wheels, which come alive with blue lights when you turn them; you read old letters and fragments of diaries from different times; you unearth shells that play a snatch of sound from years before.

The climbing itself is part mechanical (pressing and releasing individual mouse buttons or triggers to hold or leg go of the rock face with each arm) and part vibes, judging how much rope you have left, how tired you are, and if you can make that jump. But beyond the challenge of the ascent, what I love most is Jusant's world, which feels like it lives and breathes even though it's deserted. It's a place of bright sun-baked stone, shadowy overhangs, birds that take off in yellow clouds as you approach, plants clinging on to cracks in the rock, and glowing, floating creatures in dripping caverns.

And through it all you piece together how people lived, what went wrong, how society tried to adapt, how things fell apart, and the expeditions to the very top of the spire that tried to fix things in the worst way possible. It's a fabulous game, and unlike the Don't Nod you might be familiar with from Life Is Strange. I loved it.

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The all-seeing eye of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the voice of many-as-one.