I don’t function well under pressure. So when my parents and teachers told me that I’m the last hope of my people, I was prepared to be pretty stressed about the next steps. Then, a couple of hours later, I’m chasing a pink light known as a brine wisp above beautiful crystal waters, doing donuts above the ocean while playing with this new life form.
Jett: The Far Shore delights in these contrasts.
We’ve all been to space before — I personally love dabbling (and, occasionally, dying horrifically) in games like No Man’s Sky and Hardspace Shipbreaker. But while other games focus on the danger or the adventure of interstellar travel, Jett places all of its emphasis on the unsettling, awe-inspiring, and utterly alien beauty of it all. Jett: The Far Shore isn’t comforting; at times, it’s sad and even bleak. But it’s a gorgeous journey that’s worth the time regardless, despite a few snags.
In Jett, I play as Mei, a scout and mystic, and one of the last hopes for the people of my Soviet-inspired home planet, which is threatened by some unknown, impending oblivion. Me and a small band of fellow researchers have to follow a “hymn wave” to a new planet and a new future off of this cursed world. So, no pressure.
Mei flies a Jett, which is a nimble little craft with a few tools to toggle. I can pull things aboard my ship, turn on the headlamps, roll to the side, or push myself up in a vertical arc. This is where the game really sings; as Mei, I slowly plod around. As a Jett pilot, I spin and dash over the waves with ease. I also have a co-pilot named Isao.
My craft is durable enough to deal with surging tides and the occasional rough bout of flying, but delicate enough that I have to dodge any incoming hits and watch how much pressure I’m putting on the engines. I’m a scout craft, not a fighter jet, but I get to feel like a trained pilot exercising mastery over my ship. On the PlayStation 5, I slowly crank the speed of my ship and make sharp turns using the trigger buttons, and the Jett controls like a dream — a light touch always does the trick.
If I pop my engines right above a specific plant, it might burst and deter the hostile beasts chasing me. Certain waves of vapor cool my engines down, giving me more time to pull off some sick tricks. The new world is full of helpful plants and flora, as well as some scary fauna, and I learn it all and turn it to my advantage.
Jett is gorgeous, and there are times where I just zone out and smell the space roses. Then there are times where the game wants me to slow down and examine things, and these mandated breaks are a little too structured. Isao also spends a lot of the early game holding my hand through tasks I could easily grasp on my own.
At one point, a storm front coming over the horizon forces me to slow down and explore a little island, and it’s an organic premise for a pause in the action. But the fact that there’s literally a timer shown on the UI makes the endeavor feel a little less magical.
The best moments are the ones where I have something like the above, but without my co-pilot chattering at me or the UI prompting me to do it all. I love finding the sandbanks and coasting along them, or searching the ocean for salvage. There’s a great tranquillity in just watching the Jett skip forward through the waves, surging toward an objective. When I’m moving and just enjoying the ride, I’m having a great time.
But the joy of the Jett is also contrasted with some grim imagery that made the light moments stand out all the clearer. At one point, Mei and Isao are putting the Jett through its paces, jumping over freighters on their home planet. Isao notes that the freighters have completed their job by building the Jetts, and they’ll be torn down for salvage now. I say goodbye to my family and go to the launchpad, and turn to see a crowd of thousands of people, watching me. I can’t make any individual out, but I can hear their voices intertwine in grief and hope.
What’s more, it takes a thousand years just to reach the far shore, and Mei embarks with Isao knowing they’ll never see their family and home again. It’s a powerful narrative that makes the light moments of chasing a brine wisp or discovering a new stretch of land so much sweeter.
Jett: The Far Shore is a simple game, but a beautiful one, and well worth your time. It can make space a little bit scary, without going over the top, and it strikes a great balance between saccharine and grimdark. The Far Shore is a journey I was glad to take, even when the company got a little too chatty.
Jett: The Far Shore is due to release on Oct. 5 on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and the Epic Games Store. The game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5 via a code from Superbrothers and Pine Scented. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.