Title: Chasm
Platform: Steam, Windows, Mac, Linux, PS4

Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: Metroidvania, Platformer, Action RPG, Rogue lite
Players: Single player


Written by Whistler 6th February 2015















Long hallways, seemingly unending labyrinths and only a map to keep you company; it’s these aspects of the loneliness experienced that encompass the Metroidvania architecture that originated with the genre’s two namesakes - Metroid and Castlevania. However while going up against hordes of foes and challenges while mastering various weapons or skills and progressively gaining newfound abilities sound great on paper, for some reason me and the genre have never really managed past first base with one another. As a concept the Metroidvanias does fascinate me though. The intricate workings of utilizing a massive map to accommodate for the player to purposely traverse its paths many times over is something many developers fall flat attempting or gamers loathe with a passion. Yet with Metroidvanias it’s an intentional and core mechanic to their formula that while niche has a rabid fanbase. I can never pinpoint what it is about the genre that puts me off, seeing as games that are similar in loneliness or where the story takes a back seat to the action such as Vagrant Story and Resident Evil are both titles I’d most likely rank in my top ten games ever (which would possibly be the most unpopular article in the world).


But I digress, while most Metroidvania’s have never really held my attention for very long, Discord Games may have found a remedy to this with their attempt at the genre, Chasm with its recent 0.5 Alpha milestone update.


Chasm takes place in the small mining village of Karthus, you take the role of Daltyn, a soldier who is called in to investigate the village’s situation as both miners and residents have started vanishing after the discovery of a new mineshaft with ancient murals. After a long journey you finally arrive in the village to find no one but a traveling merchant who explains that they have been unable to flee to some supernatural force.

Now you must delve into the very same seemingly cursed mineshaft, rescue the villagers, battle the mine shaft’s monstrous residents and learn the secrets of the chasm.





























As Chasm is largely a Metroidvania it evokes much of the same joys and despairs with most of the classic tropes while introducing some modern elements with an emphasis on exploration such as the Metroid-esque unlockable double jump, slide and wall climb among others likely to be added later (though I don’t think we’ll see an equivalent to the morph ball make an appearance as that’d probably be rather painful for our hero).

You’ll also find that even for a Metroidvania there is a gigantic amount of platforming involved in Chasm, pretty much straight from the get go you’ll need to learn how to time and judge your jumps as there’s a multitude of small platforms and deadly traps. I actually do enjoy this level of focus on platforming as it livens up some of the dull moments when you’re required to backtrack though already well-trodden sections, however there are times when the platforming can be a hassle.

Especially should one be running on hardcore mode (simply put once you die it’s all over), I often found certain challenge rooms where the platforming would become awfully tricky and the difficulty curve from this would be almost effing vertical. From what I could deduce this was largely due to how tight a jump window can be, and hitting say the ceiling (which was uncomfortably close in this case) would remove any momentum often resulting in plenty of frustrating moments for a single room.


Interestingly though Discord Games have decided to throw in the flavour of recent years’, that being random generation where while main objective elements (such as bosses, the unlockable abilities and villagers) stay the same so as to keep the Metroidvania core; other elements such as enemy placements, level design and item discovery is altered.

However since the 0.5 update I do feel like the procedural generation has been toned down since the last time I played it a month or so back, perhaps it’s just me but I felt like after several playthroughs while randomizing the seed every time that I was still getting the same couple of items such as the magic dagger, molotov spell and shiv as well as regularly coming across the same map layouts.


This is a small complaint though and I’m sure my procedural expectations will be more than sated come the next update or final release. Thankfully Chasm has learned from previous mistakes devs tend to make in the genre and presents us with a plethora of weaponry and spells from long swords, to daggers and whips, fireball spells, clubs, 2hd great swords and so forth.





























Spells in Chasm are what can be best described as a mixture of Castlevania and Dark Souls; where spells are equipped in either hand slot similar to that in Dark Souls acting much like weapons where switching a spell requires you to reequip another much like gear. Spell use plays much like Castlevania where using a spell with will expend a certain amount of your mana pool and you can regain lost mana via destroying the torch lights found scattered throughout the levels.


There’s also a surprising depth to the use of your tools, while there’s the obvious daggers are faster and clubs slower, all weapons have different weights, hit arcs and so forth to them breathing subtle life into an otherwise fairly basic combat system.

Experience and currency have also seen an overhaul rolling back to a far more streamlined concept, while previously resembling a structure likened to that of the Demons/Dark Souls series where both your exp and gold were shared as essence and after accumulating so much essence you could either purchase new gear or spend it at a bonfire to level up stats of your choice. Instead exp and gold have their own currency where exp is gained by defeating enemies and levelling up will increase a random stat in an auto-balanced fashion; gold on the other hand can be found in destructible objects and randomly dropped by enemies.  


Chasm also sports a rather delicious looking pixel art style (for any of you who groaned over the mentioning of pixel art, leave now). While the first area, the mines get a bit dull to look at after a while there’s plenty of pixel eye candy to behold with some nicely detailed backdrops from catacombs to dungeon halls. It’s a shame you don’t get to see everywhere just yet as after discovering some of the forest temple-like or sky tower areas I eagerly desired to see more sights. Though I will admit as much as the backdrops are gorgeous to look at, sadly I found the sprites a little lacking. Now this really is purely a matter of personal preference, they don’t look bad just I can’t help but feel our hero looks a little bland (it’s a shame equipment worn isn’t reflected also). Sprites are animated nice and fluently just they really don’t match up to the backgrounds in terms of detail.





























Having spent roughly 8 hours now with Chasm I can say this is certainly one delve into the Metroidvania genre that’s worth keeping an eye on. With already great visuals, solid gameplay, and plenty of content for a title in its alpha state. Even while I hated reaching that final screen where I had completed what the alpha had to offer I’ve already enjoyed my time and feverishly await the next time I can delve deeper into the Chasm.


Pros:   

Solid gameplay,

Balanced difficulty,

Beautiful backdrops,

Simple yet enjoyable combat.


Cons:   

Somewhat lacking in random generation,

Occasionally frustrating platforming sections.

   

Written by,

Whistler














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