Seriously, another week and another metroidvania. It feels like a new one releases every single week. If you are a fan of the genre, this is the best news ever. This writer is a huge fan and I was stoked that Chasm finally had a release date. I say finally because this one is a long time coming. Chasm launched on Kickstarter back in 2013. Right around PSX 2017, one of the rewards from PlayStation Live was a dynamic theme. The theme had trading cards floating through space with major releases on each card. The usual suspects were on there like Destiny, Days Gone, Far Cry 5, God of War and Chasm. I knew little to nothing about Chasm. One of my co-hosts talked about it non-stop but even while compiling news each week for the podcast, I cannot recall a lot of information if any on this new indie game. We had to wait another half year but Chasm is finally out.
At its core, Chasm is a 2D action platformer. The Metroid and Castlevania inspirations are clear from the start. Sprawling maps, primary and secondary weapons (one using mana/MP), inventory management and lamps. LAMPS. Remember those candelabras you could destroy every few steps that you can destroy every few steps. Well, Chasm has that in the form of lamps. Some drop money, a few drop food, most drop nothing.
I still felt the need to destroy every single one. NO MORE LIGHT!!!!! Errr..moving on.
I almost forgot about the whip. It made me feel like a Belmont. Then I found a better weapon so that was short-lived.
Chasm’s protagonist is a fresh from the womb knight. As in, you just became a knight a couple hours ago. None of the real knights are around, so, for your first task, go find out why the villagers keep disappearing from this mining town. The first and only NPC you encounter in the town even points out your rookie status. Off to the mines.
The mines are the mines but they are not the mines. Confused?
So, the game is procedurally generated. Not the individual dungeons (technically, it is all one dungeon but each biome gives you the feel of a new dungeon). Every time you start a new game, the entire world is brand new. Sure, the objectives remain the same but the locations are randomized. In theory, this is fun. What if you only play through the game once? You will never experience this randomization. To further add to this interesting mechanic is what the game calls Seed. Every new game you start shows a Seed number. If you give a friend of yours the Seed number, they can play that exact map. The only real purposes I see for this would be if you wrote a walkthrough guide or for speedrunning as everyone would need to play the same map.
Weapons have different animations forcing you to learn how you will be vulnerable. There is no spamming attack. After an attack, there is a delay. Almost an internal cooldown. For example, you start with a sword that has a fast-forward slashing motion. I could get two and, in some cases, three swings in before the enemy could attack back. Shortly into the first dungeon area, I found a wooden club. It was more powerful but had an overhand swing. It was much slower and I learned that I had to be more patient or I would take too much damage.
Sidenote: There is a pause button which leads to a menu and gameplay completely stops. Just like in the days of yore, press pause and not worry about being killed while idle.
Chasm encourages/requires exploration. While everyone’s map will be different, your goals are still the same and the order in which you unlock abilities is the same for every playthrough. When you first start playing, you will encounter areas where there appears to be a crawlspace but, nope, no crouch button to get through to the other side. You will see ledges that, while you could jump as high as the ledge, you can’t quite jump over. After some spelunking, you gain both the ability to grip the corner of a ledge and to perform a slide. I hope you remembered where those spots you could not jump over or slide under were located. If only there was a way…At least on the Vita version, you can set markers on the map. The only caveat is that you have to be in the room and if you forget to remove the marker, you can only do so if you head back to that room. This reminds of Axiom Verge where you place two reminders on the map except Chasm gives you unlimited markers (I stopped after 4 but 4 is more than 2 and closer to unlimited). A big difference between Chasm and Axiom Verge is death…
Dying in Chasm sucks. Well, if you play with Mortal Mode “On,” your game is over when you die and that really sucks. But dying in Chasm on a normal, non Mortal Mode playthrough is not much better. When you died in Axiom Verge, all that was lost was was your location. Anything unlocked and parts of the map uncovered remained but you just went back to your last save location. In Chasm, you go back to your last save, as in, you load your game from your last save and anything you had done didn’t happen. While a challenge, I do not want to feel like I am searching for a save point only to keep my progress. At least in Dead Cells (one of the best games of the year), you want to “save” because you are upgrading. Sometimes, the rabbit holes in Chasm seem to contain several more rabbit holes and the time between saves seems forever. FOREVER
As with the standard enemies throughout the game, boss fights are relatively easy. Every enemy in the game has a pattern. Sure, enemies become progressively harder but only in the sense that they hit you harder. The enemy patterns are all telegraphed and extremely easy to dodge. If this was an open world. I found myself fighting the levels more than the enemies. A few times, I found an enemy right on a ledge that I could reach but was too high to jump over him. Of course, my ranged ability had run out just one enemy ago. My options were to backtrack one screen which was simple enough but all enemies reset anytime you leave a screen or jump and take the hit (I had enough health to take at least a hit or two) and then spin and kill him. I chose the latter only to die one enemy later because of my lack of health.
The further you delve into the dungeon, the more NPCs you “free.” The NPCs can then be found up in town. You’ll unlock the usual (RPG) suspects: blacksmith, apothecary, general store, sorceress, etc. Some give side quests to retrieve an item that will help them help you. The blacksmith lost his hammer and once you find it, he can make new weapons for you. The sorceress lost her book of incantations which she needs to upgrade your secondary/magic item. The real problem lies in getting back to town and then getting back to where you last were in the mines/gardens/catacombs etc. As you progress, you will open up passages back to various portals that eventually bring you topside. What is strange is that there is only one portal that will cycle through the biomes (as long as you have unlocked it). Unless you remember the portal and then the related cave, you could be retracing a lot of your steps. At one point, I was so annoyed that I just entered the mines from the main entrance and worked my way back. Granted, I could one shot most of the mobs, it still felt like a waste of time.
Regarding the trophies in Chasm, there is a Platinum. That’s the good news. The other good news is that it is an attainable Platinum. The bad news is that the time to Platinum could range anywhere from 10-15 hours to 20+ hours. Technically, one playthrough (don’t quote me on this) is all that is required to achieve the Platinum. A hard playthrough with Mortal Mode “On” is all that is needed but remember that if you die on Mortal Mode, you’re done lest you get creative with save scumming. Easy mode is a joke so it might be best to complete a hard playthrough and then an easy playthrough with Mortal Mode “On.” After the last boss is beaten, you can still explore and finish up the map or any enemies you need to complete the bestiary. The only missable trophy I have come across is Prizefighter which requires a boss (any boss but Wendigo is probably the easiest to accomplish) to be beaten without taking a hit. Bosses do not respawn so its best to do this on your easy playthrough. Most bosses have a save point right before the boss so you could always reload.
Chasm is really good game that falls short of great. I was introduced to a new level of frustration playing this game. Frustration to the point of turning off my Vita and returning the next day. I want my difficulty to be within the game not against the game. Sure, I had my fair share of Dark Souls meltdowns but I knew I could brush myself off and get back into it. Dying in this game was irritating. Also, where was Bitkid going with the Seed system? As I mentioned earlier, unless you’re a speedrunner or following a walkthrough, I see no real purpose for it. I can truly say I have never been more on the fence about a game. I like Chasm even want to love it but I hate Chasm and practically loathe it. I definitely recommend Chasm for everyone but, be warned, if you are of the easily frustrated, you are going to have a bad time. If you want a challenge, Chasm is just for you. At an affordable price, it will not be the most regrettable purchase you hate (LOOKING AT YOU EXTINCTION).
I tell Dad jokes much to my wife’s chagrin. I love all games. I am really bad at fighting games. I co-host Nerds Gone Platinum every Tuesday night at 9PM EST on www.youtube.com/ngrradio. E-mail the show at email@example.com or tweet us at NG_Platinum. I can be found on PSN, Twitter and Instagram at Gimpyjayy and emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.