Review: Chasm Comes Close to Greatness

Screenshot: Chasm I have personally been anticipating Chasm for years now. Originally funded on Kickstarter in 2013, Chasm promised something that, if pulled off, would make for an amazing game: a procedurally generated metroidvania. Such a game would mean endless replayability, and that would be video game bliss. Chasm technically delivers on its promise of procedural generation, and while being a fun game overall, is not without its flaws. Screenshot: Chasm In Chasm you play as a Guildean knight tasked to discover what fate has befallen a small mining town. When you arrive at the town, you discover that most of the townspeople have been abducted by monsters, and taken to the depths of the mines. Your adventure will eventually take you across six large, procedurally generated areas that showcase Chasm’s beautiful pixel art. In fact, most everything in Chasm is gorgeous, with pixel art that has amazing attention to detail, and silky smooth animations. Screenshot: Chasm Just as smooth and satisfying as the art and animations is Chasms controls.  Every jump, backwards dash, and attack feels tight. You will eventually get the ability to climb, glide, and even double jump. Each ability that aids in traversal adds to Chasm’s fun. Unfortunately, whether due to the nature of the procedural generation or a choice by the developer, the pacing is annoyingly slow. It’s not until the end of your playthrough that you get most of the better traversal abilities, making travelling the sometimes long distances between points a chore. There are shortcuts that make travel time less annoying, but you will still have to do quite a bit of backtracking. Enemies respawn when you reenter a screen, requiring you to battle the whole way. If you die after a save point, you lose all of your progress, adding a layer of difficulty and risk vs. reward, but it’s a system that can feel a little punishing at times. Screenshot: Chasm There is an interesting assortment of enemies in Chasm. Despite enemies having similar, more powerful versions of themselves as you explore on, their variations make them like completely new foes. And they aren’t just variations on art, either, but enemies that grow more hideous and malformed the deeper you get. There are plenty of unique enemies, too.  Bosses are extremely well done, and are some of the more impressive encounters in Chasm. Unfortunately, the bosses feel a little easy to defeat, especially with preparation. With enough money, you can just bring enough potions to make yourself essentially invincible. Screenshot: Chasm There are plenty of items to find in Chasm, with secrets and other reasons to explore, too. Finding townspeople usually opens up new options, and they often offer side tasks that allow you to buy better items and gear. There are lots of options when it comes to ways to dispatch foes—from magic to more conventional weaponry—but I found everything to be lacking compared to the assortment of swords. No magic spell, or other weapon, was quite as useful as the swords were. In fact, I found no other melee weapon that could come close to the damage output of swords. Even the slower, more powerful weapons did damage that was comparable to the quicker swords, making almost everything else useless. The swords are fun to use, but it would be nice to have a choice. Screenshot: Chasm Chasm nails so many of the things that make metroidvanias great: it has interesting enemies and bosses while having tight controls, and interesting abilities for the player to explore. Every flaw it has is magnified by its procedurally generated nature, and it fails horribly at pacing. If you are a fan of the genre, Chasm is greatly recommended; but if you expect to be blown away by the procedural generation, you’ll be disappointed. Chasm is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Steam.  
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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.