The Chant Review| We humans are curious beings. Fear, an inescapable element in our very existence, helps us keep away from dangers, created precisely by situations unknown to us. We usually try to answer everything so as to try as little as possible. Yet, we ourselves try to be able to experience that feeling again thanks to many ways: first of all horror novels, films and video games. The latter confirm this; the abundance of publications of the horror genre capable of transporting players out of their comfort zone to places where who knows what horrors are hidden.
Among the most recent it is impossible not to mention the note Dark Pictures Anthologyof which the fifth chapter is coming soon, or titles like Scorn and the work we are viewing today: The Chant. Created by Brass Tokens, study of Canadian independent development in which some industry veterans reside, The Chant tries to enter the world of scary games, while following a path already created by pillars of the same genre and without disdaining its inspiring muses. So will he be able to stand out from the mass of horror games? We at VMAG try to give an answer with this review, so let’s stop talking and let’s get started. Enjoy the reading!
The Chat: the spiritual retreat begins
The story of The Chant begins with an event that happened before the main events. We are witnessing a ritual on an unknown island, surrounded by people wearing tribal-style masks. But as happens in this kind of work something goes wrong, in the middle of the procedure one of the women present, pregnant, runs away. The ritual cannot continue, the circle is broken: the woman’s desperate escape does not meet a positive outcome, while strange forces begin to unleash themselves on the island.
We then move on to the present: we learn that the protagonist’s name is Jess Briars. She suffers from the so-called “after effects” of a traumatic event that will appear to us in the first moments: the death of a loved one. Prompted by an old friend named Kim, Jess leaves for a few days of rest towards Glory Island, a very remote island where those present dedicate themselves to a special spiritual retreat guided by the guru Tyler. This “pilgrimage” takes as its basis not only the unconscious but also the use of the so-called “prismatic science“, a subject that would unite science and the supernatural through the use of prisms.
It promises a total recovery of one’s psychic dimension, as well as a significant improvement in inner balance. Yet a Jess something doesn’t add up. The behavior of those present resembles all too much that of a cult and, on the very evening of arrival, they will take part in a ritual which (as you will have understood) will go wrong. From there begins a real descent into a lysergic oblivion dominated by horrors.
Between prisms, inner and outer demons
Many of you, especially horror fans, will have already rung a lot of bells. In fact, the references to films such as “Midsommar – The village of the damned” and to writers like Stephen King they are pretty clear. All of this is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact The Chant, being a title quite tied to narrative, does well on this front. This especially in the early hours of the game, leaving the player at the mercy of events and to seek answers in all corners of Glory Island. Beyond Jess, there will be five secondary characters that we will meet and whose stories will intersect with those of the protagonist. All obviously amalgamated by paranormal events, fear, psychedelic events and a quite intriguing lore.
Once the title officially launches, the general feeling will be that of being constantly in danger. It is based on that fear of being chased by something or someone, all while the protagonist’s memories reverberate in her mind and imprison her in a cage of madness. Jess she is a woman with courage and determination and responds to responding head-on to the unconscious and non-conscious adversities that confront her. Unfortunately, all this does not, in our opinion, keep a decisive and constant pace for the entire duration of the story. In fact, the closer you get to the conclusion, the more everything seems accelerated and not developed properly as in the first hours of the game. The three endings that can be obtained follow the same modus operandi as the narrative.
Furthermore, the aforementioned will be dictated by the majority of the answers we will give in the dialogues, but not in such a balanced way as we hoped. It breaks away from the extremes of a story-driven like Until Dawn, where choices and QTEs are the masters, to take a quieter path where they will dictate only one of the three epilogues connected to the three driving forces we will talk about later. Also, if you just want to scare yourself, except for a few moments, The Chant becomes more of a survival game than a horror game. In fact, it has a much more marked gameplay than for example the aforementioned title, however sacrificing the moments in which you proceed with your heart in your throat or jump from your chair.
The Chant: healthy mind and healthy body
The Chant is a third-person game that attempts to combine the genre of dynamic adventures with that of action and survival, all surrounded by a suggestive environment but limited to a few selected areas. The history of The Chant is divided into six chapters in totalwhich correspond to as many points of interest on Glory Island to explore.
The original part of the work appears during the exploration, in fact the areas will be blocked or highlighted by areas of a different color. Once you set foot inside the latter, the world will change, representing our entry into this “alternate dimension” in psychedelic colors, where entities of various shapes float in the air while large menacing eyes follow us.
To purify the area it will be necessary to reach a large flower in the shortest possible time to hit with everything that we will find at our disposal, until the root is eradicated. In other situations, however, we will only be asked to recover a key object, essential for solving one of the many, varied, puzzles that will mark the progress in the chapter.
Here the three factors that govern the gameplay intervene: Mind, Body and Spirit. The first is a statistic that indicates our mental strength; Body is obviously linked to the health of Jess; Spirit instead will mark our capacity linked to the supernatural and spiritual world.
Returning to the “alternative dimension, it will be in our interest to get out as soon as possible or purify it at the same time as Jess suffers from panic attacks caused by the gradual depletion of the Mind gauge (similar to how it happens in Amnesia). In this state, we would not be able to defend ourselves. The only way to find calm will be to meditate, spending Spirit points or eating a lavender leaf, which, like ginger (equivalent to the Body) and other resources, can be found around the game world.
In terms of playability, in all of this The Chant performs fairly well (at least at the beginning) especially if related on a narrative level because all this leads the player to behave as the protagonist should actually do in such a situation. To help the fear of being lost is the fact of a total absence of maps, leaving us to ourselves (albeit lightly as the areas are mostly linear). However, some doubts arise, born from the action part of this game.
To the sound of psychedelic blows
But what is the action part? The Chant is to all intents and purposes a survival horror. As such, resource management plays a vital role. From them we will create weapons and objects with which to defend ourselves. We will have at our disposal a classic weapon wheel filled with rather original offensive solutions. The melee weapons are mainly 3 and are consumed with use. Next we could use three types of objects (including salt, oil and burning oil) that will be usable as block objects for enemies or as traps for them. Finally, we will have access to the Spirit skills that will have various functions in the courses of the fights.
The dodging will also help us, peculiar from a visual point of view as a first use will be a normal movement while the second will make the Jess as if she were startled by something frightening. To complete the whole thing there is a large skill tree, to be developed by spending specific crystals available in the game. Supernatural events and monster attacks will put a strain not only on the body but also on his mind. The enemies we will meet are varied and will increase as we discover new ones, thus causing players to vary their approaches and this is something we appreciated. At least at the beginning.
The problem is always the same: once you absorb the gameplay mechanics of The Chant, every threat proves all too easy to overcome or defeat. For example, rushing towards a narrow space where only we can pass will allow us to pass the fights unscathed thanks also to a dodge with which to avoid the opponents’ melee attacks. The high number of powers that can be activated manages to give variety to the fights, which however are completed too calmly. The clashes with the bosses are also well done from a scenic point of view but are often long and repetitive, which forces you to perform the same actions for several minutes without however testing an increasing challenge rate.
The application of the mechanics of Mind, Body and Spirit, albeit spot on in the narrative context, at the gameplay level lead the user to take extreme measures when these fail. Why yes, there are resources that can help counteract its decrease, but since it has happened a few times to be without it, the best solution is only one: escape. Except for some bosses that are mandatory, escape is an option that practically often comes to mind and which therefore becomes an efficient way. This obviously goes in the long run to create situations of monotony and boredom that shouldn’t be “pressing” in a horror game.
The Chant: a swing on the technical side
Although it is the debut work of Brass Token, the graphic and sound level of The Chant are really excellent. The scenarios in particular show their strength thanks to a very satisfying use of lighting. This is especially so during the night and in the gloom (alternate dimension) sections. Unfortunately, as also happens with some works that use mocap to animate the characters, it is the facial expressions of the main actors that have not convinced us, with their respective faces trying to convey strong emotions but without success.
As for the soundtrack, it accompanied us throughout the adventure without too many ups and downs, managing to maintain the right atmosphere in the different sections of the game. We were also satisfied with the work done to ensure complete localization in Italian. As far as the artistic side is concerned, there are some interesting ideas but nothing that screams masterpiece or innovation. This is seen particularly on the enemies, which, although with their uniqueness, do not demonstrate particular novelty in a horror framework such as this one.
In conclusion, The Chant has certainly demonstrated that Brass Token has what it takes to surprise the public. Especially since it’s the studio’s debut work. The Chant is an interesting title with very solid foundations that many survival-horror fans will appreciate, but which shows the signs of a team of developers who are learning to coexist under a single artistic, technical and market direction. We are therefore curious about what Brass Token will reserve us for the future (to which we give an applause of encouragement) as with The Chant, even if it does not stand out among the various videogame opponents, it still satisfied us.