Anyone who knows me knows I love a good horror game, especially when you add in a creepy cult and some scary monsters. When I heard about The Chant, I was really excited to play it. However, poorly written dialogue and frustrating gameplay mechanics left me unsatisfied and unable to enthrall myself in the game’s story.
The Chant is the most recent release from Brass Token, a single-player, third-person, horror, action-adventure game. You take on the role of Jess, who has been struggling with trauma and is invited to a spiritual retreat on a remote island. On the island, things take a wrong turn into the cultish realm, and you are tasked with surviving through this spiritualistic horror landscape while battling your inner demons. In concept, this game is amazing and unique. The mixture of horror and personal trauma is nothing new but the way The Chant approaches it is something I haven’t seen all too much in video games. However, as I played through for this review, the concept was pretty much the only thing I really enjoyed, and I wished the story and gameplay would’ve matched its creativity.
There are some things that I really did enjoy with this game, such as the art design; it was eerie and gave off the unsettling feeling of being on a remote island that was not exactly right. Even at the beginning there was an air of unease when your character arrived at this retreat. There was also a fun, dramatic irony; your character is so desperate for some help and sense of peace that she doesn’t see the red flags while you, the player, are saying, “Nope. don’t do that!”. I also enjoyed that, at certain parts of the game, you are allowed different dialogue options to respond to other characters, which can have a whole arching branch of different outcomes. I love when games do this because it allows you to play the game the way you want to. This also leaves room for replayability, which is always a plus!
While there were a few things The Chant did well that I enjoyed, some choices pulled me out of the overall experience. The story, the concept, and the idea of what the developers were going for are really cool; the dialogue and its delivery were a different matter. Some of the dialogue was flat, and in others the emotions were very high for no reason. In one sequence, Jess is looking for another retreat member; she is so anxious and worried in trying to find him and sounds sincere, but at the same time, she has no connection with this person. They’ve known each other for less than 24 hours, so her overly concerning reactions seem very out of place. Another issue with the story is that there is no build-up. Almost right out of the gate, we are thrust into this world, and while sometimes this is welcoming, for a game like this, I wish there had been a better build-up and fluid transition into the game’s story.
Now, The Chant is marketed as a horror/action game, but I feel like it is more of an action/adventure game. While the game certainly had some of those horror elements with the designs of the enemies and the basic plotline, it felt as though it could go further.’
While, in my opinion, the story wasn’t well executed, the gameplay mechanics had me almost stop several times. One of the game’s main mechanics is your Mind Meter: if you get too scared, it decreases, and if it drops to zero, then you are terrified and cannot fight until you get out of the encounter and to a safe place to calm down. While in theory this mechanic seems unique, in practice, it was annoying. On top of that, scavenging is a big part of the game, and if you are like me and didn’t get the tutorial or forgot half of it and then struggled to find the exact controls in the game because the control buttons aren’t clearly listed, then you wasted half of your throwable items trying to figure it out. So here I am, without throwable items I need against an enemy I have to defeat in order to progress; I get scared by their attacks, so now I have to run away, calm down, and try again. Rinse and repeat. AND on top of it all, I can’t backtrack. So at this point, we are probably only 1 ½ hour into the game, and I am already frustrated.
The basic gameplay mechanics and fighting are nothing new. You scavenge for various items to craft your throwable items to stun/ distract enemies and your attack weapons. On top of this, you also have a few spiritual attacks that do various things, like slow down enemies or push them back. Switching between the spiritual, physical attacks, and throwables is basically your fighting gameplay in a nutshell, and once you learn what affects what type of enemies, it’s not complicated, but it doesn’t present much of a challenge either. It’s more of a chore: go here and defeat these enemies, move to the next area, scavenge, etc.
This mixture of horror and mental health has such a deep connection within the horror genre that I want to see more of it in gaming. When I heard about the concept of The Chant, I really wanted to love it. Unfortunately, the lackluster dialogue, pacing of the story, and overall gameplay mechanics left me wanting to put the game down and move on to something else. But don’t let this review discourage you! If it looks like a game you really want to try, please check it out for yourselves and come to your own conclusion. For me, however, it just wasn’t it.
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