Game Reviews Gaming

Bitkid, Inc.’s Chasm; a pretty standard yet vaguely roguelike, Metroidvania.

Finally, after five years, the wait is over! Is Chasm gonna be the savior of Metroidvania games? First, let’s get this out of the way:

“Chasm, an action-adventure game in which you play a new recruit undertaking your first mission for the Guildean Kingdom. Thrilled to prove your worth as a knight, you track strange rumors that a mine vital to the Kingdom has been shut down. But what you discover in the mining town is worse than you imagined: The townspeople have disappeared, kidnapped by supernatural creatures emerging from the depths.”

So, is Chasm a good Metroidvania clone? The short answer is, it’s good. It’s a standard Metroidvania; you got your powerups, boss battles, and puzzle rooms which require specific upgrades to progress through. It has all the things needed to make a Metroidvania game, but it doesn’t seem to add anything new to it.

One of the game’s main feature is that the maps are procedurally generated. The mechanic itself feels like a waste of time and you may not even notice it. It works like this; the game generates all of the maps with a customizable seed when you start a new game. Each individual room is already pre-made but how they are connected with each other is what’s randomized. This means that if you have two different characters that use different seeds, you’ll be able to see the same rooms albeit in different locations.

Above is my first character along with his sword familiar.
Above is my 2nd character, which is low level, standing on the same room.
This is where my 1st character is located on the map.
This is where my 2nd character is located on the map.

 

As you can notice, my 2 characters (the white diamonds) are located in roughly the same location and distance from the exit to Karthas. But the path leading to that room is different.

So is Chasm a good Metroidvania game? Let’s go through each feature one by one, starting with…

Controls

The controls are very responsive. You won’t feel any clunkiness or delays. It’s freakin smooth like a baby’s bottom. The jumping and platforming mechanics are good, although they do feel a little floaty at the start I quickly got used to them. You won’t be able to move or evade while the attack animations are playing though, so watch out for that unless you wanna get hit. But thankfully the attack animations are quick enough that they give you enough time to either risk another attack or back-off to a safe distance. The game has full controller support, as far as a PS4 controller is concerned. I don’t have an Xbox controller right now but it should work just fine since the tutorial is using the Xbox control scheme. I personally didn’t find any problems in this area, if anything the controls are one of the best things about the game.

Visuals

        The visuals are great. The environments are visually distinct from each other. Each room looks unique and the game makes good use of “parallax scrolling” everywhere you go even in the first map located in a cave. For everyone’s information: Parallax Scrolling is a technique that gives a 2D game or animation additional depth by layering the backgrounds and moving them at varying speeds while the player or the main character moves.

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

As shown above: notice how the background moves in response to the player’s movement. And the different layers within the background move at varying speeds. I like this feature because it makes the levels seem alive and not boring. Also, it’s not noticeable enough to distract you during combat. There’s also a CRT mode for old-school arcade fans. (the pictures above are in CRT Mode).

The pixels and visuals are a lot sharper and cleaner with CRT mode off.

Story

        The story is fine, it’s average as far as adventure fantasy goes. The story isn’t clear at the beginning of the game. You simply start as a recruit that’s given a mission without any backstory. Although you’ll get bits and pieces of the story as collectibles, at various points in the game. It was interesting enough for me to collect ‘em and learn about the backstory, but it didn’t really add much to the game.

Gameplay

        The bread and butter. The game is structurally sound. I beat the game for about 11 hours on normal difficulty and I haven’t encountered any bugs. And thanks to the smooth controls, it was a blast getting through the section to section, gaining power-ups and conquering boss battles.

Combat

        Let’s talk about the combat.

There are two types of attacks: Physical and “Magic”. With physical attacks, you use weapons such as swords, maces, spears. The difference between these weapons are their damage, their reach and the speed of their attack animation. In my opinion, reach and speed are both important aspects of the game. You’ll want a weapon with a quick attack animation to be able to evade their attacks and good reach if you want to land an attack while you try to dodge. Some special weapons include daggers that forces you to stick right next to your enemies but have the fastest attacks in the game. And whips which have the long reach of a spear but it is faster than one allowing you to land multiple hits from a safe distance.

The whip type weapon, good reach and also hits objects directly above you.

Exploration

If you have the patience to explore the map, you’ll get “power-ups.” Although like most Metroidvania clones some of them feel more like room keys than actual power-ups. Like, you get a double jump at some point and this one helps a lot in dodging boss attacks and whatnot. Then you get spiked gloves that let you latch onto ledges allowing you to reach platforms that are right at the tip of the reach of your jump. But this power-up doesn’t do much outside of platforming. It helps, but it isn’t worth much in a boss fight.  Each villager will offer a quest.

Loot

You will gain plenty of weapons as you progress in the game. Like clubs with a big arch when you attack, or spears that have a long reach, or daggers that let you attack with quick swipes but force you to stand right next to your enemies. But for the most part of the game, I feel that the sword is more practical to use as a weapon in the game. They do good damage and have a quick attack animation.

Familiars

You also get familiars during your playthrough, they’ll help out a lot by sneaking in some hits while you’re dodging enemies.

The bird familiar. There’s also a blue colored one.

They also level up like you do when they get kills making them stronger. It’s fun getting them to your character’s level but the familiars aren’t a very reliable source of damage. They do high enough damage, it’s just that they don’t attack as you do and some of them have a tendency to miss moving targets. I like to bring them along on boss fights. They’re unlikely to miss as most bosses tend to take up most of the screen.

RPG Elements

Throughout the game, you get pieces of armor. Armor mostly affects the defense stat but they also give your character bonuses to your stats. My early game was spent not knowing what the stats do exactly if I’m being honest. The developers did release a patch that reworks how these stats affect your character. However, I still feel the RPG aspect of this game is one of its weak points. There are 4 stats, but the game doesn’t seem to explicitly explain what they do. STR (strength for weapon damage), INT (intelligence for spells), CON (constitution gives you more HP, probably) and LCK (luck, for critical attacks).

For those of you who play RPG’s a lot, they should make sense immediately. However, you’ll notice that the stat system in this game is lacking a bit or isn’t very straightforward. For example, the CON stat gives you more HP, but the INT stat doesn’t seem to give you more mana points, just adds more damage to your spells.

Magic

Now, let’s talk about “magic”. Magic in this game is basically throwing a knife while coating it in purple stuff and calling it magic. It feels very Castlevania, if you ask me. Although that dagger spell helped me cheese through most of the enemies. It’s cheap and effective as most of the damage of the spell is based on your INT stat and not the spell itself. The difference between the spells is how they deal out their damage. Which is intuitive albeit a little gimmicky.

For example:

The Magic Knife spell throws a knife in a straight line in front of your character, dealing a small amount of damage when it hits.

While the Magic Shuriken spell throws a shuriken diagonally upward. Dealing about the same damage as the Magic Knife spell with the same armor equipped.

There’s a lot of utility here. But outside of the Magic Knife and Magic Shield spell, I didn’t get much use out of the others. Need something killed far away? Chug a few magic infused his way and kill him and the guy behind him, on the other room. It’s cheap too. A Magic Knife spell costs 1 Mana point per cast and can be upgraded so you could shoot up to 3 daggers in an arc in front of you. Which pretty much means you get triple the damage for the same mana cost, assuming all of them hit of course. And then there’s the magic shield.

It costs you in 3 to 6 diamonds of pure destructive power that damage enemies they come in contact with. The shield spell is OP, by the way, just max it out and stand right next to your enemies and then watch them disappear.

I think that’s the thing about the magic mechanic in this game. It’s a bit imbalanced, it feels like you can cheese the whole game just spamming spells. I mean It’s so cheesy I’m feeling lactose intolerant. Freakin fun though, as you can literally buy a ninja suit from the old lady that sells magic items to boost your INT stat and basically kill every enemy in your line of sight before they even notice you’re there like a freaking jounin in naruto. Because the AI won’t attack you unless you get close. And, if I’m not mistaken, the spells have infinite range.

Arena Mode

 There’s an arena that you’ll encounter somewhere around late-game. In the arena, you get to fight a stronger version of monsters you’ve already encountered as well as a unique enemy by the end. You get to challenge the champion after winning three preliminary fights. Each fight is a gauntlet where you’ll fight multiple enemies and they get stronger after each preliminary. It’s cool they added this, but I felt the reward wasn’t all that worth it. At the end of it I got a helmet and a piece of body armor then the diving gear. While you do need the diving gear to get to a not so hidden “hidden room” with a chest at the end (you only get to use it on two specific rooms, at least in my playthrough)Also, by the time I got the helmet and armor reward from the arena, I already had better gear so I ended up selling them instead. 

Afterthoughts

This is a one and done kinda game, plain and simple. I played it on Normal difficulty and finished the game within 11 hours. And then I left the game feeling content. I don’t feel any need to have a second playthrough. I took the time to explore each map, and I managed to finish it with 100% of the collectibles and 99% map exploration. There isn’t much that’s left after that. You can load that finished save file again to finish any side quests you missed. But the quests aren’t hard at all and I already finished all the sidequests with each villager by the time finished my first playthrough. Well maybe with the exception of one, if you encounter an item called venison do not use or sell them. One of the missing villagers will ask for 4 pieces of venison for his side quest and the only way I seemed to get them is via a random item drop by killing kobolds. And that drop chance is painfully low. I spent a good hour or two going in and out of a room filled with kobolds and I didn’t even get one.

Now, if there was a checklist on How to make a Metroidvania, Chasm would probably check every box on there. But the game feels just that, a completed checklist. It doesn’t add much new to the genre except maybe for the arena mode and roguelike option (which should’ve been on by default). There’s procedural generation for the maps, yes, but I can’t agree that particular feature does anything. It doesn’t change the map post-generation, so it’ll stay the same until you make a new character. It’s not like say Sundered by Thunder Lotus Games; where the map changes upon death. So this feature just feels plain pointless. They should’ve spent those delays on something else like the RPG. My suggestion to you is to just enable Roguelike Mode and set the difficulty to Hard. If you feel like playing this game to its fullest.

And about the RPG element in this game; it’s appreciated but I don’t feel it’s necessary in this case. You can get stronger by simply getting better weapons and armor. And if you’re good at and like pattern type combat like dark souls, you could probably beat this game with the basic short sword. Heck, you could beat it with a spoon if your patient enough.

Let me make it clear though, Chasm is not a bad game by any means. It has good and responsive controls, an okay RPG system, lotta weapons and spells to choose from, awesome visuals,  plenty of distinct music tracks to keep you going, side quests, etc. It’s just an above average game in a genre that already has a lot of excellent titles to choose from.

Verdict

I’m going to rate this game 6/10. It does a lot of the core mechanics right like controls, level design, and aesthetics. And it’s priced at a very comfortable 8 bucks ($8.50 USD on Steam). But overall it isn’t anything new really.  Buy this game if you’re interested in Metroidvania’s and want the nostalgia of old arcades. I would recommend you set it on HARD and enable ROGUELIKE mode if you want to MAXIMUM FUN-NESS. And you know, maybe give that procedural generation mechanic a reason to exist, eh?

And here are some good Metroidvania’s you might like:

Metroidvania with good “souls like combat”?
https://store.steampowered.com/app/283640/Salt_and_Sanctuary/

Metroidvania with better platforming mechanics?

https://store.steampowered.com/app/261570/Ori_and_the_Blind_Forest/

Metroidvania with high-quality assets?

https://store.steampowered.com/app/253840/Shantae_HalfGenie_Hero/

Thanks for reading! Till next time.

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