The Chant - Dealing with Trauma Through “Alternate” Methods (Review)
Brass Token makes a decent first outing
Hardwired (KWTX) -
Ahhh...Homeopathy. Healing crystals, essential oils, burning sage to ward off evil energies... Since we’re talking about fantastical B.S. we may as well throw a supernatural element in with it and turn this into a scary story. The Chant was developed by Brass Token and released November 3, 2022 and promised to deliver a psychedelic escapade into cosmic horror. They delivered on the psychedelic front as the game is vibrantly colorful and strange. There are indeed cosmic roots to “the gloom” which is the otherworldly dimension that you find yourself traversing in and out of throughout your playthrough of The Chant. But just how frightening is the game? I’m Levi from Hardwired and it’s time for us to work through our issues with meditation and a healthy dose of hallucinogenic.
The Chant opens on Glory Island in the 1970s where a cult is performing a ritual to open some sort of portal to the cosmos. However, one of the cultists who is pregnant (and as such I’m assuming was meant to be sacrificed) becomes fearful of what is happening and skedaddles away from the ritual circle. The head cultist sends the others after her, but she evades them all and jumps off a cliff at the island’s edge into the ocean. We then skip forward to present day, where we come across our protagonist Jess who is out for a jog. She stops for a breather and to stretch on a bridge overlooking a stream when she suddenly has a disturbing vision of a festering corpse floating in the water. An accusatory voice cries out at her over a near deafening buzz of flies, and after she snaps out of it she then calls her friend Kim and tells her that she is accepting her invitation to a retreat.
Once she makes it to the island and reunites with her estranged friend Kim, we discover through their dialogue that they share a past trauma with one another and that Jess has a fear of flies, both of which must link with the apparition she saw earlier. Once you meet the other cultists and change into the uniform, you meet with everyone for a ritual where you all drink some drugged tea. During the ritual Kim freaks out and begins yelling at Jess that it wasn’t her fault. She then runs off and breaks the circle and everyone else chases after her, but Jess passes out. When you come to later, it’s clear that breaking the circle caused things to go awry and now cosmic plant demon things are all over the place. Jess decides to go find Kim and thus begins her quest.
There are patches of “Gloom” all over the island in a variety of different colors, and they require you to wear the corresponding crystal color to enter. Each cult member has a necklace with one of the colors and the colors are each tied to a separate emotion. Your aim in the game is to gather the crystals from the other cultists so that you can enter their portions of the Gloom and face their fears for them. Things don’t usually work out as Jess plans though, with the various other cultists all falling to the Gloom and losing their minds, ensuring you will have to retrieve their crystals by force.
Every character on the island aside from the cult leader, Tyler, has had some sort of tragedy in their lives that has brought them to the Prismic Science retreat to try and work past their traumas. I only wish we had gotten to know the characters better with more dialogue at the beginning of the game so that when their eventual psychological breaks come to fruition it would have held a more emotional investment for me. I would have cared more about these characters if I had spoken to each of them for more than a few paltry passing conversations, some of them less than ten sentences worth of banter. There are documents you can find around camp that fill you in on all of these character’s reasons for being here, but more early conversations would make me feel like Jess has a reason to be concerned for the other cultist’s well-being.
The game has a decent cast that deliver overall good performances, with Siobhan Williams being the standout as Jess. Siobhan played Laura Kearney earlier this year in The Quarry. All the other cast members have had various roles in television shows and things except for Tyler the cult leader, the actor voicing him only had one credit (...this game...and it shows...)
The gameplay has a third person action adventure feel to it. Combat consists of melee attacking enemies and you can even dodge their attacks. Your melee weapons consist of different swaths of burning plants that you flail at the demonic plant monsters that are attacking you. There’s the Sage Stick, the Firelash, and the Witch Stick which do different types of damage which will do more damage based on what kind of enemy you come up against. You also have some ranged attacks like throwing salt or essential oils, these too do different types of damage. If you cover an adversary with essential oil, you can then light them on fire with a strike from your melee weapons.
When you are not fighting cosmic entities, you are scouring the island to find keys for locked doors or pieces of puzzles much like your standard survival horror game. The puzzles are not very complex and should be easy even for someone who may be new to the genre... (Which is me...I’ve only recently started regularly playing horror games. I’ve always been a horror movie fan, but with games I’ve always been more of an MMORPG guy which is an obsession that began with EverQuest. I can say Resident Evil games were childhood favorites of mine though, but I’ve never played a Silent Hill game or a Dead Space game or an Outlast game...but I’ve digressed far enough. We’re reviewing The Chant, not my life story.)
The game’s overall graphics are pretty good, there’s a lot of really great details in both the characters and the environment. But there are also some missed opportunities as well. Like the characters’ faces are very detailed, but their eyes seem lifeless. It’s clear that there was mo-cap done to bring the characters to life, but there are still some weird moments of movement that seem unnatural and rigid. In the environment you can see high quality models of things like a rocky mountain side, but with a lower resolution texture. Or excellently simulated waves but with poorly executed splashes around a boat as it sails over the ocean.
The game’s sound design is great as well. The thumping heartbeat noise and Jess’ hyperventilating during panic attacks added a nice touch of stress. I really loved the score for the game, as it made everything that was happening seem epic. It incorporated a classical orchestra and plenty of flanging and phasing to give it that psychedelic flair. The environmental sounds offer satisfying feedback for every part of the island. Birds chirping in the distance matched against lapping waves off the shores make for an atmospheric and somehow relaxing feel, really selling the “retreat” vibe of the island.--
The Chant is a good first showing from Brass Token Studios. While I don’t feel this game will be a hit with everyone, I enjoyed the narrative and am glad that I played the game. I’m certain it will find it’s own niche. It’s clear that they were shooting for the feel of a AAA horror title, and I believe that they accomplished their mission in that regard. It could have been more violent, but I’m a bit depraved and biased. It isn’t very scary, but I think I’m desensitized to scares at this point in my life. Perhaps it is my longing for peace from this hell we call life that has rendered me unafraid. The Chant gets a seven out of ten. For Hardwired, I’ve been Levi Barner, if you liked this video please like and subscribe to Hardwired for more reviews, gaming news, and more.
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