A Different Kind Of Horror Cult: We Review The Chant
We had a chance to sit down and play through The Chant for an interesting, albiet belated review, of a cool horror title.
One of the games that struck a chord with us visually last year was this interesting little game called The Chant. The game had a visually stunning presentation in many ways, and it made us want to check it out. A short time ago, we had a chance to check out the game up in Canada with the developers at Brass Token, where we got to dig into a piece of it before it was fully released. Eventually, we got our hands on a full code for the game from publisher Prime Matter to do a proper review. This is a combination of those two experiences as we head down the rocky path of cult behavior as we're trying our best to get spiritually centered.
The game is a single-player third-person experience in which you play as a young woman named Jess who has come to a remote spiritual island retreat to try and find both peace and enlightenment. What you end up finding out over the course of your time here is that the island was home to another retreat-turned-cult where all of the previous people who were here vanished. As you attempt to find your way, the game slowly turns into a horror action-adventure in which you'll need to use a combination of skills to make your way around, discover what happened in the past, and find a way to break the cycle of what's happening to you and everyone else on the island now. Or history may just repeat itself.
When it comes to the story, this one reminds us a lot of the ones you find in The Dark Pictures Anthology, only without the multiple perspectives aspect. It's clear something is wrong here, and it is affecting all of the people on the island, but you'll only have to worry about taking care of things through the perspective and actions of Jess. The Chant does a pretty decent job of conveying different things happening to the characters, as each chapter opens up something new that is happening to their minds, as well as yours. The key here is that everyone is slowly being consumed by negative energy, so it is up to you, through a combination of item collection, puzzle solving, and inner-mental skills, to stop whatever's happening in its tracks. A lot of the characters have their own personal demons to get through, except for the leader, who seems to be eerily trauma-free.
When it comes to the actual combat and powers in the game, you have a few options to get you through the enemies you'll encounter. First off, there are physical weapons here, such as burning sage and the witch stick, all of which do different attacks and damage. But for the most part, unless an enemy is super weak to it, they're tools at best. Much more of what you'll be using are, for lack of a better term, psychic abilities. Throughout the game, you'll have the chance to use three abilities channeled through your mind, your heart, and your spirit, all found in the lower left corner of the screen. Being in certain areas or scenarios depletes the meter bars from all of them, but when they're charged you can utilize them as one-off abilities that help you take down foes or get through tough times easier. There's also a skill tree system in the game to make them better, but I found in certain situations, you can get by on weaker abilities if you play it right.
The Chant will also have you running around the island, solving a ton of puzzles, and collecting info. Which, even for a puzzle fan myself, I found tedious at times. There were moments where I genuinely got frustrated by the map layout and the inability to recognize entry points, leaving me in situations where I spent 30 minutes looking for a key in a room I didn't even know existed. The puzzles aren't complex or difficult; just hard to find the pieces at times. Meanwhile, all over the place are reels of film that talk about the work the previous group was doing here, which boggles my mind that these exist because, really, who brought all this film to an island just to film their cult-like stuff? And why did they scatter it all over the place? I get why it's here to fit into the '70s motif, but it just doesn't make a lot of sense.
One of the few turnoffs to the game is the difficulty, which I quickly discovered pulls zero punches even on normal. The Chant was designed to a degree to make you overcome the character's issues and adversity, helping them not just become a better person, but to have them become stronger for the fury to come. So it's understandable that it isn't a walk in the park. However, there are moments in the game where it just beats you down over and over again until you decide to set the game on Easy. There are just moments where, unless you're a glutton for punishment, you have to downgrade the difficulty or walk away.
Overall, I thought The Chant was a pretty decent game. They use a lot of visuals to tell the story, which is far and above the most interesting aspects. The team should be proud of what they made here on an artistic level, as it helps the game stand out from other horror titles. However, as good as the story is, there are a few too many plotholes and random things that are a little too unbelievable for it to make sense sometimes, and they're key things that you can't just turn your brain off and ignore. It's totally worth picking up and trying out, but do take a lot of what's happening with a grain of salt.