We’ve come to associate a number of genres with indie developers. The survival game, for instance, springs to mind; so do the rogue-like and the puzzle platformer. Of course, you can’t discuss indie games without talking about Metroidvanias – action-adventure games patterned after Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. While I’ll happily laugh at me-too indie titles all day long, I’ve found that Metroidvanias are often done right.
Such is the case with Chasm, a fantasy-themed title that’s still being developed. You play as a soldier sent to investigate mysterious happenings at a mining town. When you arrive, much of the town is deserted…but the doorway to the mine looms open. There’s really only one way to go, so it’s time to grab that shortsword and get to delvin’.
In its current state, Chasm plays a bit like Symphony of the Night, right down to the character’s default sword swipe. The physics feel noticeably similar, including your soldier’s very particular jumping range; as I played, I ended up committing this range to heart, as many of the rooms you encounter require difficult jumps at the very edge of what you can make. You’ve also got a little backdash, which is useful in very specific situations but a bit too short to do much otherwise, and a variety of magic spells that you find as item drops. Later upgrades allow your character to perform further actions like sliding and grabbing onto ledges.
Exploration feels a bit more exciting than your average Metroidvania, since most rooms are full of traps to hop your way past. One mechanic that I ran into fairly often was a set of buckets attached to rails, which made for some exciting platforming. I was also a fan of a particular room that locks you in and forces you to ascent a shaft while a bed of razor-sharp crystals ascends beneath you. Naturally, you’ll often run into rooms with enemies placed in just the right spot to require some tricky jumping. It’s a pretty good time and helps liven up the usual backtracking.
The real highlight of Chasm thus far is the game’s boss fights. These are all beautifully animated encounters that require some proficiency with the game’s controls. At no point did I feel like I was being unfairly challenged; instead, overcoming foes like a vicious cloaking predator felt like a major victory. After coming from many Metroidvanias where over-leveling and ignoring the fights’ mechanics was the norm, this was a breath of fresh air in Chasm.
If I had any complaints about Chasm at the moment, it’d be that it feels a little generic. I’d like a bit more variety in the weapons you have available, especially early on, and more magic spells. I’m sure this sort of thing is coming with further updates, but as it stands you don’t have some of the fun stuff you’d see in other Metroidvania titles like the special attacks in Symphony or the huge number of secret rooms in Axiom Verge. A little more spice would certainly be appreciated.
Still, Chasm really nails its fundamentals, and that’s the kind of thing I like to see in my pre-release games. Much like another pre-release success, Killing Floor 2, Chasm is actually a solid game that’s a lot of fun to play, one that’s just itching for more content to make it a lasting experience. It’s looking like Metroidvania fans hunting for their latest hit could do much worse than Chasm.