Review – The Chant
Who doesn’t have stress in their lives? There are numerous ways we can combat stress in our day to day lives. We can try getting a full night’s sleep. Exercise can release endorphins, temporarily enhancing our sense of well-being. Or you can give all of your money and worldly possessions to a cult, whatever floats your boat. The Chant, the first outing for indie developers Brass Token, takes a look at how far some are willing to go to rid themselves of trauma.
In The Chant we follow Jess, a young woman suffering from a traumatic event in her past. Jess gets invited to join the Prismic Science Spiritual Retreat by her friend, Kim, who is also working through her own issues. Located on the secluded Glory Island, the retreat promises to aid those looking to move past their previous trauma and embark on a journey of spiritual awakening. It seems like everything Jess could hope for, until the group chant ceremony goes awry and they unwittingly unleash The Gloom- a terrifying cosmic dimension that feeds off negative emotions.
Now, The Chant is certainly not a perfect game, but I have to give major points for its creativity. The Gloom is shown through psychedelic colors and mists, which is equally beautiful and unsettling. Each section of The Gloom is a different color, and that color corresponds to one of the crystals belonging to each group member. For example, Jess’s friend Kim, who’s trying to overcome her anger issues, holds the red crystal and is surrounded by the red Gloom. You’ll only be able to enter certain sections of The Gloom after obtaining the crystal that matches its color. To gain these crystals, Jess will need to help the
cult spiritual retreat member holding it.
This also makes every section of The Chant feel different. I have to say that I was very impressed with just how well The Chant was able to make use of its relatively small map size. Since each area of the map is blocked off by The Gloom that’s attached itself to one of the Prismic Science members, each section has its own distinct feel. This is due to the fact that The Gloom feeds off negative energy, and each member is trying to overcome their own personal hardships. This means not only will the color of The Gloom change depending on where you are, but so will the enemy types, as they are manifestations of the inner demons each commune member is holding onto.
This is another area that truly surprised me. The enemies found in The Chant are some of the most interesting I’ve ever seen. Many of them take on geometric shapes, which might sound bizarre (and it is), but it somehow works very well. The mandala-like monsters are actually very threatening and imposing, which it might not sound like on paper. Brass Token managed to make mandalas menacing through shear creativity, and I applaud them for it.
That’s not all there are to enemy types either. There are also Demogorgon styled monsters, giant twisted toads, cultists with animal skulls for heads, and much more. I am genuinely impressed with just how varied the enemy types are, and hardly any are repeated from section to section, aside from the cultists. Each area has its own theme, location on the island, and enemy varieties, making The Chant feel constantly intriguing.
Aspects of the combat in The Chant are also refreshingly original. It’s not terribly complicated or difficult, and is often quite sloppy, but I still appreciate the creative tools it offers. For example, Jess can ward off hostile foes by using bundles of sage, throwing salt, or hurling essential oils. Who knew hippies could make great fighters?
Jess’s well-being is divided into three parts: Mind, Body, and Spirit. Body determines how much damage Jess can withstand and dish out. Spirit allows Jess to power up her crystals and unleash spiritual attacks, such as a force push and slowing time. Mind controls Jess’s levels of panic and acts like a sanity meter of sorts. If Jess has her Mind depleted to zero, she’ll have a panic attack and won’t be able to attack or perform any defensive moves until she gets somewhere safe and regenerates some. Simply being in The Gloom depletes her Mind meter, so you’ll constantly need to be on the lookout for Blue Mushrooms to eat or find somewhere safe to meditate.
Unfortunately, the combat isn’t always smooth, with the hit detection boxes being unreliable and attack inputs don’t always register. Hopefully some patches later on might address these issues. The combat for the most part isn’t all that difficult, even on the hardest setting. As long as you pay attention to enemy attack patterns and keep an eye out for healing and crafting materials, you’ll be fine. However, there is an absolutely ridiculous difficulty spike when you get to the final boss. It’s jarring just how much tougher it is than anything else in the game. Luckily that’s the only difficulty spike, but expect to die often during that final battle.
I’ve already discussed the various enemy types and overall visuals of The Gloom, which are both excellent. The human animations aren’t quite as impressive. Some of the facial animations are slightly off during dialogue exchanges and hair doesn’t move much, but considering this is an indie title, the people still look pretty decent. There is a fair amount of textural pop-ins throughout the game and the framerate struggles anytime there are enemies onscreen, which is most of the time. It never drops down far enough to be unplayable, but it’s definitely noticeable.
The sound design throughout The Chant is excellent. I was pleasantly surprised with just how strong all of the vocal performances are. The sound effects of the various monsters are creepy and primal. Then there’s the soundtrack from composer Paul Ruskay, which fits perfectly into the psychedelic and otherworldly themes of the The Chant. It came as no surprise at all to me to learn that Ruskay was heavily influenced by the music of John Carpenter. Any fans of horror films from the 70s and 80s will undoubtedly pick up on this as well.
The Chant is a promising start for new development team, Brass Token. Its premise on the most basic level might not be something unheard of, but the way that it’s implemented and explored is quite original. I was impressed by the diversity of the enemy designs and the efficient use of a relatively small map. The combat can be frustrating, being overly simple while also not working as well as it should, but the tools at your disposal are fairly clever. There’s an interesting story here, especially when it comes to the other commune members, but my biggest complaint is that we barely get any time with each of them before diving in to fight their demons. Despite a few missteps, The Chant is an enjoyable time with some interesting ideas, and worth visiting. I’m excited to see what Brass Token comes up with next!
While the character models to have some textural and animation issues, the sheer creativity and diversity of enemies is impressive.
Its unique approach to combat by having you use spiritual based attacks is refreshingly original. Combat isn’t overly hard, but there’s enough variety to keep it engaging. Puzzles are simple, but still fun.
Strong vocal performances and a soundtrack that perfectly fits the psychedelic, otherworldly nature of the game.
Fun Factor: 7.0
The story is a bit predictable, but I have to give major points for creativity. This was one journey I felt compelled to see through to the end.
Final Verdict: 7.0
The Chant is available now on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series S/X.
Reviewed on Xbox Series S.
A copy of The Chant was provided by the publisher.