During an event like Gamescom, there are few titles where we are completely free to go through part of the adventure with the controller in hand for an hour. The Chant is one of them, proof of the confidence of the young Canadian studio Brass Token in its first original IP. It must be said that the journey of the members of the studio is brilliant, Mike Skupa in the lead, a recognized veteran of the video game industry.
The Chant is a horrific action/adventure game where we play Jess Briars, who has gone on a spiritual retreat with a small group on an isolated island. Everything was going wonderfully until a ritual chant opened a portal to another dimension called The Gloom, releasing hostile creatures hungry for negative energy and chaos. We had the chance to freely explore the beginning of the third chapter, which takes place after the tragedy that emerged from the song.
A fragile but resourceful heroine
Our getaway starts at the host village. After a heated discussion about what to do about the portal, we try to follow the escape of a friend who seems to have gone mad. This “introduction” of the demo allows us to see the nice work of motion capture of the actors done by the studio and highlighted in the latest trailers of the game. The faces of the protagonists are rather realistic and bring out the emotions, although we let’s not be at the level of big AAA productions or games from Supermassive Games.
Once the camera goes into the gameplay phase, fans of the latest Resident Evil remakes will not be out of place with a Jess seen from behind from her pelvis. However, our heroine is not Claire Redfield or Jill Valentine. We quickly notice its fragility and the first fights against supernatural creatures confirm this deduction. Although Jess has some means of defending herself, acting frontally is not the best long-term solution, it is often necessary to privilege flight, especially for creatures serving as mobs in order not to waste our offensive capacities.
Indeed, our heroine, in the chapter we were able to play, could only use basic weapons made from limited natural resources present in our environment. Jess could, for example, throw handfuls of salt at enemies in order to blind them or burn them with flaming branches with a short duration of use.
Luckily, she’s also able to run, leap through open windows across rooms in a location, and dodge attacks, though frantically pressing the dodge button causes her to stumble. The fragility of Jess is a choice assumed by the developers. It is clear that the desired purpose is well transcribed joystick in hand. We feel through his weaknesses the anxieties and the fear that our protagonist experiences.
We also feel the difficulty of the game, mainly during two fights with special enemies that we had to face several times before triumphing. Besides, we were very surprised by the presence of a large number of creatures at this stage of the game (chapter 3). Watching the trailers did not highlight this aspect of the game.
A subtle balance between combat, exploration and puzzles
To survive this hell, three gauges are to be managed: bars of life, mental health and spirituality. If the first is classic, the other two require explanations. The sanity gauge is something to watch closely. It drops during fights and passages in “nightmare” zones where the environments crossed undergo a dimensional alterity, a bit like those experienced in The Medium of the Bloober Team. If the gauge drops to zero, Jess goes through a panic attack that inhibits all of our offensive abilities for a significant amount of time. Practicing a yoga session during a moment of calm can raise the bar. Finally, the spirituality bar allows us to use supernatural abilities and also raise our psyche.
Beyond dangerous areas filled with creatures, our demo was heavily loaded with exploration, encounters with party members, and solving puzzles like unlocking doors marked with symbols or shortcuts. These are yet another nod to those present in Resident Evil but do not stain with the New Age atmosphere of The Chant. A thorough search of the premises was therefore essential in order to learn more about the lore, collect rare resources for crafting and recover quest items or items to assemble.
Technically and graphically, the title looked clean and neat to us. The island’s settings and environments were compelling and fun to navigate, whether around the village or in the nearby mine (end of our demo). Everything is accompanied by a successful soundscape that promotes immersion and immediately puts us in empathy with the characters, especially our heroine.
To conclude, this hour spent surveying the paradise and nightmarish island of The Chant particularly caught our attention, thanks to its heavy and scary atmosphere, its intriguing characters and all its mysteries, especially those about the portal. We look forward to discovering what the title has in store for us as a whole, as this short experience was so promising. Let’s hope that the narration, set back in our part of the demo, but enhanced by the studio’s communication, keeps all its promises.
The Chant is scheduled for release on November 3, 2022 on PC, Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.