How Metroidvania is it? High Fit. In spite of being procedurally generated, the seeds have enough variety to create a world with a very strong Metroidvania feel
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~10 hours
Review Info: Chasm was played using the 1.075 version from Steam.
Buy Chasm if you like…
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night's control scheme
- Beautiful Pixel Art
- Fresh new Dungeons
- Hunting for specific loot
- Fantasy slightly more grounded in reality
▼ Review continues below ▼
Chasm is a more grounded Igavania-style Metroidvania where its main draw is procedurally generated dungeons, offering up a “new” experience each time you play it. When Chasm first launched, it was in a state where I originally felt it was a good game, but not great, and I primarily blamed procedural generation for the shortcomings I perceived. Over the past couple of years however, Chasm has been patched in a way addresses a lot of my negative criticisms, so I thought it was only fair that I take a look at it again to see if it deserves a better rating. I think I should also mention that while I believe Chasm has indeed changed for the better, comparisons between the new and old are operating off of an almost two-year old memory. Therefore, some of my refreshed opinions might be because Chasm has changed, but it’s equally possible that what changed was me. Like any game, I don’t necessarily think that Chasm is for everyone, but I think it’s unique enough and challenging enough to recommend alongside the greats of the genre.
Chasm’s more grounded nature is one factor that I think will divide its target audience. Castlevania Symphony of the Night and especially the recent Bloodstained Ritual of the Night are melting pots of wild and crazy ideas where you might encounter giant cats, dogless heads, or women in bunny suits – a setup that borders on high fantasy. Conversely, Chasm definitely sits in the low fantasy side of the spectrum. Almost all of your ability upgrades are things like shin guards or climbing gear rather than magical relics. You encounter an archeological researcher that presents lore to you like you’re participating in a paranormal investigation. You’re most certainly not a child of a magical bloodline. You’re just a regular dude, which is kind of refreshing.
The more realistic theming does come with its drawbacks however. Having your protagonist be a vampire or have some kind of magical curse opens up a ton of options for the tools they can be allowed to have. In Chasm you have a decent variety of mundane and magical weapons you can use, but there are only six “Spells” to choose from, with one of them being clearly dominant. This heavily restricts how you can optimally build your character and makes it harder for character building to be a major draw for replaying the game. Players coming from Aria of Sorrow or Bloodstained might find that a little disappointing – maybe even a little repetitive depending on what they crave most from their experience. To be fair though, Alucard in Symphony of the Night didn’t have the insane number of options that later Igavania protagonists have either, but my understanding is that Symphony is one of the most replayed games in the series anyway.
Luckily for Chasm, its basic mechanics are a solid foundation for great gameplay all by themselves. Combat and controls are familiar to anyone that has played any of the aforementioned Castlevania games, but they’re perhaps just a little more fluid. The knight in this game is slighly shorter and feels more agile in the air, making it easy to place him at exactly the distance you intend to without fighting with the controls too much. Enemies take advantage of this design often by having precision themselves, and they telegraph plenty of opportunities for you to show off your skill. Bosses are especially satisfying to learn and defeat. I’d almost argue that Chasm has better bosses in terms of mechanical design than any of the Igavania games. While you do have the option of leveling up, you can’t just grind out some nuclear attack that you can spam to win. Learn the boss’ pattern and you can even defeat them while taking no damage, and there are even rewards for doing so.
The level design in Chasm is also overall very good. It uses just enough procedural generation to add uncertainty to multiple playthroughs. I played two files in tandem this time around to really see how different the level design could be, and to my surprise it’s not as different as “random” might suggest. In my original review the randomized levels were a sticking point because I ended up with some long hallways with a lot of repeated enemies in a row, and that got boring rather quickly. With the new rooms introduced by patch, I didn’t notice that issue hardly at all. The first area of the game has relatively simple enemies but that’s pretty appropriate for the early part of the difficulty curve. What used to be the worst area in the game is now actually quite interesting – to the point where I may even try the game again on its hardest setting at some point in the future. The game’s final level is still a little bland, and thanks to the more muted story presentation the final boss might feel slightly dissatisfying, but overall I think Chasm has a lot of great things to offer.
The thing I enjoyed the most during this second playthrough was the newly introduced character “Classes”, which change your stats and general level ups for that playthrough. There’s the Warrior which matches my usual play style – except on steroids. You swing your weapons faster and you basically dump the intelligence stat and magic pool for maximizing your attack power. The Wizard class makes magic actually viable by restoring your magic points at every save point. You still can’t just go in and miss things like crazy, but you can viably use magic as your primary attack for the entire game, with the biggest drawback being that there are only six spells to choose from. Then there’s the Thief class which is my personal favorite even if it’s not the most optimal from a stat perspective. The Thief moves slightly faster and has 40 more points in luck to start out with compared to the other classes. This means you’ll enjoy a lot of legendary equipment drops without having to grind as much for them (or at all if you just like playing the dice.) The classes don’t offer a dramatic shift to Chasm’s core designs, but they are just different enough to tempt a few more playthroughs.
The main draw of Chasm for me is the tightness of the experience in terms of challenge. Healing items are rare, and the best ones are limited, so carefully slinking around each corner and optimizing each encounter – even with the weakest enemies – is crucial to your survival. For that design, the procedural generation makes perfect sense. It builds tension not knowing exactly where the next save point is and the blessed health refill that comes with it. Being able to re-experience that every time you play the game is a benefit, and I still think the level design is above average in spite of it being designed to be rearranged. It does lack the sheer amount of detail put into every screen that you might find in Chasm’s Igavania inspirations, but there’s very little that stands up to that fidelity.
Ultimately, Chasm provides a unique experience and is a great step forward in using procedural level design in conjunction with Metroidvania designs. There’s definitely room for improvement, but in my opinion, at least now with patch 1.075, the experiment was overall successful. I’m not making any arguments that procedural generation should ever replace a fully hand-crafted level, but with the right supporting mechanics, Chasm at least proves that a great game can come out of it. As always, you should set your expectations before making a purchase and playing a game. Chasm leans into its skill-based challenge far more than it relies on its RPG aspects, and it doesn’t make heavy use of fantasy for its story and general theming. As long as you’re not going into Chasm expecting exactly the same experience as a Castlevania game, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
The controls are fluid and enemies and bosses are designed expertly, making the challenge excellent.
Some of the rooms you can come across have very nice platforming sections, with only a few you might rather skip
Exploration is intuitive and fun, although most of your prizes will be found on the corpses of enemies
The puzzles the game does have are generally simple ''Find the direct answer somewhere in the dungeon'' puzzles. Otherwise not really a major focus.
The setup is fine, and I like that the hero is just a guy with some conventional gear, but considering the narrative as a whole it's a bit of a missed opportunity
The pixel art is beautiful to me, and certainly a highlight of the game
The music is very catchy and ambient, but it's nothing special in terms of melody
Newly patched in class system can add some freshness to a new run, however lack of build variety may be a sticking point for some.
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