Sometimes all you need is a nice getaway to a super beautiful isolated island to find peace. And sometimes, all you need is some fun with old and new friends to help get you out of your funk. But sometimes, those plans don’t work out exactly as you had hoped. And sometimes… they both go to extremes in the worst of ways… at the same exact time. And then they only magnify the negativity that’s been festering inside of you.
“The Chant” is a third-person survival horror action-adventure game that was released early in November. You play as Jessica Briars, a young woman who is invited to ‘The Prismic Science Retreat’ by her old friend Kim, with whom she shared a traumatic teenage experience with. The Retreat is a spiritual-enlightment camp settled on an isolated island, with heavy focus on group meditation, cleansing diets, exercise, and much more. The group of residents tread a fine line between a cult and a hippie commune, where it can come off either malicious or pleasant at the drop of a dime. During an intense group meditation session, after ingesting a special liquid that you are tasked with finding ingredients for, your friend Kim has a horrifying experience and takes off – breaking the circle which was used to actually open a portal into a nightmare realm called ‘The Gloom’. With the session disrupted, and everyone hallucinating and paranoid, you have to find everyone whose run off into darkness, fight off monsters and demons, find inner peace, and help return the island to it’s former self.
‘The Gloom’ feeds off negative energy and uses everyone’s fears and anxieties to drive you all mad. People turn on each other and fight almost at random. There are large zones where the dark aura is oppressive, forcing you to find spiritual weapons to progress. You make weapons such as smudge sticks, torches, and salt, and you have to learn how to use psychic abilities to cast demons into a state of temporary paralysis, or aggressively push them aside. The game features a tri-sensitive health system where you are responsible for managing your physical, mental, and spiritual health using items such as lavender, ginger, sage, and twine. There’s something rather complicated about having to choose which health to replenish when you can, as well as sacrificing a particular one in order to save the others. It makes an interesting balance where the items you pick up are rather limited, and can be used either for health or weapon systems – the choice is ultimately yours. There are some puzzles that are not overly complicated but help steer you in specific directions geographically on the map, allowing you to experience the wonder that’s in store.
It’s a rather fun and interesting game made in Unreal Engine 4. It has a premise that almost seems weird that it hasn’t really existed in video game form yet. Atmospherically, it feels right at home in the ‘Dark Pictures Anthology’ Collection. The monsters are nightmarish and organic feeling, while they are mainly just abominations of past memories and bastardized animal spirits. It has a strange playstyle that allows the player to have some leniency in how they approach it. Also, the balance between the 3 main health bars changes the formula so you aren’t just looking for health packs or food, but the specific plants provide specific buffs and they appear almost at random. You can level up your special abilities, weapon performances, health meters, etc, by using glowing crystals that are found across the island. They can feel a bit underwhelming though since each upgrade only does a little bit each time – and there’s a lot of tiers you have to choose between. The graphics are rather beautiful, the voice acting is adequate, the environment is familiar yet mysterious, and there certainly are surprises around every corner.
While I haven’t had time to finish this game, it was definitely a fun trip. I’d love to finish it soon, but there are certain things installed on my hard drive that are currently taking priority. I was able to grab a copy for $20 on Black Friday a few weeks back, and while I don’t think you need to buy it, it’s definitely a game that’s worth a rent or borrow for a longer weekend. The fighting style can feel a bit repetitive after a few hours in, and the variety of creatures are cool when first introduced but get a bit numbing after the 10th consecutive encounter. They also can be a bit of a challenge to fight, which is either a fun challenge or an infuriating one depending on how intelligently you can balance your health, items, and power ups.
I love seeing new, weird concepts like this being made. Let’s hope we get more like it.
“The Chant” is currently available for Xbox Series X/S, Playstation 5, & Microsoft Windows.
‘Til Next Time,
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