Chasm (demo)

We cover a lot of demos and alphas and the like here, and while the demos provide decent entertainment, pretty much none of them over the last three years have since seen the light of day as a full release. So here’s a demo for a metroidvania that is due for release in just one month. Oh, but it’s been in development for six years.

Chasm promises the usual metroidvania fare, and while it certainly is polished with all the right founding ingredients in place, the demo, which turns out to be from the dark ages of 2013, left me feeling a little uninspired.

The plot of Chasm begins simple enough, a soldier returning home from some war (there are a lot of wars so you probably forgot which) passes through a mining town… and can’t leave. Since nothing good ever comes from deep under the earth, we all know that some sort of ancient evil has probably been released, and we all know it’s going to be up to you to do something about it. I don’t know about you, but frankly, I don’t need much more reason than that to delve into a dark abyss full of unspoken horrors: all in!

Presentation is top notch. The graphics are relatively simple, but still look good, a lot like Nightkeep, but it gives a strong warm glow of the 16-bit SNES era, more successfully than many other retro-inspired efforts trying to ape that same look. The music, likewise, felt relatively simple, but worked well enough for me, and was to a degree, effectively ominous for a game about exploring a mine probably inhabited by unspeakable evils.

Gameplay-wise, which is what we care about most at NewRetroGames, follows mostly this same pattern. It’s polished and all the fundamentals seem to be in place, but it’s kinda straightforward to a fault. Yes, there’s dungeon floors full of monsters and some loot to find, XP to gain, levels to up, and the rigourous method of slowly outgrowing your starting equipment for slightly better gear and some spell/abilities (throwing daggers or a self-heal in the demo). There are also random altars that grant permanent stat boosts when the right item is “sacrificed” (I got +1 LCK at three of them, but I suspect it’s supposed to be random or dependant on the item given up). These basic ingredients are compelling parts of any metroidvania or RPG, and it’s no different here in Chasm. The fundamentals do work well.

from official site (this area not in demo)

Still, it bears repeating that it feels so straightforward to a fault, as there isn’t really much depth below this pleasant appearance and basic template. Weapons or magic/skills don’t get XP with use, and there are no hidden moves with the weapons like in Castlevania SOTN, for example. There doesn’t appear to be anything like RPG-skill-trees or special ability-granting relics, familiars or other characters to rescue and expand the village with. That’s not to say Chasm needs all these things; just some examples of how other metroidvanias and RPGs add a bit of depth or intrigue that Chasm appears to lack.

Ignoring the pending full release for a moment, though, standing on its own the demo is a pleasant enough diversion, though its simplicty, not to mention its short length even by demo standards leaves it best as a casual introduction to the genre, but perhaps not representative of the full game.

Returning to the full game, it’s hard to say how it will stand in comparison to a five year old demo. I was hoping that the demo would be updated after five years to give us a taste of how the game had grown, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait to be sure.

The demo has enemies responding every single time you leave a room, which quickly becomes irritating, and the devs posted that this has been kept in as walking through empty rooms would be boring (but apparently you now shouldn’t need to so frequently going back and forth through the same rooms apparently). Still, I’m not sure why they didn’t simply opt for the approach where enemies in a room respawn after a few rooms of travel. The demo controls were also awkward and lacked gamepad support or keybinding- here’s hoping the full game has taken care of this.

On the more positive side, the full release promises a pretty wide range of additions that sound like they’ll add some delicious depth to the game. Six regions to explore providing a nice bit of diversity, screenshots suggesting an expanding town or possibly multiple towns, some basic crafting (“basic” being a plus, since I like crafting but don’t want my progression to heavily depend on it) and most importantly, “discover new abilities to reach previously inaccessible areas,” which sounds promising indeed.

Chasm (demo) | download / steam page


About J.C

I grew up in the dark dingy arcades of the 1980s, blasting heads with Robocop 2, but grew up in an era that spanned the introduction of the x86 home computer, through to the 16-bit revolution, into the polygon age and beyond. I write about food, travel and of course, New Retro Games. I started and contribute to I am also a freelance business researcher, writer, and editor having published academic and corporate articles on innovation and intellectual property.

Posted on July 10, 2018, in Platformer, RPG and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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