Originally published on Pixelitis.net on January 17, 2014.
The term “Metroidvania” may be loathed in some gaming circles, but the indie developers over at Discord Games embrace it warmly when referring to their upcoming PC, Mac and Linux title, Chasm.
The game amassed $191,897 on the indie team’s Kickstarter page last May, and some of them took some time off from production to show it off at the Indie Showcase at MAGFest 12. So what sets this one apart from the Super Metroids, Castlevania: Symphony of the Nights and Shadow Complexes of the world?
Chasm is a side-scrolling 2D action RPG platformer that fuses the action and exploration of games like Metroid and Castlevania with the elements of roguelikes. This means that like the aforementioned games, there will be abilities that you unlock, and as such allow you to go back and reach places you were unable to get to. Oh and there’s always a bevy of nooks and crannies to delve through.
On the roguelike side of things, emphasis is made on collecting dropped loot and equipment and the game’s dungeons will be procedurally generated, so that no playthroughs will have the exact same map layout.
The plot in Chasm pits you as a soldier on his way home from war. The soldier happens upon a remote mining town where the local miners have disappeared following the discovery of a temple hidden far underground. The soldier finds out that he can’t leave town (attempting to exit will loop the player right to the other side), and so his only choice is to go down into the mines.
Those worried about the game’s setting being a dark grey mine all the time need not be alarmed: the developer promises a host of varied locations deep within. Like Metroid and Castlevania, there’s a map you can switch on that shows the progress of your exploration. The folks at Discord also said that the final game will let you place markers on the map as reminders for places you’ll want to head back to after gaining new abilities.
The game sports an impressive amount of polish. The sprites and overall environment invoke the look of the 16-bit era, and the smooth animations feature small subtleties like the soldier’s hair blowing in the wind. The protagonist himself handles really well and has a nice, high jump. Like Symphony of the Night, you can equip a weapon in each hand, which can help when deciding whether you need a quick jab from a weaker weapon or a long swing from something more powerful.
The demo I played proved quite challenging. Defeating enemies with my sword was simple enough, but you take a decent amount of damage from each hit, and I found myself running out of health items fast. While I managed to hold out without getting killed for 15 minutes or so, I didn’t get to experience the boss. The Discord guys did tell me that I was really close, though, and that I can expect several enormous boss battles in the final game.
If there’s one thing that I would suggest in the future for Chasm, it’s the use of a mini-map. Switching back and forth between the game and the map reminds me a little too much of the one thing that irked me in SotN.
There’s a demo available for Windows, Mac and Linux right now. Give it a shot, and expect to dig into the final build sometime this summer.