An educational and historically accurate VR experience, The Chantry was recently released by Steel Minions (previously responsible for Piecefall VR). We played through the game on Playstation VR for this review.
When I started playing the game, I had no idea what “The Chantry” was, but I quickly learned that it’s a nickname for the house where Edward Jenner lived – the physician who invented the vaccine for smallpox and even pioneered the name “vaccine” itself. In Steel Minions’ VR adaptation, you walk through his house, slowly uncovering the tale of his life while searching for objects and letters that help you unlock new parts of the house.
The Chantry, as such, is very thin on traditional gameplay, but it does present an extremely interesting tale – told from the perspective of the person who took notes on the house and its contents shortly after Jenner died. By uncovering what he found, we get to know Jenner’s story and get a picture of the time in which it took place, which is intriguing in its own right.
Back in the late 18th century (Jenner first administered the vaccine in 1796 on eight year old James Phipps), his practices were obviously deemed unorthodox and were frowned upon – and it was also a time in which those close to him succumbed to severe cases on consumption. As such, it’s both a celebration of Jenner’s legacy as well as a tragic tale of his personal life.
As a game, it’s hardly worth your time. There’s little in the way of suspense or challenge, nor are motion controls extensively used – you basically just point, click and look around. That’s not where The Chantry’s charm lies though – that lies firmly with its story, as it’s told through the people whose letters and notes were left behind (including a thank you letter from Thomas Jefferson).
The Chantry, besides the “game mode”, also features a museum mode, which has you walking The Chantry without the need to unlock rooms as you go along – a virtual recreation of a visit to the real house, which is still standing and open to the public. Perhaps it’s a tad ironic that there’s a museum mode as well, because the game itself is a bit of a museum experience. Completing everything will take about an hour of your time, and it’s a lot like being in an interactive exhibit at a real museum. A really good one too, but it has to tickle your interest for it to be enjoyable. As a straight up game, it’s lacking – as a fascinating tale, it’s worth the journey to The Chantry.