It might arrive just a little after Halloween, but The Chant is one of most eagerly anticipated “scary titles” this season. Read on to find out why.
What we know
When Prime Matter announced The Chant, we were pleasantly surprised to see another major publisher tackle the cinematic horror genre. Brass Token is developing, and the game is expected to launch on November 3rd, just after Halloween, for PC, Xbox and PlayStation.
“Spiritual retreats” always have a bit of a creepy vibe to them, and The Chant capitalizes on this, as a group of young adults travels to an island and unleashes “The Gloom”, a psychedelic dimension full of horrors that feeds on negative energy. Creatures emerge, and with a cast of characters you need to try and uncover what’s happening on this island and what the role of a mysterious cult is.
Starring a cast of digitized actors that includes Sioban Williams and Adam Millard, there’s a definite cinematic quality to the presentation style of The Chant, but the game also heavily leans on crafting elements and resource management, which are common in the horror genre but rarely used in the cinematic takes that we see.
What we saw
While at Gamescom, we met with Plaion for a first look at The Chant, which started with a hands-off introduction before we sat down for a lengthy hands-on demo. Included was gameplay from one of the earlier chapters in the game, set shortly after people start to realize that things aren’t quite right but still find themselves guessing as to what exactly is going on here. It took us about half an hour to complete the demo, which gave us a good chunk of different gameplay mechanics as well as some narrative development.
What we thought
With its cinematic presentation and story-driven horror plot, it’s hard not to think of Supermassive’s brand of haunting video game experiences when looking at The Chant. Dive into a gameplay session, however, and you’ll notice some differences that set this one apart from The Dark Pictures Anthology.
The similarities aren’t bad either – there are somewhat frequent cutscenes that help tell the story and breathe life into the characters with detailed facial animations and high quality voice acting. Because of this, The Chant looks and feels like an interactive movie – the kind where plot twists come quickly and out of the blue and characters aren’t who they initially seem. A typical Hollywood-style narrative perhaps, but it kept us intrigued and wanting to know more about the plot and where it would lead us next.
Those are qualities that we also see in other horror games though, and where The Chant starts feeling different and unique is in the crafting elements it introduces. Between that and the combat, it feels more “gamey” in terms of mechanics than other cinematic horror games do, although the demo did skip over how these mechanics are introduced, sometimes making them feel strange in how they seemed to break the narrative flow of the game, which without them feels more like an action adventure where you run, shoot, fight and jump through open windows to get to your objectives.
We’ll have to see how things play out in the final game, but crafting with herbs seemed to be tied into how well you deal with otherworldly creatures and zones that are ‘infected’ by a strange phenomenon. Within a certain context, we could see this working as a narrative mechanic as well with a strange cult-like group using substances to channel these phenomena. We certainly hope so, as having crafting just for the sake of crafting would be a shame as it interrupts the otherwise very engaging story-driven action adventure. Luckily, we won’t have to wait too long to find out.