Being real-imitation gaming press comes with a few perks, like getting to play work-in-progress builds of exciting future releases. Discord Games’ Chasm has been on my radar for awhile now, and it’s really begun laying on the charm and good looks in the past few months. As a reward for my fawning, I got the exclusive privilege to take the demo for a spin ahead of its showing at this week’s GDC. …Actually, part of that is a lie. It’s just general testing for bugs and playability, anyone could have signed up to do so. Many did. Anyway, I felt special.
Part RPG, part hack n’ slash, part roguelike / dungeon crawler (but all-gorgeous), Chasm sports randomly-generated floors and loot drops, meaning you’re either going to experience a windfall in gold and equipment, or just have to roll with the punches as they come to you. The opening finds you mysteriously unable to leave town, instead forced to descend into the mines and search for answers. Naturally, these mines have been overrun with creatures that must be dealt with. Hacking away nets you experience and gold, which go towards leveling up stats and increasing your bankroll to spend in the town above, buying up the essential supplies and better armor, scrolls, etc.
The current rate for gaining levels is slower than I expected, which I like. It doesn’t allow you to dominate too early, while still allowing for the chance at rare loot. The mines themselves can be just as deliberate, I found, sometimes throwing you into a tougher fray, or meandering into dead ends and smaller fights. Even easier hallways can be treacherous, though, with hidden explosives, spikes, and pits eager to make you dead. Then there’s the flip of the coin. Other specialty rooms you’ll find, like fountains and totems, will refill your health / mana or give a temporary boost to a stat, like luck, for instance.
I’ve played the build and its revisions a half-dozen times already (probably a good sign if you’re measuring the degree of fun), and each playthrough has provided different yields. It’s not quite feast or famine, but nuanced, keeping you on your toes and looking for the next chest to pop open. It helps that the combat is so engaging, offering a very good mix of enemy types and attacks already (damn bats are a pain, though). That leads to each room and layout feeling unique from one to the next, even if the visuals don’t yet differ.
Here’s the bottom line vitals: beautiful visuals that will continue to look even better, combat that’s fast and fluid, exploration that equals an excellent crapshoot, and your stats / equipment matter. A dagger feels like a dagger, and a sword swings like a sword. You can grind to your heart’s content, and the whole thing reminds me of the Nintendo DS Castlevania games, which is a very good thing.
Of course, all that could change. Only the initial few areas are finished, but Discord Games and crew clearly have something special on their hands with Chasm. They seem to know as much, and have launched a Kickstarter to secure the funds needed to complete development (still hopeful for summer 2014) and really jam the game full of goodies. Just please keep with a release on XBLIG, that’s all I ask, guys. You’ll make this article a lie if you don’t.
If you’re poor, stingy, or are just the type to sit back and watch how things develop, you can always keep up with official news via the game’s site.