Chasm Preview – Pixelated Glory to Karthas (PS4)

Retro-inspired games are huge in the indie development space, and they also had a large presence at Sony’s PlayStation Experience 2017 expo. I took a few minutes to get some hands-on time with the upcoming retro-style action RPG platformer, Chasm. It looks to be one of the more interesting retro-inspired titles currently in development.

Familiar Faces

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Chasm, and it probably won’t be the last time before its release, either. Bit Kid, Inc. has been working on this game for over 4 years now, and in fact when they launched their Kickstarter they were then known as Discord Games. The small team making this game has a ton of passion for it, something which shows in the multiple years of dedicated effort to launching it.

The so-called “Metroidvania” genre of games is a very competitive space these days. Games that feature tight platforming, and difficult combat, are almost too numerous to count. So what could developer Bit Kid, Inc. do to make their game unique? Well, they opted for having areas that were procedurally assembled. This is slightly different than full-on procedural generation. Each room that the player will encounter is hand-crafted by the development team. But the order in which the rooms are played will be pseudorandom. The game will try to ensure that the player doesn’t see too many of the same type of room in a row, as well.

Chasm PS4

Smoother Than You Remember

Chasm also features something described as “authentic pixel art.” The game’s assets are designed for a native resolution of 384×216. If that sounds like a horrible resolution, well, it would be. But the game scales everything just fine to be displayed at full 1080p resolution. No word on how well the game runs on a PS4 Pro, nor how well it scales up to 4K resolution, but hopefully we’ll have good news to report on that front in the future.

What’s good is an old-school look and feel if there isn’t a rockin’ soundtrack to accompany the visuals? James Stevulak has been tapped for Chasm’s audio, having previously contributed to the developer’s earlier titles 48 Chambers and Take Arms when they were still Discord Games. The result is audio that should instantly remind players of classic PS1/SNES-era RPGs, when most games had moved beyond chiptunes to incorporate the more advanced audio synthesizers available in those consoles.

Challenge Guaranteed

Chasm also focuses a lot more on the “’vania” side of the Metroidvania motif. What does this mean? Well, the area of Karthas is medieval in terms of technology. Combat is also ruthless. Protagonist Daltyn doesn’t have a ton of health, and larger enemies can dish out serious damage. Thankfully, a backwards dash move is available, to quickly get out of harm’s way and wait for an opportunity to attack. During the PSX demo, I was quickly down to less than ten health against an ogre-type enemy. But by slowing down, waiting for the proper time to attack, and carefully dodging, I was able to best them, much to my and the developer’s amusement. Death is still likely to come early and often, and Chasm feels like a game that teaches players through tough but fair mechanics.

If an old-school look and feel is what you desire in your platforming RPGs, then Chasm is shaping up to be the game for you. Its pixel art is gorgeous, and combat is tough, but this will appeal to those looking for a challenge. It’s been a long four years since Chasm’s successful Kickstarter campaign, but it looks as though the wait will be worth it when the game launches in 2018.

Chasm PS4 Preview conducted at PlayStation Experience 2017.