I’m going to be honest with you: I didn’t beat Chasm. I don’t like admitting this because I was actually very excited for this game to come out and more importantly because I’m reviewing it right now, but I think it’s only fair to be upfront about it. That said, I didn’t finish Chasm because I didn’t like it very much.
If you’ve never heard of Chasm, it’s a procedurally generated metroidvania that’s been in development for over six years following a Kickstarter campaign. You play a trainee knight rescuing the inhabitants of a mining town from the cave system beneath said town. Unlike most procedurally generated games, however, Chasm doesn’t feature short runs and permadeath – instead, it generates the world at the start of the save file and sticks with that until you go into another file. There is a permadeath option, but it is just that – an option – which is good because my file had about three hours on it (barring time not recorded due to numerous deaths) and I was maybe halfway through the game when I stopped playing.
The other reason it’s a good thing that permadeath isn’t mandatory is the game’s balance issues. Chasm is a hard game, but unlike some of the games industry’s biggest darlings, the difficulty doesn’t feel fair or engaging, just frustrating. Enemies deal heavy damage with each hit, healing items are scarce and even fights with common mobs can feel protracted due to the player’s own damage output. Monsters will very occasionally drop gold or other goodies, but it is so infrequent that I didn’t even realize it could happen until halfway through the first area.
As you get further into the game, finding and rescuing more of the aforementioned mining town’s citizens, you unlock more shops and upgrade stations, but each of these feel largely superfluous due to a lack of materials needed to actually buy things. After three hours I didn’t have enough materials to craft any of the items available at the blacksmith, and I never had more than two potions on me at once which I ate through way too quickly each time I did. Additionally, even mandatory new abilities are unlocked few and far between, and all told Chasm has a very weak sense of progression for a metroidvania.
Considering the size of the cast and variety of enemies, you would expect Chasm to at least have an engaging personality, but… it doesn’t. The game looks good, certainly, and the moment to moment mechanics of it hold up fine, balance issues aside, but there’s nothing about it that really made me want to push through the difficulty. Each fight felt pretty much the same, and the fact that any of them could very conceivably kill the player from full health despite that isn’t encouraging.
I really wanted to like Chasm when I started playing it, but its flaws made it hard to enjoy the time I spent with it. While there were moments of satisfaction from killing bosses or somehow managing to take down a tough enemy without getting hit, the game is frustrating to play in general, and doesn’t offer enough incentive to “git gud”. Maybe someday I’ll go back and finish Chasm, but for now, there are other things that I actually want to start up and spend some time with.