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Chasm: First Impressions of the Pre-Alpha Build

(This is an article originally written on my Kinja blog of the same name, cross posted here for a quick reference for how articles will look with the new wordpress blog.)

Are you sick pixel art indie titles yet? Me neither, especially when they’re as pretty as Chasm is. For those of you who either don’t know or don’t remember: Chasm is a project Kickstarted last year by Discord Games LLC, pulling in about $192,000 of their $150,000 goal. But now, after a very long wait, its backers are finally getting their hands on the pre-alpha build, including myself.

This is a pre-alpha build, though, so it’s best not to assume that everything I cover here will make it into the final game. So far, I’ve had about five hours of play time to base my impression off of.

The game starts off with the hero arriving at Karthas, a snow covered mining village with only three apparent residents, if you don’t count the dogs, cats, and various other critters you see running about. Soon enough, our nameless hero is tasked with trekking into the mines in search of some lost workers.

There’s a lot of atmosphere to this game, a lot of quiet moments and sobering music fills the space between the time spent slaying monsters and jumping over pits full of spikes. The campfire your only reprieve from the perilous mines. Like Minecraft, the dungeon is procedurally generated, but they don’t feel that way. Certain paths remain blocked to you until you gain the ability that allows you to traverse their obstacles. There’s still some semblance of deliberate level design, and it feels good. Like playing a Metroid game.

Progression in Chasm centers around the game’s currency. Your weapons, armor, and healing items all cost money, which you collect from every monster you kill, but progressing in levels also costs money, and the price gets steeper for every level. An interesting choice, but not necessarily a bad one.

The platforming is quite good, almost effortless at times, and the controls are very responsive. Perhaps the only noticeable flaw (or perhaps it’s only an annoyance for me) is that whenever you swing a sword, your movement is interrupted completely and your character comes to a full stop until the slashing animation finishes. This gives fighting a slight unnatural feeling compared to other games with similar mechanics, and you need to compensate for the fact that your left and right movement controls become unresponsive while attacking. It’s strange and very clunky for a set of controls that are otherwise very free and very smooth.

Despite this, the combat is very engaging, and most every monster type requires a different approach. The game has so far been very good with ramping up the difficulty slowly, at first giving you monsters that don’t generally react to you, even when hit, then slowly introducing monsters that will charge at you in some manner.

Perhaps the most important thing to note, though, is that this doesn’t feel anything like a pre-alpha game. Perhaps I just don’t have a lot of experience with playing pre-alpha titles, but this game has quite a lot of polish already in all the right places.

Chasm is set to release early 2015 on Windows, Mac, Linux, and PS4. If you’d like to learn more, you can visit their website here.

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