A single-player, third person horror action-adventure game set on a remote spiritual island retreat. To survive you must craft, fight, and escape the psychedelic horrors set loose when a spiritual ritual goes wrong and awakens a dimension of cosmic terror.
Publisher: Prime Matter, Plaion
Reviewed on: PC
Also available for: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S
Cast: Siobhan Williams, Emily Tennant, Kira Clavell Adam Millar, Renee Akilla, Nicole Anthony, Mark Oliver
Developer: Brass Token
Creative Director: Mike Skupa
Executive Producer: Sapnay Dayal
Technical Director: Stephen Johnson
Technical Art Director: Tony Chen
Animation Director: Soa Yuyama
Lead Producer: Mike Lee
Lead Gameplay Programmer: Warren Johnson
For the debut game of developers Brass Token, I left their first game overall impressed. Whilst The Chant has no feature that stands above being the hallmark of the experience, neither does any individual area detract from the experience. The Chant is instead more like looking at an object through one of the many old dirty windows in the game – the finer details may be murky, but the overall object and experience is clear, and an enjoyable romp through a yoga island getaway gone wrong.
The Chant starts to a cold open back in the 1970s, with cultish activity ramping up across a cast of animal-skulled individuals. You assume control of an unassuming pregnant female, Babs, who has second thoughts about her involvement in the ritual and attempts to flee the scene. Your first moments are a frantic run through a forested island before Babs is faced with a rocky cliff before choosing to take the plunge.
You’ll then see a title screen and a flash forward in time to the story’s real protagonist, Jess. Clearly, in a troubled time in her life, she chooses to attend a yoga treat she was invited to by an estranged former best friend. Arriving on the island, you are introduced to some of the game’s systems as you meet current yoga retreat members and wonder how they link in with the animal head-wearing cultists you encountered in the open. The leader is a bit distant, to begin with, his Charles Manson-esque appearance standoffish, and you get some time to explore and speak with the fellow retreaters and learn about why they have each come to be on this remote trip. Key to the story is learning about the shared traumatic experience that Jess and Kim shared in their youth, which neither had completely moved on from, with lingering blame being present throughout both of the characters. This thread continues throughout the game, and The Chant touches on how people can deal with their trauma, grief and hang-ups and how this can make them targets for manipulation. Themes and ideas that are touched on and addressed but never fully developed.
The first night sees a group spiritual ritual go horribly wrong, with Kim running off screaming about how Jess still blames her for what happened in their youth. Tyler, the yoga head, merely worries about the circle being broken, which is the cause of a wave of cosmic terror being unleashed upon the island. The story throughout The Chant again is engaging set dressing, but it is missing a few scenes, and some characters could use a little more time to develop. There are three endings to The Chant as well, and thankfully how you come to have each ending is a bit more obfuscated than a simple choice at the end.
Jess alone ventures into the night to help her estranged friend Kim; along the way, starting to explore the island and opens up the game into its chapter structure. Each chapter focuses on exploring one part of the island as you seek to either help your fellow retreaters or attempt to end the horror across the island. The exploration is a typical affair, but interesting to explore the different parts of the island; each has its own flair. A cannery area is a creepy old wooden building with narrow passages or a derelict lighthouse across a shaky wooden bridge. Along the way, you pick up notes and projections that provide a lot of backstory to the island and learn how different areas were relevant at different times in its past. It was clear from these that Brass Token put a lot of effort into the island’s history. Even though exploring these environments is engaging, it rarely built tension through the exploration – rarely was I fearing what might have come around the corner despite the animalistic and guttural grunts and calls that echoed across the island. Instead, the tension in The Chant is built more through a constantly growing dread component. You have many engagements with a wide variety of visually well-designed and gruesome-looking enemies. The tension develops more through the dread of these consistent encounters as you wonder how far your supplies will get you through the island or if these cultists and prismatic creatures will be endless. The visual design of these enemies is quite interesting, with the colourful creatures being morphed abominations between animals and plants in a similar way to the 2018 film Annihilation. To The Chants’ credit, it also often throws new prismatic creatures at you, facing what felt like a dozen fresh designs through my 6.5-hour playtime.
Engaging with these cultists and creatures was another area of The Chant that was engaging but ultimately left something to be desired. The combat system is most akin to first-time dancers, largely awkward and cumbersome, but you can find a little rhythm throughout time. It’s also not as if the game wants you to flee from combat encounters, which is an option. Instead, combat was encouraged as you are given a lot of agency and opportunity with how you approach encounters.
Through a crafting system, you create different melee brands that act as a sword would in many other games, though at a much closer range. You have the option of heavy and light attacks and three craftable weapons. You use these brands and witches’ sticks to slash at enemies as you stumble away from their attacks, with too much effort into your dodging, leaving you scrambling along the floor. As I grew in confidence in the system, it started to feel more action orientated, allowing me to play aggressively with how I approached these encounters. I also had the option to craft items that could be used as a throwable or trap to place forward as you wait for the enemy to charge.
Prismatic abilities were the final piece to this combat puzzle, which were quite powerful in their own ways. Your first few of these abilities are more crowd control-based, like slowing and knocking back enemies. Late-game abilities again allowed for more agency in approaching encounters due to having more ways to deal high damage.