While Metroidvanias are a dime a dozen nowadays, Chasm from Bit Kid Games took and interesting approach that almost immediately intrigued me. While each room of the game is handcrafted by the developers, their layout is randomly generated before the adventure starts. Could a non-roguelike in a genre known for its intricate level design really pull this off?
The answer, surprisingly, is yes. While the system does have a couple small hiccups, it works much better than one would expect. Chasm is also a beautiful looking game that controls quite well and incorporates interesting RPG mechanics, so its definitely a title that fans of Metroidvania’s should check out, even if it is quite a crowded time for the genre and this title looks a bit simple on the surface.
A lot of attention was paid to Chasm’s world, even if the plot is fairly by-the-numbers. Players control a novice knight from the Guildean Kingdom that is sent to investigate a mining town, only to find it abandoned. This causes the main character to journey into the mine, saving the townsfolk along the way, who will open various shops that can be extremely helpful to the player.
It’s a fairly unique premise, and the developers made sure to continuously flesh out the world with pieces of lore for players to find in each new area. Unfortunately, the main plot fails to truly capitalize on its premise and ends up devolving into a typical “light vs. darkness” storyline. That being said, the game’s interesting world building helps make up for it.
As players explore the mine, they will find that the mine is much bigger than expected. Chasm starts out pretty tough as the beginning equipment doesn’t do much damage, though things do start to get easier once you find the blacksmith. Each character adds something important and has a side quest that expands their abilities, so the players should save anyone, though I could see people opting to save no one for a harder challenge.
While players will be constantly saving people, the meat of the game is in its platforming, combat, and Metroidvania exploration. Controls are surprisingly tight, and the developers really made sure to test and reward players for using all of their abilities in certain rooms. In true Metroidvania fashion, players will find new abilities in the environment that expand their moveset, and I found them all fun to use.
Some of these skills can also be applied to combat, which has some weight behind it. Players can equip both standard and magic (usually more ranged) weapons, and each come in handy with different enemies. Of course, players can find or purchase better ones as Chasm progresses, making it very satisfying to return to early areas in the late game with one’s massively powerful weapon.
There is also a dodge move, though it doesn’t prove to be very useful. It’s must easier to jump move out of the way of an enemy attack rather than having to deal with the delay that comes with dodging. Still, that’s a very small part of combat, which overall feels very gratifying. While the game feels a little heavier than one might expect, it controls very well, the crux of any good Metroidvania.
Like I mentioned before, Chasm’s biggest draw is how it goes about constructing its Metroidvania world. While most indie developers would just opt to handcraft items, enemies, and platforms and have the game procedurally generate them, Bit Kid went the extra mile and designed every room themselves, just letting the game place where all of them were at the start of each run. Rooms are well-designed, so this gets rid of the occasional frustrating difficulty problems that can come with poor procedurally generated levels.
That being said, things still could’ve fallen apart on the Metroidvania side of things, as the game could still end up making no sense if the placement went awry. Fortunately, in the few maps I did create, including my main run, this was never an issue as the layouts made complete sense with the exception of one late game area. That area relied heavily on teleportation, which quickly became confusing with the randomized layouts and frustrating as there weren’t any save areas, only one randomly placed room that sent me back to town.
That was fortunately the only area where frustration arose for me, as the rest of Chasm’s procedural room placement made sense and was even quite clever at some points. The fresh layout of each run also gives Chasm more replayability than other Metroidvanias, as this style of game can become boring on subsequent playthroughs if you remember the layout.
Chasm is also a simple but beautiful looking game. Characters and especially environments are highly detailed and emit a lot of charm and atmosphere. The game’s soundtrack is also very memorable, evoking retro nostalgia from the games that inspired it while still standing on its own. Just like with the controls, Chasm’s presentation is very tight and crisp, leading to a game that is satisfying and enjoyable to play, if a bit standard.
While it can sometimes be hard to pick and chose which of many Metroidvanias to try out as the market is very crowded, genre fans definitely shouldn’t pass on Chasm. The game took the developers six years to make, and this is seems to have paid off when looking at in the quality of the visuals, controls, and how well the Chasm’s take on procedural generation and the placement of its rooms works out.