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The Chant Review

The Chant

The Chant is what you get if The Dark Pictures games actually committed to having survival-horror gameplay and were long enough to feel like a satisfying experience. The graphics are highly detailed and the visual signature aspires to be like a cinematic experience, emphasizing facial animation.

Like Until Dawn, The Chant relies on real actors being mocapped and has a story that is a throw-back to 70s and 80s cinema. The plot revolves around Jess and her friend Kim, who both suffer from a trauma in their past. When Jess arrives, Kim appears to have been completely indoctrinated in a bizarre new age, Heaven’s Gate-like cult.

Not everything is as it seems in The Chant. Many of the characters and cult members harbor terrible secrets and the prismatic science behind their crystals seems to be opening up more than their chakras. What are these otherworldly cosmic entities? What is going on in this island? Find out in our The Chant review!?

The Chant
Developer: Brass Token
Publisher: Prime Matter, Deep Silver
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 (reviewed)
Release Date: November 3, 2022
Players: 1
Price: $39.99 USD 

The story of The Chant is one of many colors. It explores themes of the dangers of unbalanced power dynamics between followers and leader, and how the weak can be easily exploited.

The Chant‘s stance on new age mysticism is peculiar; as it comes up with a semi-scientific explanation in the story’s lore. It isn’t based on any specific new age sect, but there is a lot of influences based on Astrology- given the emphasis on “healing crystals” and meditation.

The new age mysticism is more than just a story element- it is a backbone to the gameplay. From the puzzles to how Jess interacts with her setting and even the combat, The Chant is steeped in spiritual hippie holism.

Horror games are finally re-embracing combat and The Chant manages to not only be a very competent and polished example, but a fun one too. Jess handles a lot like she’s in a brawler; her three different types of burning sages have light and heavy attacks with their own unique properties.

She is surprisingly very effective for a skinny woman with no shoes in the middle of a forest. Her dodge maneuver is generous with i-frames and playability is responsive. Jess is also able to lay down traps and can throw salt on the wounds of a burning cultist. The Chant may present itself as a survival-horror (which it is), but one look at it- nobody would ever expect it to play like a beat-em up.

As if whipping cultists and fractal alien flowers with a fiery thorn branch wasn’t enough, Jess is also endowed with special abilities that can slow down time, summon the hands of deadites, or scream foes into submission like a Karen at an Office Depot.

Jess even gets a skill tree that can be leveled up by consuming various types of herbs and secret spices, or can level up a stat by choosing dialogue options in the mind, body and spirit categories.

Not that it matters, since this only gives the player the ability to unlock a passive ability- not outright purchase it. That requires a separate consumable item entirely. The dialogue options are supposed to help the player boost a category in case they’ve been lagging behind.

The thing is that the regular consumable items that also gain points in these needless barriers and are plentiful. This side of the character building could have been cut entirely and nobody would notice.

The Chant‘s other drawback is that it is lacking in the scare department. Outside of the few times where there is an unkillable stalker that wanders in scripted areas, The Chant just isn’t that scary. This comes down to the enemies having lame designs and Jess becoming overpowered the further the game goes on.

Threats come in two varieties and each have their own sub varieties. Cultists are humanoid and wear animal masks. Each mask is a sign of the wearer’s spirit animal and they will behave as such. A cultist in a ram mask for example; will charge towards Jess and have lead-up animation. Some cultists levitate, and some crawl around on the floor.

The other enemy variety is the gloom entities. These things are completely alien and sometimes have animal-like characteristics. Imagine a toad the size of a Volkswagen but with the head of a shark, or a miniature version of the Cloverfield monster. Other times, the gloom resembles some kind of fractal sea anemone.

These creatures just don’t come off as anything more than generic monsters. The ambiance of the cult hub area is more unsettling than anything Jess will fight.

Even the other characters who become obsessively insane and act with a palpable mania are way creepier and scarier than the goons in horse skull masks.

The environments do a lot of the legwork where the threats fail to impress. Each area is also interconnected with each other which help give the island a sense of place. As The Chant unfurls its scenario, Jess will find various key items that expand her range of exploration- with each new location having more story in it.

Level design is varied and full of wrap-around shortcuts that make exploration satisfying. Scene construction is full of details that paint a picture that this island was ground zero to a terrible tragedy in its history. Stray skeletons with a pickaxe stuck in its back, or a ravaged children’s room with furniture piled up against the door tell all you need to know.

The trippy scenery in the gloom areas is where you really see the money burning on screen. The Chant gets a lot of mileage out of its premise, which relies on characters that transcend their senses and oneness. The night sky never looked so intense and colorful before.

The effects used resemble being through a kaleidoscope and an aurora, while stabbing a monstrous hippie in the face with a wad of burning sage. Lighting also gets intense with wild Dario Argento-esque colors that reflect the characters’ state of mind.

One of the more understated features of The Chant is its soundtrack. For some, this might go by unnoticed, but any horror fan will note the homages to Goblin’s sound. Goblin was a band that made music used in many giallo-flicks. Their style was very intense and surreal synth that had hypnotic melodies.

Goblin is a very esoteric influence, but also an extremely welcomed one. The style is very faithful without sounding like a knock-off. It adds a lot to the 70s style flavor that The Chant aims for.

Fans of survival-horror will get a lot of enjoyment out of The Chant. Its gameplay is exciting and has a unique premise that is rarely explored. While the enemy design won’t make your blood run cold, the creepy performances from the actors will and it’s all tied up in a very slick and polished package for a fair price.

The Chant was reviewed on PlayStation 5 using a copy provided by Prime Matter. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. The Chant is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5.

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The Verdict: 8

The Good

  • Hypnotic and trippy, Goblin-esque soundtrack
  • Lurid and hallucinogenic imagery with sharp production values
  • A varied mix of classic survival horror gameplay and inventive spiritual warfare
  • Excellent performances from the actors
  • Mirror sheen polish

The Bad

  • Mind, body and spirit dialogue options do not amount to anything
  • Not scary enough and too easy

About

A youth destined for damnation.