The Chant Review – Balancing Your Shakras
Developer: Brass Token
Publisher: Prime Matter
Available on: PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S
When we get cult horror stories in games, I immediately think of Unitology from the Dead Space series or The Order from Silent Hill. However, we rarely get such an intimate look into the workings of a cult as they are presented mainly as a shadowy organization of evil-doers. That’s why I was excited to get my hands on The Chant. It looked to be more of a personal journey about the inner workings of a cult and its followers.
The Chant is based around Jess, who joins her friend Kim on a weekend spiritual retreat. On the first night, the group gets together for a midnight chant. Unfortunately, the group chant leads to this mysterious Gloom opening up and taking over the island. Feeding off negative energy, the Gloom pushes Jess and company to the brink of madness.
Jess, herself, is scared of flies, so the Gloom manifests this group of flies in the shape of a person to constantly chase you around. The issue here is that if you take down the flies, they regenerate too quickly. So I found myself being more annoyed at its presents than scared. This is a shame because, other than the fly monster, the creature design here is on point. You can trace the majority of the designs to their real-life counterpart and pinpoint why the Gloom would take those things and skew them to feed off people’s negative emotions.
There are many really interesting and fun things to experience in The Chant. Unfortunately, all come after a lackluster and middling intro/ tutorial, but get past the first hour, and you are in for a much better time. It’s very strange how the movement in the prologue feels stiff and slow. If this is intentional or not, I’m unsure as we play as a pregnant woman. But when we control Jess, granted, movement is never smooth and fluid as it certainly has some clunky ness to it. At least it feels much better than the opening moments.
Combat outside of boss moments is mostly optional. Being a survival horror game, supplies are very limited and dwindle the further you get in. This is easily done thanks to a good dodge button, and The Chant does a good job of telegraphing when enemies are going to attack by making them light up. For example, one of the first enemies you’ll come across are these cult fanatic-style enemies, and they will glow purple before they attack, giving you plenty of time to dodge or use items like salt and essential oils to knock them back.
There is a very in-your-face theme here in The Chant of balancing Mind, Body, and Soul. It’s got some interesting mechanics to incorporate it all, Body being your health, Soul being linked to your special power but also doubling being used to refill your mind meter by meditating. Mind is a little more complicated. It’s basically a sanity meter. It goes down as you are in the dark or in tense situations dealing with The Gloom, and enemies can attack your mind, which you’ll have to break away from before being able to do anything else. If your mind goes down, you will enter a state of panic attack where the screen turns black and white, and you need to run to light or away from the enemies.
There are a lot of levels to the gameplay here, giving us a good level of stress trying to balance our Mind, Body, and Soul levels. Mixing that with managing our resources which can be used to make weapons as well. It’s great at making itself flexible to fit whatever play style you would like. That being said, the movement does feel a little stiff, and pairing that with animations also feels a little off. Sometimes it feels like it could be better to play. But it never ends up feeling bad, just middling, which I think can be fantastic. When you look at games like Alpha Protocol, that is the perfect example of lots of love mixed with too many mechanics and animations feeling off and weird. The Chant falls into that same category. Again not a bad thing. I love Alpha Protocol and genuinely enjoy my time with The Chant a lot.
I don’t really like to delve too much into story spoilers, but I think for a game based around the nineteen seventies cult hippy vibes, it does a fantastic job of making a cult-based horror game with a compelling enough story that’ll pull you through. Learning about the mystery of the Gloom and the Island itself feels natural, not to mention the voice acting. I enjoyed the acting here. They do a great job of bringing these characters to life.
Overall, I enjoyed The Chant. The horror factor of it all gets a little washed out when dealing with the fly creature constantly becoming more of a nuisance than anything. The balance of having to know when to fight and run makes the anxiety of managing resources feel intriguing. While there is a little bit of stiffness to its characters animation-wise, I still had fun with it. There is a lot to enjoy in The Chant, and you can tell a lot of love went into it, and I can’t wait to see what Brass Token has in store for us next.