Ultra-Indie Spotlight Sunday- That Which Gave Chase

Today’s spotlight tells the story of a dogsled team, their sled driver, and their passenger. There’s no better way to travel through unforgiving arctic snow than a dog sled (except a magic reindeer-pulled sleigh, of course). But what happens when your journey leads you into a liminal zone of isolation and madness, where directions lose meaning, where the only guidance you get is from the man sitting in your sled, whose sanity may be in question? Find out what terrors reside in the ice, in That Which Gave Chase.

Conceptual Meta-Wank:

Stories like The Lighthouse dare to ask the question, ‘What if I was trapped in a room with a weird guy?’ That Which Gave Chase explores this same theme. There are really only two characters in this game, yourself who takes the role of the sled driver, and a passenger, a former leader of a mysterious and ill-fated expedition. Only the passenger speaks, and though he may have lost a sanity point or two in his day, he loves to give you droplets of lore through less-than-friendly esoteric conversations. Seeing as he’s the only human around for potentially hundreds of miles, you might as well listen to what he has to say. 

Many indie horror games utilize isolation. After all, it’s frightening to be alone in a spooky basement with monsters creeping about. However, sometimes the effect of isolation can be amplified, paradoxically, by adding some company. That Which Gave Chase shows that when trapped in close proximity with only another person’s voice to hear, without the ability to leave, you become acutely aware of just how alone you truly are.

Non-Wanky Game Recap:

That Which Gave Chase is largely played behind the reins of a dogsled.  You can exit the sled at any time by dropping anchor (which I didn’t know was a thing dogsleds had but found to be very charming) but for the most part, you’re just trudging through the ice. You are dragged through the otherworldly wasteland of snow, stopping only to read a sign or investigate a long abandoned cabin. Generally, though, you’re just listening to a madman’s ramblings, while trying not to find yourself falling off a cliff. 

What Works:

The pacing of That Which Gave Chase was the first indication that I was going to love this game. The game flashes between night and day in the blink of an eye, indicating the passage of time, often mid-conversation. The tension builds tremendously fast with the simulated passage of weeks, and indeed, you can’t even tell whether you’re seeing a flashback or days into the future. Everything else, from the story to the atmosphere to the sound and visuals and gameplay, works wonderfully too. 

What Doesn’t:

What doesn’t work in That Which Gave Chase is pretty much nothing that I can think of, nothing of any real significance of course. The anchor is sometimes a little glitchy, the sled bumped into stuff in an unnatural way once or twice. If that is the extent of the problems I can think of, then That Which Gave Chase is leagues ahead of many of its contemporaries and one of the most polished indie horror games I can think of. 

How To Fix It:

The That Which Gave Chase is pretty much perfect and doesn’t need fixing. The following are just unnecessary suggestions. The game gives you a hunting rifle at some point, it might be interesting to add some more hunting encounters. Survival mechanics and having to feed the dogs and all that would be a good means of providing a harder difficulty. But at that point, the game loses what makes it great. The gameplay is secondary to the vibe; with more hunting sequences, they might as well add Sonic-style speed boosters and coins to pick up. The game is nigh flawless as is.

Wanky Musings:

This game was incredible. That Which Gave Chase is deeply reminiscent of Annihilation, from the sound design to the atmosphere. It is visually flawless. In lieu of music, there are just dire tones in the background, with nothing but the sound of snow crunching under the dogs’ paws. The story is incredibly gripping, you can never quite tell if it is truly supernatural, with the tension rising between the two characters to the point of exploding. There is a mysterious phenomenon with ‘deathless’ reindeer and strange mushrooms. For just $5, I can’t recommend this game enough. 

You can buy That Which Gave Chase on Steam by clicking here.