The Chant Review (PS5)
You broke the circle!
Publisher: Prime Matter
There’s not that many games that center around a cult, let alone one where the cult actually manages to summon the exact thing it worships. When I heard about The Chant I was immediately intrigued. Especially so when I saw the gameplay, which was pretty unique while also fitting the setting, and it seemed like it was something I would enjoy. So I waited in anticipation for the horror game that released just shy of Halloween.
The Chant doesn’t leave you in suspense for long. We get a quick look into 1972 where we see a cult successfully starting one of their rituals. It all goes as planned…until the pregnant woman, who we learn is the leader’s daughter named Babs, gets cold feet when it’s her turn to take her place and runs away. You get temporary control of her as you help her run and avoid capture until she reaches a cliff overlooking the ocean and…jumps. But not before she looks back, giving us a glimpse of some kind of monster.
We then go to the present, where we’ll be playing as Jess for the rest of the game. Jess is traumatized over her sister’s death and while we won’t know the specifics until later, we do know her sister drowned and that Jess seems to blame herself and her friend Kim who was there when it happened. Kim also seems to both blame herself and hate that Jess seemingly puts all the blame on her. After experiencing another flashback while out on her daily run, Jess decides to call Kim to take her up on her offer on going to a retreat Kim has been at for a while now. Kim does say she’s been doing better, so maybe it’ll end up being good for Jess too. Jess makes her way to Glory Island, which so happens to be the very island the prologue took place on.
After a quick hike, a panic attack, and Kim teaching you some tricks, you finally make it to camp and meet the rest of the cast. There’s Guru Tyler who totally doesn’t give major fake spiritual guy vibes and totally isn’t the new leader of a cult centered around prismatic science; Sonny who has big dreams that wishes his family backed him up on and recently sees the potential of this retreat; Maya who is here due to the loss of her son and is the cook; and finally Hannah who is in a relationship with Tyler and seems to be privy to some information that Tyler knows, but not the others.
Jess decides to stay, despite the major cult vibes, and she gets to be a part of a ritual on her first day. Yay. It doesn’t seem too harmful, just spiritual nonsense that you can see helping some, but Jess didn’t see the prologue like we did. Tyler leads everyone into a chant, having everyone tune into The Gloom, visualize their negative energy pooling into a cloud, and destroying it. Except…it goes wrong. Not only is Jess not agreeing to the tea, though it does seem her disbelief played a part as well since it doesn’t seem like she joins in, Kim suddenly has an angry outburst and runs away. Breaking the circle. This causes the parasitic dimension known as The Gloom to stay open, freely take over the island, and feed off of everyone’s negative energy. From then on, Jess aims to find a way to close off The Gloom before she and everyone else (except Tyler, he can die for all I care) dies.
Luckily, The Gloom doesn’t hang over the whole island just yet. Areas where The Gloom is at is characterized by an area being filled with colored fog, which can either hang in the air or close to the ground, with the color corresponding with the different colored prisms everyone are wearing. Considering you can only enter a Gloom area when you have the corresponding prism…it doesn’t bode well for the others to resist being taken over by The Gloom. Entering, which sometimes can be a surprise behind a door, will transform the area and not only puts you in harm’s way of Gloom creatures, but also gives you insight on the character that held it as you can hear the very negative thoughts the Gloom is feeding off of.
While the Gloom creatures luckily can’t get you once you exit the Gloom, there are quite a lot of areas it rules over. Not to mention the enemies that can roam freely, which are the mask-wearing Cultists and a manifestation of Jess’ sister that can only be temporarily warded off. You’ll have to use what you learned until them to hopefully survive until the end. The Chant isn’t a horror game where you have to hide and sneak around, as you do get means to defend yourself. As you’re going walking around the island, you’ll be able to pick up items you can use to craft weapons. For melee, there’s sage sticks, witch sticks, and fire lashes; and throwables, which you can also lay down as traps, in the form of essential oil, salt, and fire oil. Each has their own class they fall under and effect and will be effective towards different enemies.
Combat is pretty simple here, having a light and heavy attack that can be stringed together into a three-hit combo, using throwables to deal some extra damage or even disrupt an enemy’s upcoming attack (especially their charge attacks), and a dodge which actually has a decent amount of i-frames. It does take some time to get used to Jess’ dodge, but once you do and learn how each enemy attacks and their tells, you’ll do fine. Jess will also be able to harness Gloom abilities that are given to her through the prisms. Each character’s prism will give you a different ability that can be helpful, like slowing down enemies for a couple seconds or summoning spikes around you, but it will require you to use Spirit. Though, enemies will also send out Mind attacks which you can’t avoid and will need to ward off as quickly as you can. However, with resources on the island low, it’s best to choose when to fight your battles and when to avoid attacks and focus on your objective.
Each chapter ends off with a boss battle, though there are some mini bosses here, and I really like how they’re handled here (well okay, the last boss is pretty spongey but still). The game not only will require you to learn the tells of when the boss is gearing up for a specific attack, but will have you using the environment and your Gloom abilities to your advantage. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the boss battles were a particular highlight for me.
The Chant also features a unique system that pertains to Jess’ wellbeing in the form of her Mind, Body, and Spirit meter. Body is your health and taking damage from enemies will deplete it and you’ll die once it’s emptied. Mind is how Jess is doing mentally and it depletes as you’re in The Gloom. If your Mind fully depletes, Jess will have a panic attack where she can only run away and won’t be able to calm down until she’s somewhere safe. And lastly, Spirit which fuels the prism (and thus your Gloom abilities) and meditating will allow you to trade it for Mind. To replenish your Mind, Body, and Spirit, you’ll have to forage and find lavender, ginger, and spirit caps.
Honestly, I have a feeling I conserved my resources a bit too much, as I did find myself leaving supplies since I was already maxed out. This is due to me utilizing a more avoidance approach, mainly because I was going for the “don’t kill any cultist” achievement (which looks like I botched it somewhere, maybe late game), so I was pretty full up on crafting supplies. Though, honestly, I kinda liked the avoidance approach I took as it did bring in that panic of trying to avoid hits and cautiously trading hits when needed. I had so many close calls.
Also, I admittedly didn’t use any of my Gloom powers much, and when I did it was during boss battles, considering it did take up Spirit and I wanted enough Spirit to restore my Mind.
Before I was able to play The Chant, I did hear that the endings were disappointing. Sadly, they were right. I got the Mind ending on my playthrough and it’s what I can only describe as a sequel bait type ending. I did end up watching what the other two were, partly due to thinking it wouldn’t be worth playing it another two times, and the Spirit ending is like the “WTF just happened” left field type ending. I actually did like the Body ending though, despite it still feeling a bit lackluster, as it does give some sort of happy-ish ending for Jess while also showing that while this situation helped her heal, it doesn’t mean her trauma disappears. Just that she’s handling it more healthily.
There are collectibles here, which serve as a way to get lore on the island and what was happening when the original Prismatic Science cult was there. You’ll find documents and letters written by the original leader, Monroe, the old members, and even those that were sadly caught up in it. There are also reels that you can watch that will give you a bit more history and what Monroe was putting out there to promote him and to entice others to join his cult. And lastly, there are bestiary entries which talk about the Gloom creatures that roam around and give you tips at defeating them (though you do have to go into the “Research” tab to see those tips). Good news is that it doesn’t seem like these are mostly hidden in obscure places, as it seemed like I only missed a few in my playthrough. A lot are placed in areas that you’ll come across if you’re regularly exploring, which I appreciate.
While I do recommend getting The Chant on a sale, as I’m not too sure if it’s worth $40, it does bring in some unique systems and an interesting story and atmosphere. I found The Gloom to be interesting, especially since it gives you more insight on everyone’s thoughts, I liked the enemies you’ll come across and figuring out how to approach (or avoid) them, and I liked working with the Mind/Body/Spirit system. There aren’t that many puzzles here, but I also did like the few that pop up. Though, I did wish you got to know the characters a bit more and that the endings were better.
All in all, if you’re looking for another survival horror game with some unique systems in place, check out The Chant.