"Each time I've had a chance to try out the game I've found it a bit more polished and a bit more infuriating that I haven't been able to gobble up more of it."
Discord Games' Chasm is an adventure I've been interested for a while now. Culling much of its inspiration from the usual suspects in this genre (post-Symphony of the Night Castlevania, Metroid), Chasm is a challenging and somber action-RPG aiming to offer old-style visuals alongside modern polish and game design. The developers recently released a demo to Kickstarter backers (the same one, in fact, that was available for play at this past PAX East), and I took it for a spin, spending a few minutes poking around the oft-sighted Mines level.
First and foremost, what I'd urge any potential player to take away is that Chasm has a methodical but tight set of controls and physics. Your attacks (at least with the default sword, the only implement of stabby available in the demo) have weight and take time to execute, and thus demand proper timing to hit enemies with the arc of your blade. The hero, Daltyn, has a few attack animations in his combo, and learning how he plays is critical to avoiding death by dangly-crawly-worms-of-doom. Jumping has much the same feel, with methodical, well-timed button presses meaning the difference between landing on solid ground and falling to your crystalline demise.
The tight controls go a long way towards making the brief demo feel polished. The pixel art is detailed; Daltyn and his foes animate fluidly, and as you hop and slice your way about the caverns, there's a sense that you're always fully in control. It helped the game grab me quickly and compel me forward, despite the demo being rather brief. The menu offers hints of a large collection of weapons, armor, and critical life-restoring wall-meat, as well as an interesting, "found-documents" style of storytelling which works well with the understated style and writing (again, what little there was in the demo).
The full game will feature procedural generation of many rooms; this demo, however, did not. The developers have explained that in the finished version, there will be hand-crafted rooms spread throughout the game for set-piece moments, puzzle-solving, and to teach new game mechanics as they become relevant. While it's too soon to say how this will pan out, this seems like the right approach for a game of this type, offering developer-made jumping puzzles and other types of challenges, while still keeping the looty-looty-grindy-grindy aspects fresh on subsequent playthroughs.
As head of RPGFan's music nerdery, I was also fascinated by the one song available in the game. It was a bassy, dark piece that complemented the dark visuals well, all the while pushing me ever onward towards the elusive "elevator wheel" needed to complete the game. I obtained a copy of the Chasm EP, a limited soundtrack release, at MAGFest earlier this year, and if the demo's audio and that disc are any indication, this will be one game whose soundtrack stays burrowed in your ear holes for a good while.
There's not much more I can say with what little bit of Chasm I've experienced. Each time I've had a chance to try out the game I've found it a bit more polished and a bit more infuriating that I haven't been able to gobble up more of it. As I mentioned earlier, it's too soon to tell how the game will pan out for sure, since level, monster, and item design are critical in games of this type, but so far, so very good.