Thursday, May 15, 2014

PAX East 2014: Chasm (Discord Games)

Spring has arrived, and with that, another PAX East has sprung up, inviting gamers and game developers from all over the world to Boston, all to show upcoming games and revel in what the industry has in store.  We at Third Rate Minion were there, and we got to try out a sampling of what was there on the showfloor!

Interview with founder James:

Gameplay footage:


At PAX East 2014’s Indie Megabooth, developer Discord Games demonstrating their kickstarted adventure title, Chasm, and we were able to get some hands-on time with it and chat with founder James Petruzzi about the project.

Chasm stars Tyrion, a veteran solider on his way home from years of being on the battlefield. Unfortunately, he ends up strolling into an old mining town and can’t leave! The people in the town tell him that there was an earthquake recently that has trapped a bunch of miners underground, and the only place where he can find out what’s going on is hidden in the massive mine under the village. And thus our journey begins!

Chasm is an exploration platformer similar to Metroid or more so Castlevania. Tyrion controls similar to the Belmonts with his jumps and jabs. At the start of the game, our hero is unarmed but quickly finds a knife for protection. Although short-ranged, the knife adds strength to take out monsters. As in true Metroidvania fashion, new weapons and items are found scattered throughout the labyrinth which improve Tyrion’s abilities and combat skills.  For example, finding a sword adds not only more power but greater distance to his strikes. The networking of tunnels and paltforming also fit the Metroidvania style nicely. There were areas I had to jump onto swinging platforms and other areas where I had to cautiously navigate past pits lined with sharp crystals. While I only saw the mine area in the demo, the trailers show other areas that the hero will be venturing through later in his journey.

What kind of Metroidvania game would Chasm be without monsters? The mine area were full of trolls and mice enemies along with hanging worms and crawling insects. Trolls would try to walk up to you and smack you with a rock, mice would continue to spawn until their nest is destroyed, and worms would fall from the ceiling if you walked underneath them. Much like Castlevania, killing these monsters gives Tyrion experience points that eventually level him up, increasing his stats progressively. As enemies respawn once you leave the room, the game offers you benefits while you backtrack though old areas.

However, unlike Metroid and Castlevania, Chasm’s caverns are procedurally generated and should create unique experiences for each playthrough similar to Roguelike titles. With a procedurally generated world, I am curious to see how the game handles Metroidvania staples such as backtracking and exploration. I am a touch worried that being randomly generated might mean areas will look and feel the same rather than if someone designed the world independently. I hope they make it so it generates memorable layouts to play in.

Visually, Chasm is designed after the 16-bit era of pixel art. The environments are nicely detailed with lush trees and jagged stalactites, and Discord Games uses a variety of effects such as particle effects for the snowy town and parallax scrolling in the depths of the mines. And then there are the characters. NPCs, enemies, and the hero all have fluid animations even when they are standing still. The humans bob and sway smoothly, and the evil rats and worms wiggle around waiting to strike. Tyrion’s attack animations are also expressive and vary depending on what weapon he is using. Having the fluid character animations not only makes the game play better, but it also makes it more enjoyable to spend time with.

Chasm fits the Metroidvania genre well with exploration, platforming and monster hunting, and its procedurally generated environments will add a twist on the genre and will hopefully vary enough to offer different experience in every playthrough. I just hope the generated environments will be interesting layouts and remain memorable rather than thrown together. Chasm’s 16-bit style felt nostalgic, and its fluid character animations showed the animators’ hard work. I look forward to see what monsters we will face and other places Discord Games will take us in Chasm. Keep an eye out for more details about Chasm and its release date for PC and PS4.

For more information, check out the game's website here.

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