The Chant (Xbox Series X/S) Review

By Albert Lichi 05.11.2022

Review for The Chant on Xbox Series X/S

The Chant is a survival-horror game that came out of nowhere and it came out swinging. With impressive production values and an original premise that centres on a new age commune, is this style over substance? Find out in Cubed3's The Chant review on Xbox Series S!

The Chant makes a striking impression immediately as it begins. Boasting some beautiful and detailed Unreal Engine 4 graphics, the visual fidelity looks on par with the movie-style games that Super Massive produces. This is completely fitting since The Chant aspires to take visual and audio cues from 70s cinema. The soundtrack has a little bit of Goblin in it - the band that was famous for its intense and surreal synth music and was often relied on for films by Dario Argento.

When the story begins and Jess the protagonist is introduced, just by her acting it is obvious that there is something wrong with her. She gets invited to a commune where her best friend has been getting therapy for a trauma and it isn't long before everybody has a bad time. Jess ends up getting a lot more than a simple spiritual retreat and will face the inner demons of not just herself, but of the other cultists as well.

The story of The Chant is very surprising in how mature it handles its subject. It explores the dangers of new age mysticism and how predatory some cults can be. A lot of the victims of these groups tend to be scarred or damaged individuals and The Chant touches on this in a very restrained manner without beating the player over the head in a clumsy way. Some characters are disgusting opportunists who bite off more than they can chew and don't understand the cosmic forces they are playing with. Other characters are broken and are seeking salvation for some terrible event in their life. What sells the story and drama of The Chant is the strong script and acting. The performers fully embody their roles, and the stylish screen direction is dense with symbolism.

Screenshot for The Chant on Xbox Series X/S

The main threat that Jess encounters during her time on the island are bizarre manifestations of cultists in animal skull masks who "become" their spirit animal and the entities of the gloom. The alien-like gloom monsters are indescribable eldritch horrors. They sometimes share animal-like qualities, but for the most part they resemble fractal sea-like creatures and some kind of space-flower. They are as weird as they are deadly, and no conventional weaponry will help Jess. To combat her foes, she must rely on spiritual ordinance.

Burning sage, essential oils and basically anything that one would find lying around a filthy hippie's commune are a part of Jess' arsenal. On top of singeing cultists and gloom-monsters with a wad of sage, she also gains some powers. These include some comical attacks like screaming like a Karen or the hands that come up to grab cultists by the groin. One of the more practical abilities is the slow-time spell - this is because the deeper in the game, the more enemies are thrown at the player.

Screenshot for The Chant on Xbox Series X/S

How does fighting with hippie junk work? It is more effective than one would think! The Chant may play like a survival-horror with locked doors that need keys and boxes that need fuses, but engaging foes is akin to a brawler. The themes may be of a spiritual nature, but Jess is ready and willing to roll up her sleeves and throw down in the ring; side-stepping or shoving, and there is an element of skill involved with timing perfect-dodges or perfect-shoves to gain a little Bayonetta-style witch-time.

When not having a tussle with a cosmic florescent fractal, Jess will spend a lot of the time exploring the island and finding a way forward. The Chant goes by classic survival-horror rules - this means open ended exploration and an ever growing map that has limited resources. There are some puzzles which amount to finding-the-thing-to-put-into-the-thing, just so Jess can open the door or making a key by combining objects. It's tried and true survival-horror gameplay that manages to hook gamers in and The Chant elevates it with its impressive production values and labyrinthine level design.

Screenshot for The Chant on Xbox Series X/S

The only downside to The Chant is that it isn't really scary at all. There is a lot of bizarre imagery and signs of death which are haunting, but there are hardly any moments where the game conjures up a palpable feeling of dread. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly why this is, but it is a blur of reasons. It is a mixture of exciting combat and that the gloom creatures and cultists are not scary designs. Compounded with Jess' abilities growing stronger due to her ability tree, the later portions of the game become easier and easier.

The Chant could do with the normal mode being harder and the auto-save checkpoints make it so there is no punishment for failure. Even with the dwindling resources and the three stats to manage, Jess hardly ever runs out of items and there are always some herbs or ginger lying around to perk her up. The only parts that are tense are when a certain unkillable enemy appears and wanders the area. This thing can kill Jess in one hit and is borderline invisible, making evasion trickier than normal.

Screenshot for The Chant on Xbox Series X/S

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

The Chant is a surprising and impressive experience. It runs tight and brief; rarely wasting time but allowing enough breathing room for the player to explore at their own pace. It looks amazing, has excellent acting and a compelling narrative that explores some unconventional topics for a horror game. It is too bad it rarely is scary and is too easy. Making Jess a terrible fighter would probably be a worse design choice, but The Chant really needs to have more threatening foes and redesign them to be scarier. Fighting a massive toad that has a shark-like head feels more like something out of an off-brand Resident Evil than a 70s-inspired horror game with a new-age mysticism bent to it.

Developer

Brass Token

Publisher

Prime Matter

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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