Hello, Chasm devs and Chasm non-devs and other Chasm-related people. I'm Carlos. I have an ego and I like to talk. Let's talk Chasm.
The good, before the criticism:
Chasm feels really, really good. I can repeatedly short hop slash bosses during their vulnerable phases with little issue, ascertain that a particular jump calls for a ledge grab first due to a low ceiling, cancel my attacks into jumps and dashes (more accurately, jump/backdash while attacking), platform well; the base here is super solid, and a joy to play.
The default XB360 controller mapping is great too, with the two attack buttons wisely (and, for my money, *correctly*) placed right beside the jump button. Still want a button config (I'd like to put my backdash on a bumper), but still, very smart initial binding.
The game is beautiful: I like the 16-bit JRPG-esque sprites (more than I like Castlevania sprites, actually; I can see Daltyn's eyes!) and the music for the most part.
Good job on the game! So far, so good.
All righty then, onto my issues:** 1. Randomized Maps Aren't Random Enough **
Over the course of several runs, one Normal, the rest Hardcore, I noticed something about Chasm's procedurally generated (is that the right term?) map layouts: they didn't change much.
Generally, I enter the mines, go right to unlock the warp point, then go left, past the non-working elevator, fight a boss that does a good job of prepping me for the general feel of how boss fights in Chasm work, hit the Gardens, get the slide, etc., all in the same order until I get the double jump and make my way to the Gardens again where the current build ends.
Sure, the rooms in between these milestones varied things up, but only somewhat.
What I was hoping to see was something more akin to this:
In Symphony of the Night, if I go to the Clock Tower after getting Wolf form, there's a section I need the double jump to pass. Except I don't: if I jump, turn into a wolf and revert back, the game allows me to do the jump kick I normally need the double jump for (down + Jump in the air). This allows me to pogo off a Medusa head and go all the way to the Castle Keep, and get the double jump without ever having hit the Cathedral. Sequence breaking, yes, but how cool would it have been if, in a given SotN run, that WAS the way to go?
In Chasm, I was hoping subsequent runs would see me get the ledge grab or the double jump first, before the slide, and present to me level layouts with that in mind: ledge grab double jump shenanigans, etc. Maybe I'd visit a different area after the Mines, or even only stay in the Mines for a screen before a new area. Perhaps I'd fight the Wraith first, and it'd be an easier fight than normal, but fighting the Cave Troll third presents a more challenging version of the encounter. Maybe I'd even see enemies I never saw on previous runs!
That wasn't the case. Every run in Chasm, thus far, is predictable: boss and upgrade milestones are consistent, as are when the game gives you new weapons like the Longsword.
So what I'd like to see in the next major revision (is that the beta?) is exactly that: runs, seeds, being noticeably different, requiring different approaches due to giving you new abilities, items, and boss encounters at different times.
Because otherwise, if there's just a little variance between the various milestones, I almost *don't* want random layouts anymore, just so I can try to optimize a run in the specific, set in stone layout.** 2. Two Handed Weapons Limit Options **
Like in SotN and other Castlevanias, equipping a big, burly two hander like the Broadsword takes up both of my attack buttons.
I get *why* this was done: the idea is that the advantage of dealing such heavy damage per swing, even if said swings are slower, comes at the cost of versatility.
I was never a fan of that in the Castlevanias, and I'm not a fan of that here. With two attack buttons, I want distinct combinations of weapons and strategies. I *want* to dedicate a button to a slow, heavy weapon and another to a fast spell, or have a fast weapon and a heavy weapon, or two different heavy options, etc. Look at Bastion for a good example of this done right (barring the mortar being better than the rest of the weapons).
That said, big two handers in Chasm still swing pretty fast and cover a huge area, so letting me slap a Broadsword on X and Fireball on B might be broken. I'd be willing to take a hit on that big, burly two hander's swing speed for the privilege of getting to use it in tandem with another weapon though. Especially since my MP is basically doing nothing when I'm holding and swinging a heavy weapon.** 3. The Boss Themes Lack Punch **
I really, really dig Chasm's music. It reminds me of Secret of Evermore: atmospheric, rich with flavor and mood, subtle but never ignorable. It's super good stuff. With one exception: the boss themes. (This is an area Evermore lacked in as well: the main boss theme was kinda bleh, overshadowed by the mid-boss theme and the excellent final boss theme you only hear once.)
The boss music in Chasm, to be clear, is well composed. It's not bad. But it lacks punch, it lacks urgency, it lacks that tension I really want to hear when I'm fighting for my life against a freaky lich thing or a wendigo or a giant laser worm.
I'm a sucker for bosses in my games, and partly because boss themes tend to be my favorite part of game soundtracks. So my bias is showing pretty hard, admittedly, but still, during boss fights, I want the audio to feel urgent and punchy and high energy.** 4. Game Difficulty is A Touch Low **
Disclaimer: difficulty is subjective. I find 2D platformers much easier than Halo on Legendary, and Cave shmups much easier than any Raiden game. I know people who can annihilate Halo on Legendary but think the new 2D Mario games are hard. I know people who can crush me at any competitive puzzle game but cannot beat me in Street Fighter if I play one handed. Difficulty is, again, subjective.
That out of the way, I find Chasm a touch easy. My Hardcore runs are in no real danger of ending to anything other than an accidental tumble into a spike pit or forgetting that the laser grub is about to shoot an HP deleting laser at my face.
Part of the reason is because you can jump and backdash while attacking. Even if big weapons were slower, I'd still be super mobile since I can just jump out of the way of any enemy counterattack.
I feel the game needs a difficulty setting selector. The current difficulty is, to me, rather low, though it may be just right for others and too hard for others still. I like difficulty settings; they're inclusive.** 5. Blind Drops Suck **
There are a lot of blind drops in Chasm. A lot of rooms where the game intends for you to descend slowly and severely punishes any attempt to shortcut with a hazard at the bottom level, the spike pit being the worst offender. And these rooms come up frustratingly often. Speaking of which...** 6. Too Many Platforming Rooms **
I like platforming. I like jumping from moving platform to moving platform, I like the ledge grab jumps that remind me of Batman on NES (the best Batman game), I like racing a rising spike floor to the ceiling to grab an elevator part.
I don't like the frequency with which it comes up in Chasm, though. Partly due to what Chasm is: a Metroidvania, more "Vania" than "Metroid," that features random layouts. Said layouts aren't conducive to truly great platforming: the challenges here feel very basic, with the ledge grab stuff being the only real standout (another shoutout to Batman on NES).
Chasm is, I feel, at its best when it's throwing mobs at me. I want to see more mobs and less basic Mario 1-3 platforming. The occasional room like that can break up the monotony of combat, but as it stands, it's the enemies that break up the monotony of the platforming.** Other Stuff **
If, during a crouching weapon swing, you return the stick to neutral (can you tell I play fighters?) and tap the jump button, Daltyn will crouch jump for the duration of the swing. Easiest to perform with a big weapon. I wasn't able to break anything with this, but I could hypothetically see this allowing the player to fit into a crevice they shouldn't be able to. Something to keep an eye on.
Warp points work like SotN. I'd rather they work like the later Castlevanias, where the map comes up and you can select where to warp. Would make it easier to get around.
The puzzle before the laser worm is a pain, especially since it changes every run.
Daltyn can't do Richter's slide kick. Yet.
I want the option to play as a female Daltyn, a non-white Daltyn, etc.** Conclusion **
Chasm is great! Despite said issues, it's a blast to play. I do hope at least some of those issues are addressed in the next major revision, though. I will want to play the heck out of said revision.
That's all. Have a good one, folks.