In The Chant, Jess is haunted by one of the most terrifying monsters imaginable: her guilty conscience. Her younger sister accidentally drowned, and if only she and her friend Kim had been more careful, it wouldn’t have happened. Unsurprisingly, the two have since drifted apart. Not least because Kim has turned to a spiritual self-help group that has suspicious cult characteristics.
Nevertheless, Jess accepts Kim’s invitation to come to a remote island for a few days to meditate with the group and come to terms with the past. But not the way Jess imagined: a ritual goes wrong and cosmic forces are awakened. These blur the lines between reality and madness, along with strange creatures and traumatic memories. In addition to surviving the night and rescuing Kim, Jess must face her own guilt, held up like a mirror by those in power.
(Almost) old-fashioned survival horror
Does the plot remind you a bit of psycho-horror classics like Silent Hill? That is no coincidence, because The Chant focuses entirely on this target group. The components almost read like a wish list for genre fans: Jess isn’t overpowered in combat and can die with just a few hits. She spends more time exploring the island and solving puzzles that aren’t immediately obvious. For example, at one point Jess has to put together an acid mixture, but the ingredients are hidden behind cryptic symbols in the instructions.
Documents are a good keyword because in the best way afterwards, letters, files or diary entries can be found everywhere. They can be used to summarize the island’s past and give more context to current events.
Boss fights against oversized figures round off the overall picture. Fixed camera angles, like Tormented Souls or Alisa did recently, would be missing for the perfect Silent Hill feeling. The Chant, on the other hand, relies on a 3rd person camera, meaning the game is geared more toward genre exponents like Silent Hill: Homecoming. The feel of the game reminded us of that the most.
Yet The Chant does many things differently, which pleasantly sets it apart from the monotony of survival horror. The combat system here is remarkable: it focuses almost entirely on slashing weapons, which are adapted to the spiritual theme. Jess has to collect raw materials from nature in a clear crafting system to make a sage torch, for example. Fire plays a major role, because burning oil can also be used. Jess throws it at her opponents to set them on fire. Alternatively, she can also place it on the floor as a trap.
She can also throw salt, which briefly irritates opponents. As is typical of the genre, scarcity of resources is a constant companion, which even affects Jess’s mind here: if she is exposed to horrific images or the aura of certain creatures for too long, her sanity will decrease, which is shown as an extra bar in addition to the physical condition. When it drops to zero, Jess can no longer fight and must get to safety to recover.
In addition to environmental resources, mental state can be improved through meditation. Jess can meditate anywhere outside of dangerous situations, but this costs spiritual energy, which is also used for special abilities. These are skills that give great advantages in battle, but can only rarely be used. A simple example is a shock wave that lightly knocks enemies back. This is very useful when Jess is surrounded. The fights play catchy and fast after a short period of getting used to. Dodging at the last minute and then delivering the final blow is never boring. Still, the collision detection felt imprecise at times, though that didn’t detract much from the fun.
Great atmosphere with technical weaknesses
The Chant’s biggest weakness becomes noticeable in the first minute of the game: Visually, the game looks outdated, despite being a PS5 and Xbox Series X/S exclusive. The lighting in particular is disappointing: although the flash sometimes creates a nice shadow play, the scenes appear flat in many other situations.
A clever use of light, as known from titles such as The Evil Within, is missing here. Nevertheless, the game manages to create a unique atmosphere, which is partly created by the soundtrack. This kind of looks like it came from the 1970s, which brings back memories of movies like “The Wicker Man.”
The creature design is also tough, because cosmic horror and pagan rituals meet here, which in combination provide encounters that are worth remembering. For example, there are the symmetrical mandala monsters, whose flower-like bodies block certain parts of the island. Other areas are occupied by the mentioned cosmic force, which manifests itself in a kind of veil of psychedelic colors and sounds. As Jess moves through, she sees bizarre creatures floating around that look like underwater creatures.
The view never gets boring as The Chant continues its action at a fast pace without much idle time. You never stay in one place for too long and there are always new story developments, although some twists may not come as a surprise to genre fans. But that’s okay, because for them The Chant is still an insider tip that stands out from other horror games.