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Chasm's Procedural Generation Looks to Freshen Up the Metroidvania


Marcus Stewart

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As a fan of Metroid/Castlevania-inspired titles, it’s been great to play so many creative iterations on the concept in the last generation. Chasm, another Metroidvania tribute from the publisher of Axiom Verge, separates itself from the pack by utilizing procedural generation in its level design. I got my hands on it at E3, and thus far it feels like another well-crafted homage to the 16-bit era.

 

Chasm is more akin to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night than Metroid. As the lone soldier Daltyn, players earn experience points to level up, outfit themselves head to toe with an assortment of gear, and arm themselves with swords and whips, as well as sub-items such as magical daggers and Molotovs. Symphony’s influence is further evident in Daltyn’s backwards dash and even his jumping pose is resembles Alucard’s.

 

Unlike Castlevania, procedural generation plays a big role. When I spoke to publisher Dan Adelman (who also published 2015's Axiom Verge), he said the idea stemmed from the realization that Super Metroid and similar titles lose their sense of discovery in subsequent playthroughs because players eventually memorize every location. In Chasm, rooms are hand-crafted but are stitched together in different ways on the map each time you load the game. The route taken to reach a certain room won’t be the same in your next game. Despite being randomized, the game engine is sophisticated enough to know when players are able to progress by recognizing their current upgrades and arranging levels accordingly so that they’ll never encounter total dead ends. It’s a smart idea, ensuring the game stays fresh and keeps players guessing after multiple playthroughs.

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So is it fun? So far, the answer is yes. Jumping feels good, albeit a bit floaty (Adelman assured me it’s being tweaked). Traversal upgrades, such as a ledge grab present in the demo, makes platforming more fun by letting players wall jump and pull themselves up cliff edges. Striking foes with your weapon has a similar snappiness to it that always made Castlevania’s relatively simple combat enjoyable. Despite being an original title, it was interesting how my Symphony of the Night muscle memory was still triggered and helped me quickly settle into Chasm. 

I encountered a few challenging platforming segments. One room had me leaping across a spiked floor with only a couple of distant, fragile platforms before ascending to a higher level using the ledge grab to bounce between walls to reach the upgrade awaiting me. It was tough, but rewarding. Even in its unfinished state, Chasm's current polish makes difficult areas a joy to get through rather than a chore. 

Putting Chasm down was tough. The Metroidvania bug had bitten me, and I wanted nothing more than to continue exploring and overcoming more platforming obstacles. Its procedural elements already leave me excited for a second playthrough before I've even completed the first. I have high hopes for the full release. 

Chasm doesn’t have a concrete launch window, but Adelman hopes to see it hit PlayStation 4 and PC (with Mac and Linux supported through Steam) later this year.

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