Chasm: The Rift Review – Mesmerizing and Janky

This forgotten Quake clone does have its merit that'll please retro shooter fanatics. One can also argue it deserves more recognition for what it was doing at the time. But the real question is, are you willingly to put up some of its questionable and poor game design every now and then?

Chasm: The Rift Review - Mesmerizing and Janky

Here’s a game that isn’t too well known for the average first-person shooter fans other than retro shooter enthusiasts. It’s called Chasm: The Rift and is essentially a Quake-clone that was originally released on September 30, 1997. The game was released one year after the first Quake. It is also developed by an Ukrainian company called Action Forms.

These guys aren’t really known for many titles. You might have heard of the Carnivores series, but they never had a title that defined the ‘90s gaming experience.

But all of a sudden, Chasm: The Rift gets a remastered edition for Steam and GOG during Realms Deep 2022. I certainly didn’t see this coming, but I surely had interest in trying it out.

I do have my fair love of retro-styled first-person shooters, and I vaguely remembered playing Chasm: The Rift back in the day, but I never finished the game.

This review is from a perspective of someone who did play the game here and there years ago, but re-experiencing it in current times. Chasm: The Rift is an old video game, but does it stand the test of time?

Chasm: The Rift is available on PC for Steam and GOG. The game is priced for $19.99.

Chasm: The Rift - Official Announcement Trailer

Story

The story is easily the most forgettable part of this game. To sum up what you’re doing in Chasm: The Rift, you play as an unknown soldier and you’re fighting the Timestrikers. Timestrikers are basically the name of the enemies, and they are an alien species who’s clever enough to create time rifts to cause damage to our world.

Throughout your journey, you must venture to present and past time to stop the madness that is caused by the Timestrikers. That’s basically the story. It wasn’t impressive back then, and it still isn’t impressive in today’s time.

But then again, many gamers were playing first-person shooters for one thing: shooting enemy targets until they are dead.

Gameplay

One thing I still appreciate about this forgotten retro shooter was how satisfying the weapons are. Essentially, every weapon except for two guns is very fun to use. The first “real” weapon you’ll find while playing the game is the trusty Super Shotgun.

Chasm: The Rift definitely understands what made Doom II so appealing, and it wanted to bite its style. It does it well, and its Super Shotgun’s nice range and damage will make it a jack-of-all-trade type of weapon.

You can find various power ups within the game.

You can find various power ups within the game.

I am a lover of games that have great minigun gameplay and the Volcano is certainly fun to use. I found it to be one of the best weapons for very sticky situations.

Outside of the usual first-person shooter weaponry, there are some experimental ones. The one that always caught my attention is the Blade Gun. It’s a gun that shoots circular blades except you’re not really shooting it from a gun; you’re throwing it!

The Blade Gun isn’t the most useful weapon out of the game’s sandbox, but it’s very stylish and it’s quite hard to not use it when you have to. There’s also a weapon called the Laser Crossbow and it’s basically what you think it is.

I like the gun for mid-range encounters and the game also seem to be plentiful on the ammo too, so you should give that weapon a go if you’re low on your Super Shotgun rounds.

Of course, we got the big gun that needs to be mentioned. Yes, Chasm: The Rift does have its own BFG, but it’s not quite as strong or cool. The Mega Launcher is basically a beefed up version of a grenade launcher with insane damage output and it will turn your worst enemies into chunks of flesh.

The health packs will instantly remind you of Quake's.

The health packs will instantly remind you of Quake’s.

To finish up the weapon section, this game included a dismemberment system. It can actually be very beneficial to the player because you can shoot down an enemy’s arm off to remove them from using their weapon. 

This was a cool idea for the time, and it does try to spice up the standard ’90s first-person shooter formula that id Software has done for their games. It also makes the killing very gratifying too.

Environment & Level Design

If there’s one thing I believe Chasm: The Rift should get praised for was its whole obsession of making the player go through different time zones. The gameplay is actually tied to that concept! If you go to Ancient Egypt, you’ll be fighting enemies that belong there versus in present time where you’re fighting a bunch of demonized marines that has invaded military facilities.

The enemy designs are what you expect first-person shooter of this time. You got enemies that are more range based, some of them are going to be more melee focused, and some of them are going to be a hybrid.

It’s really cool to experience something like this back then, and it certainly holds up. It also keeps the player interested in what time zone they’ll be encountering and what kind of monsters they’ll face.

An interesting and ominous room...

An interesting and ominous room…

This design helps out the game’s level design. There are a lot of different environments the player will be going through and some of the attention of detailed is something to be a hold of too.

However, there are some frustrating moments in that aspect. I believe the level designers of Chasm: The Rift does a poor job at communicating with the player in level navigation.

There are times where I felt needlessly lost because I had no idea what I needed to do. Once I figured out what I needed to do, it felt more like the level designer didn’t polish it enough.

Getting lost in retro first-person shooters is something I expect for sure. Sometimes, you activate a switch and you have no idea what it does. There might be a door you’d miss and you didn’t realize.

Sometimes, you have to spam the mini map key many times just to help you progress through a complex map layout. All of this is what I call is getting lost the “right” way.

It may seem like I'm trapped in here, but I'm actually not.

It may seem like I’m trapped in here, but I’m actually not.

But when there is an obscure object I had to shoot or going to a location that’s hidden behind shadows, that feels stupid and unnecessarily frustrating.

Speaking of frustration, sometimes the game feels cheap with some of the traps it throws at you. These are the kind of traps that’ll just instantly get you killed before you can react.

The game does likes to be sneaky with them at times too, and it can be off-putting to go through. I definitely recommend saving often, so you don’t lose a lot of game progress.

The Frustration Continues…

Despite the frustration, I certainly find most of the standard gameplay loop of Chasm: The Rift to be enjoyable. It reminds me why I enjoy playing these retro-styled shooters.

It’s fun to go through these complex levels, take down groups of bad guys, explore for valuable goods, and find key cards.

However, the bosses are the complete opposite of that. The bosses are easily the worst thing about this game.

You’ll be encountering a boss for the final level per episode like in the original Doom. There are 16 maps in Chasm: The Rift, so you’ll be fighting four bosses total.

To win the game, you must not shoot me!

To win the game, you must not shoot me!

What that means is every episode is only four levels. You’d think these boss fights would be similar to Doom boss fights: shoot at it until it’s dead? Nope, the bosses in Chasm: The Rift are environmental puzzles.

Except, the bosses can kill you easily and it’s very tedious to go through many deaths and try to figure out how you need to kill these bosses. Every time, I solved the solution to beating a boss, it never felt satisfying. It just felt stupid, or shall I say poorly designed.

I believe the final boss was the worst one because I literally solved the solution while mindlessly messing around. Without telling you how I beat it, I thought it was the stupidest way to beat a boss in any game I experienced.

It took me seven hours to beat the main campaign on Normal difficulty. I would probably say the game can be beaten around five hours if you look up on a walkthrough for the more convoluted sections.

I beat the game entirely on my own with no external assistance despite going through a lot of the game’s tedious obstacles.

There are also three additional levels the developers have made outside of the main campaign and they’re worth playing for more content, but nothing to write home about.

Graphics & Audio

I’ve always thought the graphics were good for the time. The artists seem to nail many of the detailed looking textures. There are many different environments the player can go through, and I did find myself appreciating how they were crafted. It’s also nice to be able to play the game in a higher resolution, so it’ll look better than for those that played it on their DOS PCs.

The user interface is straight forward, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I also appreciate how the map was easy to navigate because it’s placed on the top left screen. It doesn’t interfere my playing experience by having a giant map in front of my face.

There are some audio aspects I enjoy and some I don’t care for. The monsters’ sound effects are all great and I loved how horrifying some of them can sound. There are some moments where I hear the monster’s growling, but I have no idea where they are.

These moments make Chasm: The Rift feel a bit like a horror game at times. The player’s weapons all sound fine. They sound punchy, and very fitting to their respective gameplay stats.

The music is mostly dark and spooky ambient tracks with one techno-based track which is played on the first add-on level for some weird reason. But the music is fairly forgettable. I do appreciate the dark ambient tracks to be fitting at times, but I think I’d rather hear a soundtrack something akin to Doom or Duke Nukem 3D

Chasm: The Rift was played on the Steam version.

Summary
With proper tolerance, this 1997 Quake-clone can be an engaging experience, and it's hard to not appreciate some of its own unique ideas at the time. Chasm: The Rift does somewhat hold up its own in current times, but it will forever live in the shadows of the giants that defined the classic FPS world.
Good
  • Satisfying combat
  • Nails down the retro FPS fun factor
  • Going through different time periods
Bad
  • "Boss fights"
  • Can be cheap and frustrating at times
  • Lacking polish/excellence
7.5
Good