Developer / Publisher –Steel Minions
Price – US $N/A / EU €5.49 / UK4.49 / AU $8.25
Release date – September 13th, 2018
Control Method – DS4
Pro Enhanced – No
Digital only – Yes
Reviewed on – PS4 Pro
Virtual Reality is not just about games, but the PSVR has seen so few experiences that I could see where you might get confused. Kismet brought us a virtual psychic or the Virry series brought 360 videos right on our face to educate us about African wildlife. For the most part though, these types of VR titles tend to fall flat and met with mixed reception due to their niche appeal or lack of gameplay. The Chantry aims to merge gaming and education into one cohesive experience, but I think it’s very important that people realize that this is an informative experience about the very early days of vaccination and the smallpox crisis that plagued the world so many years ago.
The entire game is waypoint based and takes places almost entirely in the Chantry, the house of Dr. Jenner who basically figured out how to cure small pox. You navigate the house, checking out each area for clues that unlock more areas of the house. It isn’t known who you playing as at the beginning of the game, but unless you are an historian, it won’t really matter to you when that is revealed anyways. Areas of the house once discovered are blocked until you find the clues associated with that room. So, if a door is labelled ‘Experiments’ you must search the house for items marked with ‘Experiments. Once you find all the items needed, that section of the house is now available, containing more clues to unlock more sections of the house. Like I said, this is an educational experience so each of these items has some tidbits of info on them that shed light on the cure for smallpox and even just a commentary on the times referencing a class system or the daily slave trade which was crazy to read!
The Chantry looks pretty good with an emphasis on recreating the Jenner house exactly as it would have been all those years ago. The house is fairly static and never changes except for newly unblocked areas. Letters, pictures and items have been recreated in here with a fair bit of detail. All the items in the house are direct representations of items found in the Chantry, so you are essentially walking through a piece of history as you pursue Dr. Jenner’s story. By no means does this look amazing with everything having a very sterile look (minus one very gross pillow) but they more then do the job of putting you back in time. The audio stands out way more with every item in the house having an associated commentary. Whether it’s your own character recounting his own observations, letters read aloud by actors, or some sermons read allowed by a very theatrical reader, these moments are probably the highlight of the experience. Other ambient sounds can be heard in each room, immersing you a little more in the events that room covers.
The biggest knock against The Chantry is just how niche of an experience this is and unless you are looking into the history of vaccinations or smallpox, or just crave knowledge of all things, there is almost no reason to venture into this title. It’s a neat little educational experience for sure, but so specific in its subject matter as to make it unappealing to most. If you haven’t found a locked area yet, then items associated with that room will not trigger, meaning you may be picking up items over and over before you find the ones you need. What’s worse is toward the latter half of this 1-hour experience, when you are now searching the house for 1 errant clue, picking up every item and looking to see if matches that room will trigger that items audio, meaning you’ll be listening to the same clips way more then intended until you memorize not to touch that item again. Some of these will play through in their entirety, even if you have triggered another item, queueing that item so back to back messages play, even if you have moved on. A ‘play audio’ option would great, especially once you have already listened to that little bit of info.
The Chantry does what it sets out to do, educating you on the history of smallpox and its roots to a cure while immersing in a house where these pivotal events took place. If that sounds interesting to you then I say definitely pick this up. For everyone else though, while it is interesting, I feel like the niche appeal of the focused topic will just turn people away. I enjoyed The Chantry for what it is, and if you or someone you know dabbles in the medical field or is a history buff, there is no better way to experience the past then in VR!
What would I pay? The €5.49 is more then fair with their being around an hour’s worth of content here. Should you wish to explore the house and its histories, there is also a Museum mode, which allows you to do so without any set path and I came away from this learning a fair bit more about the history of Smallpox
Steel Minions provided The VR Grid with a code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!