Review | Chorus
Reviewed on Windows PC
In September earlier this year, I got to take the promising space combat adventure game Chorus for a spin. I came away impressed with what I’d played and eager to see and play more. Thankfully, for the last two weeks or so I’ve been able to enjoy the full game and have been quite happily drift trancing and rolling my ship around the galaxy.
Let’s take to the stars in the XboxEra Review of Chorus.
Rise as One
So if you missed my preview, let me summarise exactly what kind of game Chorus is, and what it isn’t. It’s a space combat adventure game, through and through – you never leave your ship, outside of cutscenes, so don’t expect any 3rd person adventuring.
In Chorus, you play as Nara, a pilot of exceptional skill who used to fight for and was the right hand to the Great Prophet, leader of the fanatical cult called The Circle. These guys have partnered with some mysterious aliens called the Faceless, (who are also big fans of brutalist architecture for some reason) to force the citizens of the galaxy to their will and way of thinking.
If you do not, you are cleansed (blown up) – and Nara was responsible for murdering millions when she destroyed a planet called Nimika Prime using a rift created with the help of the aforementioned Faceless, who summoned it from the void, which is their domain.
Nara was horrified at what she had done, and abandoned The Circle entirely, ditching her nimble spaceship Forsaken in a distant asteroid and becoming a pilot for hire.
Now Forsaken isn’t just a cool looking ship with which one can deal death with, it’s actually a sentient being, with a surly (and somewhat murderous) personality – and he is just as pivotal to the plot and overarching narrative as Nara is herself. *
When Nara fled and ditched Forsaken in a distant asteroid, she also stripped herself of the powers granted to her from the void, and part of the game is not only re-establishing the symbiotic nature of their relationship, but also regaining her powers she had stripped away from her; only this time fighting for freedom.
So let’s get the extremely positive front and centre here – the overall gameplay loop of combat and flight in Chorus is fantastic. In fact, it’s cemented itself as one of my all time favourites in terms of flight model ‘feel’ when you’ve unlocked a few powers and you’re taking the fight against The Circle, be it smaller fighters, larger shielded vultures or ship spawning Phantoms.
Forsa is equipped with three weapon types – lasers, gatling guns and missiles, all of which can be upgraded in hangars across the galaxy, with either earned or found in-game credits. You can also earn rewards of either credits, upgrades to your armour and shield as well as other gear through side quests, so they’re usually worth doing.
It feels great, and moments where you fly inside larger ships ‘Death Star Trench Run’ style to take out turrets or reactor cores just feels incredibly cool to pull off, especially if you can do it without smacking straight into a wall. In short, it makes you feel like a bad ass, and I give the level and combat designers at Fishlabs serious kudos for the work they’ve put in here.
The key powers that really cement this early on are thankfully the first ones you unlock – namely Drift Trance, which allows you to warp your ship and keep your directional momentum in place whilst you spin on the spot and blast your opponents to smithereens; and Rite of the Hunt, which with a press of the B button allows you to warp directly behind your targeted enemy, or through barrier shields to deal death from within. There are other powers you unlock as you go, but these are the ones that really make the combat loop come to life.
These powers, or ‘rites’ are unlocked via unique missions to Faceless Temples, and form a significant part of the narrative, uncovering more about Nara and Forsa as the game goes on, as well as your fight against the Circle and the creation of Forsa himself. The Temples usually focus as mini tutorials on power usage, and by the time you emerge you should be well versed with when best to utilise your new combat abilities. The combat loop is so enjoyable, the only thing I wish the game had was some sort of horde or score attack mode, because it really does feel great to play.
Combat is certainly the core of Chorus in my humble opinion, but the developers have worked really hard to flesh out their universe, as well as give a plethora of optional side missions and other content to go out and explore in their semi-open world.
Alongside the main enemy cult of The Circle, there are a number of other factions from The Resistance, Pirates, The Free Militia and more, all of which have their own characters and goals. While you never get out of your ship (outside of cutscenes at least) there is a very sincere attempt at giving this universe a real depth and backstory, with capable voice acting throughout.
All the star systems are connected via Jump Gates, which players can traverse quite happily once they’re unlocked. These large, expansive systems can be explored at leisure once available as dictated by the narrative, and they’re all very pretty and quite unique in their own ways – asteroid fields, icy vistas and huge hub-like space cities form just some of the backdrops on offer here. There’s also a nice photo mode included, and to be sure, you might want to take a screenshot or two.
Performance was flawless playing on Xbox Series X at a smooth 4K/60 (at least to my eye) and with some great graphical vistas on display, it makes for a thoroughly pleasant playing experience.
Alas, while I appreciate and admire what developers Fishlabs set out to do with Chorus, the overall convoluted plot was more than a bit annoying at times. In order to uncover more backstory, Nara can use one of her rites to sense ‘memories’, which became a frequent device to deliver exposition. It slowed down gameplay, and often became a bit of a chore to sit through, especially during missions where you may die, and the checkpoint reverted back to before you’d sat through them, forcing you to do so again.
Nara also whispers, all the time, which I suppose is an internal monologue of sorts, but it doesn’t half get a bit irritating. In one section, where I go to dig out Forsa from his tomb, she whispered a variation of the phrase “Old Friend” in what felt like 12 different ways in the space of 2 minutes. I may be exaggerating somewhat, but for those expecting super engaging story and plot here to perhaps lower their expectations just a smidge. It gets the job done, but I think a less is more approach would have worked better here.
The mission design, whilst I applaud the attempts at variety, does start to get a bit samey – though less so if you perhaps just mainline the game and not engage in the optional side content. Medium difficulty provides a nice challenge, but players new to the genre may want to start on easy to get a feel for things before upping the ante – there’s a good 15 hours + of gameplay content here, so no need to rush.
Chorus does have one of the best “big final battles” I’ve had the pleasure to play in space. I won’t spoil it too much, suffice to say it plays in a very cool way, with objectives appearing mid mission to keep pilots on their toes. It also looks incredible. Very cool stuff indeed.
Chorus is a slick, well made game and fans of the genre will find a lot to like, and perhaps even love here. It controls like a dream, looks gorgeous to boot and while the plot left me a bit cold at times, it’s hard not to admire the work and effort put in overall.
If you want to become an ace pilot working with a surly sentient space fighter to take down an evil empire and free the galaxy this Christmas, you’d be hard pressed to find a better use of your time.
|Reviewed on||Windows PC|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Playstation 4|5, Windows PC|
|Release Date||December 3rd, 2021|