Chorus Review: Stellar Space Shooting
In recent years, fans of third-person space shooters have been treated to a slew of new experiences that have launched the genre back into the limelight. Elite Dangerous, Star Wars Squadrons, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw, and more have all grown this genre and its fanbase, putting players right into the cockpit of ships straight out of an 80s sci-fi flick and setting them on a course to cruise the stars.
Chorus is the latest newcomer to the scene, delivering gameplay packed with enjoyable fights and a solid narrative. While Chorus starts off with familiar story beats, it quickly opens up to deliver plenty of original ideas. Between top-notch gameplay and a quality narrative, Chorus is not only one of the best releases of the fall season but one of my favorite experiences of the year.
Chorus Review: Stellar Space Shooting
Rather than choosing between embracing a legacy franchise and sticking to a lore-less space simulator, Chorus brings players into an entirely new sci-fi universe with a cast of characters that are wrapped up in a losing battle against a cult known as the Circle. While it may be an entirely original story, longtime fans of sci-fi (especially Star Wars: The Force Unleashed) won't be lost for too long.
Led by the Great Prophet, a Palpatine-like figure that fell from grace and turned toward darkness, the Circle is determined to "cleanse humanity" by any means necessary — even if it means destroying it. You play as Nara, the Circle's deadliest warrior, the Great Prophet's protege, and a master of supernatural powers known as "rites." Nara is tasked with destroying an entire planet — and its billions of residents.
Nara leverages her powers and her connection to this force, opening a rift in reality and devastating this world and its inhabitants. With billions dead, Nara realizes what she has become and speeds away from the Cult and into hiding where she starts a new life as a scavenger — and fierce fighter of the rebellious Free Militia.
Alongside the Circle and the Free Militia, there are a variety of other factions that add a second layer to the world's conflict. Like the Free Militia, the Resistance is pulling out all of the stops to defend humanity against the Circle, while Pirates roam the skies and take survival into their own hands.
With new factions revealed as the story progresses, the dialog between these groups of survivors helps put faces, names, and stories behind the people that you're protecting to raise the stakes and give the goal of saving humanity even more meaning.
Nara's history as a killer and Cultist may be the initial focus of Chorus, but it's her bond with her ship that quickly takes the spotlight. Forsaken, casually referred to as Forsa throughout, is Nara's Cult ship and partner from her former life.
Her supernatural rites form a strong connection with all technology, including her ship, creating a synergy with Forsa that makes them the ultimate dynamic dogfighting duo.
Once you're filled in on the backstory, Chorus opens up into a semi-open world with a good variety of random encounters and events to discover. While it's easy to stay focused on completing the main story, Nara and Forsa are free to roam star systems and discover everything from quick side missions to memory echoes that share story moments, all coming together to build out both their backstory and Chorus' universe.
Many side missions may only take five or 10 minutes to complete, but the occasional branching mission will lead you from one objective to another, adding a level of depth to the small snippet of storytelling while also cluing you into a larger part of the universe.
Chorus' cutscenes and story moments bring a lot more to the table than I initially expected, but the gameplay is what truly shines. Starting out with a machine gun as the main and only weapon, Nara's arsenal quickly opens up to include lasers and missiles alongside her rites — and those powers can certainly come in handy during space combat.
As your arsenal expands, so does the variety of enemies. The Circle's forces quickly grow from easy-to-kill Crows to shielded fighters, gunships, and frigates, each with their own set of defenses and weaknesses.
While weapons and abilities are unlocked frequently, there are also plenty of options for players to tweak their ship and its equipment to their liking. Three skill slots are available in addition to a handful of different weapon types for each of the three weapon classes. Notice that the health bar is getting a little too low too often? Give your shields a buff. Are you using missiles more than your other options? Give them a little accuracy boost.
Chorus provides plenty of freedom for players to give their tools of choice buffs, but the combat design helps nudge the player out of their comfort zone to experiment with different weapons and abilities that match specific scenarios and melt enemies with ease.
You will use lasers to weaken shields before unloading a barrage of machine-gun fire onto an enemy, teleport behind enemies to blast them out of the sky, and use the EMP-like Rite of the Storm to take enemy tech offline before lighting them up with a swarm of missiles.
After fleshing out your arsenal, it only takes a couple of minutes to learn the flow of combat and start to understand the cadence of each fight. Without spoiling the story or sharing too much about unlockable skills and weapons, I'll say that plenty of gameplay elements are brought in to keep you busy throughout the entire experience.
One of the core mechanics that quickly emerges in Chorus is the Drift Trance, a skill that lets Nara change her course with ease. While it's initially introduced as a handy way to traverse twists and turns in tight spaces, Drift Trance becomes a core part of the overall gameplay as you learn to leverage all of the tools at your disposal.
Rather than having to take the time to change course and retarget an enemy, you're able to pivot on a dime to target and take out enemy after enemy with speed. It may not seem like a significant gameplay component at first glance, but drifting adds a level of speed and accuracy to Chorus that helps it stand out in comparison to other entries in the genre.
Chorus Review — The Bottom Line
- Quality original story
- Beautiful skyboxes
- Enjoyable gameplay loop
- Forgettable side characters
- Little weight to skill customization choices
Chorus rings in a new universe for players to explore with a cast of characters and set pieces that already feel familiar but mostly carve our their own section of the universe. Campaign missions aren't simply a means to an end to deliver a gameplay experience, but instead, create an original world filled with characters and story beats that are easy to enjoy.
With a solid gameplay loop, a variety of side missions, and an engaging, original story that doesn't overstay its welcome, Chorus delivers one of the best sci-fi experiences of the year.
[Note: Deep Silver provided the copy of Chorus used for this review.]