Chorus

Chorus

Elite and dangerous.

Chorus

Every now and then a game comes out of leftfield and knocks you for six, and that’s a rare thing in the constantly connected, social media hungry world that we live in.  Not often does something get released that seems like it’s completely flown under the radar and then sprung up for a surprise attack, yet Chorus has done just that to me.  I was probably subconsciously aware of it, yet managed to not connect the type of game it is to the title.  “Chorus… maybe it’s a singing game?” my pre-end of year addled mind has gone, then looked over at something else.  That’s a bad move though because this isn’t about harmonising with pop tunes, it’s about harmonising yourself with a sentient fighter craft and obliterating anything that doesn’t like your noise.  A focused space combat adventure unlike anything I’ve played for years, it’s a mix of exploring, shooting and racing around the galaxy to prevent the subjugation and annihilation of all races by an interdimensional entity, and a great title to see out 2022 with.

I want to say you’re playing as Nara, a pilot that deserted her calling as the Circle’s best warrior, yet you’re not really.  Nara pilots Forsaken who’s a combat ship with a conscious being installed, and it’s really them both you’re playing as.  Nara might be the personification, but it’s Forsaken that you’re controlling on screen all the time.  They exist in Chorus together – synchronised and tuned for battle – and make a formidable team as they seek redemption as a pair for the atrocities they’ve committed in their respective pasts.  Their journey takes them from the outer rim of their galaxy as it comes under attack from the Circle’s forces that are following the will of the Prophet… or at least that’s what they think.  The Prophet has been missing for a while and his council have taken over, which brings a mystery for Nara and Forsaken to solve alongside building a resistance in each sector and convincing them fighting for their freedom is the only way they’ll all survive.  The adventure will take them to strange locations and encounter creatures from other dimensions, as well as forcing Nara to re-establish her connection to her Rites – enhanced abilities that make her even more formidable in combat.

Forsaken, or Forsa as Nara affectionately calls him, is the star of the show as a one of a kind fighter with powerful weaponry and advanced tech that makes combat an absolute delight; and anyone who’s wished for a Babylon 5 game based around the Star Fury craft is going to be quietly impressed here.  Nara and Forsa’s sync allows them to drift the ship – effectively keeping the momentum in one direction whilst being able to rotate 360 degrees and tackle targets.  Holding a shoulder button enters drift, right stick targets and releasing drops them back into normal flight.  With a bit of practice this brings out tight manoeuvring capability, and the chance to strafe targets with ease.  It’s surprising how much a single control option opens up the combat, and for me this has made Chorus stand out from any other flying game I’ve played.  Gone is the time spent chasing enemies around trying to match their speed and find an opening to slot in behind them, drifting lets you turn on the spot and blast them; or allows for slipping along the underside of a capital ship, taking out banks of generators in smooth passes.  It’s massively satisfying when you get to grips with it, and increases the pace of the action to boot.

Using drift alongside cannons, lasers and rockets makes Forsa a force to be reckoned with, but Nara has other tricks up her sleeve when her Rites come into play.  These are abilities she was trained with when serving the Prophet, and cast aside when she defected.  Through the story she reengages with her lost spirituality and builds the Rites back up to full strength, bringing a whole host of options for taking out the enemy.  Teleporting behind fighters, disrupting electrical systems and spearing at high speed through ships get unlocked, and even though they’re great in their own right, Chorus doesn’t let them overrule everything else – the standard weapons need to be employed alongside the ethereal.  You find yourself in a juggling act by analysing which of the many enemy types you’re up against, what their weakness is and exploiting that.  Lasers knock out shields, rockets penetrate armour, Gatling guns rip through the hull, and the Rites set you up for a killing blow.  When the battles go full scale with loads of different opponents on display, it’s more like a ballet as you’re dodging and boosting out of projectiles paths whilst simultaneously setting up the next wave to take down.  I don’t think text can do it justice to how it feels to play.

Enhancements don’t stop with learning new Rites either.  Weapons can be swapped out for versions with different buffs, hull and shields can be upgraded, and there are slots for tech that enhance certain parts of the ship, like targeting or the cooldown of the auto repair droid.  Even the amount of energy available to use on the Rites can be increased through pickups out in the depths of the star system.  Hidden away a little, as Chorus doesn’t seem to want to shout about it, is a set of bonuses for using matching weapon and enhancement types which guide loadouts depending on what type of aggression you prefer.  We’ll not kid ourselves here, this isn’t about defence, matching the kit brings more powerful bonuses to damage and firerate, as well as some nice little surprises.  Grabbing the new weapons or earning cash to buy them involves tracking down and completing side missions, or hunting for abandoned crates that might contain something nice.  Given the map areas are pretty large and even at the fastest sub-light speed can take several minutes to cross, this means there’s plenty of exploration for those that want to find out what else the environments are hiding.

The story is mostly linear with a couple of points where there’s the choice to go for certain objectives first, and the side missions knit in nicely with that.  You’ll stumble across distress calls or memories that Nara can access that will open up a breadcrumb trail to a reward, depending on the action required, and there’s a surprising amount of variety given you’re stuck in a ship.  Every now and again there’s the chance to pilot a heavy cruiser with the sole purpose of obliterating everything in sight, or there’ll be some form of treasure hunt, or race, or even puzzles to solve.  The game is always clear on what’s a side mission and what’s story driven, but the content is well balanced across both to make sure it links in with either backstory building or providing a benefit to defeating the Circle.  Where I thought Chorus might struggle was with the inevitable boss battles and how they could avoid simply blasting something big for ages to destroy it, and all credit to the dev team for coming up with unique and interesting ways of tackling that challenge and providing multistage bosses that feel fantastic to beat, rather than a chore to face.

Visually it’s stunning, and there’s a choice of performance and fidelity graphical modes depending on what you prefer.  The vastness of the vistas and density of the details beg for fidelity to make the most of the particle effects and number of objects on screen; though performance mode makes the combat zing and you really appreciate the pace and flexibility of the weapons/Rites combo.  Regardless of which is picked, the frame rate is solid and mostly free from bugs and glitches.  In fact, the only detrimental things that I spotted were some enemy fire impact effects that refused to wink out of existence once done.  A special mention goes out to the custscenes and how they come across because they tell the story and help get a fairly unusual sci-fi concept across.  It’s good that real likenesses are used to make Nara a believable character, and there’s work gone into make her the full focus of the game, though all other characters are well acted to support in that.  Skip the story and you’ll miss out on an intriguing tale that covers religion, fanaticism, crushing regret and catharsis.

Clocking in between 20 and 30 hours depending on how much of a completionist you are, and spanning five large areas, there’s a fair amount to see and do in Chorus.  More than you might expect from what is arguably a budget title.  It’s impressive scope and scale is delivered with confidence by Deep Silver FISHLABS, and it ticks a lot of boxes for an open world game.  However, it’s the combat feel and the controls that really make you feel like the best pilot in the galaxy, and that’s what kept pulling me back in.  The sheer joy of reversing direction and firing off a salvo to eliminate a particularly tricky foe whilst still heading towards a target sounds innocuous, yet it’s never boring.  There are several very good space flight sims out there, though they tend not to deliver the all action rush of zero g combat… this does with each and every encounter, and I can’t recommend it enough for those who think it’s missing from their gaming life.

A PS5 review copy of Chorus was provided by Deep Silver FISHLABS PR team, and the game is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series S|X, PC and (whisper it) Stadia, for around £35 depending on platform.

The Verdict

9Amazing

The Good: Flight mechanics | Scale of the galaxy | Intricacy of the story

The Bad: The odd graphical glitch | A bit unclear with some of the ship buffs

The following two tabs change content below.

Matt

Co-founder & Editor at Codec Moments

Gamer, F1 fanatic, amateur DJ (out of practice), MGS obsessed, tech geek.

Latest posts by Matt (see all)


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *