To say that Chorus is up my alley is very likely one of the biggest understatements of the year. This game isn't just a little up my alley, it's literally the entire alley. So when I was given a preview code for Chorus, I needed to start it immediately. After spending an hour with Chorus, there was some stuff I loved. Unfortunately, there was also some stuff that I wasn't a huge fan of.
If you haven't heard of the game before, Chorus is a space dogfighting game being developed by Deep Silver Fishlabs, the company behind the popular mobile space fighting series Galaxy on Fire. Despite taking place in space, the game's art style and general tone can be closest compared to Control. You'll pilot a living ship and use it to take on a cult that has magical abilities. Everything has this otherworldly feel, not just because it takes place in space, but because of the general story tone and delivery.
The demo started off with Nara, a woman who pilots a living spaceship known as Forsaken (though she calls them Forsa for short). After witnessing two members of The Circle, an interstellar cult, destroy a civilian ship, Nara betrays The Circle and starts fighting back. The demo had me start there, with Nara destroying the two ships. I was thrown right into the middle of the fray and had little time to learn the basics. A trial by fire. Thankfully, I came out the victor.
This is mostly because the basics aren't that difficult. Forsaken is armed with three weapons, each with its own unique use. The machine guns are good for picking off unarmored fast-moving targets, the missiles are best for taking down slower armored targets, while the lasers are best used against shielded enemies. Switching between the three weapons is important, and you'll need to make sure you're always pairing what works best against each target, lest you want to be ineffective in combat.
However, Nara has two abilities that don't rely as much on Forsaken and instead on her own natural psychic talents. These are the Rite of Senses, and the Rite of the Hunt. The Rite of Senses is your typical scanning ability. When used, it causes Nara to scan all nearby objects, highlighting enemies, collectibles, objectives, and other things. It's useful for finding out where some hidden objects are, and more than once I used it to sniff out a hidden cache of money. I also occasionally used it for objectives, finding hidden ships that I needed to communicate with.
The Rite of the Hunt is the really interesting one though. In simple terms: it's a teleportation move. If you use it on a normal enemy, you'll teleport behind them, allowing you plenty of chances to destroy them. Sometimes you can also use it to phase past things like shields or barriers. When this all works it creates an amazing dynamic. You'll be in the middle of a high-speed dramatic explosion-filled dog fight, moving fast and teleporting around so that lasers and bullets can never hit you.
Unfortunately, the key phrase here is "when this all works." At best, the Rite of the Hunt can be described as finicky. Actually locking onto the target I wanted, or even just getting it to teleport me, felt like a real struggle. On more than one occasion I'd watch Forsaken drift forward while I mashed the Rite of the Hunt button, nothing being accomplished. At one point I teleported in front of an asteroid, immediately smashing into it and dying. It's especially frustrating in one of the early gameplay moments, where I had to teleport past a shield into a ship to destroy some psychic-power disrupting totems. Rite of the Hunt worked maybe a third of the time I tried to use it.
In fact, "mechanics not working" seems to be one of the biggest issues with Chorus, although none as dramatically or game disrupting as Rite of the Hunt. Forsaken is equipped with a sub-light engine that allows you to travel quickly across the map, in theory. In practice, I'd hit the button to use the sub-light engine only to be told it's disabled. It would turn on randomly in combat, then shut off again. It's not as huge of an issue, but it certainly made the game annoying to navigate at times.
This one issue really dragged Chorus down, which is a shame because at any other time I was in love with it. The combat was intense, the story seems interesting, and the game was lovely. Just flying around shooting down other craft is genuinely fun. As I did so, I was rewarded with money and parts, and I could replace the parts of Forsaken at hangers. The preview started me with a setup I didn't really want to move off of, but I saw things like changing the firing patterns of my missiles, improving the damage each weapon dealt, having deflector shields, and more.
The one part of Chorus I may be most excited to find out more about? The story. As I mentioned in the intro, the whole game gives me similar vibes to Control, which was easily my favorite game in 2019. I didn't get to see too much in the preview, but it did just enough to get me absorbed into the world. I want to learn more about Nara and why she left The Circle. I want to learn more about a galaxy that has been taken over by this cult. I want to learn what exactly Forsaken is and why it's, well... forsaken. This is a universe with all the plot hooks and storytelling that I get invested in.
I just hope it cleans up its act. Chorus has potential like insane, but it needs polish. There's still a couple of months before the game releases, so maybe the game (especially the Rite of the Hunt) can get that polish to help. If it does, Chorus is going to likely be the next spaceship dogfighting game I will annoy so many people to buy.
TechRaptor previewed Chorus on PC using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is set to launch on December 3rd, 2021, for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Google Stadia.