A while back I got a chance to preview Chorus, a game I have been extremely excited about since it was first announced. How could I not be, after all? Space combat with some eldritch horrors that looks like it takes notes from the aesthetics of Control? I'm all in. The preview left me a little iffy, but I was certain with some polish it really could be something special. So did it manage to pull everything together?
Chorus puts you in the role of Nara, a woman who was the second-in-command for a cult known as The Circle. The cult believes in all of humanity coming together and achieving "Chorus", which is a sort of cosmic understanding and enlightenment. The problem? If people are not interested in joining, they're killed. After opening an inter-dimensional rift that consumes a planet, Nara flees The Circle in shame and tries to go into hiding. However, eventually, her past catches up with her and she's forced to team up with Forsaken, her living spaceship, and a ragtag team of rebels to take on The Circle and hopefully stop them.
While the general idea of the story is fine, the way Chorus' actual plot goes down is somewhere between unsatisfying and nonsensical. Many of the story beats don't feel that great to learn. Almost all of the cutscenes take place with characters in their ships, and the ships sort of... wiggle and gyrate when characters talk. It's like the characters are the ships, and it's usually just hilarious. Additionally, many of the important characters aren't introduced until near the end of the game. It's tough to care about reuniting with Nara's former mentor and best friend when he has never been mentioned before and chose to sit the entire game out until the last hour. Likewise, one villain choosing to betray the others doesn't really matter when it's literally the first time you see them. The whole story ends up feeling very slapdash.
Thankfully, the story doesn't matter as much when I get to pilot Forsaken and take out swarms of enemy ships. That's where the real fun in Chorus lies, participating in dog fights. Forsaken is equipped with a trio of weapons: a machine gun, lasers, and missiles. In what is a fantastic coincidence, there are three types of health bars: hull, shields, and armor. If you've already guessed that each weapon is good at a specific type of damage, you'd be correct. It's a very simple but smart system that sees you swapping weapons often and never relying on one specific gun.
However, what really sets Chorus apart from other spaceship combat games comes from Nara's rites. These are psychic powers that give her an edge in combat and operate off of a constantly re-filling meter. At the start of the game, the only rite you have is a scan with two purposes: tapping it will highlight nearby collectibles and enemies, while holding it down scans a solid chunk of the map and highlights points of interest and side quests. However, later in Chorus, you'll find yourself with cool abilities like teleporting behind enemies, shooting EMP lasers, turning your ship into a high-powered battering ram, and more. By the end of the game, I felt like a total genuine badass.
That said, to get to this point you have to sit through the first few hours of the game. Before you get access to cool abilities and neat weapons, you have to spend about an hour or two with a basic boring ship with machine guns and only the sensing power. Is it the worst? Not entirely. There's still fun to be had. But it takes just a little too long to get to "the cool stuff" and I kinda wish the game hurried that up. Thankfully, once it gets going, it gets going.
You'll use these abilities against a variety of enemy ships, with the game having a good chunk of targets to blow up. Sure you'll see lots of mostly defenseless grunt enemies, but there's more than just that. One had a shielded front that shot missiles and an exposed rear that my teleportation could get me to. Another enemy didn't engage me directly but instead dropped little drones that either acted as turrets or healed other enemies. A particularly nasty foe is actually just a swarm of smaller drones that would try to latch onto my ship and slowly drain my shield and health. They're tough, but the variety of weapons and powers meant I always had at least one counter.
That's not to say the game is too easy though. There are a few difficulty spikes that caught me off guard. Hilariously, most of them had nothing to do with combat. An early game chase sequence wasn't much fun, and the game seemed to expect me to know where to go despite it being the first time I had done the quest. Even when I did the chase perfectly I still failed and I'm not sure why. The next attempt worked perfectly for no particular reason. Another level saw me have to race through a tunnel, but I never quite felt I was doing the right thing here. There are a few segments where you have to run from an immortal monster known as Guilt, and it either seemed to be laughably easy or mind-bogglingly difficult.
The few times that it was because of combat came from the game's rare boss fights. From regular people that have powers similar to Nara to giant spaceships parked over laser beams, there's a solid chunk of them in here. Most of them can be pretty tough. However, a few escape "pretty tough" and move into unfair territory. One mid-game boss, against a giant multi-tentacled horror, is a great example. The idea is that you need to blow up these blisters on its tentacles, opening them up on the end so you can fly in and shoot the internal squishies. The problem is that, once the tentacle opens, the boss makes a field that does consistent damage to anything not currently inside the tentacle. Don't know that the end opens and take out the blister near the head? Well, that sucks, guess you die.
When you're not committing acts of space violence, the game is broken into five smaller open-world zones that you can explore. The only real collectibles are memories that play out when you scan them, but you can also find hidden caches of credits and ship parts. While Chorus does have an RPG-lite system where you can find and equip new parts that make the numbers go up; pretty early in I got a configuration I was happy with and decided it was too much work to learn something new. This configuration was basically viable for the entire game, which is good enough for me, but does give the feeling that the whole RPG stats are pretty useless.
Chorus Review | Final Thoughts
Despite that, once I got into another fast-paced high-intensity space fight, I was once again in love with Chorus. The story may be nonsense, not all the elements work as well as I wish they did, and it takes a little too long to get going. But when I'm in the heat of the moment, none of that really matters as much as you'd think. If you're looking to scratch a space combat itch, then Chorus should do exactly that for you.
TechRaptor reviewed Chorus on PlayStation 5 using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
- Nara's Powers Feel Fantastic
- Combat is Amazing
- Cool Artistic Style
- Story is Mostly Nonsense
- Occasional Difficulty Spikes
- Takes Too Long to Get to Cool Stuff
- RPG Elements are Mostly Pointless