Chorus Review

I’ve always been moderately intrigued by 3D space shooters. The interest started with Star Fox 64; however, I haven’t played many since then. I’ve tried a few, such as Elite: Dangerous, but always disliked their simulation heavy approach. This past summer when Deep Silver and Deep Silver Fishlabs announced their new space combat shooter, Chorus, I couldn’t help but take notice. It looked like it had a dark atmospheric setting akin to Mass Effect 2, but was entirely set in space where you played as the female pilot of a small single-person ship. I didn’t know what else to expect going in but quickly realized that it’s essentially a third-person action RPG in space. You explore several unique areas of varying size, complete missions, engage in countless dogfights, and there is an in-depth story to follow the whole way through.

You play as Nara, a highly-skilled pilot trying to make amends for the atrocities she committed while part of the Circle (the bad guys). The Circle trained Nara to be a killing machine and as you play you will grow in power and relearn the valuable skills she once possessed while trying to put a stop to their nefarious plans. Early in the game, you will reunite with your illustrious ship, Forsaken, which is inhabited by a sentient being. The dialogue Nara has with her ship ends up being some of the most interesting in the game, it has that devil on your shoulder feel to it, where the ship is trying to entice her back to her violent ways. I don’t usually get into the story much in games, and overall the premise here is kind of simple, but the developers did a good job creating a world that helps to tell the story of the game. The story is told through a few methods: there are nicely animated cutscenes that portray the dark tone of the game, there are also a large number of short flashback “memory” sequences that can be triggered all over the game world, and lastly there are a lot of NPCs for you to interact with that provide even more narrative. Luckily everyone you meet is happy to now have you on their side, although some might be a little hesitant since you are flying around in the same ship which you previously terrorized the galaxy.

The game features a similar quest system to other action RPGs, you have your main questline, and at any given moment you might have a number of side quests. You can select which quest you want to be active from the menu and a marker will appear on your HUD indicating the starting point of the quest. As you fly around you’ll come across a wide variety of what I’ll call encounter events. Your ship will give you a prompt that something is nearby and a marker will appear on the screen. You can choose to go there or ignore it, but you are always rewarded for completing these. Most of these encounters are rather simple, like recovering the scattered cargo of a wrecked ship. The actual quests on the other hand are more complex and have a good amount of variety: there are some escort missions, fetch quests, plenty of enemy encounters, rescue missions, and even a race or two.

One issue I’ve encountered many times with 3D aerial games, and I know I’m not alone, is the controls. Chorus’s default controls are somewhat odd. The left stick is used sort of as a throttle – pressing forward speeds you up and pressing back slows you to a stop. Clicking in the stick will launch you into hyper-speed which is very useful for covering long distances, but for shorter distances, the left trigger can be used for a constant boost. The right joystick controls the directional movement of the ship as well as the aiming since you can only shoot directly in front of your ship. I think the aiming factor is the reason they assigned this to the right joystick, but it just felt awkward. I swapped the joysticks and it instantly felt much better. I also like to invert the Y-axis controls in flying games, which felt really strange on the right stick, but as I said once I swapped the controls it felt perfect. Once I got used to the controls I really liked how one stick was used as the throttle.

The combat in Chorus is a lot of fun, although it starts out pretty bland as you are severely underpowered. The base weapon for the ship is a pair of Gatling guns, which works fine against unshielded enemies. Good luck trying to take down a team of shielded enemies with just the Gatling guns though – I ran into this predicament early in the game while I was exploring a little farther than I should have. If you follow the first few missions you’ll get a laser cannon, which is exponentially better at destroying the enemy’s shields. You can tell if an enemy has a shield by looking at their health bar indicator next to them; the red bar is their health, and if there is a blue bar above it that means they have a shield. Health won’t regenerate, but like most other games the shield does. A little later in the game, you’ll get a missile launcher as your third base weapon (the d-pad is used to switch between the three). The missile launcher’s rate of fire is much slower than the other two, but it does a lot of damage, so it’s best used against stationary targets like turrets, and enemies with armor (indicated by a yellowish-orange health bar). As you play the game you’ll come across better versions of all three types of weapons all with differing stats. Finding the combination that best works for you is important because some of the enemy encounters can get pretty tough. The game always keeps you on your toes by introducing new enemy ship types as you progress through the game, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses. The game also features a few epic boss encounters against large ships or strange alien-like creatures controlled by the Circle. Fortunately, if you die during a mission you can retry from the last checkpoint, which are pretty frequent.

The most interesting aspect of the combat are the rite abilities you gain from completing certain story missions. You’ll have to explore a series of menacing temples, and in each one you will relearn one of Nara’s rite abilities. You start with an extremely useful scan ability that can be used to find loot as well as close-by objectives, but things start to get interesting once you get the next few rites. The first one you obtain is the drift technique which will allow you to rotate around much quicker than normal by pressing the Left bumper. The next rite you learn is the rite of the hunt which will warp you directly behind the closest enemy in your path so you can get off some easy shots. The third ability, and my favorite, is the rite of the storm, which can be used to stun an enemy and disarm their shield. There are a few more rights, but I don’t want to spoil everything. One thing I liked about the rites is how you had to use your newly acquired ability to escape from each temple. I thought this was a good way to get the player accustomed to the ability.

Chorus has an open-world feel to it; however, the game is split into a handful of different sections. As you progress through the story you will gain access to different areas, and in most cases, you can use a jump gate to travel to these different areas. You can also fast travel to any of the jump gates you have previously discovered, which is useful. Each area has its own aesthetic, and I was always excited to get to the other side of the jump gate each time I traveled to a new area so I could see what it looked like. My favorite area is definitely the huge space city you travel to in the last portion of the game. It’s so different from the more open, asteroid-filled areas that you spend so much time in during most of the game. The graphical fidelity of the game definitely stands out; even playing on an old Xbox one, the game looks really nice. The one complaint I have with the world design is that each of the areas is very flat, the levels all feel like they take place mostly on a 2D plane and don’t use as much space above and below as I would have liked. This can be seen on any of the area maps, which are all very two-dimensional.

Most smart people (nerds) will tell you that there isn’t any sound in outer space, but that’s boring. I feel like that approach works well for horror-themed games, but here they kind of tried to have the best of both worlds. There are plenty of sound effects, like the thrusters and all your different weapons, but when you do a drift move, which cuts the thrusters, there’s an eerie silence that fits with the game perfectly. I really liked the overall sound design in Chorus. The sound effects had a believable sound to them. There isn’t much music, but I really like the song that plays at the title screen. It has a sort of tribal music sound to it, but also feels sort of alien. 

Conclusion

Deep Silver Fishlabs has spent a lot of time developing space-combat shooter games; they also developed the Galaxy on Fire series, and I think all of that time has culminated in a stand-out product here in Chorus. Taking the gameplay elements found in a typical 3D action RPG and applying them to a space flight game works tremendously well. Flying around the levels is a blast, the combat is enjoyable, and the story is more substantial than I expected, which was good and bad, as sometimes I wished the characters would shut up so I could get back into the action. If playing a space-combat shooter with an action RPG structure sounds at all interesting then you should consider checking out Chorus.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • Combat and exploration are a blast
  • Large open-world style areas to explore, with a good amount of environmental variety
  • Simple upgrade system, lets you focus on the gameplay
  • Lots of quests and encounters to keep you busy
Bad
  • Story is expansive, but bogs down the experience
  • Original control scheme is awkward
  • levels don't use enough 3D space
8.6
Great
Gameplay - 9
Graphics - 9
Audio - 8.5
Longevity - 8
Written by
I started my gaming odyssey playing 8-bit console and arcade games. My first Xbox was the 360 and I immediately fell in love with achievement hunting and the overall ecosystem. That love was cemented with my purchase of an Xbox One. I play a bit of everything, but I usually end up playing fast paced games that remind me of my days spent in dark, smoky arcades spending quarter after quarter, telling myself "one more try!". Gamertag: Morbid237.

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