My first experience with Chorus came in the middle of last summer when the game made it onto the sizzle reel for an Inside Xbox digital event. The clip showed glances of conventional space combat shuffled together with ominous music and short glimpses of what was presumably the game’s female protagonist. The clip produced many more questions than answers, especially as the game-buying public was hungry for news or information about the next generation of video games. Now that Chorus is ready for its time in the spotlight, the mystery is lifting.
A Forsaken galaxy
Chorus focuses on a struggle for freedom that spreads across the vast reaches of outer space. Some thirty years ago, a cult known as The Circle amassed power through the leadership of The Great Prophet. The Great Prophet was said to be a mere man or a man who transcended into a higher form. He was respected by denizens of the galaxy thanks to his advancements in treatments for the great plagues that tormented hundreds of trillions. Over time, the totalitarian rule of The Circle was seen as overbearing, even if the people were grateful for the protection from various blights.
Maintaining control of the galaxy was a matter of exercising force. One of The Circle’s most trusted subordinates was Nara. Nara worked as an enforcer, carrying out missions and assassinations on behalf of The Circle. She patrolled the stars with Forsaken, her sentient ship. Following a massacre at Nimika Prime, which left a planet destroyed and its inhabitants dead, Nara’s faith in The Circle was shaken. She chooses to live in exile in a distant part of the galaxy with others who left The Circle but is forced back into action when the space cult attacks her new digs.
Nara is now forced to face her past actions. She once again joins Forsaken, who is reluctant to re-team after personal relationship fallout from the Nimika Prime incident. The pair is now on the hunt against The Circle, with Forsaken willing to put the past behind him in the name of the greater good. The pair then set out on a journey to retrieve Nara’s powers, or Rites, as they are known in-game before finally taking down The Circle once and for all.
The action in Chorus will be familiar to most space action buffs. This is a conventional space shooter affair that tasks players with guiding Nara and Forsaken across multiple star systems. This journey will see the pair battle with Circle fleets, protect allies of The Resistance, and occasionally deal with pirates or other side quests.
Forsaken can be equipped with Gatling guns, lasers, or missile weapons. As one would expect, different guns are tailored to certain situations or enemy types, with gatling gun-style cannons being ideal for dogfights against nimble adversaries and guided missiles being a safe bet against turret-covered battleships.
New loot can be acquired from certain missions or quests or by killing certain enemy types. They can range from simple weapon buffs all the way to discrete modifications for Forsaken. He can be outfitted with up to three of these mods, each of which offers a passive bonus. Careful selection of mods can provide unique combos to enhance a certain playstyle or to augment your approach for a particularly difficult mission. Some of these modifications may also come with set bonuses, much as you’d see in a loot-heavy RPG. Like those items, these modifications can become stronger than the simple sum of its buffs when properly equipped. This mod system is a nice addition to an otherwise by-the-numbers approach to the space combat in Chorus.
Along with the buffs offered by Forsaken, Nara brings along the opportunity to use her Rites during missions or combat. Drift Trance is a skill that allows Forsaken to Tokyo Drift through space wreckage, debris, and other obstacles while ignoring the laws of physics. I never felt great about this skill and found its inclusion to be rather trite. Rite of the Senses allows Nara to uncover hidden items or points of interest. Think of the detective vision from the Arkham Asylum games for a similar example. Rite of the Hunt allows for instant teleportation behind enemies or through obstacles. This skill in particular does wonders for shortening encounters and reducing the amount of time you spend chasing targets in zero gravity, one of my least favorite space game tropes.
Rite of the Storm allows Nara to use her powers to create a sort of energy EMP blast. This blast can stun certain foes or temporarily bring down shields to make an enemy vulnerable to conventional fire. It is also useful for taking out the annoying Corrupted Clusters. These objects are otherwise impervious to Gatling gun, laser, or missile fire, so it is really convenient that Nara’s Rite of the Storm also happens to be their kryptonite. Rite of the Star allows Nara and Forsaken to boost in a certain direction, with anyone who gets near the exhaust trail being subject to deadly heat. The final power is known as the Rite of Control. This power is pretty much telekinesis and will facilitate throwing around enemies as you would trash with the gravity gun from Half-Life 2.
The skills and weapons and starfields all come together to form the experience that is Chorus. As players progress through the main story, new star systems will open and the path taken is largely up to the player. It isn’t a true open world by any means, but you will be able to pick and choose where you go up to a certain point. Some areas are gated behind the main story progression, but nothing about the mission or narrative structure felt constricting during play. I opted to grind a bit to empower some of my Rites through the Masteries system when the main story offered a break that certainly sped up my journey to topple The Circle and The Great Prophet. Chorus also has a few missions or directives that are effectively escort missions. I dislike them in other games as I do here, so if these things drive you mad, you've been warned.
On the graphics side of things, Chorus gets the job done in a workmanlike fashion. Things look how you would expect them to and some of the starfield vistas are eye-catching, even if they probably are just static backgrounds against which the space debris floats. Load times were short, even when using jump gates to bounce around the available star systems. I saw nothing but smooth performance at the highest settings on my test PC, which was expected for a cross-generational effort such as this.
Two as one
While I never felt like I was experiencing anything truly special, I appreciated the effort put into the narrative side of Chorus. It helped to keep my interest piqued while I went about some of the space busy work I associate with the genre. Where a game such as Everspace may be more about the process itself, Chorus never loses sight of its focus, the bond between Nara and Forsaken. It doesn’t break new ground in the genre and, apart from a nifty battle with a monster space eel, lacks many standout moments. That said, space action junkies will eat this one up and those with next-gen consoles that are new-game-thirsty could do much worse than this interstellar tale of redemption. 7/10 Conduit mines
This review is based on the PC Steam release. The game key was provided by the publisher for review consideration. Chorus is available now for Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5, PC, and Stadia.
- Strong narrative focus keeps the campaign interesting
- Mod system diversity is a welcome wrinkle to combat formula
- Rites system offers additional complexity to missions or encounters
- Falls into many established genre tropes
- Escort missions are frustrating
- Does little to stand out aside from the narrative
Chris Jarrard posted a new article, Chorus review: Breaking the circle