It’s very clear that developer Deep Silver FISHLABS collectively spent a lot of time playing space combat games like Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Freespace and even Star Fox. Their new arcade spaceship shooter adventure, Chorus, is out now and takes cues from both the space combat genre as well as compelling narrative experiences like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Returnal to craft something unique.
Chorus’ world is one in turmoil, where a fanatical cult called the Circle has grown to be unstoppable in its desire to ‘cleanse’ and rule the known galaxies. The game’s protagonist, Nara, is an ace pilot once under the command and control of the Circle’s leader, the Great Prophet. Imbued with otherworldly powers granted by the cult’s connection to powerful, ancient and faceless beings, Nara is awakened with supernatural abilities that once made her a ruthless force to be reckoned with and must now carry to her to right the wrongs of her past.
A PERSONAL TALE OF REDEMPTION
Trying to tell a personal story like Nara’s is no mean feat when you consider that the entirety of Chorus is experienced from a third-person view of her ship – but this is no ordinary ship either. A sentient being and a character with just as much importance to the game’s narrative as Nara, Forsaken is an ex-Circle spaceship who fought side-by-side with Nara in her time with the cult. The game’s arc of betrayal and redemption belongs to both of these characters, and Forsaken’s history and personal demons are just as rooted in torment as his pilot’s.
This dual-protagonist narrative is exactly what sets Chorus apart from other spaceship shooters and other speculative sci-fi fiction. Nara and Forsaken need each other to survive, to grow and to break free of the shackles and spectres of their collective pasts and the player is responsible for guiding both to the game’s conclusion. The progress of both story and gameplay hinges on the deepening of the pair’s bond and symbiosis, a shared power climb that sees them both grow and turn the blessings once bestowed on them by the Circle back against the cult’s forces.
BECOME AN UNSTOPPABLE WEAPON
One of the best examples of this is Nara’s unique abilities inherited through her former status as a Circle envoy, called Rites. By tapping into these ancient powers, Nara can augment Forsaken’s combat abilities to get the edge in battle in ways that no other pilot could. Rites that allow the pair to detect unseen foes, spear through swarms of ships and even teleport behind vulnerable enemies add to the existing strategies in combat where players need to best utilise their ship’s various weapons depending on the situation at hand.
Combat in Chorus takes lessons from the greats of the genre with exhilarating zero-g dogfights as well as tight-quarters chases and bombing runs that make for intense spectacles. Coupled with Nara and Forsaken’s abilities and an increasingly capable roster of varied foes to conquer there’s a surprising depth to battle. This is further enhanced by lite-RPG elements that allow players to enhance both Forsaken’s arsenal as well as Nara’s mastery of her sentient weapon to best suit their playstyle and give them an edge. You’ll need it too as Chorus doesn’t hold back on any difficulty – quick, smart manoeuvres and effective Rites use are key. There’s even an optional Permadeath mode… if you’re feeling particularly brave.
Chorus’ world is vast and full of secrets and history to uncover, as well as citizens and resistance members to support. Throughout the game, players will be able to veer off the core path to take on side missions or explore their surroundings to find new gear and resources. Performing favours for others such as escorting them away from dangerous areas or restoring lost ships isn’t an entirely selfless act – Nara and Forsaken stand to benefit from rewards for these as well.
Every major sector in Chorus has its own inhabitants, its own unique areas to be discovered and gorgeous vistas to behold. Players can access these via jump gates as they progress through the story, going back between them at will to finish off anything left undone. Although Forsaken’s boosted speeds can cover a lot of ground in a small amount of time, special pathways and gates between residential and industrial hubs offer even further acceleration to get around with ease. Scouring every inch and heeding every call isn’t necessary to see the pair’s journey through, but the deeper view into its world helps to sell its story and the extra gear can certainly take the edge off of some of its biggest challenges.
A GORGEOUS SCI-FI SPECTACLE
Another good reason to take in all that Chorus has to offer is its multitude of breathtaking views. The game’s budget price hides some impressive production values, especially on new-gen consoles and PC where high resolutions and high framerates make for an incredibly slick presentation.
Despite spending the vast majority of the game in the cockpit of Forsaken, FISHLABS has gone the extra mile in Chorus’ critical cutscenes with a lovingly-modelled, animated and acted Nara stealing the show. Coupled with the sinister and foreboding aesthetic of some of the more ancient and mysterious structures in the game as well as the cult’s cosmic horror imagery there’s a lot to witness and unravel in its visuals.
Handily, a built-in photo mode means that players can capture these vistas as well as their most exciting combat and cruising moments, complete with a selection of filters, stamps and controls to get that poster-perfect shot.
Chorus is out now on Xbox Series X and Xbox One, the all-in-one games and entertainment systems from Microsoft, the PlayStation® 5 and PlayStation® 4 computer entertainment systems, Google Stadia, PC via Epic Games Store and Steam, and Amazon Luna.