Chorus Preview: Maintaining A Perfect Harmony
It’s not often you see a big-budget space shooter. Chorus, the latest offering from Manticore – Galaxy on Fire developer Fishlabs and publisher Deep Silver, is certainly an exception. First showcased at last year’s Inside Xbox presentation ahead of the Xbox Series X|S release, Chorus makes a strong case for the latest generation of gaming hardware with its sprawling environments, seamless load times, and jaw-dropping ray-traced lighting effects.
I recently had the chance to hop into my nimble starfighter and check out the first two hours of the game. Now, after saving scores of resistance members and reducing a few hundred cultists to space dust, I’m here to give you a full debrief on what to expect from this hugely ambitious shooter before it soars onto consoles and PC later this year.
My (Former) Life With The Thrill Kill Kult
One thing that sets Chorus apart from other space shooters is its focus on narrative. In the distant future, humanity has left the cradle of Earth’s solar system and extended to the galaxy’s far reaches. After countless wars, plagues, and other catastrophes, one figure emerged to bring peace to the land. Known as The Great Prophet, he promised his sect, The Circle, would bring peace to humankind, with every living being living in perfect harmony—the Chorus.
During his campaign to establish order, The Great Prophet encountered The Faceless. This alien race possesses the power to manifest the darkness humans suppress. Like any opportunistic tyrant worth his salt, he trained his warriors to utilize The Faceless’s unique abilities, granting them supernatural powers, which they used to rule the galaxy with an iron fist.
Players assume the role of Nara. Formerly the Great One’s best pilot and preferred executioner, she was tasked with snuffing out a rebellion on Nimika Prime. Using her aethereal powers called Rites, she destroyed the entire planet, killing countless people in the process. This brutal act was too much for her, however. Faced with the cost of her actions, Nara turns her back on the cult. Now, with the help of her sentient ship named Forsaken, she trains and fights alongside the resistance to destroy The Circle.
It’s a dark theme for a space shooter, with all the genocide, cults, dark mystical abilities, and whatnot. And honestly, I’m here for all of it. Nara’s redemption arc holds plenty of promise, and strong stories are relatively uncommon for games in the genre. It’ll be interesting to see just how Fishblabs can pull off delivering such a compelling narrative amid all the high-energy dogfighting the game provides.
Shoot For The Stars
Upon hopping in Forsaken’s cockpit, it’s hard not to be in awe of just how crisp and precise everything feels. Maneuvering your ship through asteroid fields or into the belly of hulking transport vessels is effortless. You can also perform barrel rolls with a flick of the left stick to evade enemy fire or even drift as if your high-tech starfighter was a souped-up sci-fi street racer.
Forsaken’s agile handling is greatly appreciated, especially given how intense your average space skirmish can be. After all, with lasers and enemy ships filling the screen, the last thing you want to have to suffer through is shoddy controls. Chorus excels in this area, making all but the most polished space shooters feel clunky in comparison. But, of course, this is a shooter we’re talking about. Being able to finesse your ship is fine and all, but combat is king. Thankfully, Chorus doesn’t disappoint in this regard, delivering some of the most frantic and exhilerating dogfights I’ve experienced in years.
Forsaken is equipped with three primary weapons that you can switch between at any time. Gatling guns shred small, lightly armored enemies. Lasers are slow but can overload the Circle vessels’ shields. Lastly, missiles are perfect for punching through armored ships and fortifications such as turrets or enemy infrastructure.
Read Them Their Rites
In addition to these weapons, you’ll also be able to tap into Nara’s aethereal abilities. There were only two of these available in my early preview build of the game: Rite of the Senses and Rite of the Hunt.
Rite of the Senses essentially works like spiritual sonar. By pressing the A button, your ship emits a pulse that highlights everything in your immediate area, regardless of whether or not it’s obscured by space debris. You can use this ability to uncover points of interest or locate salvage or currency that you can use to upgrade Forsaken in friendly hangars.
Rite of the Hunt, on the other hand, is a much more combat-focused ability. When an enemy ship is in range, pressing the B button allows you to warp directly behind them like a heavily-armed phantom. Appearing on a bogey’s six and blasting them to smithereens is immensely satisfying. You can even chain blinks together to create a symphony of supernatural destruction. It’s just as awesome as it sounds. With Rite of the Hunt, you feel like the apex predator of the cosmos. Hell, you can even use it safely pass through a ship’s hangar’s energy barriers so you can take the fight straight to the belly of the beast. Yippee-ki-yay!
Breaking The Circle
I was able to get a taste of a handful of mission types during my time with the preview build. These sorties ranged from escorting civilian convoys and rendezvousing with informants to raiding a sprawling Circle military installation. Some missions even allow you to make decisions that impact how a task will play out. For example, early in the demo, I had to choose whether or not to allow a group of pirates to join a convoy fleeing Circle forces. The civilians were skeptical of the pirates’ intentions. So I had to decide whether to kill the would-be plunderers or allow them to tag along and lend a helping hand. As it turns out, the pirates weren’t so bad after all. They expressed their by lending their shields to defend the fleeing civvies from the Circle onslaught.
It’ll be interesting to see just how often these scenarios pop up throughout the final game. However, even from this small taste, it’s clear that situations like this will add some welcome replayability to Chorus when it launches later this year.
The final mission in the demo was a massive, multi-step raid on a Circle citadel. This daring charge began with Nara escorting an EMP-laden ship to the towering vessel. Then, once the bomb went off and the enemy defenses were disabled, I had to scramble to destroy 18 backup generators before the citadel’s defense pylons eradicated our entire fleet. With the generators reduced to twisted metal, I then had to defend two boarding vessels so that the rebel forces could seize control of the installation.
I loved every second of this encounter. It was fast, frenetic, and did a great job of showcasing Chorus‘ high-energy gameplay and white-knuckle dogfights. It was like the decisive showdown in a Star Wars film. That is if Luke Skywalker and his X-Wing were replaced with a grim former cultist piloting a living murder machine. But let’s not sweat the little details; you get the idea.
Chorus Is Shaping Up To Be This Year’s Must-Play Space Shooter
Even after just two hours in the cockpit, it’s clear that Fishlabs and Deep Silver are onto something special. Chorus is quite possibly the most ambitious space shooter I’ve ever played. With show-stopping visuals and tense, tactical dogfights that combine satisfying weaponry and cool mystical abilities, it’s a game no deep space flyboys can afford to miss.
Chorus launches on December 3 for the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Stadia. Do you plan on breaking the Circle this holiday season? If so, which platform will you be playing on? Sound off in the comments below and let us know.