The idea that game genres were “dead” was a big impetus behind the Kickstarter gold rush around the turn of the 2010s. A lot of people made a lot of money out of selling the idea that some games just weren’t made anymore. Whether or not that’s accurate is certainly up to debate – adventure games just became hidden-object games, for instance, they never “died” – it’s certainly true that some genres used to be more popular than they are.
Take arcade-style space shooters, for instance, which have only recently started to come back in force with games like Star Wars: Squadrons and the more recent Chorus.
In the distant reaches of space, The Cult seeks to cleanse the universe. Existence is messy, and only by acting together – in Chorus – to wipe it free of human filth will the species reach enlightenment. Heroine Nara used to be part of this scheme, but she broke away and now acts as a sort of mercenary and protector on the fringes of society. Running away from the past doesn’t mean it won’t try to catch up, though, and Nara finds herself face-to-face and gun-to-ship with her former society. It’s not a pleasant reunion, and only Nara’s piloting skills and psychic abilities can help her survive.
Survival, of course, means helping out the locals and taking on what opportunities you can. Chorus is one of them, how do you call ’em, “open world” games that are so popular these days. That means it’s basically a mission-based game minus the mission select screen. Search each star system for side quests and loot to upgrade your ship and make sure you keep your advantage in combat. Nara never steps outside of her ship outside of cutscenes so don’t expect any big changes to the space shooter gameplay, but at least there’s a lot to do.
Speaking of that space shooter gameplay, Chorus owes a lot to the 2003 Digital Anvil space shooter Freelancer. Nara doesn’t do a lot of interstellar trading or such here, but the arcade-style shooting feels like coming home for a fan of that classic. You’ll frantically twist and shift about in space, laying down fire and desperately dodging incoming missiles as you struggle to survive. There’s a selection of different weapons to choose from, allowing you to customize your loadout to suit your needs, and you can upgrade your ship as well as Nara’s own powers to get an edge on your opponents.
Yes, powers. You’ve got a variety of psychic abilities called Rites that can add a little more punch to your arsenal if your guns aren’t getting the job done to your liking. The first of these is, uh, drifting your spaceship. This might not sound all that impressive, but in practice being able to slip past a foe while continuing to fire at them is a pretty neat trick. Later techniques include a blink teleport that allows you to get the jump on enemies, a powerful ram attack and telekinesis. Rites add a nice bit of flavor to the combat experience.
As a heavy-hitting release that was sold as a killer app for modern systems, it’s no surprise that Chorus’ presentation is fantastic. As mentioned, Nara doesn’t really ever get out of her ship outside of cutscenes, but that means that all focus could be directed to making sure the space segments look and feel fantastic. It’s lovely, right down to the soundscape, and if you’ve got a nice screen to slam the game onto you’re going to have a good time.
Did you like the new Dune film? If so, you’ll probably get a kick out of Chorus, which shares much of the same feel. It’s that combination of the theocratic and scientific that gives this space shooter its own identity. Add on some solid arcade-style gameplay and you’ve got a winner. If you miss classic shooters that relied on your twitch reflexes, well, those are back in Chorus.