“Chorus’ stellar space combat is marred by a variety of design decisions, ranging from frustrating to downright annoying.”
Intense space combat
Excellent sound design
Terrible user interface
Irredeemable main character
If I Preview choir, I have praised the game for its high-intensity space dogfights. Air combat is fun enough, but when you move it into space and add super powers to the ship, combat is taken to a whole new level. You can teleport behind your enemies and shoot them down or actually drift in space. Let me repeat the last part; You can drift in space like you were in a Fast and Furious movie.
But space combat and the magical killer powers your ship has is the beginning and the end of Choir‘Strengths. The game (one that has clearly been invested a lot of time and money due to its graphics and wonderful sound design) is an ordeal to trudge through if you are not shooting at something. Even then, there are plenty of reasons to be upset about it.
Chorus brings great space battles to the table, but that’s not what defines it. Instead, it’s the game’s myriad problems, all of which were more visible on my screen than enemy ships ever were. A terrible user interface, bloated design, uninteresting story, and a totally unsolvable main character drain the fuel from Chorus’ tank.
Chorus puts players in the role of Nara who, when you actually control her, is a pirate hunter for a group called Envoy. She is incredibly talented, popular, and leads the group as she fends off a fascist space cult called The Circle, which is slowly spreading across the star system.
When she is first introduced, however, Nara is not with the envoy: she is a warrior for the district. Not only is she a warrior, she is also one of their best warriors, someone whom the leaders of the group trust so much that she is tasked with destroying an entire planet that refuses to join the sect. It does so and, by its own estimate, is killing billions. After the intergalactic genocide, Nara has them “Are we the bad guys?” Moment and get out of the circle, giving up her identity and joining the enclave where she is not known to try to get on with her life.
The bulk of Chorus consists of players fighting the cult as Nara, slowly pushing it back as it destroys its outposts and ships, while at the same time helping the resistance movement that has grown against it. It’s her way of atonement, and the game often prompts players to sympathize with Nara, showing her in vulnerable moments when she is faced with her own memories. This is a request that I just couldn’t respect. That Nara, who only realized that the cult to which she belonged (which subjugates groups of people with psychic totems), was bad after blowing up a planet is irretrievable.
It’s entirely possible that I’m just too tough, too jaded, or too indifferent, but I couldn’t find a single way that Nara could atone for her actions outside of the Coven. Indeed, it was a hesitant decision to actively participate in the resistance. She didn’t want to go back to the fighting and violence she knew. If it was up to Nara, she would never have had to face her past, never have to make amends for what she did. She is a selfish, immature character, one who was written into one of the most forgiving villain-to-hero stories I have ever seen.
She is a selfish, immature character, one who was written into one of the most forgiving villain-to-hero stories I have ever seen.
But in the context of the entire story of Chorus, Nara is only part of the subject (albeit a very big one). The game often introduces new characters and keeps a small number that reappear to move the plot forward. But it’s almost impossible to really connect with these minor characters. In Chorus, the characters rarely get out of their ships, so all of the NPCs you encounter are really just voices in ships, indicated by a small image on the right side of the screen.
Without seeing their faces in motion, these characters are little more than disembodied voices. When one of them died in battle, it just didn’t hit me. It was just another ship that exploded. It doesn’t help that none of the other characters in the game are very addicting either – the way they’re presented has completely alienated them from me.
To be fair, that goes with chorus. As I went through the game’s story, I didn’t feel connected to her. There were no instances where I rushed to my next story mission in the game’s open world because of a sense of urgency. Everything happens slowly and very rarely do the stakes feel as high as they are depicted.
My time, spent tormenting my way through the cutscenes and dialogues of Chorus, has paid off every time I’ve had the chance to shoot some other ships. The game’s perspective on space combat is excellent and I felt like an unstoppable force in every fight. While players encounter battles involving smaller ships the most, the game is only really picking up speed.
These battles are as cinematic as they are thrilling, and put every weapon at their disposal to the test.
During these battles, which I compare to the rebels who fly over the Death Star in Star Wars, players weave their way through laser beams and systematically destroy towers and engines. These battles culminate in battles in a ship, in which players eventually blast its core to pieces and escape before the entire ship explodes. These battles are as cinematic as they are thrilling, and put every weapon at their disposal to the test.
Combat in Chorus is a high-stakes rock-paper-scissors game, except that they are exchanged for chain guns, lasers, and missiles. Each one skillfully damages a certain type of defense, with guns easily ripping through a ship’s hull, lasers quickly destroying shields, and missiles capable of blasting away armor from starships. Switch between the three. as well as rites, magical abilities that allow Nara to teleport behind enemies or to scan the area, let me make different inputs on my controller every second.
But the combat and gameplay of Chorus in general are hurt by some questionable choices that not only make the game annoying but also ruin its accessibility. Most obviously, the game’s HUD and UI, both apparently made with ants in mind. Enemies in dogfights are represented by small circles that appear on the screen peripherals when they are not in front of the players. Any other objects or targets that you ping with a scan appear the same way, but as triangles.
As a result, chorus can sometimes be completely incomprehensible. Some of the game’s missions task players with finding objects in large 3D spaces, which requires using the ship’s ping. But it doesn’t differentiate between objects that are part of a mission and other objects in space. They are all marked with the same little icon, which led to so much confusion for me that I thought the game just didn’t appear in what I was looking for. My eyesight is 20/20 so I cannot imagine the experience that someone with a visual impairment might have with chorus.
Chorus can be completely incomprehensible at times.
Similarly, whether you’re wearing headphones or not, chorus makes subtitling a necessity rather than an option. While flying through space – which for some reason is almost always a music-free experience – Nara sometimes talks to herself. But whenever she has an inner monologue, she screams, whispers and turns almost every word into an incomprehensible hiss. Fortunately, Chorus’ subtitles can be resized in its sparse accessibility menu, but the rest of the game’s text cannot be resized from its hard-to-read size.
Chorus is a frustrating game, not because it’s silly or buggy, but because it could be so much better. A litany of really bizarre design decisions, like an eye-straining user interface and incomprehensible dialogues, ruined the experience for me. If this game was designed with accessibility in mind, it wouldn’t feel so annoying. I could stop by Nara, who is without a doubt one of the worst main characters I’ve seen in a game in a long time. I could praise his fight, which feels absolutely fantastic. But nothing in Chorus outshines its flaws, which work their way into every redeemable moment of the game.
Is there a better alternative?
If you’re looking for something that scratches the same ship-based combat itch, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is a fantastic way to jump in the pilot’s seat.
How long does it take?
The chorus lasts around 10 to 12 hours, although playing through all of the game’s sub-content could easily require an additional five hours.
Should you buy it?
No. Chorus is a prime example of how great gameplay can be ruined with disgusting design choices.