Chorus is not quite a space opera, but it tried.
I quite like space shooters. From the original Space Invaders, right up to the recent Star Wars Squadrons, I get a kick out of thrashing around in space ships and shooting at stuff. Watching the various trailers for Chorus that have dropped since an initial E3 announcement, it's been a game I knew I'd probably enjoy. The only real question left was: What kind of game is it, really?
For a few hours near the start of the game, it felt like it might be the space combat sim I've long wanted - open world, mission based... the perfect collision of Firefly and Sid Meier's Pirates. A space in which I could run missions, escorting cargo and other craft from one end of the galaxy to another. A place where I could explore and scout territory - and occasionally get into dogfights and space battles that would dwarf a Star Wars set piece. The promise was there. Did the game as a whole live up to the early promise? Well, I guess the answer is 'nearly.'
The main protagonist of the game is a pilot named Nara (or Naran, depending on who you're speaking to). There are lots of words you could use to describe her; most of them are... not exactly favourable. She's a pilot for an evil empire who has committed some almost unimaginable atrocities in the past before having a change of heart - as if seeing the skulls on her hat and wondering if she's one of the bad guys.
Through the course of its narrative, Chorus then asks you to develop some sympathy for her by the end of the story - and I just didn't find it possible. It's like being asked to forgive the character flaws that led Grand Moff Tarkin to blow up Alderaan - and it's just not going to happen. She was irritating at best, tone deaf and undeserving of sympathy or forgiveness at worst. The story could have worked had the protagonist been more relatable, or forgivable. Every so often, we're treated to a whispering voice in her head - possibly her conscience, more likely a narrative device simply attempting to make her more acceptable. The aside observations only serve to make her more shallow and even less likeable - and do that surprisingly well considering how vacuous she apparently is already.
It's a shame the narrative pulls the game down so hard - as the bits of the game where you actually play instead of get spoon-fed some convoluted exposition - play REALLY well. Your craft is quick and nimble, and as you upgrade it through the course of the campaign becomes more and more deadly - with options available to massively increase the length of time you can fire your twin gatling guns for before they overheat, boosts to shields and speed and manoeuvrability all combining to allow you to reach the point where most enemy craft can be shredded with ease. It's just as well - as toward the end of the game, the sheer number that are thrown at you in each encounter ramps up to chaotic levels. One particular perk that allows you to teleport to a position directly behind an enemy with them conveniently in your gunsights becomes less a source of amusement and more an absolute necessity when the sky is simply overflowing with enemy fighters and craft of various sizes and levels of hostility.
Chorus isn't the first space combat game to employ a drift mechanic - but in the other games it's featured in recently, it's been a tricky and unwieldy thing to pull off with panache. Chorus makes it a graceful and wonderfully aggressive tactic that can be accomplished with ease. Flying over the top of an enemy and then drifting to change direction and hurl yourself underneath it, allowing you to direct fire at concealed enemy cores and unleashing some colossal explosions is something that doesn't get old fast.
So - it's a mixed bag. The combat was wonderful, the story got in the way. Would I recommend it? If you like space combat, there's a lot of fun to be had here. If you're looking for a good narrative... you're best looking elsewhere. On balance though, I'd like to see more of this. The world that was built was interesting enough and wide enough to have more stories dropped into it - hopefully ones with less irritating protagonists.
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