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Chorus is a great starfighting game, if you ignore the lore

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Chorus is a painful game, because parts of it are good. In fact, every part about being a rebel in a starfighter in big space battles is fantastic. You would think that would be enough for a game to be successful, but developer Fishlabs overburdened the dogfights and space combat with overwrought narrative elements that never really pay off.

In Chorus, I play as Nara, a starship pilot and a former cultist. She was a member of the Circle, led by a great prophet who led his people across the galaxy in search of a “Chorus.” This is essentially space magic, and Nora is able to use these powers as Rites to strengthen herself and wreak havoc on enemies. Unfortunately, Nara also once used these awesome powers to destroy a planet and murder billions. That inciting decision is why Nara left the Circle, and years later, we join her as part of a new group where she’s hiding her past and wrestling with guilt.

By helping Nara’s new friends in a mining community, I get used to the feel of her ship’s cockpit. The controls are tight. I am someone who usually gets disoriented or even nauseous in big 3D spaces, but Chorus’s ship is steady. I never find myself spinning in place to try to find a tracker, or overwhelmed in tight spaces. The first Rite Nara uses, a quick scan of the area, also helps. It reveals pathways and mission objectives, ensuring I never get too lost. I engage in some basic combat against pirates and learn a little more about Nara’s new life. My galaxy map will eventually open up, showing new open-world hubs where I can get quests, upgrade my ship, and so on.

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Chorus - A planet explodes in a burst of powerful red light

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Image: Fishlabs/Deep Silver

Here’s the problem: Nara keeps talking about her guilt and the Circle even though I just watched a big cutscene that explicitly laid all this out. Chorus is far too chatty; characters blather incessantly, further hampering what is already a predictable story.

Sure enough, the Circle makes a dramatic return and Nara has to fight back with her old ship, Forsaken, who is both sentient and kind of pissed about being abandoned. Forsaken is a cool character, who also doesn’t really care about Nara’s moral arc. He wants to murder enemy pilots in epic space battles, and frankly, so do I. It’s hard for me to connect with Nara. I wish I had just started out with Forsaken, or at least met him sooner.

Fishlabs could have not told me any of this, and let me find out about Nara’s past as she meets the Circle once again. Or, it could have simply laid this info out up front in a short, straightforward intro. It got to the point where I was actively resenting Nora’s presence on the screen. All I wanted to do was enjoy the nuances and thrills of Chorus’ dogfighting.

The narrative barrier is all the more frustrating because Chorus has fantastic star fighting. Forsaken can drift and is much faster than the starting model. Nara can combine that with her own magical powers, teleporting behind cultist ships and mowing them down, before strafing around giant freighters loaded with deadly turrets. I carefully manage my own positioning, switching between my three primary weapons, teleporting through space behind my foes and avoiding deadly volleys.

Chorus - Nara touches the front of her sentient starship, Forsaken

Image: Fishlabs/Deep Silver

When the game focuses entirely on moving through the galaxy, discovering new regions, doing a Death Star-style run through trenches, or fighting off a giant mothership with loads of reinforcements, I have a blast. The environments in each hub are gorgeous, from stark and uninhabitable landscapes to alien temples loaded with new and exciting space-magic spells. The spaceship design is a bit drab, and there are only a few models I get to see in the game throughout the 30 or so hours of runtime — but what fights lack in design they make up for in sheer scope.

Ultimately, I just wish Chorus was pared down. The plot is full of B-movie pulp, but the game doesn’t seem interested in laughing at itself. There aren’t a lot of new ideas in the story, and the narrative isn’t delivered with grace. Will you like Chorus? That wholly depends on how much tolerance you have for everything packed around the spaceship combat. If all you care about is the flying and shooting, you’ll at least be pleased with how polished that is. It’s the rest of the game that isn’t up to par, and I wish I could play the same campaign with all the excess lore cut away.

Chorus was released on Dec. 3 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. The game was reviewed on Windows PC. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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