I Think Chorus Broke Me

Games Reviews
I Think Chorus Broke Me

It’s difficult to find any part of Chorus that stands out, in either a good or bad way. The space shooter appears to be a more mature, grittier relative of Star Fox, where instead of playful animals flying through space and delivering fun quips, there are boring humans spouting dry sci-fi mumbo jumbo. You know the type: “Watch your six!”; “Your converters have kicked into overdrive!;” “Gleek glack gloop!”

I’m not saying that’s all inherently bad. I’m a Doctor Who fan! I’ve come to tolerate a certain level of campy sci-fi nonsense. But especially for a game that’s a wholly original property, there’s got to bring the audience on-board first to a certain level before giving them a bunch of homework to understand half of what people are saying.

That said, from what I could gather the game stars Nara (Cassie Bradley), who has left a religious space empire in search of a more quiet life. However, the cult catches up with her and she must face her dark past by reuniting with a sentient, talking spaceship called the Forsaken (Adam James), which is played completely straight even though the semi-romantic relationship between a pilot and her ship is just so funny. It gave me the ironic joy to get through the rest of it. They should have added a blush to the ship whenever he speaks to Nara and it would be a 10/10.

Alas, Chorus lacks that sense of self-awareness, and although not every game needs humor, even really grim titles I’ve enjoyed like The Last of Us know not to take themselves seriously all of the time. I worry that perhaps consuming every Marvel Cinematic Universe title (sans Eternals) has conditioned me to need a joke at least once per 10 minutes, lest my ADHD-I brain lose focus and switch to something else.

But the sad fact is that playing through Chorus is a miserable experience. I hate flying the stupid ship and trying to drift but never getting it right, always feeling like I was on the cusp of grasping the game’s mechanics but never quite clicking with them. I hate listening to the agonizing dialogue, both because of its tired writing and the dispassionate voice performances.

Chorus feels like the videogame version of one of my work buddies who would always come in late, do the bare minimum, and get out. If they ever were caught slacking, they’d make up for it to the point where their boss wouldn’t fire them, but never an iota more or less. It’s perfectly adequate, and that’s what makes it so frustrating.

I just want you to apply yourself, Chorus! But you never do. You look pretty, and you might actually play well if someone who knew how to operate you better were reviewing you. But tough luck. We’re stuck with each other.

Chorus, like lots of games, has problems. It’s incoherent. It’s unwieldy. It’s deeply frustrating to play to the point where I literally watched a documentary on personal finances to avoid playing more of it. Also, like lots of games, playing Chorus takes what used to be magic (SPACE!) and makes it mundane.

I should now take the time to address that, if you can’t tell by the melodrama, I’m going through what we in the business call a “depressive episode,” as well as a pretty intense fever that definitely isn’t you-know-what. One symptom of depression, it should be noted, is a lack of enjoyment from things that used to bring joy.

I try to account for these things, but reviews are subjective and if I’m feeling pouty elsewhere for unrelated reasons, it’s not unthinkable to assume that Chorus might have scored better had I indulged in a delectable four-course meal ahead of time. It’s that way for judges, apparently.

But at some point, you have to trust your gut when your gut is telling you that this game is a lifeless space shooter that seems like it was designed by a committee even more than games designed by far larger committees! It’s in that ugly, awkward “AA” camp where it’s not quite quirky or endearing enough to be an “indie darling” but not given enough time or money to rival the juggernauts-that-be. I felt like begging the game to try something, anything new, no matter how badly it was implemented, just to break up the monotony. But Chorus rarely takes any swings, so in theory it lacks any “misses,” with few glitches or moments where one element butts up against the rest. That might mean that people won’t hate it, but it also means it’s a game that people won’t really love, either.

And so they just won’t talk about it.

Chorus was developed by Fishlabs and published by Deep Silver. Our review is based on the PlayStation 5 version. It is also available for the Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4, Stadia, and Luna.

Joseph Stanichar is a freelance writer who specializes in videogames and pop culture. He’s written for publications such as Game Informer, Twinfinite and Looper. He’s on Twitter @JosephStanichar.

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