Reviewed on the computer, via Game Pass
Ok, ok. It’s not called ‘Chorvs,’ it’s called ‘Chorus.’ But really, did no-one learn the lesson of Kjonami? Anyway.
Space! It’s a thing. It’s quite big, and we don’t know much about what it might contain. This means it’s the perfect backdrop for an interesting bit of worldbuilding. I love me some space, and some good worldbuilding in space. And I love spaceships, and lasers, and dogfighting (in space!) So when I saw some trailers for Chorvs, I got really quite excited. They don’t make games like this any more.
Er, maybe there’s good reason for that, eh?
Chorvs is a spaceflight dogfighting game, of the sort that should appeal to people who loved Starfox, EvE: Valkyrie, House of the Dying Sun, The Various Colony Warses etc. etc. It’s not especially complex—no real six degrees of motion here, no actual roll controls. It’s sort of a rail shooter, but one in which you can go anywhere you want. Does that make sense? It doesn’t to me, and I’ve been playing it a lot, recently. There has been quite a lot of criticism levelled at the game due to this—people are jolly cross that it isn’t X-Wing vs TIE Fighter, innit.
I mean, it definitely isn’t that. But that’s okay. It has a ‘Chosen One in exile must defeat a scary cult of religious sods,’ storyline. But that’s okay. It’s got a stupid logo. But that’s okay.
Stuff that isn’t actually okay, thanks
Oh, man. There’s a lot about this game that I hate. Some of it casually (‘oh dear, I don’t like that very much’), some of it viscerally (‘if ever I find out who was responsible for this design decision I will pursue a bloody vendetta against them the likes of which will see me tried at the Hague’). Let’s explore some of the things I don’t like via the medium of paragraphs. I promise that later on, there’ll be some praise for this game, because gods, I want to love it.
Controls. There’s a LOT going on here. As mentioned earlier, the game isn’t a ‘proper’ 3d space shootybanger—it lacks ‘roll’. This makes it feel a lot more like a 90s console shooter like Starfox or possibly Panzer Dragoon, in that you you sort of rotate your craft (which has a stupid name, but more on that later) about its vertical axis instead. In doing so, or at least by shoving the left stick and holding it there, your craft banks on its longitudinal axis visually. This gets a little confusing, as it means that by pulling up/pitching down, you begin to affect your orientation in 3d space—which is fixed by a gradual automatic correction, or by clicking the left stick in for something more immediate. The problem with this is that space shouldn’t—doesn’t—have a constant horizontal plane. All space stations, enemy/friendly craft, interesting landmarks are therefore all oriented the same way along their longitudinal axis, which feels fucking weird. Like an Ace Combat game, or something.
Controls (1). Oh, there’s more. A mechanic introduced early on, the Drift Trance fixes some of the issues introduced by the lack of roll. You see, being unable to turn quickly by manipulating your axes properly means that combat lacks depth. You fly toward a sod, while shooting, then laboriously turn round and repeat. Space Jousting, sort of. The Drift Trance changes this—by holding LB, you can rotate your craft freely in any direction while retaining forward momentum. This is genuinely great once you get used to it, and turns dogfights into an aggressive ballet. Buuuut, as well as this you’re likely holding LT to boost, holding RT to fire, pressing d-pad buttons to switch weapons and pressing face buttons to activate your magic powers (oh yeah—you have magic powers, because you’re a Chosen One etc etc.) There are too many buttons to press. The game does support HOTAS controllers, but I don’t have one of those, so I don’t care.
Controls (1) (FINAL DRAFT). Sometimes you’ll be asked to pilot a different spaceship. Somehow, these control even more clumsily.
Controls (1) (FINAL DRAFT_AMENDED). Often, the game doesn’t bother to teach you properly how to do any of the things outlined above, or at least will do so in a fairly obscure manner. It’s heavily implied by its tutorial that the drift mechanic is exclusively used in puzzles, for instance. It’s not—it’s very much a fundamental mechanic of the game, turning sluggish controls into balletic spaceflight joy. Puzzles are few and far between.
Quests. Chorvs is one of those games with delusions of RPG-hood—it has incrementally more powerful weapons and perks with set bonuses, which are obtained via quests and sidemissions. Sadly, pretty much all of these are ‘Now Go Over There,’ with the occasional timed checkpoint race. At first, this is fine, but quickly becomes grating. Especially given that…
The FUCKING narrative. …the story is told through that ol’ trope: Powerful Psychic Has A Whispery Inner Voice. This means the game is sort of reduced to Control… In Spaaaace! much of the time. But what’s really rather bad about this is the sheer whisperiness of the voice—it’s overwrought and far too breathy, like an ASMR video presented by a depressed robot, and I hate it. ASMR makes me furious at the best of times, so when it’s the primary means of delivering narrative in a plot-heavy video game, you best believe I’m going to respond badly.
The voiceovers in general. Are there only three voice actors in this game? It seems like there are only three voice actors in this game. There seem to be only three characters who get represented with an actual portrait during their dialogue—the rest are represented by a faceless helmet. Which would be fine, but one of the antagonist factions is literally called The Faceless. Oh, and there’s a Faceless boss at one point, a big gribbly tentacle thing, and fighting it is an exercise in futility—the control issues described above make it incredibly difficult to figure out where you’re meant to be pointing, even as Forsa (your magic spaceship, which has a stupid name as hinted earlier (it’s short for ‘Forsaken.’ Why you’d rub that in the poor thing’s face all the time I don’t know. Call it ‘Simon’ instead, or something)) gently bollocks you for not shooting the thing it wants you to shoot because you don’t know where it is and can’t aim at it even if you did.
It sounds like I hate this game, and I really, really don’t. It’s a big, silly fireworks display of a spaceflight shooter, and I love those. The universe looks amazing (as long as you don’t get too close to the boxy, endlessly recycled assets), the RTX and DLSS tech is incredibly well implemented and the core loop—magic teleport power, shooty missile death, drift to next target and repeat—genuinely feels great when it all clicks.
Chorvs is worth playing. It just feels like a game that, with another year of development time and a few million in the bank for assets and actors, could have been great.