CHORUS
Edge|Christmas 2020
Space shooting with an unusually oppressive atmosphere

Like many space sims, Chorus is a feast for the eyes. Unlike many space sims, its astral vistas have a psychological undertow. Your enemies in the game, members of a religious cult known as the Circle, are partial to a spot of brainwashing. Their space stations are instruments of domination, red-on-black monoliths that impose on the viewer at any distance. As lead artist Kareem Leggett tells us, these structures take loose inspiration from fascist architecture in being designed “to affect the psychology of people who live in the area”. The Circle have more direct methods of mind control: they can paralyse vessels with psychic attacks, bloating their hulls with cuboid matter redolent of the Hiss in Remedy’s Control. Fortunately, your pilot, Nara, is touched by the eldritch herself: she can warp inside afflicted ships and blast away the ectoplasm.

The cult’s bullying aesthetic pervades what we’ve seen of the game’s broader environment design. Tumbling asteroid fields are brutally divided into light and shadow, and listing derelicts seem poised to roll over your craft. The atmosphere of threat coexists uneasily with the more innocent objective of giving you large, arresting objects to orient around as you rinse star systems of optional content. “The landmarks are there to really lead you through the space and tell the story of the world as you go,” Leggett says. “We spent a lot of time making sure that the asteroids and everything else set the paths up, and make it easy to discover things and get a really cool vista as you do.”

If there are provocative questions here – does outer space itself have an ‘architecture’ of sorts, and what sinister purpose might it serve? – the pay-off is a shooter that makes arcade dogfighting feel like a work of horror. “It’s the sense of the unknown that we’re pushing for,” Leggett explains. “You don’t know what’s coming around this corner, you don’t know why this works like this. You don’t know why this place is destroyed and dead.” Some missions take you on tours of those derelicts, where Nala can use a Rite Of Senses ability to glean the memories of the fallen (less mournful applications include tagging resources).

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