Back in 2018, Starlink: Battle For Atlas was released. I remember going to pick it up at Best Buy with glee. Even though I wasn't really interested in the whole toys-to-life aspect of it - a gaming fad that was already on its way out at the time - there was something about Starlink that was intriguing to me. Basically, Ubisoft was making their own open-world Star Fox game. The angle was even more obvious when it was announced that the Switch version would feature Fox McCloud himself in the campaign, and basically WAS a new Starfox game in everything but name. The Switch starter set even came with a plastic Arwing.
Starlink itself was... fine. The actual space combat itself was actually pretty cool, but the game was bogged down by planetary exploration and stupid fetch quests. It seemed like Starlink was trying to be too many things to too many people (Star Fox, toys-to-life, No Man's Sky lite, etc) and because of that it failed in many ways. It wasn't a bad game, but it struggled to find an identity when in reality all it had to be was a really big version of Star Fox.
So why am I talking about all this? Because I've stumbled upon the game that I wished that Starlink was three years ago.
Chorvs (or "Chorus," really) is a game that really went under the radar. At least for me. I feel like I remember seeing vague previews of it back before it was released, but somehow I missed that it came out at the end of 2021. Flipping through a recent Game Informer issue I was reminded of Chorvs and checked Amazon to see that apparently the print run was fairly low because they had only one copy left. Luckily for me it was cheap, and I was sitting on some Amazon gift cards post-birthday.
What I'm really enjoying about Chorvs is that the flying and combat is very arcade feeling. This is definitely a niche genre to begin with. And finding space games like this that aren't hardcore sims is even more difficult. But the action here is fast paced and awesome. There's been some truly thrilling battles for me - ones that leave my heart pumping. And that's great. Although I will say that I'm pretty terrible at drifting which is rough. But once I unlocked the skill that lets you teleport BEHIND enemies - well, the combat really started to feel incredible.
You definitely have to pay your dues early on. You have limited weapons and limited skills. But as you play and unlock a bigger arsenal with more tricks up your sleeve, things start to get pretty incredible. And while the grim-dark story can be full of moments of technobabble, it does fit the tone of the game overall. To put it more concisely, you actually pilot a sentient ship named Forsaken, and none of this feels goofy.
I will say that while the controls are rather streamlined to a certain extent, this game plays like an action RPG in space. There's a lot of mechanics to wrap your head around in battle - and pull off rather flawlessly. When you do this correctly, you feel like a gamer god. When you fail, it's as if you've never played a game at all.
I got stuck in a pretty intense battle with a shielded enemy and I just couldn't seem to get my fingers to do what my brain wanted them to. I understood what I needed to do, but I just couldn't do it. I knew I needed to keep warping behind him to avoid his huge shield and evade his deadly blasts. But my reflexes just weren't there. This is where the arcade aspect comes in. And maybe an arcade style shooter like this is a young man's game. And I'm too middle-aged and rusty to get it right, I don't know.
I took a little break from Chorvs to play something else and take a breather. It turns out that this was a mistake. Coming back to the game just left me feeling more disoriented. I was trying to acclimate myself to the controls and I was just straight floundering. It's a bit of a bummer to me, because there's a lot to like about Chorvs, but I feel a sort of fish-out-of-water vibe here. I suspect that if you've played a lot of space shooters then you should do just fine. But if you're a casual acquaintance of the genre (like me), then you're going to find this one pretty damn tough to keep up with. Not that it's Dark Souls In Space, but still.