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Gaming round-up for March 26th

Bite-sized reviews/impressions for Chorus, Exo One, Severed Steel, and Shadow Warrior 3.

I’ve played quite a few games since the last article focusing on games and I have some thoughts on a variety of titles I’d like to share. I’ll start with Chorus, developed by Fishlabs and published by Deep Silver. For a studio like Fishlabs, who mainly worked on mobile games and recently worked on Switch remasters of Saints Row, to come out with such a great experience for their console debut is pretty impressive. Chorus is about Nara, a former protegee of a cult leader, who decides to leave her previous life as a star assassin for the cult (known as The Circle) and become a scavenger after she commits an atrocity; however, the cult grows bigger and claims most of the galaxy until the game starts and Nara understands there is nowhere to hide anymore and must wake up her former partner (a ship with a sentient AI known as Forsaken) to take on the cult. While the story is mostly tedious and lacks any charm, Chorus is an arcadey space combat game which are not known for even attempting to have a story, and I at least appreciate the effort at building lore and an interesting world. What Chorus absolutely nails is the combat; flying the ship feels responsive and fast, firing the various weapons is satisfying and the tactical layers added feel welcome. In the previous years, games like Wolfenstein: Young Blood and Far Cry 6 have tried to add ammo-type considerations to their loop with disastrous results, but Chorus succeeds, making the considerations easy to remember and not feel tacked on at the last moment. Furthermore, it consistently made me feel excited to get into battles and pull off some sweet moves and maneuvers that made me feel like the best pilot in the galaxy, while the added abilities lack uniqueness but add so much fun and opportunity for cool-looking combat. It mostly suffers from a tedious story, side content that sometimes stopped me to have me press A, give me some credits and move on, and a progression system that did not offer much beyond better numbers. I appreciate the ambition though and feel like there is enough of the core concept brilliantly executed that a sequel that tackles what is not that good would be a welcome sight.

Keeping with the space theme and flying around, Exo One is a game I had on my Xbox for quite a while now and never got around to playing it, which is something that I regret not getting to sooner, since I found Exo One to be excellent. Exo One had one major feature to nail and that is allowing the player to experience a “flow” state, which is something I’m always interested in. In Exo One, you control a sphere of the same name, which can use anti-gravity to speed up and make jumps from natural terrain ramps – then, while in the air, you can turn into an obelisk-looking object and float through the environments. Building up speed, maintaining and increasing that speed, while making your way through the environment and towards your goal is the entirety of the game, and Exo One absolutely nails the feeling of moving swiftly and efficiently through an environment. I never got tired or disinterested in this ambition since it is achieved and the game only took me 2 hours to complete; simply put, this is one of those games that I explored because I had so much fun using the movement mechanics to reach that “flow” state and wanted to maintain and experience it for as long as I wanted to. If it was just that, then Exo One would have been a success for what it wanted to do, but it also is a brilliantly meditative and artistic experience, thanks to an ambient soundtrack that is fitting and beautiful, and elusions to a story and experience that kept me invested in seeing what happens and decrypting the few tidbits of information I was given. There isn’t a story as much as an illusion to one, but that was enough to keep me invested throughout and create some affecting, bittersweet, feelings; I started and continued playing for the mechanics and the beautiful visuals (which are spectacular, but you only need to look up screenshots to see that), but I also got an artistic experience that made me ponder various themes and meditate on ideas, a lot like Nolan’s Interstellar did back when I watched it in a theater.

Moving on from space-themed games to the remaining two FPS games, I’d like to start with Severed Steel, a game I tried as a demo and never thought I’d actually buy. But, for whatever reason, I ended up getting it and really enjoying it; as a Titanfall fan who’s not interested in battle royale, I am very glad I ended up getting it because it is as close to the wall-running, sick-movement, and tight gunplay that series is known for, as we are going to get. Severed Steel features a level-based campaign alongside a level editor and “firefight”, which are the same levels but with added challenges and scores. The story is non-existent, but the mechanics of movement and gunplay are as tight and fun as you’d like. Wall-running to avoid damage, then sliding and slowing down time to nail headshots and front-leaping through a window while shooting all around you just never gets old or tedious in any way. I love this game so much that I actually started that “firefight” mode which is a very rare occurrence for me to replay levels just so I can play the game again for extra challenges and just to experience the game again. There is so much to dissect and obsess over for fans of FPS, but for this type of article, I just want to say that it is one of the most refined and best shooter campaigns I’ve experienced in recent years. My only complaint is that, while the visual style is often great to look at, it also allows everything to blur together and make navigation or detection of enemy placement difficult at times and those moments felt kind of cheap to me.

Lastly, a game I was looking forward to and got to complete recently was Shadow Warrior 3. As someone who played and never finished either of the previous two games in this reboot, Shadow Warrior 3 seemed to take inspiration from the DOOM franchise and try to translate it for the Shadow Warrior franchise. I’m glad to say that it does match that ambition, however, it is nowhere near as well executed as its inspiration. Shadow Warrior 3 is a fun and kind of short campaign and it actually does some stuff better than DOOM: Eternal, namely that it is a much more focused and simpler campaign. “Lo Wang needs to save the world again, so go shoot some baddies” is all I really got from the story and I don’t really need more. Six guns that are all unique and useful throughout the campaign, alongside gore weapons that are given to you when you use your special meter to kill special enemies, are enough weapons with enough variety and utility for a campaign that last around 6 hours. A simple upgrade system for Lo Wang and each of the six weapons, which consists of finding orbs around the world (or earning them through optional challenges) and then picking the upgrade you want; these upgrades are pretty great as well and are something to look forward to. Great visuals and good technical performance, alongside a pretty good soundtrack. Good variety to enemy types and really inventive visual designs for them. I don’t need more than that and I’m really happy with how Shadow Warrior 3 turned out, but I’d like for Flying Wild Hog to be a bit more ambitious or to fine-tune their campaigns to make them even more memorable. Oh also, the humor is toned down a lot and that is a great change as well.

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