Chorus

Two of my favorite games in the space dogfighting genre are Freespace 2 and Colony Wars. These games aren’t on opposite sides of the genre, but they represent two approaches to the genre. Freespace 2 is the PC keyboard full of controls and systems. There is a large array of pilotable ships and weapons to equip them with. There are multiple ways to toggle targeting and what is being targeted on each ship. It’s complex and rewarding. Colony Wars, a console game, has simpler targeting, fewer weapons and ships, but a emphasis on using the right weapon for the right target. You’ve got to wear down enemy shields with one weapon, and damage the hull with another. Chorus lands in the Colony Wars end of this spectrum, with some twists.

What Chorus brings to the genre is an open-world style of gameplay, and special abilities. Once I got out of the (slightly boring) tutorial, the map opened up and I was free to explore a big area of space with lots of little stories. Chorus isn’t the first to do this, but other games in this genre with an open-world are closer to Privateer and Freelancer, where trade is part of the equation too. Chorus has no trade, except the accrual of credits and spending them on weapons.

The special abilities also make Chorus stand out. The first is sort of radar that highlights objectives, enemies, items to collect, etc. Again, starting a little boring. But the second is a teleport that puts you behind the enemy you’re facing. These abilities only get more powerful from here, and it’s how this game makes it possible for one ship to take out dozens. In Chorus, I was rarely supported by allies. It was me versus the cult, and the cult always had me outnumbered.

I liked Chorus a lot. Despite the limited ship selection and arsenal, it delivered some really intense and varied action with the special abilities. The open-world gave me things to explore and find outside of the relatively straight forward main quest. It left the door open for a sequel, and I’d welcome it.

Simulators

I’ve played a lot of simulator video games lately. I’m not talking about your traditional sims, like Sim City or Flight Sim. No, I’m talking about what I’ve classed as “drudgery simulators”. I call them this because they make a menial, repetitive task into their core gameplay. Here’s a few of the ones I’ve played recently, roughly ranked from worst to best.

Lawn Mower Simulator

What it says on the tin. I rode around on a mower, mowing virtual grass in virtual lawns. When I wasn’t at 100% complete, I walked around with a weed-whacker and finished off the job. I had grass vision which highlighted uncut grass. Lawn Mower Simulator is about as enjoyable as actual lawn mowing. Your shoes won’t turn green but you don’t get the smell of fresh cut grass either. Not really my kind of boring.

American Truck Simulator

Putting this on the “worst” end of this scale might ruffle some feathers, but it’s just driving a truck on roads I could drive in real life. I see more appeal in Euro Truck Sim because those aren’t places I could see with road markings I don’t recognize. I’ve driven from Illinois to Washington. I’ve driven for 16 hours. I’ve even driven a big truck. This isn’t very fun for me. It’s a safe zone out game but too real.

Power Wash Simulator

Now we’re starting to get into the “hours of my life lost” area. It’s not much more than what it describes. I used a power washer to blast virtual dirt off of virtual buildings. The first time I played this, I made myself a little motion sick from bouncing my view up and down blasting dirt. There’s really not much progression here either. I bought more powerful washers and nozzles that let me reach further, but I was still blasting dirt. It’s a bit more satisfying than Lawn Mower Simulator because the results of my work were more obvious, but it’s purely repetitive.

Gas Station Simulator

Where the previous games were almost entirely repetitive, Gas Station Simulator is a juggling act. Yes, the focus is on pumping gas and I pumped gas. But there’s a convenience store, where I stocked shelves and swept and scanned items. I scooped mounds of sand and cleared out trash on my lot as my business expanded. I got a service garage and replaced tires, side view mirrors, and fixed scratches. I chased off an annoying child by throwing things at him, and watched him vandalize my store when I had no trash to throw because it was too clean. I had a lot of fun playing this because there was a lot of shallow little tasks to do. I only stopped playing because its performance is terribly uneven. The game runs fine for a while and then, for some reason, completely plummets into single digit framerate. This is pretty close to legitimate fun.

Hardspace: Shipbreaker

Yes, I wrote a whole review for this, but it’s deep in the same vein as the rest of them. This is probably my GOTY. I had a lot of fun cutting up those space ships and learning how to cut them up faster and more efficiently. While ships follow a particular pattern, they’re all different and I learned how to be a better shipbreaker with each ship I dismantled. It’s the best kind of repetitive task: the kind that teaches me a skill that I can’t use in the real world.