As its Fig-based crowdfunding campaign draws to a close, Summerfall Studios has released a playable proof-of-concept for its musical adventure game, Chorus. Doing so was hardly necessary; the project has already blasted past is USD$600,000 funding goal. However, as what is likely to be the final move before the team goes dark for the next year of production, this content drop makes a powerful statement.
The demo is short: a single scene that can be blitzed through in less than five minutes. The game’s protagonist, Grace, faces off against Persephone, goddess of the underworld, in a showing of how the combat-dialogue will play out. According to the disclaimer, the scene will not be in the final game, and, removed from the wider narrative context, the story segment included is not enough to discuss anyway.
This demo is all about the gameplay, and that is exciting. Make no mistake, Chorus seems a lot like a visual novel. The story plays out against static backgrounds while the player participates through dialogue choices. Here, though, those choices are tied to particular attitudes (called Traits). Grace can be aggressive, charming, or smart, with each option unlocking unique lines and affecting Persephone’s opinion differently. Although the mechanic is simple and straightforward in the demo, the depth it promises is easy to see, as Grace’s proficiency with each trait grows and each NPC has different reactions to them.
More significant than the mechanics is the feeling. Similar dialogue battles are present also in Life is Strange: Before the Storm and quite a few RPGs, but none have the same sort of resonance. To hear Grace burst into song, and command a remarkable range of emotions while singing, puts Chorus well beyond its competition. The game already promises to offer a transportive experience.
The staccato shifts between tones as the player selects contrary attitudes are jarring but can be forgiven considering the early stage of development. The same is true of the GUI, which is simple and readable, but might benefit from showing more information.
Unfortunately, the demo is tiny, and any grand claims about the overall quality of the project are impossible to draw from it. Summerfall Studios says that Chorus is the first of its kind, which may be true, but it shows a lineage to visual novels at present—just a touch more powerful.
And I simply cannot wait to delve deeper into this wonderful game when it finally releases in two years.
For now, nine hours remain of the Fig campaign, with some delicious stretch goals yet to be met.