There Came an Echo is the second game from Iridium Studios and was initially funded by Kickstarter. Crowdfunding is becoming more popular in recent years and many games start out this way. There Came an Echo is a unique game that has voice control mechanics and strategic gameplay. You control a squad of characters and fight through various missions using voice controls and some nice gameplay ideas.
A female voice is heard at the start of the game and talks to Corrin, a programmer that created an encryption software known as Radial Lock. The voice gives a series of commands telling Corrin to run. Corrin is skeptical at first but soon realises he is in great danger and decides to listen to the mysterious voice seemingly trying to help him.
There Came an Echo is a real-time strategy game that is unlike anything else I have played recently and has some very interesting gameplay mechanics. You don’t actually control the characters onscreen directly, but you do move them with voice commands. This may sound like a cheap gimmick, but it does work well and feel fluid at times.
The game instantly reminded me of the start of the first Matrix film and there’s even an early reference to the film in the early stages of the game. You can use voice commands or a scroll wheel with various options to control the movements and actions of Corrin. I was surprised at how immersive and interesting the story was and the gameplay feels fresh, so I was excited to continue forward. The gameplay is pretty straight forward at its core but the voice command system gives the strategic gameplay a nice twist. It’s important to note though that the game is much more of a story driven RTS game, but I enjoyed how it was presented and the experience it provided.
The gameplay isn’t just about escaping though, as you will encounter combat scenarios that see you entering gun fights. The best way to go about these situations is to focus your shots on one enemy at a time, which is actually what I tend to do in most turn based games like Final Fantasy. You do also have the option to flank enemies to attack from different angles, but unlike other games it feels a bit ineffective. In games like Gears of War flanking enemies tends to give you huge advantages and deal large amounts of damage, but here I didn’t find myself trying to do so. Also the actual combat scenarios and shooting never really develops or changes during the story, which is a shame as it does start to become a little repetitive.
I was very skeptical about the voice command option at first as I’ve never been a huge fan of games with gimmicks, whether its touch screens, Wii U’s nunchucks or other ideas that take away from the core gameplay making it feel watered down. The voice command system here though is actually very good and features a AAA voice cast, led by Star Trek regular Wil Wheaton and internet sensation Ashly Burch and works surprisingly well. The commands you give are fairly simple and include things like targeting particular enemies, changing weapons and character movement. The phrases and keywords you use to activate commands are easy to remember and have some variations in what can be said. I also tried playing the game without using the voice commands and I then realised how simplistic the actual gameplay was, but I still appreciated the fact that the game is trying to do something a bit different whilst telling a good story. The voice commands on the whole work well, but like you would expect I had to repeat words from time to time. I recommend using a decent headset with a good microphone if you want to get the best possible experience.
The presentation of the game is decent with gameplay taking place from a top-down perspective. The game certainly has well designed environments that give you plenty of options for maneuvering your character. I enjoyed how the perspective changed from time to time during the sequences, with the camera zooming in on characters and then back out to give scope of your surroundings. I did notice that the animations of the characters were a bit clumsy and this did take me out of the experience occasionally. Overall though the characters are interesting and I enjoyed seeing how the story and gameplay unfolded. The sound design is great and helps to make the game feel even more immersive. The music is brilliantly done and helps to intensify moments of tension and combat. There are some issues with the game like awkward animations and frame stuttering, but nothing that impacts the overall experience too much.
Overall There Came an Echo was a game that I was fairly skeptical about but ended up being pleasantly surprised by in general. The characters, world and narrative are well crafted and kept me absorbed throughout. The gameplay however is fairly basic and doesn’t really develop over the course of the story. The voice commands help to enhance the gameplay and they work surprisingly well. I would certainly recommend at least giving the game a go if you’re looking for a slightly different experience with an interesting story.
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