Review

Echo Review

  • First Released Sep 19, 2017
    released
  • PC

Attack of the clones.

Somewhere, in the infinite void of space, is a planet with a race of transhumans that believes they can bring the dead back to life. A being named En has come here looking for a way to resurrect a loved one currently trapped in a red cube strapped to her back. What she will find is a seemingly endless labyrinth that puts her head to head with the most dangerous enemy: herself.

More accurately, the endless labyrinth of Ultra Ultra's Echo puts you head to head with yourself.

The labyrinth, as it turns out, is a decadent but sterile mansion, reminiscent of the alien hospice where Dave Bowman lives out the rest of his days in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The place is clean, but devoid of life. En eventually gets the lights back on, but activates something else in the process. What first manifests as ugly, malignant blobs on the floor eventually takes shape. Specifically, the shape of En. A labyrinth-wide blackout triggers every few minutes, knocking everyone out for a brief moment. When power and consciousness returns, the clones--called Echoes--reboot on their own. With each reboot, the Echoes become closer to a perfect copy of En, and even more determined to murder her.

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Therein lies Echo's biggest, most captivating twist: the labyrinth itself monitors En--her every movement, her every action--recording the data, and feeding it back to the Echoes. When the power reboots, the Echoes will have learned new skills directly from your actions. Use your gun to kill the Echoes, and the next reboot, all of them are suddenly trigger-happy crack shots. Sneak up behind an Echo to take them out with stealth, the next reboot, they will skulk around silently, looking for the perfect opportunity to sneak up and choke En to death. By default, the clones are afraid of water, but if they see you get in, the next reboot, that fear is gone. Echo is an intricate game of cat and mouse where the mouse keeps sharpening the cat's claws.

Fortunately for you, Echo intelligence has limits. Every system blackout wipes the progress of the previous reboot, so it's possible, with patience, for the Echoes to unlearn skills if they weren't used during the previous period of full power. Prior to a full blackout, there's a short period where the lights go out, and the labyrinth is processing the new data, i.e. not recording. These are the moments where En can act with impunity, using all the tools at her disposal to permanently put down an Echo, and traverse the environment freely without any of her movements coming back to sabotage her later.

Even then, En has her own limits. Every action, even the ammo for her gun, is tied to an energy cell system that can be refilled using "Suns" scattered around the labyrinth. But Suns aren't so ubiquitous that one can just spray-n-pray bullets, then vault over a table to hide before a full blackout. A big part of the game's challenge is tied to resource management, plotting a course which will leave En to safety, but with the means to defend herself if necessary, while also taking into account what the Echoes can currently do (and will be able to do) once you've executed your plan. Echo is the child of a little over a half dozen ex-patriates from Io Interactive of Hitman fame, and that pedigree shows itself in the amount of foresight needed to be successful in every stage.

As a whole, the game falters, but only slightly. The core story of En trying to resurrect her loved one is handled with admirable restraint. En herself is voiced by Game of Thrones' Rose Leslie, a subtle performance that has her balancing excitement and determination with just enough doubt to make Happy Ever After for this fool's errand uncertain. That doubt is further instilled by her ship’s coldly cynical A.I., London (voiced by Nick Boulton, already having a great year coming off of playing Druth in Hellblade), whose constant questioning and dialogue with En drives the story, and fills in the backstory, albeit to questionable results. The biggest problem is En and London dropping reference after reference to the history, religion, and lore of En's homeworld, but never really stopping to catch you up. It's still mostly comprehensible, but it's surprisingly dense, and much of it is spent filling in backstory, but not really pushing things forward until the end of the game is in sight.

The biggest problem is the labyrinth itself. It's a fantastic, evocative environment unlike anything one might expect to see, but the aesthetic starts to wear thin in the later hours; the only break comes from the occasional transitional maintenance area that separates major milestones. Add in the fact that, with the exception of a late level opponent, both En and her enemies are all the same model, and there's a numbness that starts to sink in after playing the game for extended periods. One type of section, where En must collect dozens of purple orbs to open an elevator to the next area, stretch out far longer than necessary. These are often the sections compounded by the game's sporadic save points, which sometimes drop En a minute or two from the next door, but sometimes don't trigger until you've been running, jumping, shooting for twenty minutes in an area, and all it takes is one Echo's lucky shot to end her, and erase all that progress.

Figuring out how to and how not to teach the game's enemies what to do is a stupendously gratifying process.

Fortunately, though often tricky and uncompromising, Echo never feels impossible, or cruel. However, it does require constant thought and consideration. Figuring out how to and how not to teach the game's enemies what to do is a stupendously gratifying process, in that same magical way a game like Portal rewires the player's brain to think in a whole other dimension than just where to insert bullets. It could benefit from variety, but it's a stellar use of A.I. programming, regardless, one that we will likely--and ironically--see imitated but never duplicated in the future.

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The Good
Lavish, beautiful, and unique environments
Remarkable use of enemy A.I. concepts
Intriguing sci-fi story
The Bad
Lack of environment/enemy variety can get dull
Some story concepts don't get fleshed out.
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Justin Clark spent seven hours getting through Echo. Luckily for him, the only thing he's taught his Echo is how to make pancakes and beat Battletoads. A digital copy of this game was provided by the publisher.
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3partan341

I can't wait to see better ai get implemented into single player games. Especially ai team mates. I tend to like ai intensive games like Arma, R63 and Socom. AI is always the main thing dragging the singleplayer down.

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naomha1

Sooooo, Gamespot. You reviewed Echo but there's still not one iota of information on your review or even perusing Divinity: OS2?????

Seriously, you guys are way too Destiny 2 happy right now.

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Horndizz

damn clicked on the article expecting it to be about a dolphin

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mdinger

Have been hearing a lot of positive things about this game that I had never heard of. Bit of a sleeper, perhaps. Cheap too.

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Keaze_

"Somewhere, in the infinite void of space, is a planet with a race of transhumans that believes they can bring the dead back to life."

Believe? Do they bring the dead back to life or do they not?

If not, what makes them think they can?

That sentence makes no sense.

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naomha1

@Keaze_: Sentence makes perfect sense. It's not relaying any information to you other than the fact that the transhumans BELIEVE they can. You do not need to know any more than that.

Belief is an act of trusting what you think is true to be truth. It also starts with a small speck of something happening that would incline one to think it is true, thus, to believe it can happen.

Avatar image for MJ12-Conspiracy
MJ12-Conspiracy

@Keaze_: yo dawg, there's these folks out there that can raise the dead yo but we don't know if it's for realz or not but we takin' shawty to see em so he can get resurrected yo......

maybe that's to ghetto......

there's these chaps in the universe somewhere who can bring the dead to life but we need to look into it cus we simply can't confirm it.....

makes sense yet?? jeez man LMAO

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AfroMakka

Just finished it , the atmosphere of the game is just immersive , the palace design is breathtaking , i wouldn't EVER call it dull as Justin says in his Cons , its the second best indie game this year after Pyre and Night in the woods - both are No1 for me xD -

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soul_starter

very interesting

I remember seeing ag ameplay video some time back and it made me think of the stealth games of old...you know, the ones that actually focued on stealth. I'll be picking this up at some point.

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streamline

It would be funny if Amazon had funded the development of this game.

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RaveNRolla

wow, that sounds like a pretty amazing concept.

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JacAttack

This sounds like a pretty sweet game, I'm in. Just picked it up on steam, I'm going to stream it later if anyone wants to see some gameplay - https://www.twitch.tv/casuallycoop

Love that there have been so many shorter games coming out lately with unique concepts and mechanics, thank you indie devs!

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khaleesiplays

@jacattack: Glad to hear you're checking out the game! :)

Moderator
Avatar image for jacattack
JacAttack

@khaleesiplays: Just played the first couple hours - loving it! The learning mechanic is even cooler than I thought it would be, I can't wait to see what else they do with it :)

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

When I noticed En's hair, my first thought was vanilla ice-cream.

No wait. It's Greek yogurt.

Healthy thoughts. :D

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xantufrog

I'm intrigued - we don't get enough strong entries of this type of game

Moderator
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Renunciation

Quite an interesting story / concept, and seems to be backed up by solid gameplay.

Rather captivating architecture / environment, as well.

Glad my initial reaction ("Ugh, it's an Ecco the Dolphin reboot! Is there anything at all they won't reboot?") was wrong.

On a side note, second to last paragraph: "One type of section, where En must collect dozens of purple orbs to open an elevator to the next area, stretch out far longer than necessary." <-- might wanna change that to "stretches".

Avatar image for jacattack
JacAttack

@Renunciation: Oh man, an Ecco the Dolphin reboot would be AMAZING! Full 3D graphics and movement, an open world, doing epic high jumps out of the water to reveal more of the map! I'd buy it!

Just kidding

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bfa1509

I was interested until I saw the quick time event.

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Diablo2kf

@bfa1509: Not a quick time event, it only happens if you don't have enough stamina to push away the enemy or they sneak up on you. You need to mash a little to get them away and then run or shoot them. Also, it can happen only once in a time period because if they get you again soon, you die.

Playing it now, awesome game.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@bfa1509: *Ugh*...

It is disappointing that although Ultra Ultra implemented some rarely seen gameplay elements, it resorted to using trite ones too.

Where do the QTE's occur, by the way? I am trying to do searches for this game, but it's really obscure and other shit comes up in the results.

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justinofclark

@Gelugon_baat: If one of the Echoes gets too close (and they havent shot you yet), they grab and try to subdue you. That's when you have to mash B.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@justinofclark: Just mash B, I suppose?

That's just a button-mashy sequence. I don't think that counts as a Quick-Time Event, as defined by Shenmue.

@bfa1509: You really should read this.

Avatar image for jacattack
JacAttack

@justinofclark: Is that really a quick time event? I guess it kinda is... I just usually think of random buttons appearing in quick succession to make your character do something they could have easily programmed into standard gameplay when I think of quick time events. This seems less annoying.

ECHO (2017) More Info

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  • First Released Sep 19, 2017
    released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    6.7
    Average Rating13 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate ECHO (2017)
    Developed by:
    Ultra Ultra
    Published by:
    Ultra Ultra, Ultra Ultra APS
    Genre(s):
    Action, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood, Language, Violence