Echo PS4 review: Will you look before you leap?

Echo

Every once in a while a game comes around, making me question my decisions about how I play games. Echo, the third-person sci-fi adventure game, feels and plays unlike anything else in the current landscape of games. This is indie studio Ultra-Ultra’s first game, and their approach is to make the player ask questions they normally wouldn’t ask.

Echo follows En and her journey to the center of a structure called The Palace in the hopes of reviving a fallen soul. What starts as a journey of hope quickly becomes one of challenge, revelation, and sacrifice.

Echo is unlike a lot of other titles on the market, but it tends to fall into one of the many indie storytelling tropes. While this may sound disheartening, I assure you it’s not, as even most AAA titles have their own story tropes. It’s rare that we have a game that comes around with a powerful message that makes you question certain ideas.

I will say that the narrative in Echo is done well, although a bit predictable at times. The story of bringing someone back from the dead has been done plenty of times; however, what matters is how the story is told. After a moderate intro, Echo’s story is told at natural pauses in the game’s main adventure. These serve as a reflection of what En has experienced in her life as well as vaguely framing the upcoming section of the game.

En and A.I. London are in constant conflict with her actions, and they are very vocal about their conflicting points of view. While these conversations are often argumentative at times, they still touch on important points. And they noticeably start to take root in the mind of the opposing character in later sections. This becomes even more apparent in the final moments and will come as no surprise for players that have taken the time to read between the lines of the game’s dialogue.

While the game is classified as an adventure game, it evolves based on the player’s actions. And this mechanic of reacting to the player almost makes it feel more like a stealth/puzzle game. The Palace that En is in is like a fun-house filled with revolving mirrors. Each action that the player takes in the palace is then replicated by implementing echoes. The echoes will mimic nearly every single action of En, and they have no noticeable limitations such as stamina or energy. So your best option to succeed is outsmarting them.

When I say the echoes mimic nearly every action, I mean it. Vaulting, opening doors, firing your weapon all are replicated. Even something as simple as walking in water gives them a newfound freedom. Now a feature of evolving enemies is no stranger to games; however, what sets the echoes apart is that they also unlearn actions as well. If the player decides to stop using doors, the echoes will as well. This becomes evident after the first few blackout cycles. Every action the player takes during the current cycle will only be mimicked on the following light cycle. Players will come up with different plans for this, and personally, I played the game as minimalist and pacifist as possible, using stealth and my wits to take them out when necessary. Thi, in turn, made my opponents more stealthy where they would then sneak up on me to repay the favor. Echoes are also revived every cycle, so a full action approach is not only more difficult but will feel futile after a while.

This caused me to think about the game in a whole new light where I was more strategic about which mechanics to use and when and how to rotate them between cycles. After a few hours in though, this became commonplace and not as difficult as I had thought it would be early on. Progressing while evading enemies was simple, but the game’s true difficulty ended up being collecting its hidden collectibles. (These can enhance En’s energy supply or reveal more of the game’s story.) These are scattered across each level and the path to them were almost always filled with echoes. These rewards are worth finding since En’s suit begins with a low threshold for energy, and much of the story’s nuanced details are hidden until you’ve collected enough of the hidden voice samples.

Echo is definitely a one of a kind. While the game made me question actions early on, it lost a bit of its gusto towards the mid-section when I found a pattern of rinse and repeat that worked for me. The game does have a solid difficulty spike at the tail end by introducing new enemies to factor in, but I wish they would have introduced more earlier on. The elements in the game are all done really well, but I just feel that there weren’t enough of them. Having a game mimic the player is great, but if you don’t create situations to cause the player to instinctively react and then adapt, it is a missed opportunity.

The game could have benefited from elements such as environmental hazards, or even a few traditional puzzles to solve like you might see in other adventure games. The game also constantly felt like it was encouraging the player to play it as a stealth title which is fine for fans of the genre, but those who aren’t into stealth may become frustrated and lose interest. In addition, the narrative revolves around one objective and doesn’t really grow into anything larger, so don’t expect any crazy surprises on that end.

On the technical side, I did encounter minor framerate issues while playing on the PS4, but they were not prominent enough to affect my gameplay. I will say that my 10-12 hours with Echo was well spent and I did enjoy each moment. Every victory felt rewarding and nearly every death had a feeling of “this is on me, I gave them the ability to do this.” I am always eagerly awaiting the next game that will make me think about my actions and would love to see elements of Echo get implemented into other games. One thing for sure, this game made me question my everyday actions in other games, and I will be better off for it.

Final Rating: 3.5/5 Atoms

*Echo was reviewed using a retail download key on PS4 provided by Ultra-Ultra. It’s currently available for purchase on PS4, Steam, and GOG.

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Jada Griffin
Jada Griffin 329 posts

Legends tell of a princess captured and raised by Ninjas to be their future leader. Jada was trained from an early age to max the luck stat, always strike first and to never surrender.