There Came An Echo Review
It would seem that strategy games are hip again these days, what with all the interesting releases that pop up every once in a while on Steam. There was Etherium, weâll be playing Gratuitous Space Battles 2 soon and now we have the chance to check out the long-awaited There Came An Echo. While it certainly is a real-time strategy, it chooses to focus on storyline and streamlined gameplay experience instead of randomized skirmishes by which weâve known and loved the genre for the last decade or so. Itâs a shame, really, that nobody has given the genre much of a chance in terms of storytelling up until now â not as a cinematic experience at the very least that is. With that in mind, itâs nice to see that There Came An Echo isnât afraid of trying new things.
Whoop! That had to hurt.
The story begins with a mysterious female voice contacting Corrin, the programmer responsible for the creation of an encryption software going by the name of Radial Lock and telling him to run. Naturally, Corrin argues otherwise and doesnât believe the shadowy woman, but quickly changes his mind when armed agents open fire at him. The introductory sequence, in which weâre shown how the gameâs somewhat unique feature of voice control works, is very familiar to all of those whoâve watched the first Matrix movie. Indeed, the achievement rewarded for successfully completing said sequence has much to do with a certain red pill. Why is this important? Because it sets the mood of the game in a brilliant, if overly linear way. There Came An Echo is a real-time strategy in which you donât actually control your troops, but simply shout orders at them, be it by actually using your voice or the usual mouse and keyboard combo â the end result is the same. Thus, youâll be providing information and orders to Corrin as he makes a run for it out of his office. The whole game is presented in a similar manner, with somewhat freeform firefights that are interrupted by semi-interactive cut scenes that explain whatâs going on and provide further details on how to approach the situation at hand. This might not sound all that enticing on paper, but it really does work wonders for There Came An Echoâs level of immersion. The game recognizes the fact that youâre little more than an omniescent commander providing orders to his squad of combatants and plays with it along the way, with characters often referring to you in person. This works in tandem with the gameâs somewhat limited gameplay options to streamline and focus the whole thing exactly in the direction the developers wanted it to focus, without losing out on interactivity all that much. Itâs a compromise Iâm glad to see in a strategy game for once, simply because weâve seldom had the chance to play a storyline-centric RTS.
Iâve always wanted to blow up somebody elseâs kitchen.
The actual gameplay consists of firefights for the most part, with up to four combatants of your own facing a much larger force of highly-trained operatives in a multitude of wildly different settings. Due to the fact that voice-control is fairly important in this game, the gameplay had to be slowed down by a bit, and this is accomplished by providing most characters with a combat shield that deflects and protects its wearers. The inclusion of one such gadget provides the player with enough time to assess the situation and then prepare and execute his/her orders. The voice-control works wonderfully for the most part, providing you with an intuitive and fast way of bossing your squad around. Itâs still a bit finicky sometimes though, and some non-native speakers such as myself might have issues when it comes to providing orders in a clear, precisely articulated manner in high-pressure firefights. Should one such situation arise, you can always help yourself out by using a mouse instead. Right-clicking on a unit opens up a circular menu where you can select a wide variety of orders for said unit to work on. This way, all players have a way of getting around the game, even though voice-control very obviously is the preferred way of playing There Came An Echo. By using your voice, youâll have immediate and unrestricted access to the entire arsenal your squad carries around, which consists of five different weapons â control over who carries what into the fray will be left to your own devices, naturally. The catch is that each âprimaryâ weapon such as the grenade launcher or a sniper rifle works as an upgrade to the basic pistol firearm, and thus uses large amounts of energy when fired. The player has to manage each characterâs energy levels, weapon usage and danger level in any given moment, which isnât an easy task at all. This adds dynamism to what would surely be a dull game without the energy mechanics, and makes you carefully weigh your choices in real time. My only gripe with the gameâs gameplay systems is that thereâs no freedom of unit movement in most conflicts â youâll have to pick one of the preset cover points and go from there. But this isnât that much of an issue if you consider the wealth of options you have at any given moment.
As for the gameâs visuals and sounds, Iâve been positively surprised by the level of quality There Came An Echo exhibits. With sharp textures and vivid colours, as well as lots of dynamic effects rendering around the screen once the shooting starts, thereâs always something nice to look at, and the game doesnât shy away from close-ups in dialogues either. Granted, some animations do look overly rigid, but this is an RTS after all, and Iâm quite happy with where its graphics are. The music is brilliant, however, with catchy tunes amplifying the already tense combat scenes. The more serene situations arenât at loss either, since the developers really managed to hit the nail over the head as far as the musical score goes. Sadly, Iâve noticed a fair amount of bugs in the review build of the game â TCAE froze on me a couple of times during loading screens and even crashed once, while random (and inexplicable) performance drops decimated my framerate once or twice. Granted, the game has been getting patched very, very quickly so Iâm guessing you wonât have to conted with these issues anyway.
To conclude, Iâm very happy with what There Came An Echo ended up being. With tight, albeit perhaps a tiny bit too linear gameplay, interesting characters and a very intriguing storyline, this RTS comes as a welcome change from what the rest of the genre usually serves us up. I can easily recommend TCAE to those of you whoâre interested in experiencing something new and different, while having fun along the way. Just remember to pack headphones too!