There Came an Echo (PC) Review

By Athanasios 10.03.2016

Review for There Came an Echo on PC

In these few years that Iridium Studios has been active, it has shown a knack for innovation. Its debut creation, Before the Echo, which is some sort of a pseudo-prequel to There Came an Echo, combined rhythm with traditional RPG mechanics, while the latter one puts the player in the shoes of a tactician who must help a party overcome many an obstacle, but by using an actual microphone. The long history of video games, however, has shown that titles with such gimmicks need two things to work: first, they must avoid focusing on their "unique" methods, and second, the actual gimmicks must function properly.

Corrin Webb was just enjoying his time while on his job, when a voice from "above" started talking to him, informing him about some people that are closing in on his location, and who are willing to do some…not so good stuff with his programmer behind. The voice, a girl named Val, finally convinces him to escape their grasp, something that will happen in a sequence so similar to the one in The Matrix that Corrin will actually reference Morpheus.

Codenamed Sam, the one who will do all this will be the player, but instead of mouse clicks and button presses, everything will be done by using a microphone! "Sam" says "Corrin, move to Alpha one," and Corrin will do so. Later on, when there will be more than one character on-screen, it will be possible to say "Corrin, on my mark, move to Foxtrot three. Miranda, on my mark, focus fire on Target one," and no, these two puppets won't have any problem following the order…theoretically, that is.

Screenshot for There Came an Echo on PC

Programming a good voice recognition system is a tricky business, with 'good' usually meaning "working most of the time." While it's possible to play with the microphone settings to adjust it, and while it's also possible to create custom commands (enabling phrases such as "Boobies, breath fire on Simpleton one"), this is a flawed mechanic that will give a very hard time to anyone without a clear US accent. Therefore, don't expect the game to understand sentences that go something like "Corrin, on me mark, move ter charlie wan."

It's possible to use the mouse, of course, but this actually creates even more problems, and obviously takes away from the immersion that voice recognition manages to create when it decides to work. Besides being buggy (the system will frequently respond to sound commands even if there's no microphone attached to the PC), it uses an abysmal contextual control scheme which feels very uncomfortable.

Screenshot for There Came an Echo on PC

Each stage pits the party against a couple of enemy soldiers, and Sam can command the characters to do anything, anytime, but since voice recognition requires precision, the places where they can move are specific, codenamed spots. In other words, if Corrin wants to avoid enemy fire, he can't go behind any random wall, but only behind the one with the "Bravo one" label. Obviously, this removes the usual sense of freedom that the genre provides, and the structures of the few levels don't help either, since most feel like chapters from a tutorial mode.

The only strategic aspect here is weaponry, with each armament having a specific use. Snipers, for example, are quite lethal, but their user can be interrupted. Rail guns are strong but consume a large portion of energy (which is actually each character's HP for some reason). Charge weapons have splash damage, and Screw rifles are weak but quick - no difference between the various characters, though.

Screenshot for There Came an Echo on PC

Note that this three-and-something-hour journey is very plot-heavy - so much, in fact, that the few interactive bits feel more like optional side-quests. Thankfully, the story focus is much better than the actual gameplay, with a small but great cast of characters voiced by a team of skilled professionals like Wil Wheaton, Ashly Burch, and Laura Bailey, amongst others. Yeah, they won't exactly rock anyone's world, but they have well-written dialogue sequences - although they try a bit too hard to be funny at times. What about the actual storyline, though? Is it good, exciting, or gripping? Yes, no, and no.

The themes of morality in science and conscience that are explored here are indeed very interesting, and the way the whole thing is presented is certainly not bad, but somehow, it never leaves an impact, and feels a little bland. For example, the final plot twist is so magnificent that whole libraries could be filled with the branch of philosophy it delves into...but it all happens 10-or-so minutes before the very end of this tale, and therefore, it's hard to care about it. Just like the finale of Final Fantasy VIII: "Hey, I know you don't recognise me, but I'm actually the final boss!"

Screenshot for There Came an Echo on PC

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

The voice recognition control scheme is extremely engrossing...but only when it works, with the alternative being an aggravating contextual menu-based system that requires the mouse. The action can be fun…but it mostly feels so hand-holding and tedious that it's like working instead of playing. The only thing of value here is, undoubtedly, the story…but the whole adventure ends so fast that it's impossible to feel any connection to this otherwise well-thought-out sci-fi universe.

Developer

Iridium

Publisher

Iridium Studios

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10 

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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