By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on October 16, 2017
Who, would you say, is usually man's worst enemy? Yes, I'm sure death and taxes are up there, but that isn't what we're going for here! No, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the enemy we're are looking for is man itself! So basically, you are your worst enemy. or, at least, you can be if you don't pay attention!
No, please don't worry! I'm not going to start an existential discussion here. Trust me, the world is bad enough without me indulging in that kind of crap! No, what I'm referring to, is the premise of Echo; the first game by Copenhagen, Denmark based game studio: Ultra Ultra. A sci-fi adventure in which you are really your worst enemy.
Picture this: you, a young woman that goes by the name of "En", find yourself waking up on a space ship that is controlled by someone or something that calls him/itself "London". This London character tells you that you have been in stasis for about a century and that everyone and everything you have even loved and known is gone. Pretty upsetting message to wake up to, wouldn't you say? It would seem that En used to be part of a group, called the "Resourcefuls"; highly trained operatives that are led by En's grandfather: Gramps. En, tired of the rigid lifestyle of the Resourcefuls, makes her escape, but something goes awry.
Now, a century later, En is all alone, en route to a mythical palace that is said to have the power to restore life to this barren universe. En carries a cube with her, containing the digitized remains of London's former partner: Foster. In an attempt to make things right, En sets out to find and explore the long lost palace and to discover if there is any truth to her grandfather's stories. She is doubly motivated, because, apparently, she has something to do with Foster's demise. Time for some redemption, I would say!
Eventually, En makes her way towards the coordinates where the palace is rumored to be located and ends up on a strange planet that looks like the remnants of a derelict and forgotten mining operation. Nothing could be further from the truth, though, because when En makes her way across the towering and strange structures, she lands up on the doorstep of a hidden complex, built inside of the planet! Could this be the mythical Palace she heard so much about? And, if so, which secrets does it hold. and what dangers lie ahead?
This is the point at which Echo really kicks off and your real challenge begins. As you might have suspected already, the complex that En is in, is indeed the fabled Palace, but it is dark and deserted; completely devoid of life. En must make her way through the vast halls and corridors in order to reach her goal. A strange machine that, or so she hopes, can restore Foster to his former self, instead of the red transparent cube, hanging from En's back. Somehow, the Palace starts to regain power and the lights go on. Normally, lights going off means that you're in trouble, but the talented people at Ultra Ultra decided to do the exact opposite.
The Palace "reboots" every so often. Every time the lights come on again, enemies appear. And not just any enemies, but perfect copies of. well. YOU! At first, they are roughly humanoid shapes, but quickly, these "Echoes" start to look more and more like you. And that is the least of your problems! Because, not only do they look like you; they also act like you. So, as you're becoming more and more proficient in the use of the ancient powers that the palace holds, so will your enemies. You run, they run. You sneak, they sneak. Damn, I hate it when my enemies get the better of me!
Pretty early on in the game, London unlocks your gun, so you can use it. This was the point at which I went: "Oh hell yeah! Bring it on!!!" Well, sure, but there is a problem with the gun. It uses energy and you sure as hell do not have an unlimited amount of that. Every actions a certain amount of energy, and this energy needs to be replenished before you can use it again. Do you see the problem here?
So, let's just say that you just jumped off a high ledge and you are being set upon by enemies.; what then? You start shooting? Sure, if only the high jump didn't just drain your energy! So, take cover and let part of the energy replenish itself, or seek out an energy point, which lets you regain one measure of energy instantly. So you have enough energy; what are you going to do; shoot up as many enemies as you can before they get to you? Yes, you could try that approach, but remember what I told you? If you run a lot, they run, etcetera? Good, because when you have the tendency to shoot your way out of things, well, let's just say. duck for cover!
Luckily, there are other things that make your life a bit easier. For instance, you have a kind of radar that shows you if enemies are aware of your presence. Blue means they have not noticed you, yellow means they have spotted something and are investigating and red means that they've seen you and you are in trouble! Also, you can make use of a kind of sonar unit that shows you the locations of enemies, even through walls, enabling you to plan your route more carefully. Be sure to make use of these abilities, along with your wits, or it will be difficult to escape the clutches of your Echo enemies.
The echo mechanic is a very cool one and, I can honestly say, one I have never seen before. The short version of it is that, as you grow stronger, your enemies copy your abilities. So if you focus mainly on one approach, you will quickly find that that approach won't work as successfully after a couple of reboots. The only time you are able to do things that the Echoes will not copy, is during the blackouts. It would seem that, during these periods, the castle is "blind" and cannot learn from your behaviors, so be sure to make the most out of these blackouts, if you know what's good for you!
Visually, I can only say that Echo looks absolutely stunning. The grand design of the castle had me standing still in awe more than a couple of times. There's something menacing about the richly detailed environments that makes you feel small and insignificant. And, because the Echoes are replica's of you and can learn everything you can learn, you are really battling yourself. I personally think this is brilliantly done and makes for one great looking and truly challenging game! The story also enhanced the entire experience. It is told in bits and pieces and the entire game feels like a quest for the truth, something you don't see all too often these days.
The fact that a lot of attention to detail went into creating Echo is immediately apparent when you enter the main menu of the game. No boring stuff here; instead, the background of this menu is the close up image of an eye, and moving the eye reveals your menu options. Now, I don't know about you, but this is actually the first time I saw something like this and I absolutely loved it!
So, there are no two ways about it: I love Echo! I love the fact that it drags you into its world and refuses to let go. I love the game's mechanics, the art, the story; everything about this game works together to create on hell of an sci-fi experience. So do yourself a favor and check out Echo for yourself!
October 11, 2017