There Came an Echo

So I’m aware that this review is a week late. What’s my excuse? Work, commitments, life, the universe, discovering Dragon Age II, etc. Basically, nothing within my control. That being said, I wanted to give this game a fair play before reviewing it, in particular testing out the voice control features which is the essence of this game, and I don’t mean just telling Wil Wheaton’s smug-sounding voice what to do.

This is the second game I’ve reviewed from Iridium Studios, the first being Sequence which is now called Before the Echo (technically correct, though not sure why they would rename as I don’t think the title is related at all to the game).

In There Came an Echo, you play the mysterious voice-in-the-ear commander of a growing squad of people caught up in a digital-based conspiracy that affects all their lives (though as far as I can tell, doesn’t really have dire consequences for the rest of the world). You are essentially Morpheus in the first 20 minutes of the Matrix.

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Just in case you forget their names (not kidding, it’s actually really handy).

So the big question: how is the voice control? The answer: not bad. I only encountered two real problems with it and they were both easily solvable. The first was that I was speaking too fast for the recognition software to pick up anything. I solved this by slowing down my speech and being more clear (no shit). The reason I was even speaking fast in the first place was because There Came an Echo really puts you under the pump. There’s no pausing to give commands or survey the battlefield. It’s all in real-time. Which means you need to give concise and correct commands there and then, otherwise your squad members die. That being said, there’s still a bit of wriggle room as there’s no one-hit kills or anything like that. There Came an Echo has done really well to balance out combat pacing and excitement alongside a forgivable command system which still has consequences for bad, slow or incomprehensible commands.

My second problem was the character Miranda. While she’s a bit aggressive and heavy-handed with her insults, I can still tolerate her., but her personality wasn’t the issue, it was her name. Unfortunately, my accent causes her name to differ so greatly from what I’m guessing is the American pronunciation, that the system can’t recognise it (surprised it’s the only one really). It can be mighty frustrating when you can’t control one of you squad members. Iridium Studios has found a very clever and obvious work around for this which is an additional and optional remapping for all commands. Any future game based around voiced control needs to have this as it’s incredibly useless. Miranda is now called, “Mish”. The main character Corrin, I renamed Wheaton. My command to pull up the reference card is now, “…shoot, I mean go there, I mean… ah fuck it.”

And speaking of swearing loudly into a microphone, that will happen many times as the game provides a good amount challenge (as I mentioned, it’s all in real-time, something that a lot of games with squad-based strategy don’t actually have – did I mention I was playing a lot of Dragon Age II lately?). Having to position your team around certain points to avoid flanking while getting them to switch to the correct weapon and then shoot at the correct enemy is quite difficult to do by voice, but so satisfying and fun when things work correctly. Playing this game is a genuinely exciting experience.

That being said, the voice control isn’t perfect. I still have to repeat my orders every now and then and as the game constantly reminds me, shouting into the microphone is not the way to get your orders across. Still doesn’t stop from me from cursing Wheaton’s name when he asks me to repeat myself.

Yeah... a bit pop culturey, but still very accurate.
Yeah… a bit pop culture, but still accurate.

There Came an Echo does have a couple of niggly annoyances which pulls it away from being a truly great game. The game play relies on a waypoint system to move your squad around which is a really simple and intuitive way to play. Unfortunately, all way points are predetermined, you can’t create any new ones (unless this a feature I never encountered). If you want to move to a different corner from Alpha 1, then too bad.

And the graphics are far from amazing. While this is an indie game, I did expect something similar to XCOM: Enemy Unknown, or at least better. It’s not a big issue, but the situation isn’t helped by the fact that when talking, everyone looks like Abraham Lincoln from the 1963 Disney Land. And speaking of robotic talking, there is way too much exposition and cut scenes between missions. The story jumps around a little too much and actually shifts focus several times. It’s a little disorienting.

Do I recommend There Came an Echo? Yes, the game is fun, intense and exciting. And by using voice recognition, you feel slightly more immersed in the world and universe. You’re not longer a dude or dudette sitting a computer playing a game. You are a commander of a slightly disfunctional squad and you are in a position of power.

There Came an Echo is currently available on Steam and the Humble Store for $14.99.

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The next review in 3 weeks will be on the Blackwell series

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