There Came An Echo is a squad-based and voice controlled real time strategy game that takes place in a technologically advanced future. The player commands up to four units at a time against enemies throughout the course of the game’s 10 mission campaign. That’s the basic breakdown, but the reality of the game is much more beautiful and impressive.
The story in There Came An Echo is very well told. The player’s character, Sam, enters the world along with another character named Val. Both survey an office building where they find the main character, Corrin, working attentively at a computer. Corrin is a cryptographer and has developed a tool known as Radial Lock. This unbreakable algorithm, Val reveals, is safeguarding something that an unknown enemy wishes to obtain. With that brief explanation, Val warns Corrin that assailants are quickly navigating the building to apprehend him. Through the game’s voice command system, the player prompts Corrin on where to go during his harried flight from his office as he’s pursued by shadowy enemies with futuristic energy weapons.
From here, the game’s story adds new characters as Val, Sam, and Corrin unravel the mysteries of their hidden enemies and the secrets protected by Radial Lock. Moreover, what the characters find stands to challenge the very understanding of what it means to be human in this sci-fi story. It’s an utterly enthralling plot, though the speed and amount of reveals, twists, and revelations made me feel like I was binge watching an entire season of a show on Netflix in a single sitting. Admittedly, I did play the entirety of There Came An Echo in one instance.
I have to admit, I was stunned the voice recognition system. It should be broken down and analysed to benefit the whole of the video game industry, as it puts the likes of Microsoft’s Kinect and Tom Clancy’s End War to shame. There were no major issues I came across during gameplay, the voice recognition impressively consistent and un-waveringly reliable. Not only do commands just work, but the command phrases are customisable. Instead of prompting prepared on-my-mark actions from your team with the standard “mark,” the player could enter commands such as “make it so” or “execute.”
The foreignness of operating an entire game with voice commands quickly becomes exciting as the scenarios for the player become more complicated and challenging. There were definitely a few times during my play-through when the game prompted me to say a command more quietly after barking a command. The verbal aspect of the game leads not only leads to original experience, but also to a new sense of immersion I haven’t experienced in a game before. There were times during the final missions where I found myself tripping over my own words as I hurried to issue multiple commands to multiple units. In a thoughtful development consideration, the game also features mouse controls so that with a simple click or set of clicks, the play can change weapons for a character or move them to a different position.
The art style of There Came An Echo is very clean and polished, and both characters and effects move around on screen without issue. The levels are often dark, metallic, and synthetic looking but in a way that reflects the fact that the game takes place in the future. In many instances, the player is in some kind of a base or safe house. Floor panels and walls are muted while bright lighting effects from the various visual displays, character shields, and energy weapons dance across them beautifully. The game probably won’t win any innovation awards for its art design, but everything in the visual category is very solid.
The level design is varied and never dull. Players can expect to see long base assault missions and designs with long-distance turrets in mind. The more interesting levels include objective capturing instances, where the player must traverse back and forth across a large area while fighting waves of enemies, and become more complicated and add more features as the player learns to use more weapons and tools. Land mines, alarm terminals, and weapons with differing capabilities all transform how new levels can be approached. Again, like the art direction, everything is very solid, but the visuals and levels are really just a vehicle to show off the intriguing story and the incredible voice commands.
While the visuals and level design hit a par for current generation games, the soundtrack, voice-acting, and sound effects for the game help it to ascend to a higher tier. The main character Corrin is voiced by Wil Wheaton, with other characters voiced by the likes of Ashly Burch, Laura Bailey, Yuri Lowenthal et al. All of the voice-acting is well don, believable, and painfully human. Through their words, it’s not difficult to feel their confusion, anguish, joy, and shock.
If the voice-acting wasn’t enough, the game has a completely original soundtrack which adds to the suspense and intensity of the game. The pulse-pounding, epic music reminded me a bit of Mass Effect’s score, but with more soul. The sound effects for the game were also spot on as energy weapons zaps and electric shields thrum. To get a feel for the game’s auditory excellence, just watch this trailer.
I enjoyed the story and new style of game play of There Came An Echo so much that I couldn’t step away from the computer. Unfortunately, the game didn’t last terribly long as I finished the entire campaign in about five hours. There is a combat challenge outside of the main story called The War Room which lets the player face increasingly difficult waves of enemies, and this does add some gameplay hours to the total package. The game was undoubtedly high quality, but with no filler and a very short campaign, I was left wanting more. I would definitely pick up a sequel as soon as the game gets released.
Overall, I would highly recommend There Came An Echo to just about anyone. From the amazing voice commands to the creative story to the impressive music, voices, and sound, There Came An Echo is a game worth everyone’s time. For all of the quality that’s packed into it, I also can’t find fault in the standard $14.99 USD price point on Steam. You can also find it on PS4 following its release earlier this year.
Tyler Davis is a freelance journalist and contributor to PN2. Go say hi @TDavis179