'Echo' Shines Bright Through the Darkness | Review
I'll be honest, I hadn't even heard of Echo until a few days ago, but once I started it I almost couldn't put it down. Echo is a third person, single-player narrative. It follows a female protagonist named En who is trying to resurrect her friend Foster.
Right off the bat, Echo feels massive. It takes you to a planet that is entirely one palace. You spend the game walking through it's extravagant and completely abandoned halls. The game is gorgeous to look at, and while it is enormous and complex, it subtly sends players down the right path with a near perfect level design.
Once you get the lights on, Echo turns into something entirely different altogether. The dark but beautiful halls light up. But like clockwork, the lights go out and when they come back on something has changed.
The first few times it was unsettling but benign: some decorative flowers here and there, breathable air, etc. About the fourth or fifth time, you'll notice black smudges growing and taking shape with each new blackout. A few more times they will start to look like you. This whole section of the game is incredibly well paced and does an extraordinary job keeping you on your toes.
Now that you have a well lit, massive palace, fully populated with evil clones trying to kill you, Echo takes another new and exciting turn. The power outages and screen blacks will still occur, but this time the change is to the AI. The environment will learn from every action you take in the light. Shooting the enemies is an effective way to kill them until the next blackout but also teaches them how to shoot.
It's possible to sprint or sneak past them but only until you teach them how to run fast or be stealthy themselves. The saving grace is the short few seconds you have when between the lights going off and your screen fading to black, where you can run, jump, shoot, open doors, be stealthy, or indeed any other activity. In those short few seconds the game will not learn how you play, but once the lights come back on, every enemy will return.
Besides this new twist, the gameplay is very intuitive. Weapons and powers feature a charging system, with collectibles increasing the number of charges you can use. Other collectibles reveal more of the story and your characters sad history.
Ultimately, this game reels you in with small bits of story sprinkled in with just the right amount. Is it a perfect game? No. The consistent black outs can break immersion. But with compelling and strategic game play, I couldn't be happier with this new take especially coming from an entirely new studio. At half the cost of a standard AAA title, I highly recommend checking this game out.
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