By Phil Schipper / March 24th, 2015
|Title||There Came An Echo|
|Release Date||February 24, 2015|
The human voice has power. That power is the theme that holds together the new real-time strategy game, There Came An Echo. Its gameplay is itself powered by the human voice, which is why the natural first question everyone wants to ask is: how well does that work?
The answer is, well… it works OK. The idea of There Came An Echo is to order your team members to move around the battlefield, focus on specific targets and switch weapons by giving voice commands. You call out the unit’s name, then the order using the traditional military alphabet to specify strategic points on the map. You can also add “on my mark” to prepare a strategy ahead of time, executing it at the moment you choose.
In my experience, these commands worked about 90% of the time. Admittedly, that’s really good for a voice recognition-based system. However, in some of the precise combat situations the game expects you to get through, you can’t really afford to fail at the other 10%. This resulted in having to retry a lot of the situations multiple times for the wrong reasons — the system either rejected my commands because it “couldn’t understand” them, or worse, misheard them and did something else. Obviously, that made me pretty frustrated, making my voice less and less understandable to the game as I got angrier.
After that point, I turned on the push-to-speak option and never pressed that key again. Instead, I learned the mouse and keyboard controls for the game by myself, since the game’s tutorials never covers anything except voice commands. Those, too, had some weird quirks that I had to get through, and, even when I got the hang of it, it was still slower because, after clicking, another character’s voiceover came to give the order, and then the unit acted.
The bumpy ride that is There Came An Echo begins when you and your partner, Val, make a special call to a seemingly normal office worker named Corrin. Val informs him that a group of agents is coming to attack him, and you guide him quickly out of harm’s way. Along the way, some really unlikely help joins in to fight alongside Corrin, protecting the top-secret information behind his revolutionary security system. As more details about that information come to light, the crew is dragged into a tale of genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and so much more.
Along the way, you’ll find yourself covering a pretty wide variety of mission types, from stealth to escape to base defense, all the way up to straight-up shootouts. Each character under your command carries a few different weapons for different purposes, some of which require energy to use. However, that same energy is used to power their shields, and each character only has two recharge batteries. Thus, you have to use those recharges, and the stronger weapons, only at the most crucial moments. Meanwhile, most levels put you at a disadvantage if you keep all your characters gathered in one place, so you’ll often have to keep track of this across separate parts of the level. It gives a sense of urgency that can actually be a lot of fun when it works out.
The sound of this game is obviously pretty important, so, naturally, the developer got the best of the best for the job, including the voices of greats like Wil Wheaton, Laura Bailey and Yuri Lowenthal. (I’ll be honest — the cast was one of the main reasons I was interested in this game from the start.) They don’t disappoint. Accompanied by a solid music score that’s one part thriller and one part science fiction — just as the game itself is — the result is a game that just sounds great all the way through.
It’s pretty impressive graphically, too. Generally, in my experience, RTS games don’t seem to place much importance on things like the visuals of individual units. However, because this game operates with individual characters important to the story, rather than faceless drones, they all get a lot of love. You can see what I mean in the game’s screenshots, especially in the cutscenes.
Unfortunately, the story is linear and only about five hours long, making it hard to justify the $14.99 USD price. That’s not what bugs me, though. I could rant and rave about how much good content was packed into that time — but, ultimately, all the eye and ear candy, all the brilliance of the strategy in the game, and all the enjoyment of the story is just crippled by the game’s frustrating controls. There Came An Echo was so close to being a phenomenal game. It’s really too bad one aspect had to ruin it.
Review copy supplied by the publisher.
iridium gamesPCreal-time strategyThere Came an Echo