“ECHO” is a third person adventure title by Ultra Ultra arriving on the Playstation 4 where you assume the role as En, voiced by Rose Leslie(Game of Thrones, The Good Fight), a woman who awakens after being in a hyper-sleep stasis for over 100 years. She is then greeted by an AI named London, voiced by Nicholas Boulton, a very bitter and passive aggressive AI constantly bringing up the death of London’s partner Fisher, in which En is responsible for. En believes there is a way to revive the fallen partner leading them to a remote planet long since has been abandoned. The story revolves around this theme of London believing that En’s personal ambiguity and faith that Fisher can be revived is ridiculous and typical of En’s kind, being a resourceful. It is later explained that a resourceful is a bred individual in which its’ purpose is to be hyper competitive in the hopes of going to “The Palace”. Eventually the location En and London find themselves in turns out to be none other that the palace and En takes it upon herself to explore the large and endless labyrinth in the hopes of reviving Fisher.
The story itself is well thought out. I personally loved every moment of the banter between London and En as they go through these immense locations and rooms. The witty and thoughtful banter makes for a very nice touch between the two characters as En blindly goes through the Palace while London consistently warns her of what could happen if she continues, frequently bringing up the possibility that Ens entire goal is a fool’s errand. The location and setting of the game is fantastic, I can’t begin to describe how architecturally gorgeous some of these locations are. The game first throws you on the surface of the planet, so old that it has begun to crumble. En eventually finds a way to descend down to the bottom of the planet to find an entrance. The first 20 minutes take place on scaffolds going down to the palace and I must say, I loved every minute of that. A lot of it was used in a way to have expository dialogue to better get you into the mindset of En and London but, at the same time, also making sure you’re not getting distracted by the obstacles.
The inside of the Palace was where the beauty kicks in. While the outside of the planet is reminiscent of “HR Giger-like” structures, the inside of the palace gives you a feeling of something out of a Stanley Kubrick film. The architecture and scope of the setting is insane but it does come as a double edged sword. During my time with the game I found that most of the time inside of the palace looked all too similar with each room i visited and it made me crave more chances to visit any location outside of the palace. The gameplay was the most unique part of the experience. Some rooms inside of the palace are occupied by shadow replicas of En in which they seem harmless at first, but after some time they will reset themselves causing them to adapt to whatever decision you make to get past them. You have a few things you can do to get past them; run right through them, sneak past them, try to shoot them all, or a variant of the three. It is your job to outsmart the ai enemies and find your way to the next room. Some levels have massive spikes in difficulty so parts of this game are not for the faint of heart. En takes 2 hits and dies so it is up to you to make sure to avoid the enemies, especially when they are in groups as they can take you out faster. In some heavily populated areas, shooting one enemy can trigger a handful of them to your location in which you need to avoid being cornered. In this game, being resourceful is key. You only have a set amount of stamina and energy for your pistol so thinking of a plan is not enough, you must be a step ahead of the ever changing AI. Dying repeatedly is the worst feeling in a different way, rather than the usual feeling of shame and disappointment one would have in themselves when they are stealthily taken out by a learning AI, the entire setting of beautiful architecture eventually takes the hit and that feeling of “awe” is eventually replaced with repetition.
“ECHO” does a great job at telling a story with interesting and likable characters in an unreal and stunning location. The gameplay difficulty sometimes gets in the way of that but all in all I had a very fun time going through each room to be rewarded by more dialogue between the two, and with ECHO recently being added on the Playstation 4, I would recommend this game to any fans of the scifi genre.