May I Die Before I Give You Power Over Me...
...I Give You Power Over Me...
Science Fiction offers us a grand glimpse into the future. A future unknown, but that surely will be filled with all the genius of our unborn children’s greatest labors. Often we find flying cars, floating cities, spaceships, teleportation and are lured in by what marvels we’ll likely never get to see in our own lifetime.
Since its beginnings, the genre has grown to include many staples, and while artists are often thinking up wild new futures to explore, there are many bits and pieces that seem almost omnipresent in the genre. The faster than light spaceship. The solid light walkways. The laser weapons and teleporters and holographic interfaces. Sometimes a good Sci-Fi setting is built by honing these ideas to a level of near-realism, something we could imagine actually existing.
One of the best things about Science Fiction however is when it shows us something new, and paints it so beautifully that we feel like we’re there.
Echo is a meticulously rendered Sci-Fi world that draws you in right away. It starts small, with a spaceship. Not any spaceship, mind you, more like a sort of flying slab. It almost looks like a long rectangular metal sandwich, with a high-tech computerized middle. To put it simply, it’s a bit odd.
Next you hear a woman speak, with a posh yet jaded British accent. Her hair is short, platinum blonde (perhaps even white), curled but styled flat against her head like a 1920s flapper girl. She’s talking vaguely about rebelling against some kind of fate only to find herself forced to return to a world she had given up. There’s a disembodied voice, a man called London, who is not pleased with our Space-Flapper, who he refers to as En.
Wherever she’s headed, her goal appears to be reviving someone important. A man named Foster, who she believes now resides in a red cube that she has strapped to her back. London, however, doesn’t buy this.
London seems to talk as if he is a sentient being, though later describes himself as a “vessel”. He is along for the journey out of respect to this Foster character.
Even the sense of time in this world is strange. En has apparently been in stasis for a hundred years when she awakens at the start of our story. At one point London states that he’s been “criss-crossing” the universe for a thousand years, and that he had been with Foster for a century and a half, to which En replies that if they’d only been together one-hundred and fifty years, he hardly knew Foster at all. Though this Foster character is obviously blessed with some kind of inhumanly long life, he is treated like a contemporary of En, yet she appears to be only in her 20s. Whatever En is, she isn’t human, at least not by traditional standards. London refers to her, sneeringly, as a “Resourceful”. That’s a noun, not an adjective, mind you.
When they arrive at their destination, things get even more bizarre. Despite landing on what appears to be a planet, they find themselves in a massive structure that more resembles a palace. Staircases with winding bannisters, chandeliers, even pianos adorn the rooms. Not very Sci-Fi, but plenty intriguing.
And of course we get to the heart of the game, the hook, if you will. This place, a place that will somehow turn a red cube into a revived human, a place that somehow connects to a past En was trying to escape, seems to be sentient. It starts analyzing En, and soon strange creatures show up. Simple, slow creatures. As we proceed they start to evolve, first into abbreviated facsimiles of En, but eventually they become frightening clones of her. Echos that watch her, and learn from her, and process her tactics, only to mimic them. At first it’s little things like opening doors, walking across shallow water, but quickly it becomes more devious. Running around will find you surrounded by very fast and aggressive clones, sniping from afar will have you dodging bullets from across a room, stealth tactics will mean you have to watch your back. This becomes a tactical game when you realize that these Echos can un-learn tactics as well. Only during brief blackouts does your behavior go unnoticed by the palace’s analytics.
All of this compounds into what makes a beautiful and immersive experience. One that takes puzzling turns, makes you ask questions, makes you stop to think. What is this red cube? Who is Foster? How did he and En become close? What does this planet-sized palace in space have to do with En’s past, specifically her Grandfather who she talks about constantly? Why was she running away in the first place?
That is up to you to find out, of course. What I can say is that Echo has achieved an amazing sense of gravity, that draws you in until you’re racing down, crashing into the truth, like a doomed war-ravaged spacecraft. Like all the best of Sci-Fi worlds, it makes you wonder why, how, what is all of this? As a continuing universe it would be fascinating to explore. As a single piece, however, it is almost intoxicating in its mysterious wonder.
Echo is an absolutely mesmerizing experience that draws you in with a sense of gravity that is palpable. It is not only a brilliantly designed action adventure game, it is an immaculately designed mysterious universe that I desperately want to know more about.