There Came An Echo: Review - Games Weekly

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

There Came An Echo: Review

It’s always important to cherish innovation. Gaming more than any other entertainment medium thrives on its own potential, growing alongside the technological advances of the time. And so it’s important to recognise innovation for what it is, because though it might not always succeed, it’s worth the recognition that at least someone tried. That, sadly, is the case for There Came An Echo,a game whose clear purpose is to enable a new way of playing by commanding units in an RTS situation with the power of the voice. Yes, you are that echo.

The structure of the game is simple enough: you’ll encounter a series of stages viewed from an isometric viewpoint where you guide your squad members from cover to cover, directing their aimat packs of enemies, picking their weapons and even telling them when to reload. There’s a host of recognisable names for the voice acting so recognisable they take up a large portion of the opening, in fact and this helps make for a compelling storyline. Pretty much every character maintains that ‘quirky’ sense of ambivalent sarcasm that is oh-so-popular in gaming these days, but there’s enough distinction to make them  compelling all the same.

The problem comes in the battles themselves. Due to the voice-driven nature of the game, everything is command based so while it does mean you have a more immediate control over the combat, it actually ends up a little too fast-paced to be manageable. There are moments such as when you have the initiative to begin a gunfight where it does feel empowering. Issuing a set of individual weapon swaps, targets and move commands to exact on your say so makes for a subtle sort of thrill as you watch the different characters race into action on your mark. Similarly there are moments in the game when they’ll directly refer to you, and if you respond, they will in kind; ignore for a second that you’re sat alone in the dark talking to fictional characters and you’ll find yourself drawn in by the directness of your input. But it’s all rather bumblesome after that initial spurt: you need distinct pauses between different commands, and events happen just a little too quickly to be manageable through voice commands. Detection works more often than not, but if you’re hoping to manage every action and on harder difficulties you’ll need to then there are just too many orders to give to make sure you survive.

It’s possible to use a mouse and keyboard, too, but this just highlights the problem further. Here it’s even more finicky since it retains its command-based design, so for example you’re right clicking a waypoint to move to, choosing an option from a menu and letting the programmed voice call it out for you an unnecessary, obtuse equivalent to simply clicking the spot you want to move to. It only draws closer attention to the fact that voice control just isn’t an improved method of input over just pointing at something and making it happen, but the effort is a worthy one.


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