Thoughts On There Came An Echo
I recently completed a game called There Came An Echo by Iridium Studios, a sequel to the game Sequence. I’d never played Sequence before and it didn’t seem necessary for me to be able to follow and enjoy the game. There Came An Echo is a real-time strategy following a general sci-fi story, while Sequence is a role-playing rhythm game providing a back story to one of the characters.
One of the main selling points of There Came An Echo is the fact that it uses voice recognition. You can use a number of built in commands to tell the characters what to do, such as moving between points on the map and switching weapons. This works by calling their name followed by the command. I felt a little odd talking to the computer at first, but it was a really fun and novel feature. For the most part the voice recognition worked better than I was expecting, although there was the odd finicky moment where they performed the wrong command or just wouldn’t listen. Luckily the game comes with voice calibration and you can also change the words used for each command. One of the characters was called Syll for instance and as the game didn’t seem to pick up on the name very easily I changed it to ‘cat,’ which worked much better. Another nice little touch is that you can navigate through the game menus using voice commands also. It feels pretty cool being able to tell the game when you want to pause or exit.
Unfortunately, as a strategy game There Came An Echo falls a bit short. It felt like I had very little choice on how to approach a situation and most of the scenarios were quite straightforward. This could be due to the fact that simplicity had to be maintained in order to implement the voice recognition. I think using speech – especially when I had to repeat myself – also resulted in slower reaction times compared to just clicking with a mouse or using the keyboard. It is possible to play the game without using the voice recognition, but this is one of the main features of the game. There were a couple of really fun missions though, including a defensive one where you could change the aim of a couple of turrets and detonate mines. On a side note, my first attempt at playing this game was waylaid by a rare bug that stopped my characters from using their weapons properly. I think the developers have been working to patch this, but I did have to restart.
As a story it is full of mysteries and twists, focussed around a set of really strong characters. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but as it is a short game (I was able to complete it in one sitting,) it felt like there wasn’t enough time spent building up to the finale. I’d have liked a bit more of an explanation in places. One of the other aspects that drew me to this game was the quality of the voice acting, including the names Will Wheaton (from Star Trek) and Laura Bailey (Final Fantasy XIII.) The soundtrack is pretty good too. It all seems to be very well thought out and of a good quality.
Overall, There Came An Echo is a worthwhile experience for the current price of £10.99, although it is a bit on the short side and lacks replay value. Strategy fans may also find it disappointing as this game feels fun more for the novelty of the voice recognition than that of the mechanics themselves. That being said, I would like to see more games attempting to use voice recognition and expanding upon the ideas shown in There Came An Echo. The end credits also have a treat in store.