I started Echo since I was intrigued by its gameplay concept: stealth action against “Echoes” that copy your recent moves. Do a stealth takedown and the next cycle, you’ll have to worry about being taken down from behind by enemies. Shoot them, and be prepared to dodge energy blasts, and so on. While the game is far from the complexity of Hitman (part of the dev team worked on Hitman), you can see the stealth-action-puzzle roots in Echo, how you have to plan ahead and consider how your actions will affect you down the line,
But while the gameplay is intriguing and clever, and one of the few games that tackle the “AI learns and adapts to you” concept, Echo’s real treat has turned out to be its science fiction trappings. Far future transhumanism. Biologically engineered beings. A classic “big dumb object”. Sentient AI. Sprawling architecture straight out of Bowman’s 2001 bedroom. Echo’s imagery and story are actually its greatest strengths, delving into the culture and character of biologically engineered protagonist En through conversations with her ship AI companion London, voice-acted by Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie and Hellblade’s Nick Boulton. Even the Palace, the aware planet-size labyrinth of extravagant architecture and mythical technology that is Echo’s setting. becomes a character in itself, through its aggressive aesthetic and the oddly uneasy contrast between interior and exterior design and its mysterious purpose.
My biggest gripe so far has been that the beginning dragged on for much too long; if it was shortened, the opening would probably be one of my favorite openings in a recent sci-fi game, in how it progresses and gradually, creepily introduces its core ideas.
Purely judged as science fiction, it’s up there with Prey and Horizon IMO. Nothing else this year is tackling these concepts of transhumanism and such in as lean and confident a vision as Echo is. I’d might even call it “The Swapper” of 2017, not gameplay wise but in how it revolves around a single concept and delves deep into some really fascinating sci-fi concepts and themes with a surprisingly well-written and acted story.
And the main menu design is fantastic