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Echo (PS4) Review

November 17, 2017 | Posted by Genna Boyer
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Echo (PS4) Review  

In Echo, I hesitate to open doors. When I must, I do, but not without cringing as a ghostly imprint of myself crystalizes in the very spot I was just standing. It fades, and another takes its place as I drop two stories, only to be surrounded by enemies who are locked behind doors.

I sigh, thankful for the respite. Suddenly, the lights flicker and a blackout ensues. I’m halted in my tracks and awaken to find my enemies, copies of me, opening the doors to their previously self-determined jails.

The multitude of copies eerily rush me. My arsenal is plentiful: I could stun them, shoot them, or run away from them. Despite the many options that should offer me relief, my concern rises as I carry out my well-calculated plan. As the copies of me fall, the Echoes watch and learn from the best: me.

Story-wise, Echo delves into sci-fi exposition full-throttle with protagonist, En, at the helm. En, a young woman who was recently awoken from a hundred year stasis, is searching for a way to bring a friend named Foster back to life with the help of London, who is this universe’s version of JARVIS. En dons a suit similar to that of Iron Man’s, except it’s considered “archaic” in this era, and the pair set off in an impressive spacecraft in search of a Palace.

Once found, the Palace is determined to be a planet-wide structure. Crumbling debris on the outside creates an illusion of desolation, while the inside is a sculpture of the most decadent architecture featuring pristine marble walls and golden fixtures. It’s also hauntingly empty of anything humanoid. Despite the appearance of wealth, the Palace didn’t pay its electric bill, so the first mission is to turn on the lights. As En plays electrician, she triggers a sporadic lightshow throughout the Palace, introducing light cycles, blackouts, and the birth of the Echoes.

London often refers to En as a Resourceful, someone who received special training from En’s grandfather to navigate through Palaces. Resourceful is what you’ll need to be to safely navigate the sterile landscape that’s been populated by twisted versions of En. En’s suit is powered by cells, which can be replenished and expanded on by collecting Suns and orbs. Every action the suit carries out depletes cells, and only one cell can recharge itself, so resource management is key.

However, to call Echo stealth-based is a misnomer. It’s true that En possesses some stealthy abilities, but the light cycles make it nearly impossible to stick to a purely stealth tactic. The Palace records your moves in the current light cycle. A blackout ends Palace learning, but Echoes are still able to bring you down. When the new light cycle begins, the Echoes mirror En’s moves from the previous cycle, which means a stealthy En produces stealthy Echoes, and it’s a pretty terrifying experience.

It’s totally possible to be stealthy in Echo. It’s just not the focus, especially when a room is full of Echoes and there’s nowhere to hide. That’s why I consider Echo to be an action-adventure with gameplay based on survival. Each light cycle forces you to adapt to your enemies and your surroundings, as well as manage your resources on the fly and acclimate yourself to the Palace’s learning curve. Sometimes, your best bet is to run and push Echoes out of your way, and that’s not the stealthiest strategy in the world.

What do I want the Echoes to learn? What do I want them to forget? You’ll be considering it all as you collect items: orbs, Voices, keys. You know, the normal stuff. Voices serve as bits of lore you pick up as you go. I unfortunately didn’t discover them all, so the mysterious note that pops up after each elevator is activated was never readable. Instead, the Voices continue their sound-waving antics, but the mystery promotes further exploration and a clear purpose of the collectables.

The lore is a bit difficult to follow in the beginning. However, the tiny bits of dialogue between En and London that are sprinkled along with gameplay make it more manageable to understand. Their banter is genuinely intelligent and amusing. Of course, it also fills in lore gaps, which is arguably more interesting than the repetitive objectives of key and orb retrieval. Regardless of the repetitive nature of the objectives, the lore and the gameplay largely overshadow this fault, and the endless possibilities of survival will keep you engaged throughout.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
If you want a stealth game, stick to HITMAN. If you want interesting lore, a gorgeous location, stimulating gameplay, and a refreshing concept of enemy adaptation that outperforms the annoyance of repetitive goals and post-blackout lag, then you’ll find it here.

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Echo, Genna Boyer