There Came an Echo by Iridium Studios is a difficult game to talk about as your experience is going to be based on how well it controls for you. There Came an Echo was a Kickstarter funded game based around the idea that your voice controls the troops, instead of a keyboard or controller. Yelling out something such as ‘Corrin move to Alpha 2’ or ‘Syll focus on target 1’ causes the soldiers to do that action.
Which brings it to its strength and its weakness: the game is based on this gimmick. If you don’t think it would be a fun idea and would rather just control everything via mouse and keyboard, the game doesn’t work. If you are interested in shouting orders to your men, but worried about rather or not the voice recognition would actually make this game work… That’s the tricky question.
I have a quiet house with a decent desk microphone that is a bit quiet but picks up words well enough that it isn’t a problem. There Came an Echo voice recognition worked very well for me, but your mileage may vary depending on your own situation. It offers a push to talk, microphone calibration, and control over what words are actually said to cause an action, but I only got to test based on my own personal environment. If you have a noisy area where you computer is, or a microphone that isn’t very good, I can not tell you how different of an experience it might be.
They also had to make a few concessions in order to make voice commands work. Cover is automatic based upon proximity to a place, you can only go where they pre-set locations, there’s a delay between saying an order and an order being done. These are all required to make sure you can actually use voice command, but limit some strategic depth that could otherwise be there.
In order to prevent being completely confused on what to do, There Came an Echo has it so that most engagements in the game give you time to see where each person can go. They tend to simply let you plan your attack for as long as you like before anything actually happens. They also kept missions short, often times only taking 10-15 minutes to complete. This is partially due to another mechanic where healing ist limited, but likely also to prevent exhaustion or having issues with commands. There’s an entire explanation at the beginning of the game explaining that yelling will reduce the chances of it recognizing what you want.
After all of that, the game is very engaging. It had to make sacrifices to make sure voice commands work, but it does work. Custom commands were implemented to make it work in some very amusing ways. It’s one thing to say open fire, it’s completely another to bring out your best general voice and yell out ‘Kill them all!’ or being inane and renaming locations from military lingo to names like pickle 1 or raptor 8. It has a bit of a learning curve to get used to saying commands, but once you do There Came an Echo works well.
The actual gameplay is relatively simple, each character can have a pistol and up to two other guns. The guns that aren’t the pistol take part of the character’s shields to use, one shot without a shield and the person is instantly knocked out. There’s the charge gun, a grenade launcher made for taking out a group of enemies. The screw gun, made for suppressing a target so they can’t fire at you. The sniper rifle, strong but unable to fire if you are hit while aiming. The rail gun, a high cost, high damage weapon made for taking out someone very quickly if you get to flank them. Changing weapons is as simple as saying ‘Corrin charge’ or for those who have my maturity, ‘Miranda and Grace screw.’
Missions are generally simply kill everyone. They give you enough locations in each place to allow for you to quickly spread out and flank, or hover behind a variety of cover and have a gunfight. To keep it quick, there’s a command for retreat or hold fire to stay behind cover should someone get low. It keeps itself simple, using the idea that you have to yell at your soldiers to cause actions to make it work well.
After a few hours of playing There Came an Echo, it became second nature to have an engagement be split between having someone suppress the biggest gun while someone with a charge gun focused on removing the biggest group and the other two members focusing on the strangler just outside the rest. The control scheme works with surprising accuracy for voice recognition. Only once throughout the entire game did someone not understand my orders to the point of frustration. After a quick change in the customization menu, that never happened again.
This surprised me personally, as the voice recognition works out exceptionally well. There was rarely a time they did something I did not want them to do, and by the end of the game I felt as if I was able to micromanage my soldier's at an extremely fast speed that easily rivaled a keyboard and mouse. Often times the only issue slowing me down was figuring out which target was 1, and which was 7.
There Came an Echo has one very serious problem in the end: it’s short. There’s only 10 missions total, this reviewer ended up beating it in about four and a half hours. There’s extra content in the war room which is based on surviving as long as possible, or setting it to a higher difficulty, but ultimately it doesn’t take very long to finish.
The story keeps itself based heavily on character development and philosophy that is surprisingly well written and very well voice acted. It keeps itself focused and has good pacing between scenes, although the majority of the cutscenes are unskippable, making a second play through more of a chore than it otherwise needed to be.
Where There Came an Echo truly shines is the musical score by Ronald Jenkees and Big Giant Circles. It is an excellent foreboding soundtrack that mixes together a small amount of techno to create a very memorable science fiction soundtrack. The soundtrack is worth considering even if you are not interested in There Came an Echo.
Ultimately whether or not you would want to buy There Came an Echo is summarized in a question: are you interested in a strategy game based on commanding with words alone? If the answer is yes, it does the job excellently. Short, but a great experience throughout the entire campaign using a control scheme that is both unique and very well made that does allow for surprisingly fast actions. If the answer is no, you would get frustrated with the game as it is a relatively simple strategy game that doesn’t have much length. If you are unsure, and don’t fully trust voice recognition software, it’s 15 dollars that will likely go on sale. It’s well worth a try just to see how far we’ve come for a technical standpoint.
This game was purchased by the reviewer and reviewed on PC.
A unique control scheme that was put a great deal of care to do correctly, shame the game it very short and a little bit simplistic in a few ways or it could have been excellent.