Tech News on G4
Flaws hurt There Came an Echo
June 29, 2016
By Alexander Cattani - G4 Canada
Iridium Studios’ successfully kickstarted title - There Came an Echo - aims to innovate on the fan favourite strategy genre by allowing gamers the opportunity to play the entire title using their voice. The game puts the player in the role of a tactical overseer, in command of a motley crew of specialists. The player’s job is to utilize their isometric perspective to dole out well-informed orders to their team on the ground. Whether it be successfully neutralizing enemies, manoeuvring through areas unseen, or knowing when to fall back, all commands made by the player must be meticulously ordered to ensure a successful mission.
In addition to knowing when to voice commands, assessing each area’s tactical potential is just as intrinsic when it comes to completing objectives. Knowing where the best cover is and what patterns enemy units trail is something you’ll quickly learn to observe. Simply charging in guns blazing would only result in failure. In addition to a compatible microphone for the voice control mechanic to work, patience, keen observation and a penchant for strategy are also required to ensure victory.
The unique hook in Echo lies within its aforementioned voice recognition technology. The entire game can be played using voice commands via a headset. Though, it should be noted that controller support is also available for those who wish to play the title in a more traditional way. When the voice recognition works, barking orders at squad mates while they affirm your commands and subsequently follow through with them feels as satisfying as it sounds, and certainly holds novelty.
Unfortunately, I personally experienced a roughly 70% success rate when it came to the title recognizing my spoken commands.= Even when I’d clear my throat and make sure to speak in a clear manner, the game would seemingly identify some of my commands as incoherent mumbles and not pick them up. This issue was made all the more problematic due to the pace in which combat moves at. Characters and enemies trade fire and run for cover in real time, leaving very little room for error when it comes to squad management. An example of the voice recognition system’s shortcomings occurred when a command I ordered for my units to fall back didn’t get recognized.
After realizing that my repeated bellows were futile, I simply just watched helplessly as my entire team proceeded to get wiped out. If Echo’s combat were instead turn-based, the aforementioned issue wouldn’t be nearly as glaring.
From a narrative perspective, There Came an Echo fails to add anything of substantial value to the over all package. A mysterious antagonist is after skilled coders for what can be assumed to be devious ends. As the roughly five hour campaign moves forward, new characters and plot twists reveal themselves. After about two hours into the campaign, I couldn’t help but not care about what was happening, in regards to narrative. I deeply tried to invest myself but each attempt failed as the overly dramatic vocal performances and underwhelming script continuously pulled me out of the experience.
Lines of dialogue are poorly delivered and the majority of the voice work comes off as noticeably overacted, resulting in a majority of the cast failing to be likable. Their lines of dialogue, which primarily consist of joshing one another, making awkwardly timed jokes, and complaining about their particular situations resulted in many an eye-roll and ultimately failed at getting me to care about them or their motivations.
It would be disingenuous to claim that There Came an Echo didn’t provide me with anything worthwhile. Though its voice recognition software is far from perfect, and its narrative poor, the originality that lies within the game’s core mechanic is adequately impressive, at least from a conceptual point of view. Some fine tuning to the voice recognition software and a couple of re-writes to the script would have easily elevated There Came an Echo to a higher pedigree.
There Came an Echo
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