Echo is one such title and while you may not have heard of it, it is being developed by some of the top brass from IO Interactive. The ex Hitman developers, now Ultra Ultra, are in the business of sci-fi suspense. And we should be taking notice. In an official document released to the press, Ultra Ultra states, “Leaving behind the enormous machinery of mainstream AAA – and the astronomical cost that comes with it – Ultra Ultra focuses on a product that is much more personal, and not based on market trends and user-research. We believe that this will be felt in the game, and hope for likeminded players to make this a viable strategy.”
The story of Echo is fairly straightforward from what we currently know. Our heroine, En, is in search of a power to bring back a lost loved one. Very similar to Hellblade. However, thematically, Echo could not be further from the stylings of Senua’s world. Players will find themselves in a beautifully designed sci-fi palace. As En will soon discover, not all is as it seems in this lavish setting.
Interestingly, Echo is playing with some A.I designs never before seen in a videogame. It is as if the palace itself is a living thing out to get En. Don’t go thinking twisted Evil Within stuff; Echo’s palace is much more subtle in how it deals with intruders like En. It will watch everything she does, then attack her with hostile clones of herself, behaving in exactly the same way. If players choose to run and gun, then so will her foes. If they jump from balconies then her foes will learn to pounce from above. Eat an apple to heal and your foes may run off in search of the same during a fight.
How is this gameplay possible without swamping the player in ten minutes? The palace observes En in cycles. At the end of a cycle, an ominous bass rumble can be heard as the lights go off for a period of time. It is during this blackout that En can do whatever she wants without being watched. A great opportunity to mop up some enemies. What makes this game so important is that it can be any genre you like. Want it to be an action shooter? Go right ahead! Or perhaps you’ll prefer to sneak around cover and snap necks. When you play how you want, you’ll make the game what you want it to be. That’s something truly special and unprecedented in the games industry.
With the skills of head developers from the Hitman franchise, you can be sure of a solid experience. The sci-fi themes found in Echo are distinctive and beautiful. Sadly, like most self published titles, Echo has not received much of a marketing push. Yet, what he have here is great voice acting, as displayed by Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie and beautifully designed levels. Here’s a gem that has likely gone under your radar. If you own a gaming PC, you can grab it now on GOG or Steam. Or you can wait until sometime in October when Ultra Ultra plans to release the game for PS4. Check out gameplay footage in the video below.