For many years video games have been pushing towards the perfect Artificial intelligence, and stealth-puzzle survival title Echo takes that one step further, glancing into the future with the ultimate AI.
After an impressive title screen showing a close up view of an Eyeball that looks around the screen as you move to highlight the menu options, You begin the game with our protagonist En is in search of a mysterious planet and after a century plus of stasis, she awakens to have a chat with her ships obnoxious AI London before embarking to explore the planet.
After some bare-bones puzzle solving, you progress onto the planet with your trusty companion cube, this mysterious red box doesn’t speak, but it’s said to home the soul of a friend who also worked with your ships AI,
With a few clues from your grandfather and mixed opinions of En from both herself and London, it’s a slow start to the Tomb Raider styled ‘Discovery’ mission.
After a short time you’ll finally find your way into the palace, surrounded with Ivory, gold and marble, it’s initially a dimly lit sparkling monolith that looks like the cleaners have only just left.
With a little more exploration and your fair share of following waypoints, the palace suddenly boots up, with power filling the halls and lighting up the world around you, there’s periodic blackouts which you’ll initially think nothing of but before very long the pristine surroundings are tarnished by strange black masses.
With each blackout these black masses start to grow, move and take a more human shape. Before you know it, you’re surrounded by numerous Echo’s of En, in shape, size and limited ability, thankfully you, the real En has a handy pistol which can be used to take down these shadowy beings, and while limited to one or two shots before a lengthily recharge, careful positioning will take down anything in it’s line of sight.
Echo soon starts to evolve, as do your doppelganger friends, a beautiful room filled with pools showcase the limitation of the enemies as you sneak gaining their attention with a press of the Triangle button before shooting numerous and silently taking others down from behind. However one blackout later, and things take a sudden twist, these creatures are evolving, and now they can walk through water, move much quicker and send back their own fire-power.
It’s a sudden and definite difficulty spike which calls for smart stealth and thinking, it soon becomes clear that any new trick you might learn yourself, you’ll soon have to be cautious of as the ever evolving enemy adapts with every blackout.
Sadly this is also around the point where you realize you’ve done very little apart from run from A to B and collect a few orbs, the story is very thin on the ground and remains that way, but the unique evolution of the enemy keeps things interesting, while short Echo does encourage multiple play-through’s, but most people will take a very similar route on their own progression which will ultimately produce a few similar outcome with the AI sandbox.
Graphically Echo is a pretty impressive package, time and time again I look back at the menu screen and the lasting impression that left on me, but inside the game while all very polished and visually appealing it’s also disappointing that there’s very little difference from one hall to the next, some might have a little more decoration, others might be slightly more clad in marble than ivory, but you can look at a screenshot from the first section, through to the end and only the level of evolution of those pesky beings are any indication as to how far through the game you are.
Audio takes a step forward, with some great voice acting between En and London, There’s the expected sound effects and your weapon carries a weighty punch to it. and while it’s otherwise quite barren the eerie spa music is enough to help you feel quite relaxed and tranquil in places, while threatened and pursued in others with the addition of a threat detecting orb surrounding En, it all adds to a hostile atmosphere that makes you feel in danger and as the AI continues to evolve your stealth and defense will need to remain one step ahead.
Echo is an ambitious look at how AI can evolve throughout a game, the core story isn’t the best and the repetitive level design are thankfully eclipsed by the ever evolving threat of doppelgangers.
Gameplay : 8.5
Graphics : 8
Sound : 8.5
Story : 6.5
Value : 7.5
Overall : 7.8 / 10