My microphone is useful again
The microphone that came with my PS4 is without a doubt the most underused accessory I have. Yeah I might use it for chat and occasionally I might say “PlayStation” followed by the odd command, and by that I mean once on the day I bought my PS4. Apart from that it remains fairly unused. That, however, has changed thanks to Iridium Studios and their debut PS4 game There Came an Echo.
There Came an Echo is a voice-controlled real-time strategy game that has you/your voice assuming the role of Sam, a faceless operator who provides tactical support for a mysterious overseer Val. The first mission acts as a tutorial for you and also as an introduction to the story. Here you use your microphone to say “Yes” to Val and then tell her to shut up! After that Val contacts Corrin and tells him that some rather shady suits are after him. Why? Well he’s the creator of Radial Lock, an unbreakable encryption system, and they want him to break it or to kill him (either way it’s best not to stick around to find out which). For Corrin to escape you use simple voice commands to tell him which way to go to avoid these suits – it’s all very Matrix-esque. The game even has a ‘Took the red pill’ trophy that you will pop at the end of the level.
I don’t want to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of There Came an Echo by filling my review with spoilers so all I will say is that the plot of this game is nothing short of brilliant (really it’s better than a few Hollywood blockbusters I could mention). As the game progresses, the story unfolds with a few twists and turns and you’ll meet characters that join Corrin as he tries to find answers to exactly what is going on. As the game is heavily narrative focused it is no surprise that the voice acting in There Came an Echo is top notch, boasting a stellar cast that most big studios would be envious of. The main team of Corrin, Miranda, Grace and Val is voiced by Wil Wheaton (yep Star Trek: TNG’s very own Wesley Crusher), Laura Bailey (Nadine in Uncharted 4), Cassandra Lee Morris (Nana in God Eater 2) and Ashly Burch (Chloe in Life is Strange). Even Iridium Studios’ founder Jason Wishnov lends a hand providing the voice of Syll. So that’s a great plot, a great cast and There Came an Echo goes three for three as it also excels with its soundtrack. With music from You Tube keyboard sensation Ronald Jenkees and Jimmy “Big Giant Circles” Hinson, each piece of music works in tandem with the story so that every moment is heightened especially if you have the audio playing through your headset.
Listen to me, I’m a voice commander
As There Came an Echo puts you in the hot seat of a tactical commander, the voice recognition has to be pretty tight and (best Professor Farnsworth’s impression) good news, everyone, it is! The game’s early missions teach you how you select the characters, move them about, how to switch weapons and how to target enemies. This is all handled by having useful alphanumerical destinations tied to things that you interact with, having numbered targets and having simple precise commands like “fire” and “move to”. So you’ll soon get to grips with saying such things as “Corrin, move to Charlie Three and focus fire on Target Two”. You can even stack orders by adding the phrase “On my mark”. This is useful as you can use it to direct some of the team to one point while having the rest provide covering fire. Man I could wax lyrically about how good the voice recognition is for hours. It’s really accurate but don’t take my word for it; before you start the main story head to the War Room and try it for yourself. Also if you feel the need you can customise the voice controls even further by replacing the original commands with custom ones and the results are great. I tested this by changing “Corrin” to “Moonpie” and “Mark” to “Whippet” just so I could utter the phrase “Moonpie, move to Alpha Three, On my Whippet.” Then I watched in pure delight as the orders were obeyed when I initialised the command by saying “Whippet.”
The game not only works with English spoken language but it’s localised for other languages too. Spanish, French, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese and Russian dialect is also catered for. I did try out a bit of rather rusty French and Spanish and was able to direct my squad around easily so I have every confidence that recognition will be just as accurate in those languages as it is in English too. The voice controls work really well so I never felt the need to use the controller but if you decide that controlling the team via your voice isn’t for you then you can of course use the DS4. By using the D-pad you can activate squad members and from there you carry out commands by pressing X. This will bring up a radial of options which are selected by using the left thumb stick. If you hold down X you will see a cursor onscreen which you can use to quick-move to different points.
There Came an Echo has sixteen trophies, with one of these being a platinum. The list is pretty straight forward and to get that shiny new platinum you will need to take your team through the story’s ten missions, complete twelve waves in the War Room and even pop a Wil Wheaton related hidden trophy. Check out our trophy guide and walkthrough if you find yourself struggling with any of the trophies.
I initially had my doubts over how accurate the voice recognition would be given my thick Yorkshire accent, but when I dived straight into the War Room from the main menu and directed the squad around from point to point with ease, I knew then that this game was something special. The pace and unfolding of the story, the cast, the voice controls, the music and the graphics all combine to create an amazing experience. During the credits Archie Prakash tells us to “keep playing indie games” and this game is a fine example of why we should do just that. There Came an Echo is a genuine gaming masterpiece.
NelMaNo Rating – 9/10