Echo was announced in August of 2016 as a third-person sci-fi action-puzzler—quite a description by any measure—about a woman named En who awakens from a century in stasis to find herself trapped inside a palace that's guarded by "Echoes" of herself. We've all been there. These echoes learn and mimic your behavior, but only the things you do in the light—and they can only "learn" during blackouts. Yes, it sounds weird (which I tend to see as a plus), but the new gameplay trailer released today by developer Ultra Ultra helps make a little more sense of it all.
It starts off looking like a fairly conventional third-person stealth game, with plenty of dodging behind pillars and creeping along low walls. But when it comes time to jack the first "collectible," the guys playing the game—game director Martin Emborg and designer Morten Hedegren—elect to rush in and shove the Echo aside, because it doesn't yet know how to react to the player's presence. That quickly sparks a blackout, as the computer controlling the palace reboots and the Echoes "learn." The AI can't learn while the lights are out so it's an opportunity for players to cut loose a little bit, but when they come back on enemies will be more capable and dangerous.
"[Crystal balls] are good for a few different things. You can throw them as distractions, you can throw them at them ... and you can also bludgeon them with it, which is an easy way of killing them but also something really dangerous to teach them," the narrator explains. He then goes ahead and does it anyway, saying with no real regret, "You have now given them the ability to kill you almost instantly."
Things go sideways pretty quickly after that: Emborg and Hedegren decide to blast their way out of a situation, which teaches the AI how to shoot, and while it's not especially good at it, fallen Echoes are brought back into action after each reboot, so killing your way through doesn't sound like a viable option. They ultimately make it out, but it seems like a fairly close thing.
It's hard to say how Echo will hold up over the long run, and the enemy AI comes off as a little spotty and simplistic at times—although I suppose that could be an intentional reflection of the in-game AI's limitations. But I do really like the premise, and the glittering design of the level works for me to. At the very least, I'd say it's a game to keep an eye on.
Echo will be out on September 19. Find out more at echo-game.com.