Ready at Dawn has been aligned with Oculus VR since last year’s ‘Step into the Rift’ event, in which Oculus Touch was first revealed. However, more than a year later we were still to learn exactly what the studio had been working on. Today, the silence has been broken, and in Lone Echo, no one will hear you scream.
Lone Echo is a videogame that has been built to take full use of the unique advantages of virtual reality (VR), and specifically Oculus Touch. Playing as an artificial intelligence aid to captain Olivia Rhodes, the videogame is set in deep space in the year 2126. The player has a limited amount of abilities and throughout the demonstration version of Lone Echo received only simple tasks to complete and an introduction to the characters, but the core aspect of the videogame was given the debut it deserved.
The environments in Lone Echo are all delivered with low gravity. Momentum is important in order to traverse from one area to another, but despite being a bi-pedal robot you will not be walking. Instead, the player uses Oculus Touch to represent their automaton’s hands, and pulls/pushes themselves through the deep space landscape.
Lone Echo’s hands that are crafted to indicate placement of touch and grip are remarkable. The feeling of connection to the environment is natural and instinctive: there’s a wall; push against it. There’s a handle; grab it. Need to traverse a long distance? Push yourself against the wall with an opposing force to the direction you wish to travel. Lone Echo is arguably a jungle gym simulator as much as it is a videogame at present.
And in that lies something truly unique. The feeling of weightlessness – despite standing on your own two feet – is both regular and visceral. ‘Presence’ has been a bi-word of VR for some time, and in fleeting moments Lone Echo achieves this with its singular traversal mechanic. There’s a genuine sense that the floppy robotic legs dangling in front of you as you push away from a wall and send you body soaring are yours: you are no longer standing on the floor of a crowded convention centre, you are floating in space.
Some basic menial tasks were also provided during the demonstration: fly here, move this, use your wrist-mounted laser to cut through this panel. However, this element felt somewhat malnourished compared to the obvious effort spent ensuring the motion and movement achieved its goals. Lone Echo is set to be a narrative lead experience, so there’s plenty of opportunity for this aspect of the videogame to be fleshed out into something more substantial.
Built utilising Ready at Dawn’s internal engine, Lone Echo is a visually astounding videogame. On par with Robo Recall as one of the best looking videogames – not just in VR, but the medium as a whole – ever witnessed. Captain Rhodes is a believable character and the locales visited thus far, though typical science-fiction clinical and sparse, are presented in such a way that every surface feels genuine, as though you can connect with it and were intended to do so (and indeed, you can).
Lone Echo will also feature a multiplayer mode, however this has not yet been revealed. VRFocus will be getting hands-on with this aspect and more of the single-player campaign in due course ,and will keep you updated with all the latest details.