Review: Lone Echo
Space exploration done right.
The universe is full of limitless possibilities which is why it’s such a popular avenue for videogame developers. And that’s very much true for virtual reality (VR) creators, although immersive zero-g environments do pose a new set of obstacles when trying to eliminate simulator sickness. There are plenty of titles out there that have tried to simulate weightlessness with varying degrees of success, but with the recent launch of Lone Echo by Ready at Dawn those issues seem to have been addressed, with a full blown experience that truly allows players to enjoy a story-driven, free-roaming environment in comfort.
As an exclusive title for Oculus Rift and Touch, Lone Echo perfectly showcases how a beautiful cinematic experience can be achieved in VR, from the storyline, to the graphics through to the gameplay, all of it’s been worked together to create a videogame of epic proportions.
To make a successful space-based title Ready at Dawn had to overcome the biggest obstacle, and that’s movement. It wouldn’t matter how pretty everything looked if you could only stand to be in the experience for a few minutes at a time. There are three types of movement available in Lone Echo, all of which have various uses. The first (and main one) is that of touch. You’ll notice handles are everywhere, these can be grabbed and used to pull yourself about on – pretty much any surface is usable in fact – enabling you essentially swing around almost like you’re Tarzan. Such is the accuracy of the system that it becomes second nature to clamber around the compartments of the space station, moving from one room to the next with ease.
As you progress through, two further options are unlocked. Playing as a robot you’re equipped with two little boosters on each wrist, which can be used for shorts bursts – they then quickly recharge. These offer the fine movement control in Lone Echo meaning you don’t need to grab anything to move. Then as you progress outside, into the bleak cosmos you’re then equipped with a backpack that can thrust you forward at greater speed for those bigger distances and an immediate brake. Whilst the combination of all three provides everything you’ll need to happily wander around in zero-g, it’s the seamlessness of their operation that makes the gameplay so fluid and comfortable.
Lone Echo is a highly story driven adventure but that doesn’t mean it’s linear. Throughout the videogame you’re given opportunities to decide what you’d like to do next, from the early training sections that teach you about your various abilities to wandering around the station – both inside and out – looking for these little cubesat’s that help unlock further info. Yes, you do have main objectives that need to completed to move everything along but there’s a continual feeling of ease to everything you do – even in sections that require a bit of haste – so you can explore and take in the majesty of it all.
While looks don’t make for an excellent experience – some of the best VR titles have a wonderfully simple aesthetic – it’s hard not to appreciate how gorgeous Lone Echo looks. From the detailing inside the space station to the first time you get to leave and see Saturn in all of its wonder, you’d be hard pressed to find a better looking VR experience.
Ever since it’s first unveiling at Oculus Connect 3 (OC3) last year, Lone Echo has been one of those massively talked about titles that you wonder if it could ever live up to the hype. Well in this instance it does. Ready at Dawn has created an experience that every Oculus Touch owner needs in their library, with the only negative point to the whole experience being that it ends.