Looking back at my childhood, I remember spending countless hours on toy soldiers and toy cars. I’d take them on adventures and battles, letting my imagination run wild. There Came an Echo reminds me of those times. There Came an Echo is a real-time strategy game that lets you control 4 soldiers using voice commands. “Corrin, move to Alpha 1,” I speak aloud into my microphone, albeit feeling quite silly. Corrin replies with a firm “Yes, sir,” confirming that he has heard and understood my order.
There Came an Echo simulates being a commander overseeing a battlefield, requiring the player to outmaneuver the enemy in order to defeat them. You simply cannot order your soldiers into a head-on engagement without tactically designating target priorities and expect to win. Instead, you have to strategize both on and off the battlefield. Although a little limited, the game allows you to customize weapon loadouts for each soldier at the beginning of each new level. On the battlefield, you can queue orders and time their execution using the “On my mark” command. With the “Focus on…” command, you can set powerful or important enemy units as strategic objectives for your soldiers to target.
A strategy I frequently find myself employing is to have a soldier distract the enemy with a rapid-fire screw gun, while another flanks and lines up a shot with a high-powered sniper rifle. Although a decent amount of strategic diversity is offered, it is limited by the fact that your soldiers can only move to predetermined waypoints on the map. The battles are therefore mostly dictated by the game design, pointing you to your next move.
For a game that makes voice control the main selling point, you’d expect it to work well. My experience however, has been quite the opposite as its voice-recognition has been merely sub-par. Oftentimes, I had to repeat myself just for the command to register, which makes the game extremely frustrating when my soldiers die while waiting for their next command. Maybe it’s because of my non-western English accent; or because of the cheap microphone I use; or perhaps a combination of both. However, given what other Steam users have had to say about it, this sub-optimal gaming experience seems fairly common across the board. Then again, a number of other gamers have also reported that the voice-recognition software works close to 100% of the time. Hence, your mileage may vary on this one.
Of course, if you are having issues with voice control, you can always switch back to keyboard and mouse…if only it worked well. Using the mouse, the game feels like a buggy mess, and sometimes, commands don’t show up when I need them. Additionally, by eschewing voice commands, all you get is a short, fairly poor-to-mediocre strategy game, and poorly written dialogue, though the story is decently engaging enough.
There Came an Echo offers an experience like no other, by taking voice control to a whole new level. While you can play the game using a keyboard and mouse, the game is best played using voice commands. Very few games have had voice command as their main selling point and quite frankly, they haven’t been very successful. There Came an Echo offers a cool and pleasant experience when it works but an extremely lame one when it doesn’t. There Came an Echo is no game-changer but it is probably a step in the right direction. Ultimately, the game is extremely ambitious; the concept is exciting; and the technology has huge potential. With further advancements in technology and improvements in voice-recognition software, I eagerly await the concept to be executed much better in future games.