Cross-posted from my personal blog.
Before the Echo is a really unique game and one of my favorites. My newest LTA video talks about why. Script is below.
Hi, folks. Crowbeak here. This is the newest video in my Let’s Talk About [GAME] series. Each episode focuses on a specific game — usually an indie game, since that’s mostly what I play — and things about the game that I think are worth talking about.
This time, I want to talk about Before the Echo. It’s not new and you might have heard of it under a different name, Sequence; the developer had to change it due to a legal claim. Regardless, the name matters less than how awesome the game is, which is very.
Before the Echo is, at its heart, an RPG. It has stats to raise, equipment to change, hit points, mana points, spells to cast, and a story to drive the player along. However, its combat system is unlike that of any other game I’ve ever seen. In it, the player must juggle three simultaneous games of D-pad DDR at all times.
The way this works is that there are three different rhythm arrow fields that the player can cycle through during combat. Each field represents a different aspect of battle: offense, defense, or mana point restoration. Enemy attacks are represented as arrows in the defense field, and failing to hit those arrows results in damage taken. When the player casts a spell, arrows appear in the offense field. Failing to hit those causes the spell to fizzle. The mana point restoration field is the only one with no penalty for missing arrows; rather than being dynamically generated, it has the constant stream of arrows rhythm game players are accustomed to. They flow by in time with the melody, ready and waiting should the player need more mana to cast spells with.
If the game’s depth ended there, it would still be a good game. Swapping between the rhythm fields, deciding when it’s okay to let damage fall through to get a spell off, seeing a massive attack come in that needs to be stopped at all costs — there’s a lot of choice, spice, and room for different play styles.
However, Iridium Studios put a lot of thought into the fine details of the game’s systems. This video would be long and boring if I listed everything, but to give a few examples: magic spells can be queued up in battle, giving the player a lot of freedom to decide how to manage everything that’s going on; spells have set arrow patterns but with a few variations to keep the player on their toes; and song difficulty is determined by a combination of beats per minute and how hard enemies hit.
They didn’t neglect the player’s options outside of battle, either, which is part of why I didn’t say that Before the Echo is a rhythm game with RPG elements or vice-versa.
Since there are fewer songs than enemies to fight, many of the game’s systems outside of battle encourage the player to familiarize themselves with the music. Learning a new spell, for instance, requires the player to hit an accuracy or combo target on what would be the mana regeneration field of a song during battle. The more powerful the spell, the harder it is to learn. Fortunately, spells never become outdated, so if the player can’t learn a particular spell, it’s really not a big deal. I have a big healing spell that I have not been able to successfully unlock, but I prefer a more aggressive play style and healing via drain spells anyway, so I’m not worried about it.
Unlocking the boss on each floor and the best equipment requires the player to craft items. Crafting requires ingredients, dropped by enemies, and an expenditure of experience points. The player’s experience points actually serve as the game’s only currency, and spending too many CAN cause the player to level down. This makes just about every out-of-battle choice into some kind of tradeoff. Ultimately, those tradeoffs can be offset by investing more time into the game. That’s common in RPGs, though; grinding usually takes a different form, but it’s still grinding.
As for the story, it’s pretty bizarre. A guy wakes up inside a tower in a video game and is told that he must fight his way up the top to get free. His only companion, so to speak, is a woman whose voice comes to him over a PA system in the tower. She is his guide, the only person who gives him any information (however cryptic), about what’s going on. They don’t get along all that well; the main character is understandably bitter about his situation and doesn’t always get along with his guide.
The boss characters are also absolutely hilarious. Iridium Studios took their scenario of a real person trapped in a video game and ran with it, to great effect.
Before the Echo has one of the more interesting stories I’ve seen in an RPG, and apparently it’s connected to the story in There Came an Echo, a voice-controlled tactical game by the same developer. I wasn’t even aware that Iridium Studios made both games until Sequence was renamed to Before the Echo. My initial attempt to play There Came an Echo didn’t go so well, which didn’t surprise me, to be honest. My voice never plays well with voice recognition technology. However, finding out that the games are connected has increased my interest in giving There Came an Echo another chance.
But I’m going to wait to do that until I beat Before the Echo. I’ve had the game for almost three years, now, but I hit a snag when playing the first time. The game has four difficulty settings and the player can change the difficulty at any time until they advance to the fourth floor. For me, the Hard difficulty was the perfect challenge level. However, since the D-pad on the Xbox 360 controller is trash, I was hesitant to move on to the fourth floor. It wasn’t until I got a PS4 controller hooked up to my computer late last year that I felt comfortable moving ahead… and then I got through two floors in one sitting.
Lastly, it would be remiss of me not to talk about Before the Echo’s music. It’s great. They worked with two artists, DJ Plaeskool and Ronald Jenkees, and got some fantastic tunes for both in and out of battle. As far as I know, you can’t buy a Before the Echo soudtrack anywhere, but there’s a jukebox under bonus in the main menu. Ronald Jenkees’ contributions to Before the Echo also made it onto his album, Disorganized Fun. My favorite song in the game is definitely Stay Crunchy.
That’s all I have to say on this one. Thank you for listening. Have you played Before the Echo? Leave a comment to share your thoughts on it. And if you liked this video, please consider hitting the like button, subscribing to my channel, or sharing the video.