ECHO is like if Stanislaw Lem and Metal Gear had a baby

“Indie” is usually conflated with “low budget,” but ECHO is a sterling example of how a small team can accomplish the look and feel of a triple-A game through a few deft shortcuts.

First announced this May with the splendid story trailer above, ECHO follows a young woman, Em, who has been selected through some unknown process to travel to an impossibly remote celestial “Palace,” where perfect humans will live forever. A sort of Heaven, in other words, except Em doesn’t want to go there — and when she arrives, it turns out that the computer running the place doesn’t want her there either.

The story trailer offers us an austere meditation on human spirituality and transcendence. Em is being physically sent to an immortal ‘afterlife,’ deemed to be a worthy human (in fact, the first one ever), but if she voices her ambivalence about that, she’ll lose that worthiness, as well as her life. It feels like something somewhere between Logan’s Run and Stanisław Lem’s Solaris; a genre of understated, introspective science fiction of a kind we see far too infrequently.

Meanwhile, the gameplay trailer (released just ahead of PAX West; below) shows off the other side of the game’s minimalism: a stealth game where the enemy you’re evading is literally yourself. Rather than animate different character models, ECHO sets up (clearly malevolent) copies of your protagonist to fight you. These echoes’ abilities and tactics copy your own, so you can’t rely too strongly on any one technique to get through the game. Throughout this, you’re playing across these beautifully crisp, white environments. It’s a clever way to enable the development team to reuse assets without seeming like that’s what they’re doing. It’s practically seamless.

At first I wanted to say the tone I got from the gameplay trailer was different than the story trailer, but really, they complement each other. It might technically be yet another game where it’s you versus a sinister space station AI, but the way ECHO goes about that is new and fresh.

Under development by Ultra Ultra, a small Denmark-based studio comprised of former developers from IO Interactive (Hitman), ECHO has already been successfully upvoted through Steam Greenlight and is expected to release in Spring 2017. You can check out the official website here.