Preview: Lone Echo II – 2020 Just Seems too Far Away

It’s safe to say that here at VRFocus we’re big fans of Ready At Dawn’s ambitious sci-fi experience Lone Echo. It was one of the best reasons to own an Oculus Rift back in 2017, and when news broke at Oculus Connect 5 (OC5) last year that a sequel was in the works (it was a sure thing anyway); 2019 was shaping up to be a good year. Alas the schedule for Lone Echo II has been pushed back to 2020, but at least the videogame made an appearance during the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) last month.

It was nice to see another decently sized demo at the event, much like After the Fall and Battlewake. If you’ve played and finished Lone Echo then you’ll know the story arc and main mechanics which continue into the sequel, with the demo focusing on a showcase of new mechanics rather than detailing what happens in the narrative.

You’re still the ever dependable (and robust) robot Jack, helping Captain Olivia Rhodes survive the perils of space. The demo had three main features to showcase, new puzzle elements, a new menu system on Jack’s hand and interactions between the two characters.

The puzzle scenarios were the main feature included in the demo, where you have to deploy clever use of energy outlets and modules to clear the way of nasty bio threats lovingly called ‘Ticks’. These essentially latch onto any nearby energy source to feed, and as a robot, you’re good eating.

While a Tick can latch onto you quite quickly it doesn’t mean instant death, if you’re quick enough they can be grabbed and thrown away. But speed is of the essence – especially with two or more – and a rubbish throw will simply mean them chowing down once again. So the best course of action is to use the environment to remove, contain or incapacitate these nasty little beasties.

Lone Echo II provides a number of ways to do this, from switching wall panels on to attaching them to more elaborate systems which involve cranes located on runners on the ceiling. It’s these latter designs which really help immerse you in this virtual world, and a great amalgamation of the movement and gameplay mechanics. Everything is still in zero-g, so you need to cleverly use the wrist boosters alongside grabbing and flinging yourself from object to object working your way through the levels. Yet at the same time not to put yourself in danger by floating haphazardly into a group of Ticks.

When it comes to the new menu system on Jack’s hand (either one) there were four symbols which appeared, but only one was selectable. This was the cutting torch, a useful tool from the first videogame allowing you to cut through certain highlighted objects. Ready At Dawn hasn’t given a clue to what the other three do although one looks like remote activating switches while another could provide energy. We’ll just have to wait and see.

As for the new interaction techniques with Liv, these have been designed to make the duo more personable, helping players warm to the characters and their situation. So actions such as waving or giving a thumbs up will now elicit a response from Liv. This was only a very small part of the demo but it helped make the dialogue between them feel more two way, rather than Liv purely talking all the time.

As for everything else, Lone Echo II still looks as detailed and stunning to look at as the first instalment, having that broody looking horror sci-fi feel as if you’re in a scene from Alien. Sounds are subtle and light, with the loudest tending to be Liv’s voice, giving the experience a nice eerie quality. Expectations are high and VRFocus is hoping for bigger and better things from Lone Echo II. At the moment Lone Echo II looks like it’ll be a crowd pleaser.

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