A Short Ripple

HIGH A novel concept whose limits…

LOW …the game merely scratches. 

WTF Wait, how am I using a crossbow if I’m blind?!

Echoblade is a first-person melee-oriented game set in a medieval fantasy world. The player begins locked behind bars and it’s up to them to find a way out of their subterranean dungeon. As expected, the place is full of armed guards constantly on patrol and ready to squash any prison-breaking attempt with extreme prejudice. And on top of that, the player has to accomplish that goal while being blind!

Luckily, (as the name implies) we can get around the world thanks to our echolocation-like ability that uses sound waves produced by our own footsteps (and other audio sources) to bounce off of other hard surfaces. So, while each step we take produces a noise (and sprinting is even louder, obviously) we have to risk attracting the attention of guards in order to move forward. Otherwise, our stillness will result in literally nothing, as the screen will sink towards utter blackness until we take the next step.  

Granted, the system is quite generous, and figuring out the geometry of a given area is not an issue — each sound ripple we send instantly ‘lights up’ a good chunk of what’s in front of us. Still, we have to remain vigilant of the various floor traps and lethal contraptions that trigger upon being stepped on. Another good aspect to the echolocation is how the player’s footsteps remain etched on the ground for a good while, effectively serving as markers informing us which corners of the dungeon need more exploring.

That type of helping hand is quite necessary for play, as due to this premise, everything looks very, very much the same. The entirety of Echoblade is dominated by the default deep blue-ish tint of its numerous game walls. The only things that introduce a splash of color are the enemies (guards that stand in our way, emit a stark red contrast), the traps (most of which don’t produce a colored soundwave at all, until we trigger them red) and several basement levels that suffer from green-ish poison gas pollution. 

In terms of progression, most of the levels task us with locating a specific key that unlocks the door to the next segment. Finding such keys usually requires defeating guards that carry them on their belts or solving a simple puzzle to reach a semi-hidden area. Unfortunately, neither the combat nor the physical riddles in Echoblade managed to grab my attention to any worthwhile degree.

The guards we face attack us head-on and I never managed to sneak up on them, but they’re not challenging due to a limited moveset offering a few easy-to-read strikes and close-reaching spinning moves. We can quickly dispatch them with one or two timely horizontal or vertical swipes with our two-handed sword. The strength behind these moves eats up the stamina bar, and so do the defensive maneuvers we can use, yet, this is not a soulslike in the slightest — there aren’t many moves to master here. Aside from the close-range strikes, we can also attack with a crossbow, surprisingly enough, though its ammunition is scarce. 

The puzzles are as rudimentary as the combat, most often requiring us to move some blocks around or stack them on top of each other to build ‘stairs’ we can jump on. Furthermore, as we defeat foes and progress through the campaign, we gain skill points that unlock a fairly basic skill tree. It’s a run-of-the-mill stuff here, with perks like “gain more stamina”, “fire more arrows at once” or “take less damage while blocking” taking up the majority of those choices…

Other than that, Echoblade consists of multiple interconnected rooms, each serving as a separate level. Once we reach the end of one, there’s a loading screen that takes us to the next, and if the payer was to turn back and re-enter the previous level, they’ll find all of the previously solved puzzles un-solved again. I can only describe much of this as unnecessary padding that contributes little to the experience. 

As such, Echoblade‘s interpretation of a blind protagonist is a novel concept, but the experience offers only the barest leveraging of the premise — there simply isn’t enough complexity and not nearly enough enough moving parts here to add up to a significant gaming experience.

Rating: 6 out of 10 

Disclosures: This game is developed by Sunset Arctic Games, and published by EastAsiaSoft. It is currently available on PC, PS4/5, XBO/S/X and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 Pro. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: This game has received a T rating by the ESRB and contains Blood and Violence. It is played from a first-person perspective and due to the main character’s blindness, all enemies and traps are depicted as glowing red silhouettes. Each strike we land has an impact on the enemies, and upon defeat, their bodies remain visible on the stage. There’s very little blood, however.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available. 

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Dialogue is scarce in this game, and there’s written text for everything communicated to the player. Sound is completely unimportant for playing due to how each potential hazard is highlighted by colored waves that clearly comminute danger. The human enemies don’t ever try to creep up on the player, instead making their proximity known at all times while directly approaching the player head-on. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: This game does not offer a controller diagram and the controls are not remappable. The analog sticks being used for moving around, the shoulder buttons for blocking as well as quick, heavy and ranged attacks, and the face buttons for dodging and interacting with the environment (i.e. picking up objects, unlocking doors with previously discovered keys, etc.) 

Konstantin Koteski
Latest posts by Konstantin Koteski (see all)
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments