Version Reviewed: 1.0.3
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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Robot Entertainment kinda knows their stuff when it comes to strategy games - both Hero Academy and Orcs Must Die! are excellent examples of this. Echo Prime, on the other hand, is an action game with little actual strategy to be found. So the question is, did the deviation from a genre they excel at still result in a quality game? For the most part, yes.
Echo Prime is an action-heavy loot grind, and that’s all sorts of okay. It’s a very equipment-focused sort of game, with a firearm, sword, armor, helmet, and abilities called “Echoes” to collect. All equipment earns experience during each mission, and once an item is full one can ‘harvest’ bonus echo powers from it. There are a lot of Echoes to find, they gain experience in battle, can level-up into more powerful abilities, and can be swapped in and out before each mission to potentially fit any scenario. On the gameplay side of things, getting around is fairly easy; players guide their hero around with taps, attack enemies with taps, activate special abilities with taps, block with two-fingered taps, and (in a big twist) dodge by swiping.
While Echo Prime is certainly reminiscent of a dungeon crawler, it’s also a bit different. First, it’s broken up into bite-sized levels that are ideal for mobile rather than being one big world/dungeon, which makes jumping into a game very easy. Second, Echoes are given more importance than equipment. Finding a powerful Echo is its own reward, but the more an Echo is used the closer it gets to becoming a Veteran (i.e. more powerful ability that also earns extra credits rather than exp.). Echoes can also be enhanced using emblems (premium currency) earned through play or purchased with real money to earn even more experience/cash.
As great as all of that might be, there’s still the issue of the controls. For the most part they get the job done, and it’s nice to see something other the typical virtual stick and buttons layout, but when the action starts to get chaotic they can be very restrictive. Enemies must be tapped on (repeatedly) to attack, so when they get into melee range they’ll be covered up by a finger most of the time, which makes blocking quite difficult. Swiping to dodge also gets finicky when too many enemies are in close. Then there’s the matter of the item caches. These random drops often contain equipment, credits, or even new Echoes, but they can only be opened using emblems. This wouldn’t be so bad if it only took 1 to open each cache, but it actually requires 3. Considering how often I earn emblems this is a terrible exchange rate, and the mechanic itself feels totally out of place in a paid game like this.
Echo Prime is a fun and often challenging loot-fest with a few CCG elements thrown in that really help to set it apart. It certainly has its share of issues, such as the unbalanced item cache mechanic and somewhat touchy controls, but overall it’s a fun grind. A very fun grind, actually.