You are Ky, drugged and left to die on the main floor of a large tower with no means of escape except to follow the guidance of a helpful voice on the intercom (whose help has yet to be determined, since she could very well be alongside those responsible). You are jumped by a monster and without any knowledge on how to fight, saved by your new friend Naia when she uses one of her three 'saving grace' spells which pulls Ky out of the battle. After a brief introduction on how to fight, Naia sends you on a quest for the top of the tower with the only other option to wait and die.
Before the Echo offers players a unique take on the two genres by wrapping the main elements of an RPG in a sea of falling arrows. During a battle, the player takes control of three different beat fields representing spells, mana and enemy damage which they are free to swap between at will:
- Defeating an enemy requires you to cast a variety of spells, all of which cost mana taken from your reserve. When a spell is cast, a pattern of arrows falls into the spell field. Successfully hitting, or 'clearing' the arrows will cast the spell in question. Different spells may be learned outside of combat and swapped into quick access slots in battles. Some will do damage to enemies, leech hp and return it to you, boost the power of the next spell cast or shield you from incoming damage. Depending on the effectiveness of the spell, the sequence of arrows that fall will become longer and more complex whereas simple spells may only require a few arrows. Fail the sequence and the spell's effect will be lost as well as the mana required to cast it.
- Since casting spells costs mana, the primary way to regain it is to move into the mana field. Here, arrows are constantly dropping and each successful beat will net you mana points. Failing to hit an arrow is not punished.
- You're facing off against any manner of abomination so self-defense is certainly encouraged. In this field, falling arrows represent your enemy's attacks. Every arrow which makes it by will damage your overall HP but may be repelled. The severity of the attack is represented by the colour of the arrow, gray dealing the least and red dealing the most.
Within each beat field, the gameplay is a four-arrow rhythm game, most popularly seen in Dance Dance Revolution. Switching between beat fields rapidly is a must; the defense field to keep yourself alive, the mana field to build up your magic, and the spell field to use that magic to defeat the enemy before time runs out. Defeat enemies, use their drops to improve your equipment, and repeat until you're powerful enough to take on the floor's boss.
Initially released as Sequence in 2011, the game's title was changed in 2015 after board game publisher Jax Ltd. made a legal claim over the name. Not wanting to deal with the hassle that would be involved contesting over the title, Iridium Studios renamed the game Before the Echo and made its connection to their sophomore release, There Came an Echo, more blatant.
This game provides examples of:
- Absurdly High Level Cap - The game can be comfortably 100% completed at around the mid twenty level range. The actual technical level cap is thirty four, this takes ten billion experience points to reach.
- According to Word of God, reaching that level will also immediately crash the game.
- Anti-Frustration Features: The difficulty level can be changed freely until after the third floor. Useful if you picked spasmodic difficulty.
- Anti-Villain - Mir and company. Their heinous plan ultimately boils down to elaborate matchmaking, all for a good cause. This cause is proven false as of the sequel.
- Ascended Extra - Jane, the fourth floor guardian takes Naia's place as Mission Control after she was abducted.
- Awesome, but Impractical - The final offensive spell you acquire from beating the final boss, Luminary Storm, is the most powerful, most expensive to cast, and has the longest cooldown time of any direct damage spell in the game. Unfortunately, on Hard/Spasmodic difficulty the casting pattern is very complicated, has no breaks, and takes a full 5 seconds from start to finish.
- The Bad Guy Wins - Even after learning about the true purpose of the tower, Ky and Naia decide to get together.
- Bonus Boss - Virtual Ky.
- Boring, but Practical:
- Arclight is the very first offensive spell you learn with low damage but a low mana cost, a short cool down time and simple arrow pattern. Above the third floor, the time limit for each battle becomes much more dangerous as the hp of your foes grows faster than the damage output of your new spells, and so Arclight becomes very useful as a backup spell that can be fired off between more damaging spells with little consequence. There is an achievement in the game for beating an enemy on the 7th Floor with ONLY Arclight.
- In the same vein is Barrier, which you start with along with Arclight and is the only spell in the game that defends you against enemy attacks. It's quick and easy to cast, and you'll probably have it on your spell wheel through the entire game.
- Bragging Rights Reward: The Luminary spell. Even getting the scroll for it requires beating the final boss. Then, to complete the trial to actually learn the spell, you must complete Piano Jam, the final boss' song with several tempo changes, with 97% accuracy. The only thing left to do with it is fight the Bonus Boss... who you clearly could have already easily beaten anyways. This isn't helped by Luminary Storm itself being Awesome, but Impractical.
- Damsel in Distress - Naia becomes this for a while on floor 5.
- Deadpan Snarker - Both Ky and Naia.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty - Jane, though she tones it down to the point where it's hard to tell if she's dropped the act, when it comes to talking to Naia, and after Ky defeats her - she explains to him that he's now her superior, hence her changed attitude towards him.
- Experience Points: Not only used to level up, but also used as currency for synthesizing items and attempting to learn new spells. How this actually works gets lampshaded.Ky: Wait, what? How does "paying" experience points make any sense?
Naia: Does it make any less sense than one single, quantitative value accurately representing the whole of your fighting abilities and knowledge?
- Expospeak Gag: Percival introduces himself with these.
- Failure Is the Only Option - The first two fights where Naia uses a saving grace.
- Hopeless Boss Fight - Aaron, the guardian of the Floor the Seventh, appears when you first get to Floor the Fourth. He has over 200 HP, and sends a constant stream of red gems in the defense field. Luckily, Naia uses her second Saving Grace to stop the fight.
- Hurricane of Puns - Almost every item contains a horrid pun in the description.
- Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels - Easy, Medium, Hard, Spasmodic
- Interface Screw - Guardian Effects. Ranging from rendering you unable to switch fields to swapping the position of your left/right and up/down arrows, these limited-time effects are either mildly annoying or your worst nightmare.
- Knight Templar: Mir, and by extension, everyone involved in the Tower organization. Their supposed intent is to make people of the finest intellectual and genetics fall in love so they can continue their lineages and produce offspring of the highest caliber. However, they are quite frankly rather benign as far as this trope goes - Mir explains that the intent is not any kind of genocide, but to improve the human race genetically simply through superior breeding, and Naia points out to Ky that their methods ultimately don't hurt anyone. And, to boot, their true plans apparently involve Ky and Naia saving the world, but from what, is not explained.
- Lampshade Hanging: Several typical RPG tropes have this done to them throughout the course of the dialogue.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Frequently.
- Level Grinding
- Lotus-Eater Machine: Ky and Naia are actually prisoners in a computer simulation designed to pair up intellectually superior humans to further the human race. In fact, the cultivation of Ky and Naia's relationship is even more important than that, according to the secret ending - apparently, they're meant to save the world. From what, however, is left unstated.
- Mirror Match: The post-game boss.
- Mission Control: Naia, again.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: The Guardians go above and beyond. They're all acting, of course, but still.
- Percival is pretty much a Victorian stereotype.
- Donaldo is a matador who has a love for Mexican food. He's even tempted by Ky's attempt to bribe him!
- Caleb is a walking text adventure game. Seriously. He has to be seen to be believed.
- Jane is a Drill Sergeant Nasty towards anyone who she considers her 'subordinate' (with the exception of Naia), though she does tone things down considerably after the fight.
- Eddie take the Third-Person Person trope to whole new levels, talking like a narrator.
- Adelle is way into Astrology.
- And Aaron is... Well, he's actually pretty normal compared to the others, really, being the leader, though he does show some Blood Knight tendencies, where he attacks Ky long before the latter is supposed to fight him, partly due to orders from higher up, and because he's curious about Ky's abilities.
- Non-Indicative Difficulty: Both hard and spasmodic difficulties give one mana point per gem hit in the mana field, but spazmodic has more gems than hard, meaning that a skilled player has to worry less about running out of mana on spasmodic.
- Random Drop - The source of your synthesis materials and likely the most prevalent enemy in the game. Equipment exists to boost the odds in your favor, though it physically cripples you in exchange. Barring the Imaginary Number Pod of course. Being able to desynth the excess materials found in your wanton farming for extra EXP takes away some of the sting.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech - Ky and Naia give a rather brutal one to the Sixth Guardian about how and why Astrology is a load of crap.
- Sequel Hook - Combined with The Stinger.
- Shout-Out - Item descriptions, once again often contain these.
- The Smart Guy - Ky has an undergrad in computer engineering, and it definitely shows in his dialogue.
- Snark-to-Snark Combat - Ky and Naia during most of their dialog.
- The Stinger - If you beat the secret boss, then there's one after the credits.
- Voice with an Internet Connection - Naia.
- Write Who You Know - Ky is a college student from the University of Florida who is majoring in electrical and computer engineering...just like what his voice actor (and the co-founder of Iridium Studios), Jason Wishnov, was before graduating.