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Video Game / ECHO

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The flesh and the soul shall enter the Palace through separate doors.
Only the strong of mind and body will again reunite as whole.
From the Collected Memories

ECHO is a 2017 Genre-Busting Science Fiction game developed by (the unfortunately now defunct) Ultra Ultra, composed of former Hitman developers. It is set in the far future and follows En, a Designer Baby called a "Resourceful" that was freed from her Bread and Circuses life by a smuggler named Foster. Foster was heavily injured during the rescue, and En was forced to "translate" him into a small, red cube. In an attempt to pay him back and possibly restore him, En heads for "The Palace," an enormous technological construct the size of a planet that weirdly looks like an infinite version of the Palace of Versailles. Soon after finding the Palace and turning it on, En finds that the Palace is seemingly alive and filled with an endless number of strange, adaptive clones that are attempting to kill her. So begins a battle of survival between En and the Palace itself.

The gameplay can best be described as a cross between a Puzzle Game, a Stealth-Based Game, and a Third-Person Shooter. When the lights are on in the Palace, En's clones, called "Echoes," learn from her behavior. Drop off of balconies, use stealth, shoot your gun, and the game records your movements. Once a few moves have been recorded, the palace enters "Blackout Mode," where you are free to act as you please—but once the lights come back on, the Echoes will use every skill they learned in the previous light period against you.

The game was released on Steam on September 19 2017, and was also released for the PlayStation 4.

There are plans for a movie, though very little's known about it except that it's being produced by F. Gary Gray and that Derek Kolstad of John Wick fame is going to adapt the screenplay.

This game provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: "Gramps" put En and the other Resourcefuls through Training from Hell as part of his religious goals involving The Palace. When En managed to run away, he hired Foster to apprehend her and bring her back. And the Resourcefuls that meet Gramps' standards, which included En for being able to escape, are "translated" — a process that everyone who doesn't share his religious convictions would consider no different than death. En only avoided this fate because Foster helped her escape, Taking the Bullet for her in the process — so she "translated" him in her place.
  • Absent Aliens: You'd be forgiven for thinking the Palace is an ancient alien ruin of some kind, but there's no evidence it wasn't constructed by humans. En thinks that it was built by some ancient group of humans who designed it as a rat-race, purely for their own entertainment.
  • Action Girl: En. She was genetically engineered to be one, in fact.
  • Aerith and Bob: En and Foster.
  • A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...: The universe of ECHO is extremely vague; the only exposition is En and London playing Misery Poker: En's harsh upbringing as a Resourceful and indigent travels supported only by gambling, London's dead-end existence as a ship's AI in a universe where "uncapped" A.I.s are apparently benevolent deities. The Palace is described by London as a relic of a bygone age where "corporate houses" would nonchalantly strip-mine entire planets. And on top of all that, London's first words to En upon her awakening from stasis is that everything she knows is now gone because she chose to clock out for a century...
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Discussed Trope.
    • London believes that the blackout cycle, the lethal Echoes, and the black "manifest corruption" indicate that The Palace AI is malfunctioning due to its tremendous age. En, instead, thinks that the scenario was set up by ancient humans with god-complexes putting the lower castes through the gauntlet with a promise of a reward at the end. All for their own entertainment.
    • There was a period of humanity where A.I.s were "capped", meaning their intelligence was purposely limited to avoid a Turned Against Their Masters situation. This ultimately turns out to have been unnecessary, as uncapped AI turned out to be universally benevolent. En comes to the conclusion that London is one such capped AI, due to his lack of faith that uncapped AI are said to possess.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: London, the A.I. of a ship Foster used to travel around in when he was alive and who is currently assisting you because he believes it's what Foster wanted, staunchly refuses to believe the Palace can bring Foster back from the dead, despite its Eldritch Location status and all the other freaky things it can do. This might be due to him being a capped AI.
    • Skeptic No Longer: After En is separated from the Foster cube, an upset London lets it "slip" that he actually does think the Palace can bring Foster back, or at least that he considered it on a subconscious level. En calls him out on it, and he can't readily respond to that. After that point, he doesn’t really make any more skeptical comments regarding the mission to bring Foster back.
  • The Atoner: En. She manipulated Foster into helping her escape her grandfather. Because she realized she had come "full circle" following her grandfather's machinations, her entire motivation in the game is to revive Foster. Even it means to trade her life for his.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Everything En does ultimately leads her to fulfil "Gramps's" prophecy.
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: Inverted. The game is doing this to you, constantly studying and analyzing your own playstyle to make the enemies use it against you.
  • Beautiful Void: The Palace is breathtakingly beautiful, and absolutely empty of anything other than homicidal clones. Whoever built it clearly checked out a long time ago.
  • Blackout Basement: Once the current light cycle ends, a blackout will begin in the palace. En can use this period to take any actions she wants without the fear of being recorded by the Echoes. The Echoes will start implementing En's previous actions from the next light cycle onwards.
  • Bleak Level: Oblivion, the fourth level, uses a mostly black color scheme, is not very well-lit, relying on eerie blue torches and your suit’s flashlight functionality to let the player see more than 5 feet in front of them and has the feeling of wandering through a tomb of sorts, with coffin and crypt-like structures everywhere. It still manages to keep up with the glamorous Scenery Porn of the rest of the game, though. It’s just more beautiful in a... haunting way.
  • Big Labyrinthine Planet: The Palace. The surface is covered in large, immaculately-white cubes of uniform size. Descending reveals that those cubes are only the tops of ancient interconnected pillars that are falling apart from age. Within the pillars are the Palace interiors. Both interior and exterior areas force En to find a way down.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: A unique example where this is not combined with Faster-Than-Light Travel; people casually have their ships plot courses to other stars, lay down in cryogenic beds, and wake up decades — or in En's case a century — later.
  • Choke Holds: Can be used on echos to kill/knock them out from behind. However, as with most of En's abilities, the echoes can choke En out if they learn how.
  • Clarke's Third Law: The Palace performs feats completely unexplained by the technological knowledge of En and London's time and forms the centerpiece of a religious cult that believes it holds the key to immortality, but no suggestion is ever made that it doesn't follow the laws of physics. It's ancient technology that is just that advanced.
  • Consummate Professional: London describes Foster as one, basically absorbing himself in his job to run away from family, relationships, and life. This is why London finds it so hard to believe that Foster would get himself killed to save En. He even hoped Foster would "want life again" one day. London realizes that En was able to do something that the grumpy AI never could: get Foster "to engage" in something outside of the job for once in his life.
  • The Corruption: En encounters swaths of black matter inside the Palace that engulf parts of the environment, including doors. Touching them does move the corruption elsewhere nearby, but doing so will immediately trigger the next "light" phase.
  • Deflector Shields: En's suit possesses a sort of force field that can block arms fire, allowing her to soak up one gunshot from the Echoes before the next one becomes lethal. On Ultra Hard, the Echoes have this too.
  • Designer Babies: Resourcefuls are people specifically genetically engineered to go through the palace and are trained their entire life for this purpose by someone that both En and London refer to as her "grandfather". En is one of these, though she never wanted to go to the Palace, which is why she kept that fact to herself (lest she is killed) and ran away one day.
  • Eldritch Location: The Palace. It is not just its baroque, Versailles-esque interior that looks creepily jarring compared to the space setting: the Palace is fully sentient (or, at the very least, aware of the protagonist's presence) and will start producing copies of you to hunt you down, constantly following your moves and updating itself through learning them. According to London during the opening cutscenes, despite being the size of a planet, it emits almost no emissions and doesn't even have a gravitational field. Even with the exact coordinates, London had barely missed it when they arrived.
  • Evil Twin: Lots and lots of them, dubbed "Echoes". Courtesy of the Palace.
  • Elite Mooks: Hyper Echoes. Giant, gold versions of you that, unlike the regular Echoes, have most of your skills unlocked at all times, regardless of whether you did any of them during the last light cycle; take THREE shots each to go down; cannot be pushed away unless you use the riot function on your gun (which still costs precious ammo); and can One-Hit Kill you the second they reach you. The only saving grace is that they'll never try to shoot you, but that barely matters when they can sprint up to you and one-hit kill you in a matter of seconds. You'll have to rely on stealth to get around these monstrosities. They will also, for some reason, attack the regular Echoes.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: After En loses the cube, the Echos stop being hostile (and in fact become helpful). It turns out that the Echos themselves are not mindlessly attacking En but are instead also mirroring her desire to safeguard the cube. It also handily explains how the Echos are unable to pick up energy like En can while possessing the cube.
  • Hand Cannon: The gun En carries looks like a fairly average sci-fi one-handed pistol design, but its primary fire hits hard enough that it's lethal no matter where it hits, whether it's a head shot or pinky shot.
  • Here We Go Again!: The final shot of the game shows Foster waking up inside the Palace, in the same room En first attempted to resurrect him, implying he's about to begin his own Palace trial...
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the final cutscene, En realizes she has to do this to bring Foster back. She only mildly hesitates, saying she didn’t imagine it would be “this damn difficult” before ultimately going through with it and saying her goodbyes to Foster.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Due to the nature of the A.I in this game, whenever you die there’s a good chance the Echoes used something you taught them to kill you. A bunch of them ran up to you, giving you barely any time to react? You were probably using the sprint too much. One of them snuck up from behind and instantly killed you? You probably did it first. Couldn’t dodge the barrage of lasers they’re bombarding you with? You were probably a little too trigger-happy. And so on, and so forth...
  • Human Popsicle: The trailer shows En reawakening from a century-long cryogenic sleep.
  • Ice-Cream Koan: All the Voices of Eternity.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: En accuses London of only insisting so vehemently that En is wrong about The Palace and the possibility of Foster's resurrection because he is compensating for his inability as a capped AI to understand faith and religious conviction.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: Of a sort. After you've used enough different skills (and the Palace has recorded them), the Palace shuts down to reboot itself and update the Echoes, leaving En in total darkness—giving the player a chance to act any way they wish, since the Palace is "blind" during this period. When the lights come back up, the Palace returns to function, with all the Echoes updated.
  • Manipulative Bastard: One element of Resourceful training is learning how to influence people to achieve your goals. En confesses she believes she did this to Foster subconsciously, showing him strength and weakness at the appropriate times to make him willing to die for her.
  • Mirror Boss: Exaggerated, as every single enemy in the game is this. Echoes will be able to perform any action you did during the last light period. For example, normally the Echoes won't walk through water, but if you walked through the water, then they will, too. You can also use this to your advantage: for example, the Palace will record you activating collectibles, which means during the next cycle the Echoes might activate them, too, adding them to your collection. You can eat fruit to restore your health; the Echoes might pick up this behavior, which doesn't do anything for them, but will distract them. This can also make things much more dangerous: En can shoot and perform stealth takedowns on the Echoes, but if the Palace "sees" her doing this, then during the next light period the Echoes will be able to do the same to you ... Later in the game, there's a section where the clones are not hostile towards you, but will still follow you and copy your movements. You need to guide a "flock" of Echoes around and get them to help you open the way to your next objective.
  • Mook Chivalry: When the lights come back, a pursuing Echo that was chasing you will temporarily forget about your presence.
  • Numerical Hard: Completing the game unlocks two different hard modes that each increment a number from one to two.
  • Ominous Obsidian Ooze: The Echoes start as puddles of black goo, going through several disturbingly wriggly stages before becoming true copies of En.
  • One-Hit Polykill: The suit En wears (Foster’s old suit) is equipped with a gun that’s lethal no matter where you shoot the Echoes with it and it can seemingly kill as many Echoes as you can get into a straight line, with the shot passing through all of them. The drawback to this is that ammunition for the gun is limited (you’ll always have at least one shot if you wait long enough for it, though additional ammo can be found throughout the levels) and that it’s LOUD, meaning that once you use it you’ll either have to make a hasty escape and hope no one sees you or have enough ammo and good enough aim to deal with the other Echoes that are inevitably going to swarm you.
  • Power Echoes: The player doesn't get to hear it themselves, but En comments that the wires connecting the sections of The Palace echo in her ears. London explains that they are communication lines that synchronize the entire planetary structure for its unified blackout cycle, and are so powerful that the electromagnetic fields they generate are resonating with her suit.
  • Robot Religion: Uncapped A.I.s develop deep religious convictions, in contrast to the skepticism of capped AI.
  • Scenery Porn: Oh yeah. Anyone who likes luxurious architecture is going to love this game.
    London: Only an infinite palace would satisfy you Resourcefuls.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The relationship between En and London, through much of the game. London constantly criticizes and belittles En's goals and theories, even when she expresses sound logic, while she responds to his remarks with flippancy. It isn't until the climax when both air out their confessions regarding Foster's translation, his motivation, and En's manipulations towards him that both truly begin to cooperate without bile. London even wishes En good luck before she makes her Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Training from Hell: The constant training and competition Resourcefuls went through was not pretty. One training En describes was being placed in the center of a gyroscope-like machine with rapidly spinning rings around you that could cut a person in half. If you did not attempt to leave, you would be left to starve to death.
  • Ungovernable Galaxy: A result of the Casual Interstellar Travel. The technology exists for individuals to just shoot off across the universe with the technology to build entire civilizations — and even populate them with clones — which will lay undiscovered until someone else happens upon them. As the setting lacks FTL travel, this can be decades or centuries later. En repeatedly states her belief that the Palace is not the creation of alien Precursors, but the result of some human faction breaking up an entire planet for its valuable minerals, rebuilding it as something that suited them, screwing around for a while, then wandering off again. It's implied that this happens all the damned time, too; En and her fellow Resourcefuls are the results of a nutcase wandering off to an isolated location with some cloning equipment and growing himself a cult.
  • Unlockable Content: Collecting all of the blue orbs on the levels that feature them unlocks a few cosmetic modifiers that can be used once you have completed the story fully. This includes making the echoes' heads massive, making their limbs extremely large or thin, and changing the colour of En's suit.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: One possible interpretation of 'Gramps' actions. En speculates after some time in the Palace that 'Gramps' was one of the poor souls introduced to the original Palace 'games'. After escaping with knowledge on the internal workings of the Palace, 'Gramps' starts a cult to breed individuals capable of surviving the gauntlet and achieving the final god-like rewards at the end. The fact that this costs many children their lives both literally and metaphorically does not seem to phase him at all.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Late into the game, En realizes that her entire rebellion, escape, plot to sacrifice Foster, murder her grandfather all led her right to the prophecy she was avoiding: the Palace. Thus invalidating her claims of autonomy and supremacy.