Lone Echo is kind of a special franchise as far as VR goes. It arrived at the dawn of new VR gaming as HMDs like the first Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and, later, Valve Index were redefining the virtual gaming space. Evolving from a tech demo produced by a small team as Ready at Dawn was finishing The Order: 1886, Lone Echo would come to hold a legacy as one of the few VR titles that was more than a brief experience. It was an adventure that told a full story, and that story was left on a cliffhanger. Several years later, Lone Echo 2 has come to continue that story. It doesn’t stray too far from what made the first Lone Echo good. Rather, it refines and tightens that experience to continue the story in an engaging new zero gravity VR adventure.
Scraping for every breath
Lone Echo 2 sees the return of the original’s protagonists: “Jack,” an android whom the player takes the role of and Captain Olivia “Liv” Rhodes, to whom Jack plays assistant, protector, and friend. Their last adventure saw them escape the dangers of the destroyed space station Kronos II, only by leaping 400 years into the future. Things have not quite gotten better. A new space station they have found themselves aboard is failing, life support is giving out, and a form of biomass they discovered in the first game is eating away at what remains of the station. To survive, Jack and Rhodes need to traverse the patched-together remains of the space station and either find any help they can get or a means of escape.
Throughout Lone Echo 2, players take on the role of Jack and work solo or in tandem with Rhodes to open paths through the zero-gravity facility. The two of them are almost always alone and the entire game takes place in the dying space station, presenting a stark sense of isolation as they solve this new station’s mysteries. By way of a dialogue system, players can choose how Jack responds to Rhodes or the various key objects around them, providing much-needed conversation to break up the quiet tunnels of the massive facility and the vast and beautiful space surrounding it. Not to say Lone Echo 2’s deathly quiet setting doesn’t provide an incredible sense of foreboding atmosphere. When Jack and Liv do find their way to realizations or truths behind the mystery, the answer is often stark and Lone Echo 2 does well to sensibly raise the stakes every turn, even as you gain a temporary sense of relief from any success.
Improvements rather than altogether different
Ready at Dawn’s first Lone Echo provided a pretty fantastic feel of zero gravity traversal and puzzle solving with sci-fi electronics and engineering and Lone Echo 2 doesn’t do much to throw that solid gameplay away, instead improving upon the locomotion, puzzle solving, and threats with subtle changes. Nearly all of the movement and interactivity players had in the first game returns. You can swing yourself through the facility by grabbing onto any surface or affixed handrail and pulling or pushing on them to give yourself momentum in the direction you want to go. Meanwhile, hand thrusters allow you to correct your direction or gain momentum in free-floating form.
This simple movement is joined by both the return of previously used tools and new ones. Eventually you’ll get your plasma cutter back for opening panels and getting at the electronics within and your data scanner for interfacing with special machinery to discover information, engage door locks, and open routes among other uses. You’ll also get an upgraded back thruster later that allows you to gain momentum in free space quicker than your wrist thrusters when there’s nothing to grab onto, just to name a few tools you’ll use.
Meanwhile, threats in the game have taken on a new form. The aforementioned biomass has evolved in Lone Echo 2 to present new hazards like “ticks.” These tentacled balls of hostile goo gravitate towards any living form or powered machine to try to suck the energy right out of them. Not only do they present slightly more frightening threats to contend with throughout the narrative, they also provide interesting new puzzle solving angles. Ticks are mindless. They will affix to the closest energy source they can find. That means you can distract them with things like power cranes, full batteries, and powered door controls. Biomass continues to provide daunting threats throughout Lone Echo 2 and the game gives you quite interesting ways to contend with the broken and unbroken electronics of its environment as a result.
Lone Echo 2 provides a pretty simplistic approach to control as well, as did the first. You don’t need to move your body that much in this game outside of your head and hands. You can use a quick nudge of the joystick to utilize either smooth or quick turning. That means the game can be played standing or from a stationary chair if you want. Then, you just grab onto a surface and throw or push yourself in the direction you want to go or use your thrusters and point your hands in your desired direction to fly that way. The interactions are fun and engaging, but never horribly complex either. Whether you're cutting panels off walls, tugging control switches, putting batteries in sockets, inputting codes into holo panels, or interacting with characters, everything feels easily within reach and without complicated inputs to make something happen.
Lone Echo 2 isn't entirely without issue. I sometimes struggled to get it to recognize my grip on certain surfaces. Furthermore, being able to see my floating robot body when I looked down, I sometimes saw myself clip through walls depending on how I was positioned. Still, these moments were slim and the rest of the game is still engaging and enjoyable enough to overcome these small flaws.
Same problems, different space/time
I really appreciate how much Lone Echo 2 takes a mostly don’t-fix-what’s-not-broken approach to the original game’s formula. So much of it is simply a continuation of Lone Echo 1 in both narrative and form, and that’s fine. It does just enough to make things different by introducing a few new tools and increased threats to go along with them, and with only a handful of control or visual bugs that stood out as a result. Jack and Rhodes’ efforts to survive continued to make for a compelling story throughout and this is definitely an adventure fans of the first will want to see through. Ultimately, Lone Echo 2 is just as much a solid blend of narrative and puzzle solving in the VR space as the first one was and continues to show Ready at Dawn has a winning formula for VR players of all styles and comfort levels.
This review is based on a digital copy provided by the publisher and played on Oculus Quest 2 with the Oculus Link cable. Lone Echo 2 is available on October 12, 2021 for the Oculus Rift, Rift S, and Quest 2 (via Link).
Lone Echo 2
- Much of Lone Echo's controls & movement are intact
- Solid mix of puzzle solving
- Good continuation of the first game's story
- Environments and sound provide deeply foreboding atmosphere
- Controls provide solid comfort & simplicity
- Some visual bugs such as body/wall clipping
- Gripping surfaces can sometimes be janky
- Doesn't upgrade much from the first Lone Echo
TJ Denzer posted a new article, Lone Echo 2 review: Continuing conundrums of space & time
Nice, the first one was a lot of fun to experience. I was worried this was never coming out. Glad to hear that its more of the same with some improvements. I'm hoping the performance is better, too. My 1060 6GB wasn't that smooth with the first one, though I'm hoping that having a better CPU will help.