This week at E3 2019, Oculus is showing their first ever demo of Lone Echo II, the anticipated followup to 2017’s Lone Echo. While the first game was an achievement in VR locomotion, interaction, and storytelling, Lone Echo II aims to up the ante with more dynamic gameplay, which starts with a new enemy that’s a more dynamic threat than anything seen in the original game.
Released in 2017, Ready at Dawn’s Oculus exclusive Lone Echo set an impressive bar for VR locomotion, interaction, and storytelling, and remains one of VR’s most critically and popularly acclaimed games.
The game is unique from many VR titles in that it lacked weapons, combat, or even any sentient enemies. Instead, it focused more on light puzzles, storytelling, and simply surviving in hostile environments.
With Lone Echo II, developer Ready at Dawn plans to present the player with more dynamic threats and gameplay, while continuing propel the story of protagonists Jack & Liv.
I got to check out the first ever demo of Lone Echo II at E3 2019 this week and got to see one of these new dynamic threats first hand. Players from the first game will recall the ‘biomass’ that was an environmental hazard that the player had to avoid. In Lone Echo II, parts of the biomass have ‘evolved’ into ‘ticks’, little floaty organic sacks covered in antenna and suckers-like orifices.
I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but these agile little critters are actually kinda cute in the way that they move and how they just want to hug you… the only problem is that you die if they do.
The ticks are attracted to any source of energy, and if you get too close they’ll make a beeline for you and attach themselves for a hug-of-death which drains all your power and forces you to shutdown and reboot into a new android body (which is effectively the game’s ‘death’ mechanic, as introduced in the original Lone Echo).
In order to avoid their deadly affection, you’ll need to figure out how to focus their attention on other sources of power in the environment (powered doors, batteries, terminals, etc), enable you to slip by safely. One way to do this is by using electromagnetic cargo cranes found on the ship you’re in, which you can intuitively manipulate using the handles at the top, allowing you to rotate it as needed, as well as rails at the top to slide it from point to point.
In that sense, the ticks are enemies, but they’re also part of Lone Echo II’s puzzle gameplay, which is made more interesting and dynamic by incorporating entities that have a mind of their own.
Beyond the ticks, the Lone Echo II demo at E3 2019 leans heavily on the well established interaction mechanics of the original. You’ll find the usual lever pulling, door opening, laser cutter panels, and battery charging stations that will be familiar (and still satisfying) to players of the first game.
However, Ready at Dawn teases that there’s lots more in the way of new gameplay systems yet to be revealed in Lone Echo II, much of which is said to come in the form of new tools that the player will attain throughout the game. There’s also new characters coming, which sound like they’ll be key to the narrative, though Ready at Dawn wasn’t ready to reveal more.
Speaking of characters, Liv is of course back, but this time Ready at Dawn says she’s been upgraded to be a more dynamic part of the game. While in the original Lone Echo her movements and actions were heavily scripted, in Lone Echo II she’s said to be able to move more freely around the environment, allowing her to more naturally accompany the player throughout.
While the E3 2019 demo set up the game’s narrative (which will continue to focus on the bond between Liv and Jack and their struggle for survival in unknown territory), and offered a glimpse of new gameplay, a Ready at Dawn developer tells me that Lone Echo II is roughly 50% larger than the original game (which took us around six hours to complete) in both actual size and gameplay content, so it sounds like there’s still much to be revealed.
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While it was initially set for launch in 2019, this week Ready at Dawn confirmed that Lone Echo II has been delayed to Q1 2020. As an Oculus exclusive title, it’ll only be available on the Oculus platform, and so far slated for release only on Rift. Last year, Ready at Dawn release a VR trailer for Lone Echo II which can be watched on Rift and Oculus Go; a non-VR cut of the trailer is also available on YouTube.