Lone Echo, the upcoming game from Ready At Dawn Studios, is an intimate space adventure along the lines of last year’s Adrift. But that game’s multiplayer mode, called Echo Arena, might be the most entertaining team sport I’ve yet played in VR. It pits two teams of four against one another in a competition that’s equal parts ultimate frisbee and Ender’s Game.
To move around in Echo Arena, players use the Oculus Touch controller to grab onto objects suspended in space. With a quick flick of the wrist, they can vault off of those objects and fly in any direction. Since gross motor skills aren’t great for precise aiming, the game also includes wrist-mounted thrusters for fine course correction.
The object of the game is to toss a disk into the opposing team’s goal, which seems simple enough. But what Echo Arena excels at is presentation.
When a multiplayer game spools up, all eight players are grouped together in a kind of ready room. You have to pull down on a handle to open your pod, and once free you can zip around taunting the competition with physical emotes. There’s a console players can use to customize their uniforms, and a three-dimensional sand table they can use to talk strategy. Later, When it’s time for the game to begin players enter the arena via launch tube, grabbing on to one another’s avatar in order to be flung into the cavernous arena as a team.
During my playtest, movement took a bit of getting used to. There’s a sweet spot where you have to let go of objects in order to build up the most speed possible. More often than not, I would tense up and fail to build up enough momentum to get anywhere quickly. That left me using the underpowered wrist thrusters more than I really wanted to.
Surprisingly, it was a very comfortable VR experience. That’s because there’s no pitch or roll in the game. The developers explained that while there’s likely to be a hardcore mode that unlocks those features in the final product, it will only be recommended for VR buffs with strong stomachs or actual astronauts.
Lone Echo is heading exclusively to Oculus Rift. No release date has been given.
Update (June 12): Today during the Intel pre-E3 press conference it was announced that Echo Arena will be released free for all Oculus Rift owners.