Too Much Echo, Not Enough Soul
I have no problem eating Honey Nut Spins®, the knock-off version of Honey Nut Cheerios®. You can pick them up at your local Walmart for at least 25 cents less than the real thing in most cases. But you will notice every few bites that some of the “Spins” are hard enough to break a tooth. They’re also smaller somehow, less puffed with air. And the flavor is good, just not great. There are times I wonder if that 25-cent savings is really worth it. Echo of Soul really isn’t a bad game, it’s just a very genric game. It’s like the Honey Nut Spins® of MMORPG’s. It’ll do but it is clearly the lesser quality experience.
A quick summary for those who haven’t read our first impressions. Echo of Soul is a F2P MMORPG developed by Nvius and published for North America and Europe by Aeria Games. It released on Steam in mid-June.
The first question worth asking after our initial experience with the game is, “Does it get better?” In a word, no. But it doesn’t get worse either. Echo of Soul is game that truly is an echo of all the other MMORPG’s we’ve played over the years. Visuals are an echo of the original Guild Wars. Combat is an echo of World of Warcraft’s tab-targeting system. Actually, most of the game is pretty much an echo of World of Warcraft. Achievements, check. Raids, check. PvP battlegrounds, check. Item socketing, World Tree lore, pets, gear progression? Check, check, check, and check. The only box EoS forgot to check was open world. And this is the game’s issue. The instancing in EoS is terrible. So bad it breaks the immersion and renders every zone (or mini zone I should say) into nothing more than a large room with outdoor environments painted on the walls. Even a game like the linear Neverwinter feels vast and wide open compared to Echo of Soul’s world of Nicaea.
Despite the incredibly bad instancing in Echo of Soul, the game does have some bright spots. Again, like generic cereal, it can be enjoyed, but nobody is going to brag about it. There are three areas in which Echo of Soul delivers. First of all, everything works. That might sound like a low bar, but so many games have issues these days it is nice to know that spells fire off properly, quests complete without issue, and the progression churns along at a player friendly pace. Being able to log into the game and play the game as the developers intended is nice in the day and age of Steam Early Access and F2P MMORPG’s flooding the market.
The second area in which Echo of Soul delivers is the pace of the game. Your character levels quickly as XP is pretty easy to acquire through quest hubs and PvP matches. The Cash Shop also offers an XP boost potion that gives a 100% bonus. Needless to say, it doesn’t take much to level and progress through the game. It also doesn’t feel too fast either. The last time I played World of Warcraft with full heirlooms I missed a ton of content. Enough to feel like the leveling was superfluous. In Echo of Soul the leveling is quick, but slow enough to take a look around and understand the lore.
The third way in which Echo of Soul delivers is a large world to journey through. Although Nicaea is cobbled together by a thousand instances, it is a very large place. I looked forward to getting to new zones and checking out the look and feel. This contributed to the pacing of the game, as new zones lay constantly on the horizon and my interest drove me to check it out before I logged off.
While it delivered in a few areas, I found plenty of things to dislike about Echo of Soul. To keep it fair, I’ll highlight three of the worst elements of the game as I have already vented enough about the instancing. First, PvP is a quite bad. It queues up pretty quick and the objectives are pretty clear but it plays like a zergfest. There were very few times I felt I was able to impact the battle unless several of my teammates and I spammed our abilities as a mindless mob. The basis for the matches I played was to capture and hold posts to gain points, 10,000 points winning the match. When you die in the battleground you spawn back at the beginning or have the option of spawning in the more advantageous middle, depending on your team’s score. Other than sneaking in to steal a post, there wasn’t much excitement to melee, nor was there a feeling of accomplishment. The one benefit of PvP is that XP reward is pretty high. This is probably one of the ways EoS employs to keep players logging in for more. Because fun sure isn’t going to get them to re-queue as there is none to be had.
In addition to boring and strategy-less PvP, Echo of Soul fails in terms of customization. Hair color, skin tone, eye color, and a batch of hair styles are about as deep as it goes. If you are a Rogue, people will know by your look before they ever need to see your abilities in action. All Rogues look about the same. And that goes for all five classes with perhaps a slight exception with the Ranger and Guardian (of course, once you see their weapon you know immediately). The thing that really makes this frustrating is that during character creation, you are given a selection of items to try on. I spent a little time with these, thinking they would be in the game. But they are not. These items serve solely to entice you to purchase items from the Cash Shop. Perhaps the customization is intentionally boring for just that purpose. Which leads to the final big negative for Echo of Soul and it is a big one…
The Cash Shop. Echo of Soul is quite honestly a pay-to-win game. From stat boosters, to items that give you an “edge” in events, to crafting buffs. The Cash Shop in Echo of Soul provides in-game benefits for money. Those willing to pony up the cash will have an edge on those who do not. Whether or not items like these can be earned through playing, these are the kinds of Cash Shop benefits that hurt a game rather than help it. You simply will feel you need to spend money to be at the top of the game. Additionally, the design appears to lend itself to the player needing to shop. From early quests that are completed by a Cash Shop purchase, to selling global chat, to confining bag space to untenable levels, Echo of Soul presents all the right problems to be solved by the friendly Cash Shop.
The bottom line is that Echo of Soul lacks the one thing your character has to purify over and over again: soul. While doing an admirable job copying games that have come before, EoS just doesn’t provide anything new. That said, there is something a little therapeutic in just logging in and completing quests. It’s not great but it hits the spot from time to time. Just like a heaping bowl of Honey Nut Spins®.
GAMEPLAY - 6: As far as tab-targeting MMO’s go, EoS plays pretty well. There isn’t anything groundbreaking but what is there is delivers as intended. The Soul system really doesn’t add much to the mix and the combat gets repetitive.
VISUALS AND SOUND - 5: While nothing to get excited about, Echo of Soul doesn’t look bad. Enemy mobs are varied and creative. The sound is OK but gets repetitive and the aggro-ding is one of the most annoying sound in video game history (yes, that bad).
LONGEVITY - 6: It will take a casual player little more than a week or so to play through to max level. But with heroic dungeons and Raids, players can sink plenty of time into the game if desired.
POLISH - 7: The game works and has plenty of features. While nothing is groundbreaking, it offers the basics people expect in an MMORPG. EoS has been out a while in the East which probably contributed to its level of polish and NA/EU players get to reap the benefits.
SOCIAL - 5: Communicating in game isn’t overly difficult but global chat requires a Cash Shop purchase. Additionally, due to all the instancing, players who level separately at all will struggle to ever play together.
VALUE - 7: Echo of Soul is F2P. That said, the game does better than some in providing a good experience for players. If you don’t want to spend money and you are OK with people who do having advantages in game, EoS is a good value.