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 and actually boasts, “Most Anticipated MMO of 2015!” (for someone I assume). With high expectations, I dove into the game and here are our first impressions on the road to our final review.
Things look pretty good when you first fire up Echo of Soul. There are 3 North American servers to choose from and character creation, while not super extensive, provides enough premade selections that I felt satisfied with my choices. The game is gender-locked for its five classes, which seems weird and potentially sexist (apparently women can’t wield swords, and men don’t like to fight ranged). The Warrior and Rogue are male classes and the Guardian, Sorceress, and Archer are female classes. Each eventually specializes at level 10 by choosing between two subclasses.
After naming my Rogue and launching the game proper, I was treated to a cut scene reminiscent of Guild Wars 2 storytelling style: art stills with voice-over and minimal animation. It actually looked pretty good but the story was generic enough to make me cringe (World Tree at stake, really?). The scene ended and it all went downhill from there.
Echo of Soul is about as generic as an MMORGP can get. Let’s take a look at the basics of the game. Combat is tab-targeting. The visuals look straight out of the mid 00’s. The audio isn’t horrible (with the exception of the excruciating aggro ding), but also not excellent; again generic. Achievements are standard fare. The classes play exactly as you would assume from the myriad of other games in the genre. Quests are exclamation point and question mark journeys to kill X, deliver Y, and gather Z. One of the more comical quests had me walk ten feet to tell an NPC some extremely urgent life or death information. If it was that urgent, why not just shout it over to them? The zones from levels 1 – 12 look the same. And that is to say generic, boring, and rehashed. To add insult to the lackluster environments, the instancing is insane. In one “zone” I only travelled about 50 yards before needing to zone in to the next area. And this happens a lot. Imagine if every district in WoW’s Stormwind or GW2’s Lion’s Arch required you to zone in. Terrible, right? I am hopeful that this is relegated to the early portion of the game.
On the bright side, being generic isn’t necessarily bad. It is an F2P game that costs the player nothing but a download after all. And there are some redeeming features in Echo of Soul that I believe could deliver some fun as I work to max level and beyond. Solo dungeons offer a decent challenge. I died on my first trip in at level 12. It felt good to go from chopping everything down without fear to having to navigate with caution. I wish some of this challenge translated to the leveling process. Again, this is early game, perhaps the challenge will rise as I progress through the game. The leveling pace is really quick. I never looked at my XP bar and thought, “This is going to take forever!” Additionally, the mobs are creative and interesting. Not so much in their attack style, which to this point has been unchanged for every single mob. But the design and variety of the monsters themselves is very unique. I fought frog-men, giant blind mole-ogres, and imp-looking creatures with scythes for feet. I forget all of their generic names but the creativity in their design was really pretty cool. The world map looks like there is quite a bit more to do, and that’s a positive. Unless, of course, it is all mini-instances like the early game so far.
You will be doing a lot of killing in Echo of Soul and the skills do vary a bit. For my Rogue, there is a stun, the standard combo building attacks, and the big combo burning attacks. There is a Roll ability that is similar for each class and works much like the Monk roll in World of Warcraft, allowing you to roll away from, or, into an area. It can help you avoid damage but it isn’t as easy to use or meaningful as the dodging abilities in Guild Wars 2 or Wildstar. Of course those are action combat games and Echo of Soul is tab-target fair. The sounds of combat make sense and feel substantial while delivering a bit too much repetition. One sound, however, is so terribly bad, I searched for ten minutes trying to figure out how to turn it off: The Aggro Ding. When you aggro a mob an annoying ding which, consequently, sounds identical to an iPhone text alert, chimes loudly. For the first few battles of the game I kept wondering why my wife wasn’t answering her texts. Then I realized it was tied to aggro. I tried to block it out but it just continued to grind away. Perhaps in a big raid group this feature would make sense. After all, I want to know when my Rogue is the focus of a boss, and an audio cue is nice. But not this one. And please give us the option to turn it off either way!
The soul system in Echo of Soul kicks in at level 10. This is a feature that plays right into the title of the game. So that probably means it is pretty big right? Well, not necessarily. You get to choose from one of four soul skills that range from healing to damage boosting. These skills level as you use them but you must also burn purified souls in order to use the skills. Souls are gathered from mobs you kill. So the cycle is kill mobs, gather souls, purify souls, and burn souls to use soul skills. Soul skills then level and get bigger and better. It really isn’t as confusing as it sounds, nor is it a game changer in any way. In the early stages of the game I have pretty much forgotten about it until I ran the solo dungeon and needed every advantage I could get. The concept isn’t bad but feels a bit convoluted. It’s something else to level while you…level.
OK, so let’s talk cash shop. Two hours of play into the game and only level 12, I haven’t needed the cash shop, nor has it been obtrusive to the game play. There was a soft push to check it out with a few quests that can be completed by making a purchase from the cash shop. They don’t grant XP when completed and I simply dropped them from my quest log. Items in the shop range from cosmetic to game play enhancements. I’m fine when you can buy an outfit or XP boost on the cash shop, but not so happy when people can purchase stat bonuses. That’s a bit more like pay to win. I will have to investigate to see what the limitations are on the stat boosts to see how it can play out. One very odd purchase is the ability to write to everyone through the chat system. That’s right. Rather than provide a global chat channel, Echo of Soul sells global chat. Regardless, at this point I feel no pressure to purchase anything, and I don’t feel like I am missing out because of that choice.
There is still plenty to test with Echo of Soul and it is growing on me. I am eager to try the group dungeons, PvP, and explore the rest of the enormous map. At this point Echo of Soul isn’t that bad of game. It simply doesn’t do all that much for the genre. But these are merely first impressions, there are still plenty of things to test before we present our complete review of the game.