By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor)
It is always a great pleasure to see the ways games of the past generation have influenced modern development in ways you never would have imagined. We have all had our own game that we treasure, one that gives us the nostalgic feeling when we think of the word game. Many of us grew up with Mega Man. A character that we have seen change a lot over his 20+ year run, once just a tiny pixelated man shooting laser beams, to a fully grown character we’ve seen rendered in full 3D complete with cut-scenes and customizable powers. Echoes of Eridu is a game made by fans, reimagining the world of Mega Man to their ideal setting with new characters to enjoy. With this past weekend resulting in a narrow but successful Kickstarter funding success, we decided to give their alpha run a spin to offer some constructive criticism before real development of this multi-player Mega title begins.
When a game heavily inspired by an iconic character is set before us, it’s difficult to not view it through our fanboi goggles. Echoes of Eridu tries to capitalize on this by matching the same skillful platforming and twitch reaction challenges of the original titles, but with a massive graphical update. Parallels don’t take long to spot as you begin your gauntlet testing your speed, skill, and reflexes in varying platforming challenges that scale quite far both vertically and horizontally. Currently there are two available characters: Nina, a female equivalent with striking resemblance to MegaMan, and Ace, a mysterious ninja type wielding sabers that may remind X series players of Zero. The first feature that pulled me out of the old rhythm was the dynamic map creation though. Rather than memorizing and speeding through maps in one go, each play through I experienced set me down a different track that kept me guessing (and dying often).
That said, the alpha demo’s permadeath style system was quite frustrating. If you slip up once, not only are you sent back to start, but start is in an entirely new map with plenty of traps waiting to punish you once more. As such careful slow and steady play is rewarded, which may or may not appeal to gamers of this genre. Taking damage is nearly unavoidable and thus spotting and destroying crates to collect precious energy boosts, health boosts, and other power ups are vital to fight your way further into each level.
After spending a couple frustrating hours with the keyboard controls, I plugged in my gaming pad and discovered a superior experience. The keyboard in comparison was clunky and you don’t have time to be fiddling across your hotkeys when the action gets hot and heavy. Every second counts and the responsive control scheme on my gaming pad felt well designed for meeting the challenge. Still even though the alpha version is representative of only a fifth of the game, I was unable to reach the end after a full day of playing. The challenge these levels offer is intense at the best of times and absurd at the worst.
Echoes of Eridu really tries to get the most of you, and the game is absolutely unforgiving. Occasionally speed is required to advance, and any type of sprinting action can lead to a swift death with one mistake. Oddly enough I found the Ace character, who doesn’t resemble Mega Man, the easier character to pick up and learn the game with. His sabers just pack that extra punch in close corridors you need to burst your way out of some tight situations. The lack of many flat horizontal landscapes where blasters excel is probably the other reason why Nina is so challenging. Instead you’re almost always jumping across a series of platforms, each doing tricky things to throw your rhythm off. Add in a splash of agile and aggressive monsters and missing a key jump becomes common place.
The basic resource system doesn’t have much to it. You get hit you lose a point, you use a special attack you lose energy. Even though you can find both of these commonly throughout the level, the feat of finishing a level with full health is quite rare (and should have some kind of massive reward in the finished game!). I don’t think in my day session of playing this game that I ever finished a map with more than half of my original health. The game is brutal, and unforgiving, and it will definitely induce some nerd rage in even the most zen of gamers. Monsters are sometimes just out of reach, and the jump you thought you would make ends with you falling down and losing more health. When you finally have managed to plow your way (sometimes jumping through monsters to suck up damage on purpose just to progress), and make it to the zone end with a sliver of health, one intense challenge will be ready with an evil robotic grin. The bosses will easily hit you at least once and often pummel you if you slip up at all. Patience, precision, and practice are needed in excess to actually succeed.
Echoes of Eridu is far from being done, currently they are still heavily in the development stage of the game but it is still great that we were able to give a look so early on. I myself have enjoyed playing the game, despite the many bugs that I had faced and the game itself being more brutal than even an experienced platformer like myself cared for.
State of the Alpha: Good.
I have said it a few times, but Echoes of Eridu is unforgiving in its gameplay. The game is a real challenge, and after many hours of playing I can’t say that I have gotten very far. My best guess is that the demo is balanced for 2 players working together to fight through the level, and without backup you’re simply outgunned. In terms of living up to the Mega Man legacy, it has all the key elements present to do so. Fast and frantic gameplay? Check. Character diversity and zany bosses? Also check. Item and skill upgrades that open up new elements and styles of gameplay? Double check. Now if they can just add a life system and some more forgiving checkpoints in mid-level, I might just have a new addiction.