Echo of Soul – First Hands On Preview
Despite awful traffic Friday night, we managed to make it into the private Aeria Games event including four PCs set-up to play the very rough localization of Echo of Soul. In an industry where publishers are scared to death to show any gameplay less than a few weeks out from open beta launch, this was a rare treat to get to play Echo of Soul so early. Now we went into this demo expecting a game of average quality, ranking #16 in our overall Most Anticipated free to play staff list for 2015. I’m pleased to say the game not only exceeded my expectations, I can say it may be the smoothest visuals I’ve yet to encounter in the western market for free to play fantasy MMORPGs.
In the current set-up we had access to one of five classes including the slightly tweaked but under the hood usual set of fantasy tropes. While gender lock was currently in place, it was nice to see the stereotypical genders reversed. As such, the class that instantly caught my attention was the guardian, a muscled female warrior capable of not only efficiently tanking, but also unleashing a series of magical abilities to hammer on the dps when needed.
Even at low levels, the game impresses. Character customization is an extremely polished rendition of what we’ve come to expect at the core of the fantasy MMORPG genre. While that might not sound too impressive in words, once you lay your eyes on the eye candy that is Echo of Soul, you’ll appreciate how even these preset options bring real life to your character. The preview options of accessories and more advanced armor sets also made it clear that beyond your base stats, the armor you pick up from progression will surely set you apart in a crowd.
In-game the attack animations are so refined, at times it felt like a next gen 3D fighting title. My guardian spun, twirled, and slammed across the battlefield with far more grace than the grunts I crushed deserved. Though I’m skeptical, I can say that the environment and beginning monsters of the zone we were shown enjoyed no less love than the character models and animations. I hadn’t been so impressed by field mobs since Guild Wars 2 and Final Fantasy XIV. A word of caution, Echo of Soul played on max graphics is like looking into the mind of a 9 year old on a sugar high. It captures all the magic and comedic feel of previous Aeria published titles like Eden Eternal, yet in that next generation Korean styling that’s been all the rage there in 2014. The only title I can directly compare it to is Final Fantasy XIV’s emote system, as you can bring out some real facial reaction complete with over the top anime tropes via Echo of Soul’s numerous emotes available. Watching my guardian shyly flirt while maintaining her tough girl nature like some kind of Tsundere class president was a hoot!
Thankfully we got some dungeon action in, which brought out one of the most important features in Echo of Soul gameplay wise. Enemies seem to divert attention regularly and bring the pain to your group as a whole with plenty of AoE attacks in end-game. Luckily your team is able to utilize healing skills on each other to keep the party going without fully relying on a healing class to deal with this on their own. It adds a sweet dynamic to combat by forcing every character in the party to factor that painful ally heal cooldown and decide who is best to heal, without ever taking a break from the dps and area spell dodging that makes modern MMO combat so enjoyable.
This wasn’t limited to just a quick hotkey heal item. Many of the classes offered support abilities they could cast on others to protect or improve the party as a whole. If you’re into gaining maximum efficiency of your character through cross party micromanagement, or just love an intense challenge with flashy visuals, the dungeon runs of Echo of Soul should scratch your gaming itch.
While navigating through the loosely translated menus, I also managed to stumble across a planned cooking system. Unlike the basic cooking system though that offers an extended buff as seen in many MMOs, this one seems to emphasize it further by giving you a large food bar that can be filled with multiple food items to unleash your true potential. I wasn’t able to test this in action, but it sounds like players can plan some epic feasts in preparation for truly challenging combat, to bring their own flavor of skill boons to the action.
After the gameplay session I had a chance to speak with two members of the Nvious Development team that flew out from Korea to attend the session. While I won’t name names as they both were a bit on the shy side, let’s just say if you’ve been watching the build up dev hype videos for Echo of Soul, you’ve likely seen both of them. The developers for this game seem to have a true love for what they’re doing that many in the MMORPG realm no longer shine with. They’re humble and very open to suggestion, and I believe they may be the key Aeria needs to create the next generation success that Aeria saw with Eden Eternal and Aura Kingdom.
It shouldn’t be long now until we gain access to an extended beta session of the game. Keep an eye out as we’ll be prioritizing our video first look of Echo of Soul for sure. You truly have to see this game in action to understand its sugary graphical sweetness and fluid acrobatic combat.