“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free” was something that Michelangelo once said, and with Echoes of Eridu I feel like I’m looking at just a block of Marble, left only to marvel at the possibilities. The demo I played claimed to be 30% of the final product, with placeholder graphics and sound. Since this is the case, it is really difficult to say what the game will look like in the end. I can see potential for great game in there, but it needs a lot of work - and help from you, the player. According to its Kickstarter site, Echoes of Eridu purports to be “one part Mega Man X and one part Roguelike[with] multiplayer [stirred] generously.” As a longtime fan of the Mega Man series, including Mega Man X, I was definitely interested to see what they had to offer. And as far as the way the game controls, Echoes of Eridu does not disappoint. Dashing and jumping feels almost exactly the same, although the dashing is mapped to the shoulder bumper. I personally mapped it to that button in Mega Man X anyway, but some people might feel a little thrown off by the default not being the right face button or double tap. In either case, it captures the nostalgic feeling of controlling X very well.
There are two characters to choose from: Nina, who is basically Mega Man X, and Ace, who feels very close to Zero from Mega Man X4. The gameplay of both of these characters can be changed by switching out their weapons. By default, Nina has something of a mid-powered shot that cannot be charged, but if you want her to be even more like X, you have the option of taking a chargeable blaster along with several other weapons that dramatically change how you approach any situation. Ace on the other hand has fewer options that actually change the range and trajectory of his attacks; instead, he focuses on swords that change the way you play; such as one sword becoming stronger with each attack, and another growing bigger with each strike. As these options are bound to become expanded by the game is released, I can truly see Eridu make good on its promise that no replay ever has to be the same.
The demo included a few basic enemy types including a flying bat, a stealthy and agile dog, and a larger and more stationary “hulk” enemy. While playing solo, these enemies were mixed up adequately, to the point that I got frustrated with trying to hit them with my basic weapon whether I was playing Ace or Nina. This was wonderful, because unlike many other similar titles I felt forced to use and even get good with the secondary weapon – and in the demo you always start with one secondary weapon. It provided that feeling of genuine accomplishment that I think every good game should have.
The levels themselves have some great gimmicks like being able to attach to the ceiling or the standard falling platforms. At the end of each of these randomly generated segments is a boss room who gives you a life increase and a new weapon after their defeat. I didn’t find myself using any new weapons more than what I started with, but there were occasions where they did get pulled out of my pocket.
There were a few “weapons” that seemed completely worthless – such as the power to transform items (it never worked for me) – but I chalk that up to the incompleteness of the preview. Another feature that I rarely used was the hyper system. It functions like a trance mode, or a limit break, giving you a few seconds of fully charged shots if you’re Nina, or a giant sword if you’re Ace. It seemed way too short, and the recharge was a little too long to really experiment with it. I ultimately forgot it was there. I imagine though that if this could be upgraded with equipment or in-game pickups, it could fit into someone’s strategy pretty easily.
The multiplayer also has a lot of promise. I played Local Co-op, and it functions like I would have hoped. As you increase the distance from your partner, the screen zooms to where it maintains a decent distance in front of both players so you’re never running blindly into any danger. The exception to this though is when you’re close together, if I were to tweak this slightly I would zoom the camera out a little earlier than it does now.
To sum it up, while acknowledging that there were bugs and other issues, the game engine itself is shaping up to be great, and if the idea of a Mega Man X roguelike appeals to you, then you don’t need to look any further.
But I would like to take a moment to talk about what isn’t there. Gameplay only makes up a fraction of a game’s success. Mega Man isn’t just about walking to the right and jumping and shooting; it’s about finely tweaked levels that can be conquered in any order. It’s about bosses with their own distinct personalities and powers – powers you can take with you for the rest of the game. I also think that a lot of what makes Mega Man great is the overall challenge. Call it trial and error – I like to think of it as negative reinforcement. It’s about learning, observing, and overcoming the challenge – frantically solving the puzzle presented.
In Echoes of Eridu, so far, falling into a pit doesn’t even hurt you, it just teleports you to the nearest grounded location. Enemies don’t damage you very much, and nothing seems to have very heavy consequences – with the only exception being that death is permanent. Is this inherently bad? Not at all, in fact it fits very well into the game’s design. But do not buy into this game expecting Mega Man. Just adding the word “Roguelike” into the game description makes it something entirely new, and possibly even exciting.
As for myself though, my first impression has me a little unexcited, because I don’t see anything besides the mechanics. Right now the game is an infinite span of levels that never end, and in spite of my research, I can’t find anything to indicate what it’s going to do beyond that. What the game needs is a sense of progression besides just seeing how far you can go – because on one of my playthroughs the only reason I quit was because I ran out of time to play, not because I died. Such an endless mode is something you tack onto something meatier. Comparing to other roguelikes, Rogue Legacy had bosses that stayed dead, and even a final boss. In FTL, it was all about making it to that climactic end encounter. Right now, I’m hungry to know where Echoes of Eridu is going to go with its direction now that all the set pieces are in place.
After playing the demo, I highly recommend that if anything in this preview sounds appealing, go spend $20 on the Kickstarter to get into the Beta and get involved in the development. Send BatteryStapleGames your feedback, and help them make this something great. Because the marble is there, they just need to carve away everything that isn’t awesome.