Echo Of the Wilds – What We Think:
Echo of the Wilds is one of the strangest, most mysterious games I played in 2014. Created by Anthony Case aka caiysware in GameMaker Studio – my first several hours were an exercise in bewilderment, skepticism and frustration and yet, where dozens, if not hundreds of other games have fallen, I persisted with this one. Something was drawing me in closer, haunting and tempting me to discover its beguiling secrets.
Using a broken, pseudo-poetic language – like those tie-dye, Birkenstock-wearing kids in high school who thought Woodstock was still alive and were just discovering Ginsberg and Kerouac – you are
instructed – challenged to enter into a world of survival and questions.
Every Groundhog Has His Day
Upon going in deeper, you discover that this is a sort of 2D, side-scrolling survival game with esoteric overtones and even some spine-tingling creepiness to boot. You seem to keep awaking from a David Lynchian fever dream – something Bob and the Log Lady might attend. But eventually, after several exasperatingly oblique run-throughs, things start to improve and progress gets made. Patterns are revealed, inventory is accumulated, items are crafted.
Speaking of crafting – there is a multi-stage process to first discovering items – or blueprints, as it were – and then finding the necessary components required to manifest said items. These items – tools or armor or stuff that enables you to do almost alchemical actions – that then lead to crafting other items that help to assure your survival – a box of salt, for example, to prevent food from spoiling.
Its Own Echo
But don’t be fooled into thinking this is Minecraft or Rust or processes analogous to building things in the “real world.” The process here is deliberately restricted (this is no sandbox) and interacting with the inventory is challenging. Furthermore some components may come from one type of nature setting – a river, a swamp and others from very different ones – a beach, a desert, a jungle.
It doesn’t help, at first, that the levels, or rather – nature settings – you explore, are ever-shifting, even from save to save.
What is most fascinating about Echo of the Wilds, is that the elements introduced are so unexpected – and often doing the exact same thing can lead to substantially different manifestations of outre phenomena. It’s truly intriguing to continue exploring its odd, numinous depths. Yes, I am totally using overly verbose language here in tribute to Lovecraft – because although this game isn’t expressly a tribute – it does share that creeping dread beneath its soporific and idyllic reverie.
Anything irksome about the game – in terms of manipulation of the elements, avatars, UI and so on, seem more like deliberate restraints from a design perspective, like a blocked up toothpaste tube that suddenly spews in unexpected directions. Now I don’t want to be an apologist for the title – it is quite unfriendly at first. But once I started thinking like the game, I had no problem doing what I wanted to do; it isn’t expressly broken – it just does things in its own way.
Though at first I wanted to dismiss Echo of the Wilds as a Don’t Starve also-ran, it wasn’t long before I realized that this rather under-publicized, mysterious little gem is full of secrets I have spent many an hour pondering. Perhaps the kindest thing I can say about this odd little world is that it represents its very own corner of the universe, and that is precisely why I signed up for this job.
I also strongly recommend checking out Case’s previous title – ilamentia – which underscores that this is not a mistake, but rather some kind of mad genius at work, and we are just lucky to muck about in the fallout.
Echo of the Wilds – Official Trailer: