VR Classics is a series about the VR games and experiences we love—and why we love them. This week we're taking a look at Ready At Dawn's acclaimed spacefaring adventure, Lone Echo.
Lone Echo has a sequel out this week, which is reason enough to play it. It doesn’t hurt knowing where Liv and Jack’s story left off before picking the thread back up. (Or if you'd like a refresher, check out the video below.)
What’s truly remarkable about Lone Echo though is that it’s still just as breathtaking now as it was on its release day four years ago. Lone Echo made VR “real” for a lot of people, proving that this then-nascent technology could match (or even surpass) the storytelling potential of more established platforms.
It’s easy to see why during the game’s grander moments, of course. Lone Echo does scale like few other VR games, before or since. Staring at Saturn, suspended gracefully outside the Kronos II mining station. Seeing the “anomaly” develop from a fleck of gold into a fearsome tangle of light, clawing its way into space grasping and hungry. And of course, that scene where the ship...well, we should probably avoid spoilers.
But Lone Echo is a story of individuals, first and foremost. An anomaly has appeared on Saturn, yes—but your only goal is survival, a mere spectator as Kronos II starts to fall apart.
It’s a small story in a small space station, set against an infinite backdrop. And it comes alive in the details—in the chats you have with Liv while repairing this or that system, in the way a bit of machinery thunks into place, in the seconds after you jostle a canister and it tumbles through zero-G on a long journey towards nothing at all. Kronos II feels lived in, scuffed and scratched, decorated with toy dinosaurs and yellow sticky notes that Liv wrote to herself. It’s inherently futuristic, but familiar.
And you come into contact with so much of Kronos II—quite literally, as getting around means propelling yourself from wall to wall, from one handhold to another. It’s unique and it’s tactile, the sort of mechanic that fully takes advantage of VR. There’s more to it, though. Traversing Kronos II forces you to really contemplate how you move through the space, noticing grab rails and ladders and the countless small touches that make the station livable.
That attention to the mundane makes Lone Echo feel real. So real, I actually held my breath the first time I stepped out of Kronos II’s airlock. Nevermind that an android wouldn’t have a breath to hold. It felt right at the time, and that’s what matters.
Point being: Lone Echo was ahead of its time, so much so that it still feels groundbreaking even now. If you’ve never played it, you should. And if you want to learn about how Ready At Dawn created this tour-de-force? Be sure to check out the in-depth interview we published recently for more behind-the-scenes details.