Two years ago, Ready At Dawn's virtual reality adventure game Lone Echo released on the Oculus Rift, published by Oculus Studios. The space-bound adventure quickly became a favorite among VR enthusiasts, racking up VR game of the year awards. Today, Oculus Studios and Ready At Dawn have announced a new release window for a sequel to the title, one that has greater ambition than its direct predecessor as revealed in new details.
Lone Echo 2 picks up right where Lone Echo left off: with the android Jack and their human partner Captain Olivia Rhodes stranded in the 26th Century on the Rings of Saturn. In my hands-on time with Lone Echo 2, floating through space stations immediately felt familiar. As the android Jack, I grabbed onto bars and propelled myself forward. In some instances, I even used my weight to push a crane to solve a puzzle. Looking out windows to see the vastness of space was still, as it tends to be in VR, gorgeous.
In the first Lone Echo, Liv played a big role in the beginning, and later at the end. That was because it was a monumental task to bring her into the game, according to Nathan Phail-Liff, art director on the first Lone Echo and game director for the sequel. This led to her only being present at a limited capacity. There's a key difference in Lone Echo 2, though: your companion Liv is now almost always at your side, and in some instances, you can even direct her to help you solve a puzzle.
"In Lone Echo 2, we looked at ways of actually having her be more present with the player in more cooperative gameplay, in longer stretches of narrative and discovery together," Phail-Liff tells USG during an Oculus reveal event last week. "So that was definitely an area we looked at, kind of taking what we wanted from first and giving you more of that."
Liv was with me a good majority of my demo too, unlike the predecessor. That co-op with an NPC is the big thing Lone Echo 2 is focusing on. When I ask Phail-Liff if that means there will be co-op with two actual players in the future, noting the capability already present in the competitive multiplayer spinoff of Echo Arena in VR, he says it's not currently planned.
"That sounds amazing. Currently we're not really looking at that," he says. "But yeah, between having kind of a social competitive multiplayer game using the movement model and a single-player game, I can see where there might be a fit there. But it's not in our current ambitions for Lone Echo 2."
Lone Echo 2 is aiming for a Q1 2020 release on Oculus Rift, instead of its original 2019 release window. Oculus also released its two newest headsets: the Oculus Quest, a cordless all-in-one headset that doesn't require a PC to run, and the Oculus Rift S, an updated version of its core PC VR headset today. The Oculus Rift S replaces the base Oculus VR hardware, and retails for $399.