Thursday, April 17, 2014

PAX East 2014: Echoes of Eridu (Batterystaple Games)

Spring has arrived, and with that, another PAX East has sprung up, inviting gamers and game developers from all over the world to Boston, all to show upcoming games and revel in what the industry has in store.  We at Third Rate Minion were there, and we got to try out a sampling of what was there on the showfloor!


This past year has been an interesting one for Mega Man fans, especially with Keiji Inafune bringing the Mega Man franchise back in spirit with Mighty No. 9 through Kickstarter. However, Mega Man is also becoming the inspiration of other new IPs being headed to Kickstarter. New developer Batterystaple Games was present at this year’s PAX East to show off their recently-Kickstarted game, Echoes of Eridu. We got to interview Zach Urtes, the Art Director of the team, and you can see the interview above. While we did not get gameplay footage from the showfloor, we did get to play its pre-alpha build while in Boston.

Echoes of Eridu takes place in the far-flung future after a man-made AI (Enterprise NeuroKinetic Intelligence, or ENKI for short) gains sentience and accidentally creates a robot apolcalypse. Feeling sorry for having caused such a great calamity, ENKI helps turn the remaining humans into robot-human hybrids and provides them asylum in Eridu, a facility floating far above Earth. However, getting there is not exactly easy, as the survivors need to go through the facilities of EZN, the corporation originally responsible for ENKI’s creation, and a being named ENLIL is controlling massive robots and blocking easy entry into Eridu. ENLIL’s true motive is unclear, but regardless, the survivors must make their way through EZN’s facilities and face ENLIL’s followers in order to make it to Eridu and safety.

Echoes of Eridu is an action-platformer akin to Mega Man X but with the randomness and replayability of a roguelike. Every time the game is played, the stages are randomized in parts so stages are never the same twice (or at least statistically so). Over the course of each adventure, players obtain basic power-ups, but they can also find blueprints for use in the ARSENAL (Automatic RoboSapient Equipment and Navigation Assistance Library). When these blueprints are retrieved, they can be equipped in each new game afterward. So, while you might not survive the first run through the game (especially with just one life to a run), you still keep the blueprints earned in the adventure, allowing for a more powerful start to the adventure through EZN’s facilities. Of course, in true Mega Man style, defeating big bosses earn players special weapons for the remainder of the adventure, but what exactly those weapons do will differ with each run.

You will not need to worry about playing through the game alone, as the game will have both offline and online multiplayer options. While initially the game has two characters, a stretch goal will unlock two more characters, each one with their own special abilities. Both characters currently feel very similar to Mega Man X movesets, and that is not a bad thing when it comes to this game. Nina focuses on a Buster arm she was given and feels very similar to X in attack power, while Ace is based more on Zero, focused on slashing and close-range combat. Having played as Ace at the demo, I can confirm that he certainly feels like Zero, and cutting up robots is as fun as ever.

 Even if he dies, at least he got a cool blueprint for his trouble!

The demo was Pre-Alpha, but even so, the game’s movement is pretty smooth throughout the experience. Tony and I played together cooperatively, which meant the camera would occasionally follow one player more than the other, but that could have been more an issue with us rushing through the game in true Mega Man X style. Because the world is built together using random segments, there were times where there was no ceiling and opened outward into space, allowing us to skip certain obstacles, but when things worked well, playing through the stages wassmooth and intense. Enemies continued to attack both of us intently, and at one point in time, I was left to fend off the boss myself, jumping over barrages of attacks and using my own special attacks to take it down. Thankfully, the game allows players to be brought back into the game by cutting another player’s life by half, thus ensuring that everyone could still play, at least until there was no more life to divide. I was finally destroyed in the second stage, but not until after I used special attacks and wall sliding to vanquish some very intrusive spiked enemies.

Mobility-wise, this game is certainly on the cusp of matching movement from the Mega Man X franchise. Characters can dash swiftly across the ground, and based on what ARSENAL items are chosen, players can dash in the air much like previous X games or, in my case, use a double jump for further mobility in the stages. It was not all based on MMX, though; some of the first world contained antigravity ceilings, allowing for mobility along these platforms from a different perspective. Wall climbing and jumping felt quick and snappy, and that made movement all the quicker through the world. I also think this quick movement led to our downfall in the stages, but that is all on us to work at in our next playthroughs. I did notice, though, that feedback from being hit by enemies did not seem hard enough, and that made it more difficult to gauge how I was engaging with the enemy.  I do think a small tutorial area, either outside the main quest or just at the start, would be helpful to show what each player can do before going head-first into the danger; it took me some time to finally understand what each energy bar represented and what each ability could do in the context of the game. Either way, it was a fast-paced and intense romp all the way to the explosive end (even if I was the thing that exploded).

Echoes of Eridu is still in the midst of its Kickstarter campaign, and it is currently slated for PC with ports of Mac/Linux versions post-release. Consoles may be a future consideration, but right now PC is the main priority. It is slated for release hopefully sometime later this year, if all works out. Go check out the Kickstarter campaign here and help support Batterystaple games!

It has been a number of years since the last official Mega Man game was released, and fans of the series have decided to take it on themselves to make games to follow in the blue bomber’s footsteps. One such game is currently having a Kickstarter campaign, Echoes of Eridu, and it had a playable pre-alpha demo at PAX East 2014.

Developed by Batterystaple Games, Echoes of Eridu takes the gameplay of Mega Man X and introduces it to the challenge and procedurally generated levels of roguelike titles. While the gameplay is akin to Mega Man, the environments are made up of randomly-arranged sections filled with platforming goodness so that each playthrough has a different level layout, which is a staple to the roguelike genre. The only criticism I have with this was sometimes the randomly generated stages would create open ceilings or pathways that would go no where and place me outside the play area. Luckily, the developers state that they are aware of this and working to fix it. Also similar to roguelike games, players only have one life and will lose any power ups collected along the way once they die. Only special blueprints hidden in the stages will allow for the player to start the stage with special abilities such as double jump, charge shot, or speed sliders. At the time of our play session, a number of power-ups were already unlocked, making our playtime easier than it will be in the final build.

Conveyer belts, spikes, and flying robots.  Yep, it's a Mega Man game alright!

The demo had two playable characters, each with their play style. Nina played like Mega Man X with her buster-like weapon, and Ace played like Zero with his slash attacks.  I played as Nina during my playtime with Echoes of Eridu, which I felt controlled nearly identically to Megaman X. At the same time, Alex played as Ace. While the game can be played alone, the game was designed to be played in multiplayer whether local with a few friends or online with scores of people filling the server. Luckily, players won’t be able to knock each other around, but they will activate level gimmicks, which leads to some forced cooperation with some falling platforms.  As for the gameplay itself, it was snappy and responsive, making navigating the futuristic areas and avoiding enemies more enjoyable. Jumping, sliding, and wall-jumping was fast and felt like it came directly from a Mega Man X title. However, I felt that getting hit or hitting an enemy did not provide enough in-game response. With so much going on, I sometimes didn’t notice I was getting hit. Besides that, the gameplay was enjoyable and captured the twich play style of Megaman.

Visually, the game is vector-based and not sprited, which may be disappointing to old-school Mega Man X fans. However, the trad- off is the game's solid framerate, seemingly steady at 60 frames pre second. Everything ran smoothly in the demo, and the enemies and attacks were well-animated. As for the audio, the music and sound effects sound like they could have been in a Mega Man X title. Overall, the game’s aesthetic is right at home to be a Mega Man title and should please fans.

Although my time was short with Echoes of Eridu, the solid, twtich gameplay felt just like Mega Man X, and I am interested to see how the randomly generated levels could offer in terms of replayableity. Support their Kickstarter so we can have another great title to fill the Mega Man X shaped hole in our gaming library.

For more information on Batterystaple Games:

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