Open a game, take note of the engine, immediately settle into document an uncannily familiar experience. It’s a routine that, if one isn’t careful, becomes too easy to find yourself in as when critiquing the medium, but every now and then something comes along that challenges your expectations and refuses to be derivative, largely defying classification.
This time that title is Purple Noise Echo.
It’s not that you can’t put a label onto it, but Ukioq’s foray into the strategy genre empowers many conventions that haven’t been present since the era of cyber-tactics games in the mid-to-late 00’s. Noise Echo steps it up with an alien fever dream that incorporates the abstract playing field of cyber-futurism together with esoteric world-building reflective of the media’s current musings on the philosophical problems introduced by learning machines. There’s no Stock Male Protagonist here, nor any rogue mech pilots, or a troubled soul looking for revenge, you merely are an autonomous drone navigating the digital void in search of meaning and purpose.
And in this calculated wasteland, you are fed instructions from an unknown source attempting to guide you through the byzantine labyrinth of hex tiles before you. As you acquire more companions, they are only identifiable by their cryptic designations and configured suite of countermeasures or abilities. You, like your allies are defined only by your purpose, your utility as you attempt to avoid the vicious purview of the mysterious Sentinels occupying this plane of being with your party. Like the micro-fauna that emerged from the primal ooze, you slowly begin to swim out of the binary soup to begin your journey towards self-actualization and survival.
The actual mechanics of the game play are compelling, and while not always intuitive do convey an implicit sense of tactical depth. Noise Echo’s wide range of systems comes off as incredibly rich, if not slightly overwhelming on the initial run of the tutorial. It’s easy to become instantly hooked in by the world despite it’s early state and rough edges, there is a charisma that shines through the few obstacles remaining ahead of the game’s production cycle.
The world deserves more experimental titles brave enough to push past the boundaries of expected conventions and tropes that many in this medium have over-relied on. While some may find Noise Echo’s UI obtuse at times, it only lends an increasing layer of depth to a larger picture of a world that we can’t wait to see more of. Whatever it may lack in obvious visuals, it makes up for in tone and atmosphere, the networked fog of war tempting you further into its maw of treachery.
If you were looking for something different and unique, and you’re a fan of strategy, give Purple Noise Echo a deep dive.
Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for rebind.io and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice