Well, here we are again. I'm going to preface this review with the statement that I don't envy publishers in today's smartphone market. Thanks to what is certainly the most ridiculously high level of competition in any gaming market ever, it must be enormously difficult to balance getting your game into enough people's hands with making enough money to keep the lights on. As with any difficult task, there are many figurative bodies on the floor resulting from missteps. There are free games that give away too much, leading to little income. There are free games that give too little, leading to being buried in obscurity. With so many free and low-priced games, publishers that choose to put a larger price on their games frequently face backlash or, worse, have their product entirely ignored. It's a minefield, and I feel for you guys.

For the players, though, the play's the thing. All of this fiddling around with monetization seems to have an almost inevitable effect on the actual game design, which is why many gamers choose to stick to games that have a premium model. These games can usually be spotted by their relatively high price tag, but occasionally, you find a game that prices itself in a higher bracket but still seems to be designed around freemium-style monetization. I'm sorry for the lengthy preamble, but it's unfortunately very pertinent to the game I'm here to talk about. Echo Prime [$4.99], the latest from Robot Entertainment, the guys behind the free-to-play hit Hero Academy [Free], is a good action game. It's also a premium-priced game with a design that seems informed by a desire to motivate IAPs.

screen1136x1136-113

Echo Prime is a top-down sci-fi action game that looks like Diablo and even occasionally plays like it. You tap a location to move there, you tap an enemy to attack it, you tap an icon to use a special ability. You'll earn experience points, level up, and use the money you find to buy new equipment. The fast pace of the game, its stage-based nature, and your character's agility make this feel more like an action game than an RPG, though. When you're battling some of the game's large bosses, rolling out of the way of attacks, dashing in for a combo and getting out before the retaliation comes, and memorizing their patterns, it sometimes feels more like God of War than Diablo. Skill really counts here, and it's easy to start thinking that in this game, it trumps all.

It all comes crashing down sooner or later, though. Oh, admittedly, it's pretty far down the line when it strikes, but it does come. Survival in Echo Prime requires skill to be sure, but more than that, it requires keeping your equipment up to date. Doing that requires you to earn a lot of credits, especially in the later part of the game. Earning a lot of credits requires a ridiculous amount of grinding. If you like, however, you can spend emblems to get new gear instead. Yes, there it is. A second, premium currency, which like many premium currencies can be earned through play, but in a very stingy manner. These emblems can be used in a variety of ways, including picking up new equipment and boosts, powering up your special abilities (called Echoes), and opening the various caches you find along the way. The game gives them out generously at first, so generously you might think they won't be a problem, but about mid-way through the game, they dry up, which means you're going to have to slowly grind out the huge amount of credits it takes to keep your equipment up to snuff.

It's too bad, because there's a lot here to like. As you play, you'll earn new Echoes, which are these weird sort of aliens that give you special abilities. Some of them are passive, while others are activated by hitting their icon at the top of the screen. They do things like boost your stats, attack enemies, or heal you. At first, you can only bring one of your own Echoes, but as you level up, you'll be able to bring more. You'll also be able to bring along one more Echo, either from your Game Center friends, or a random selection from other players. The Echo you bring will return to their owner with some credits in hand if you pass the mission. It reminds me of Puzzle & Dragons [Free], and I think it's a cool social aspect that isn't too intrusive.

screen1136x1136-114

There's a good variety of gear and it's all visible on your character, which is always a nice touch. You'll always be looking forward to your next piece of equipment, which is important for this type of game. There are quite a lot of missions, with plenty of optional missions peppered into the main story. A variety of gameplay objectives, like defending an object, exterminating all of a particular type of enemy in a very short amount of time, timed survival, and even having to wound and capture enemies break things up nicely from the usual "go from left to right shooting everything" missions. Sometimes you'll even have a choice of different versions of a mission. This assists as much as it can with taking care of some of the monotony of running through a rainbow of narrow corridor after narrow corridor.

Apart from the issues I have with its grind, the biggest problem I have with Echo Prime is how repetitive things tend to feel. The stages are not visually exciting at all. There are a few exceptions, but you're generally just running down plain-looking hallways in this game, and always in the same direction, to boot. The enemy variety is also a bit weak, with the exception of the cool bosses. While enemies do get more powerful and more intelligent, there's not much difference in how they look and sound. A little bigger, a few extra pieces of armor, and that's pretty much how it goes. I'd have loved to have seen the sci-fi setting pushed for a few more interesting locales. Heck, even some variety in stage design aside from monster arenas and monster hallways would have been cool.

I'm honestly kind of conflicted with Echo Prime. When it's going, it's fast and fun, and I love playing an action game like this that actually calls for a measure of skill and reflex. At the same time, it's trying to get you into a longer game that it has trouble maintaining interest for thanks to some content that's recycled just a little too much. When it stops, it really stops, and while I can't say for sure that the grind is there to promote IAP, it sure feels like it is, and that kind of chafes me at this price point. There are lots of ways this could be a game that I'd want to recommend to others, but right now, the only thing I can truly say about my feelings on this game is that it's not worth it.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarNoneNone
  • twick

    Charging a premium price and having in app purchases really makes me not want to even try it. The gameplay looks fun, though.

    • Ziekke

      I don't even bother looking any further into it once I see freemium elements.

      • Morgan01

        Give me a premium, one time cost game any day. Start throwing in IAP, then it's time to find another game. This title? - Pass -

    • jeffyg3

      Yeah, agreed. Was about to buy it a week ago, but after seeing all that freemium-like IAP is the reason I never bought it when I went on the AppStore page for the game.

      • visualplayer

        I'd rather buy a full price game than use in app purchases. It turns gaming into gambling. Gambling is fine if you're 80 and have no mind to notice what's happening. It's not good for an intelligent gamer.

  • LousyHero

    Sad. I loved hero academy and thought that the pricing structure in that game was done right. Seems like a misstep on robot entertainments part.

    • liteking

      It's done right for you as a consumer, but not for them as a developer. I guess

      • mclifford82

        Then get more dollars up front. This game is $5, which I know is a relatively premium price on the AppStore, but they really should price it to be what they need to make to be happy. I think their customers will appreciate it.

        Hell, people aren't stupid. They could even put it bluntly on the game description. "This game carries a premium price tag because at no point during gameplay will we ask you for more money to make the game better. You have our word."

      • MrSpud

        "$5 is not even close to premium."
        "This game is $5, which I know is a relatively premium price"

        Hard to follow your reasoning when you make conflicting comments that make very little sense, sounds like you just enjoy arguing.

  • ste86uk

    Spent about 12 hours playing the game and get really frustrated by people that complain about IAP, 12 hours in which is more than I spend playing most games and I haven't spent anything.

    Like a lot of games to me the IAP here is optional as a shortcut, why buy the game if you don't want to play and just skip bits of it anyway? I'm still levelling up different echos and I still find really challenging normal levels, there are definitely many parts of this game that involve some strategy, skill and reflex. I highly recommend the game.

    I spent more cash on hero academy for armies than I have here.

    • https://www.facebook.com/DigitalDistillery Scot Damn

      Agreed. I've put more time into this game than 90% of the other games I've downloaded, either free or premium. And none of the IAP is remotely needed. I understand why it's there, so this dev can make additional profits from the people who choose to spend and accelerate the game, but for anyone who doesn't want to spend additional money, you don't have to, what so ever.

      This game really reminds me of Phantasy Star Online. Good game.

      • toxiccheese

        So your saying that you managed to complete the game start to finish without using any IAP? None at all?

      • https://www.facebook.com/DigitalDistillery Scot Damn

        Nope, I have spent exactly $ZERO$ on IAP in this game. Entirely optional. I believe I was quite clear above. The only reason the reviewer gave this a bad score is because he dislikes IAP in paid games to even exist. I however realize this is inevitable in mobile gaming. As long as it's optional, I don't care.

      • toxiccheese

        You think you'll be able to beat it without the use of IAP?

      • https://www.facebook.com/DigitalDistillery Scot Damn

        Of course. Much like PSO, this game has moments of grind. This comes with most RPG's or dungeon crawlers. Still, IAP are entirely optional. This is a great experience. I read through the review again, I don't see where anyone has said IAP aren't optional.

  • toxiccheese

    Dual currencies and a premium price tag?? No thanks, I'll pass.

    • mclifford82

      $5 is not even close to premium. Please start paying more for your games and stop being part of the problem.

      • Bliquid

        So tell us, what is premium, on ios?

      • toxiccheese

        I pay as much as $60 for games. I also pay for premium games on iOS ($5 - $15 or more). On the App Store $4.99 is a premium price. If the developer wants more for their hard work, I will gladly pay it, but I expect a complete game that I can play start to finish. I would have paid the $5 for a 4-6 hour experience as long as it was complete without IAP. But i have learned my lesson on dual currency games, regardless of price. Even at FREE I won't bother.

  • https://www.facebook.com/DigitalDistillery Scot Damn

    So I understand this is an opinion. However I greatly disagree with this review. I've put more time into this game than 90% of the other games I've downloaded. This is a miniature Phantasy Star Online. Tons of gear to obtain and level up, tons of skills to level up, just tons of fun. I'd give this 4 out of 5. One star deducted only because the play can get repetitive, but what game doesn't? None of the IAP is remotely needed. This is highly recommended.

  • bigjack66

    I agree with your comments it is a good looking fun game but is just too repetitive! It would have been a change if it just went from right to left occasionally but no and some of the enemies looked good until you fought them for the fiftieth time. But it's worth a go and will keep you amused for a while but the repetitive nature and the grind will get to you after a while!

  • Poo

    That's why I deleted this rip off.

    • liteking

      No you didn't.
      You didn't even download the game

    • mclifford82

      Your statement stinks of your namesake. No way you bought a game for $4.99 and deleted it because of some IAP.

      Then again, perhaps I'm giving you far too much credit on the intelligence side of things. Could go either way!

  • Ramaz1234

    Hmmm... It looks like a great game. I think I'm still going to try it out.

  • Jake7905

    A premium game from the makers of Hero Academy sounds very tempting. But then again, how often do you see TA rip a game for it's use of IAP? Not a good sign.

    • mclifford82

      They do it all the goddamn time, are you kidding? This site HATES in app purchase, and this article goes a long way to proving that. I've seen multiple people state the IAP doesn't really kick in for 12 hours or so, which is great. Also, IAP only serves to speed up the game. If you're enjoying it, why would you ever want to do that? I know I want games I enjoy to last as long as possible.

      • Jake7905

        TA readers hate IAP, it's a common theme on the site, but TA reviewers rarely rip a game and give it a bad review based on its IAP. If you don't believe it, just look at this year's free game reviews. They only rip the rip-offs.

      • awp69

        Quite true. If I remember correctly, even Real Racing 3, a game that set off a lot of IAP hatred, got a four-star review from TA. And, while I know some members of this site think the game is not an IAP grab, several gaming sites including Pocket Gamer ripped the game's dual currency system and IAPs. So I don't think TA as a review site had some kind of secret agenda. It's just what the reviewer thought. And these days, no matter what, I always just treat a review as one person's opinion.

  • hourglass

    Reminds me of Dark a little.

  • rammer

    This game is boring as hell! Don't waste 4.99. No way. It's nothing like Diablo. More like a lame version of mega man.

    Boring. Boring. Boring

  • echo_pdx

    What a shame. So glad I hadn't dropped five bucks on it yet.

  • Adsinjapan

    I've been waiting on this review for a while, thank you TA guys.
    It's a damn shame how things worked out. The game looks visually impressive enough, but like most, that IAP thing is the sting, and now there's no chance I'm dropping $4 (or ¥400 in my case). Even if they dropped the price, I'm not getting cheated at paying more for it later.

  • TychoQuad

    Like others, I was really excited when I found out Robot entertainment had made another mobile game. I still love Hero Academy, but after watching the trailer, I thought it looked extremely bland. I was hoping for a positive review from Touch Arcade, but alas, that wasn't the case. Better luck next time Robot eh?

  • ste86uk

    I can't help but feel the review is very biased and went into it to begin with aiming for a bad review. Bear in mind is it only one persons opinion as what I say is.

    But I do feel under 3 stars is woefully unfair

  • bigjack66

    There's a few games trying this now! Charging for the game then wanting more for special items. 2k drive does it and so does Bloodmasque ! I'm sure there are a few others at least freemium has the decency not to charge you for the game too!

  • app game play

    Not bad. I never played this. I made a website for games on the iphone android and windows phone systems. Let me know what you guys think. It's still kinda in the works http://appgameplay.com

  • http://www.parajuego.com/ Para juego

    3D? really impressed with this game. I like it from the trailer and images

  • Drummerboycroy

    Hate saying it, but my experience matches the reviewer's completely. Not sure what version those with positive impressions are playing, but it's certainly not the same as mine. Too bad, because I love RE, and underneath all the IAPs is actually a good game that could have enjoyed some longevity... Oh well, Premium + IAP, waddayagonnado, eh?

  • worldcitizen1919

    Thank you Touch Arcade for pointing out the huge problems with this game. Yes it's very sneaky, cunning and deceitful to try and con gamers into the game up to a point and then spring a paywall surprise JUST when they might have gotten addicted to it.

    Thanks for letting us know This dev is BLACKLISTED from my list of devs to support. No supporting devs who do this.

  • Alan Baldwin

    I'm interested in your change of heart between this and Infinity Blade 3. IB3 has gotten a lot better since the update, but originally it felt a lot like this.

  • liteking

    I think TouchArcade reviewers really hates IAP to the point that sometimes the score they give to IAP-based games is a bit unfair. This game is not that bad.

Echo Prime Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 2.5