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We’ve written about Echo Arena multiple times. We had our first hands-on preview back at Oculus Connect 3 (OC3) when it was just a multiplayer mode within Lone Echo, an otherwise single player game, and then saw it again at a separate preview event. Now with two beta weekends in the books that brought tons of new people into the fold, Echo Arena is finally launching as its own separate, standalone experience.
After spending so much time with it I can confidently say that Echo Arena is hands-down one of the best multiplayer VR games I’ve ever played and should be experienced by everyone with an at least passing interest in VR technology.
At its core the premise is simple: there is a single disc floating in the middle of a zero-gravity room. You’re on a team with a bunch of other people. There is a goal at each end of the arena, which also has a variety of objects in the way. Your mission is to push off of objects, use your wrist boosters, and carefully navigate the environment while throwing, passing, and grabbing the disc on your way to score.
The best way to describe it is like playing Ultimate Frisbee in zero-G with some callbacks to the likes of Tron, Harry Potter’s Quidditch, and even soccer (football.) Just describing it and even showing it in action (via the trailer above) isn’t enough to really do it justice though as Echo Arena, perhaps more so than any other VR game before it, needs to be experienced to be understood.
Any good competitive game is going to be easy to pick up and play but difficult to master. Take Rocket League for example, one of the most popular and successful indie games. It’s just soccer with a giant ball and rocket-powered cars. That’s it. Simple, but oh-so-difficult to master in practice. Fighting games are similar. Echo Arena on the other hand is a bit different.
While it’s certainly intuitive once you get the hang of it, I think that, like with most VR games, there are three levels of mastery: first-time player that’s still adapting to VR itself, intermediate player that knows VR but is still learning the game, and expert player that is comfortable in VR and has a firm grasp of the game’s mechanics and strategies. Most people are going to be in that intermediate category but if you’re new to VR and jumping into a game like Echo Arena totally fresh, then you might have some trouble at first.
Mechanically it isn’t hard to understand. You leverage your momentum to fly across the arena as you subtly adjust your trajectory with your Iron Man-esque wrist boosters. Grabbing the disc, throwing it through the air, and calling out to teammates all feels very much like Ultimate Frisbee or most any real-life sport. That’s part of what makes it so effective. But when you realize you no longer have to consider things like the wind, arcing the disc, or curving it through the air, you notice […]