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Retronauts Explores Echo Night and the Roots of First-Person Exploration

It's not quite Gone Home, but From Software's Echo Night attempted something similarly daring—and in an era where this style of game was even harder to find.

This article first appeared on USgamer, a partner publication of VG247. Some content, such as this article, has been migrated to VG247 for posterity after USgamer's closure - but it has not been edited or further vetted by the VG247 team.

If you traveled back to 1999 and told your average video game enthusiast that From Software creates some of the most critically acclaimed and highly anticipated games of the future, they'd probably laugh you out of the room. (And criticize your frivolous use of time travel.)

In the '90s, though, this Japanese developer had a much worse reuputation. Even as a Souls series superfan, I didn't pay attention to From until people started buzzing about Demon's Souls—and even then I was skeptical. The reason I took a bit of convincing can be chalked up to how much game journalists of the past seemed to hate From Software games; often, they simply couldn't get past the admittedly crusty technology that powered them.

And no From Software production was easier to hate than the experimental Echo Night. It's a game that focuses on contemplative, atmospheric exploration, contains all but a handful of enemies, and eliminates combat options entirely. Maybe on a '90s PC that kind of experience would fly, but on the PlayStation? No dice.

When Echo Night inexplicably showed up on PSN a few months back, I grabbed it if only to see just what the heck this game was—even if it was bad, it'd at least be weird, and sometimes, that's all I want. So I was more than surprised to see Echo Night turn out to be pretty good; not only that, it definitely feels like an early stab at the whole walking simulator/environmental exploration genre that's been making waves in the indie scene as of late. I wouldn't go as far to say Echo Night exactly inspired things like Gone Home and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, but it's certainly interesting to see a genre evolve from a seemingly evolutionary dead end to something that's financially viable (to a point).

Saying any more would defeat the purpose of this bite-size podcast, but if these eleven minutes whet your interest, Echo Night is currently available in the PSN Store for $5.99—not a bad price for one of the most original PlayStation games you (probably) never played.

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