- Genre: Social sandbox MMORPG with a skill-based character system.
- PvE: Yes.
- PvP: Yes.
- Business Model: Not yet known, but the developers promise no pay-to-win systems. Don’t they all?
- Development Stage: Pre-alpha
- Availability: Pre-alpha testing. Sign up on the website and you might receive a key.
- Release Date: Years away most likely.
- Platforms: PC and Console.
- How to Stay Updated: Discord.
Into The Echo is an in-development MMORPG from ETLOK Studios. We learned about the game in August 2021.
A press release containing bold wording such as “next generation social experiences” and “unique identity based on [player] their own purpose derived from the actions they take and the role they choose to play” announced the coming of this social MMO that aims to take the world by storm. That’s something we wholeheartedly salute, however, we cannot overlook that Into the Echo is not the first game that promises to rock the MMORPG foundation.
Will it succeed? We wish upon a star, cross our fingers, and sincerely hope so.
Who is ETLOK Studios?
The redefining of the MMORPG genre comes from Toronto, Canada. At least, that’s where the ETLOK Studios headquarters is.
A quick spying session on LinkedIn shows that the company was founded in 2020. It’s a small studio with less than 50 employees. Three have a LinkedIn profile, and only three are associated with the company.
The two co-founders, Akshay Kolte and Siddharth Kolte, serve as Executive Producer and Art Director, respectively. The third employee is a 3D artist who is also a designer at Hydra Games.
In March 2022, the pre-alpha test was delayed due to the war in Ukraine. The announcement stated that the safety of the staff comes first.
The developers are scattered around the world. It’s pretty much safe to assume that none of them have worked on a big gaming project, otherwise they would have bragged about it. “From the makers of X and Y comes the next groundbreaking title”, that kind of advertising.
Truth be told, we had our fair share of not-so-great MMOs from seasoned developers, so we are not dooming Into the Echo based on the lack of prestige.
Now, what’s interesting is that ETLOK Studios use the term AAA when speaking about the company and product. Triple A is usually synonymous with big money and big companies. We know that the co-founder Akshay Kolte was planning to hunt for investors at the GDC 2022. There wasn’t a follow-up on this, so we don’t know if they managed to secure funding or not.
Long story short, we don’t have many clues about the people behind ETLOK Studios and the budget. Let’s find out more about the game they’re making.
The Time Travel MMO
So what type of MMO is Into the Echo? The time-traveling kind! Now, that’s something you don’t hear in every MMO announcement.
Time travel will play an important part both gameplay and lore-wise. The developers made it clear that this is not a theme-park MMORPG where all characters work towards specific objectives, such as reaching max level, gearing up, and completing set-in-stone end-game goals.
As for more traditional descriptive features, Into the Echo will be a classless sandbox MMO with PvE and PvP content focused on social interaction.
It’s established that Into the Echo will have both PvE and PvP. That’s good to hear. The game is set on the planet Raava.
Exploration meets time travel, as discovering the world also means going back in time to unveil mysteries. Time travels are lucrative activities that help players. In what way, it remains to be seen.
Into the Echo will have gathering and crafting, but not as we know them. It will also have puzzles. We eagerly wait for the developers to elaborate on these systems.
As for other activities, community challenges will require the player base to work as a team. Players with complementary skills will join forces to complete objectives. Some of these challenges will have rewards that all members of the community can reap.
What role will you play in this world? Word on the street is that Raava needs all sorts of adventurers, be they craftsmen, soldiers, or code-breakers – whatever that means, it probably has something to do with puzzles.
Players will have distinct goals driven by their own ambitions and preferences. Instead of a classic linear progression based on XP and levels, the good people at ETLOK propose a hub-and-spoke system. The explanation is somewhat vague. Our understanding is that we won’t have fixed classes or roles that advance based on traditional levels.
Instead, we will have multiple skills (spokes) that we choose to develop based on personal preferences. This will result in different characters with distinctive play styles. Into the Echo is not the first game to think of this – and the blog acknowledges it – but they promise they found an innovative way to take things to the next stage.
Because we have no levels, the content won’t have any level requirements. This facilitates the interaction between players no matter how much time they’ve invested into the game. The developers believe that the lack of numerical attributes will reduce the elitism and toxicity that come with it. The third trump is that new spokes (skills) can be added over time to organically enrich the character system.
Of all three, we agree with the last one. Adding more character skills – rather than just upping the numbers representing the level cap, item level, HP, stats, damage, etc – makes up for a more natural progression.
The skill-based character system is intriguing but, we cannot help to raise an eyebrow when hearing things like uniqueness and individuality in an MMO context. When it comes to games in general, the desire to be high-performing overtakes the desire to stand out from the crowd. Sure, you can have fun with a unique build, but you also expect some degree of efficiency. Leave it to theory crafters to unearth a cookie-cutter build and everyone will copy it.
If Into the Echo finds a way to allow players to have efficient and functional unique builds, then they’ve truly broken the mold. Having no levels to gate the content sounds great, but the blog does mention skills as a potential requirement to access content. It seems they are just replacing one thing for another, but that’s too early to tell. Maybe it will turn out great. We have to wait for more details.
What Makes Into the Echo Unique?
We don’t know how the touted time-traveling will integrate into the gameplay, so we abstain from commenting on it for now. Into the Echo takes a “holistic approach” to the MMO design with mental health awareness as a core philosophy.
ETLOK wants to build a game that leaves no room for toxic behavior. Into the Echo does away with MMO features that the team believes are encouraging people to act like jerks: unfair microtransactions, chance-based loot, and grinding. Ironically the last two have served as principles to some of the most solid MMORPGs in existence.
We welcome ETLOK’s initiative and all we can say is Hurry up, already! But seriously, take the time to make a great game and the players will appreciate it. We leave you with some artwork that provides a glimpse into the world of Raava.