Echo Arena Game Review – A New Era for E-Sports

Challenge yourself and give competition a run for their money! Credit to: Ready At Dawn

“Your team will face off against the competition in a zero-gravity clash of robotic glory as you glide, boost, and punch your way to scoring goals…”

Echo Arena creates a new era for e-sports as players enter a virtual arena and compete in a multiplayer environment for the glory of the win.

The objective of the game is for your 3-man team to move the disc from your end of the arena to your opponent team’s goal at the other end. This sounds much easier than it is when you consider that your team also has to carefully navigate around objects, avoid being stunned and maintain possession of the disc.

Your virtual body looks like a robot and in an almost eerie sort of way, the movements mimic real life so well that you begin to recognize fellow robots’ personalities and body language while also developing friendships within the community. Players like Sakura1138, who founded the Hamburger Helpers – a community-initiated group dedicated solely to helping new members, spend time actually looking for ways to make the experience better for others.

I’ve not only had terrific fun playing this game, but I’ve also lost about 45 pounds playing regularly so it is definitely a great workout option. My 30-minute workout results are included below. Also, be sure to watch this official game trailer:

Preparation:

Most people play Echo Arena standing. Due to health problems that have damaged blood flow to my legs, I’m one of the few seated players. With that said, since most people play standing, I did want to give you an accurate assessment of the calories you might burn while playing this game so I did two separate 30-minute tests. The results were surprising. I used a Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro to track my progress.

Here are the results of my 30-minute session (seated):

  • Calories burned:  169
  • Average heart rate:  118
  • Max heart rate:  154

Here are the results of my 30-minute session (standing):

  • Calories burned: 167
  • Average heart rate:  135
  • Max heart rate:  175

I had expected to burn many more calories while standing so these results were shocking. After watching a clip of me in real life playing this game, I noticed that because I play seated, I move my upper body quite a bit more than other players. I have to work harder as a seated player to keep up with those who are agiler on their feet so that’s resulting in a higher usage of calories. Check out this video from Sakura1138 and you’ll see what I mean:

Intensity – 7/10

Matches are 5-minutes, but goals, launches, etc. increase the match time slightly so games actually end up being closer to about 8-minutes each. The intensity during matches can easily reach 10/10, but it’s difficult to keep up that pace between matches. While you await your next match in the lobby, your heart rate will go down. One way to avoid that is to create private matches, where you set the length of each match and keep that heart rate up while you play back-to-back matches with friends.

Arms – 9/10

While you might use your dominant arm more to throw or punch, you use both arms constantly in this game.

Legs – 7/10

Since most of my gameplay is seated, the game doesn’t do a lot for my legs, but that’s not a fair assessment since most people play standing. The 7/10 rating is based on a standing player who dodges, jumps, spins and squats throughout the game.

VR Challenger League competitor Kerestell “Lemming” Smith jumps on stage during national qualifiers at OC4 in October 2017. The VR Challenger League is presented by Intel, Oculus and ESL (eSports League).

Core and Balance – 9/10

You’re constantly turning, reaching, ducking, etc. while avoiding punches and obstacles. Unlike VR first-person shooter type games, Echo Arena is more like a real-life sport. As you become increasingly adept at the game, the more improvement you’ll see in your core and balance. Additionally, the benefit works both ways because that improvement then helps you play better.

Time Perception – 10/10

Even when you’re not in a match, in addition to visiting with other players, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy in the lobby:  toys, a practice arena, a combat room, a customization room, etc. This game can be so distracting that one of my personal rules is “no more cooking” while playing the game. There are some sad stories about burnt dinners, but suffice it to say that time flies when you’re playing Echo Arena.

Replayability – 10/10

The dynamics of every match vary. It reflects a true sport in this regard. You could play basketball repeatedly, but you’ll still have a “different” game each time. It just never grows old to the point that it ends up being addictive.

Fitness Scalability – 7/10

You can easily use the lobby areas to warm up before and cool down after your workout session. Since you’re moving so much, by adding a weighted vest or leg weights, you could increase the calories burned. I would not recommend wearing wrist weights, however, as there are too many variables that could result in injury.

Lack of Nausea – 9/10

The movement model and artwork in this game are exceptional. This is pertinent because when you play, you actually feel like you’re in the arena, which seems to reduce motion sickness. It helps that you can see your arms and legs in the game, rather than just hands like in most games. This increases the sensation of reality, further reducing nausea. I have absolutely no nausea in this game at all. I gave it a 9/10 only because some people experience a little bit when they first enter. You should be aware of this and simply take it slowly the first time you play.

Social Competition – 10/10

You can find casual, friendly competition anytime in public matches and for more serious players, there is already an established professional organization. The VR Challenger League held the first Echo Arena Grand Finals for the game in March 2018 in Katowice, Poland, where players battled it out for a total prize pool of $200,000. Check out this video to see some of the action:

VRFI Fit Score – 8.7/10

The Good

Echo Arena makes you forget that you’re burning calories. The mechanics are so smooth that you actually feel like you’re in the arena enjoying a game akin to ultimate Frisbee in zero-G. This makes it even more useful as part of a fitness program because it’s fun, you can return repeatedly and it never gets old. Also, Echo Arena developer Ready at Dawn teamed with Oculus to offer the game as a FREE download in the Oculus store. Many HTC Vive and Windows Mixed Reality users also play the game thanks to ReVive, a hack that allows them access to games on the Oculus platform.

The Bad

It’s just a matter of time before you break something. Experienced players say it’s not a matter of “if” this is going to happen, but “when.” The official play area is 4 x 4. I would highly recommend that you find a mat that size and use it as a guide to staying centered. Also make sure there are no walls, monitors, windows, lights, etc. within your reach in every direction.

 

 

 


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