2018-07-15 14:50:21

Review of Echoes from Levia: Soulbound.
Written by SLJ.

Echoes from Levia: Soulbound is the first game in a series made by Cloverbit.

The following description is taken from their website:

Echoes from Levia: Soulbound is an audiogame created by Cloverbit and designed primarily for a visually impaired and blind audience.
The player will play as Seric, a boy of humble origins and blind from birth, and follows him during his adventure in the lands of Levia where he will be overwhelmed by a series of events that will bring him to discover his past and the mysterious and sinister characters who rule this world and ultimately fulfill his destiny.
The companion of this adventure is the mysterious familiar Kiroth, an incorporeal and enigmatic entity bound to the young Seric, who guides him on his journey through the different settings of the game.
Immersive Exploration
Explore the world of Levia and interact with the environments and people who will reveal the destiny of Seric.
Real-time Fights
Fight in real-time against various enemies, each with their own different stats and sounds.
Thrilling History
Immerse yourself in the history of Soulbound, thanks to more than 100 different characters and hours of dialogues completely subtitled
Binaural Audio
Experience an unprecedented level of immersion thanks to the binaural audio of the Bullroarer technology
End of description.
Please note: I haven't included the whole description in the review.

I have played through the game, and I will give you my personal opinions, so you can decide if you wanna spend 26.13 euros on the game or not.
The game is out for the following platforms: Windows, Mac OS, IOS and Android. I ended up buying it for my Mac because of the following reasons:
1. On IOS the size is around 300 mb. It's only around 100 mb on the Mac, and I have more free space on my Mac than on my phone.
2. I couldn't find any controls for the touch screen on IOS, so it was difficult to know if I would like the touch controls or not. Buying it for my Mac would make me sure I could play it using the keyboard.

Looking at the price and reading the description of the game, I really expected a lot from the product. The game have, in my opinion, both extremely bad things, but also surprisingly great things. For this reason, I will split this review up in bad and good things. I wanna start out with all the bad things first.

Please note:
All this are only my opinions and nothing else. I don't mean to offend the developers or anyone else, and I'm sorry if you, after having read this review, feel offended by something I have written in this review. Buying a product of this price needs to, in my opinion, be reviewed, where the reviewer are mentioning both the bad and good things about the product. This product does have, in my opinion, such bad and good things, so I choose to write it in ways, which might feel extreme to some people.
I don't mean to make people offended, but when such expensive product has been delivered, I think people have the right to know exactly what they are getting for the price. When buying such expensive product, the customers will expect a lot for the money. So therefore I decided to write this review, so you know what you exactly are getting if you decide to purchase the game.
Well, let's get started, shall we?

The bad things.

The gameplay.
A lot of time while playing through the game, I asked myself if this really was a game, or if it was an audiodrama. For me, it is an audiodrama, where you have to press a few keystrokes to continue to the next part. I wanna tell you why.
As you can read above in the description from the website, the game is in two parts: Combat and exploration.

The exploration.
I wander how the people who have designed the gameplay are exploring things in the real world. It seems like, out from the gameplay, that those people are living in an area only with some extremely small rooms, and whenever they are exploring, they have someone holding their hands, telling and forcing them what to do and what not to do.
Okay, let me explain all this more clearly.
You are having a robotic voice in your head which always guide you and tell you what to do and what not to do. That's a quite interesting concept, if you also were allowed to ignore the voice and do what you want on your own. But that's not the case in this game.
Every single area in the game, no matter if it's indoor or outside, are just very small rooms. So what happens if you go in a wrong direction? Well, the voice in your head simply informs you that you are going in the wrong direction, and you are being blocked by water, a wall or something else. In other words: You don't have the freedom to explore anything on your own at all in this game. That's not all. If you really are getting lost when standing less than 5 steps next to your destination, you have one more "holding your hand" feature to help you navigating the exploration part of the game. You can hold down the shift key, which mutes all the sounds around you, and plays a sound in the direction you need to go. That might be quite useful, if you find it overwhelming to walk just 10 steps to proceed, and you get lost in your own pocket or something. Seriously, how can that be called "Exploration?"
There is only one place in the game which was really a challenge for me. But I'm not sure if that should be called a puzzle instead.

The combat.
While playing the game, I was actually thinking about what combat and fighting really is. In this game, it is, according to the developers, like standing still at the same spot, and wiping small annoying insects away.
The enemies are coming from the left, right or in front of you. They are not smart enough to come from the behind. Your job is simply to time your attacks and hit them when it's possible. You can also block their attacks by holding down the down arrow, but that's not needed at all. The combat is extremely easy, just like wiping an annoying insect away.
In the description from the website, they mention "different stats." I would like to ask: What different stats? How do I see them? Maybe it's just me who didn't payed attention, but all the enemies acted exactly like the same to me.
Hitting the enemies sounds so ridiculous, so it's both fun and extremely bad. Seriously, I wander what the developers have told the voice actors to do or to sound like. For me, it sounds like, sorry to say,  they are getting an extreme orgasme. It gets even much better because of the hitting sound, which sounds like you smack them hard with the hand. So, you actually smack them to an extreme orgasme!
That is called "combat" in the game. Even when you get told at the beginning that you are fighting with a staf.

The sounds.
Well, I'm not sure if it's a bug in the game on the Mac, but... In the description from the website, they mention "Binaural Audio."
Sometimes the sounds and cutscenes are really well done regarding to stereo, echo etc. and other times, it's simply just mono, where you expect it to be stereo.
When reading about Binaural Audio in the game, I really expected to be able to hear if the sounds are coming in front of me, or if they are coming from the behind, but that's not the case. More than half of the cutscenes are in mono, and the same goes for the echo effects and other things. But then, suddenly, I nearly got chocked to get it all in stereo, and some of the sounds even sounded like they were coming from the behind. Again, it could seem like a bug in the game, which hopefully will be fixed in an update. It's a shame all this amazing sound design is being destroyed by being played in mono when you expect it in full 3D because of the inaural Audio.
I'm not really critical regarding to sound quality, not at all. But a few times, the sounds got distorted like the explosions were too high. That was not expected in an audiogame, where the developers are focusing that much on the sounds.

The graphics.
Because I'm totally blind, I can't say much about the graphics in the game. The game is soled as an audiogame with focus on the audio, but still with some graphics. I haven't been able to find any descriptions at all about what the graphics are showing in the "audio game." Don't make me wrong, graphics are very much appreciated, more on this in the good things section, but more information would have been welcome regarding to the graphics, especially when the game is soled as an audio game, focusing on the audio only.
I turned the graphics off, but found them to be turned on again multiple times. It seems like the game doesn't remember you have turned off the graphics. Not a big deal for me though.

My biggest disappointment after having bought such expensive a game is that it does not have any replayability at all, unless there is something which I haven't discovered. If that's the case, then I would really like to be corrected, and I will take my words back.
Seriously... Paying 26 Euros for a game which gives absolutely no reason for playing the game again is just really extremely bad in my opinion. I mean, it shouldn't be that difficult to include difficulty levels, make hidden things, unlock more things to explore etc. It is ment to be a quality game, right?

The good things.
So, if you are still reading this, you might get surprised that I actually have a lot of good things to say about the game as well. Yes, the game have really deserved some great and positive comments. So let's get to it.

The gameplay.
the introduction of the game is in my opinion really very well done. It might, for some people who are new to audio gaming, feels quite overwhelming to be thrown into an audio game. I think the voice in your head and the great introduction will get more new people into audio gaming.

The combat.
The only good thing I have to say about the combat is the following:
Thanks so much to the sound designers and voice actors for making that much fun. The first time I heard what sounds like smacking someone to orgasme, I laughed so much so I actually died twice. I couldn't take it serious, couldn't concentrate and laughed so much... big_smile

The graphics.
As previously mentioned, I can't say much about the graphics, especially since I don't find any information about this on the website. But I would like to thank you so much for including graphics in the game as well. I think that would be useful for visual impaired people who have some sight left, and for those who are new to gaming, who might need some help from a sighted person to get used to the game. I'm sure the graphics will make a difference for some people.

The story.
Sometimes I found the story a bit confusing, but most of the time, I think the story is very well done. The story is quite long, a great mix of feelings, a ton of locations and so many characters as well. I'm surprised of the length of the story, all those locations and also all those characters. The story might move on too quickly for some people and some people might think some details could have been described better. But considering how long the story is and how much else a game development involves, I'm very positive surprised by the story in generel. That's more than I expected, even after having following the development of the game for months.

The sounds.
Accept for the things I mentioned in the bad section of my review, I'm totally blown away by the sounds. Just, wow... The sounds and the sound design is really a masterpiece, which is very well done. Much better than I expected, even after having heard an early demo of the game, demonstrating the first part. I can't find the right words to describe how awesome the sound design is. It is, in my opinion, equal to a mainstream videogame, which is not the standard for an audio game. This is really great stuff for sure.

The voice acting.
The voice acting is in my opinion really fantastic. So many dialogs, so many voices and so many people. Wow...
I think the voice actors are good at putting the feelings in their voices. There are a lot of funny moments as well which I really like. I'm really surprised of all the great work with the voice actors. It must have taken a ton of time...
My English is not perfect, but it sounds like some of the gramma is not correct. However, the fact that the developers aren't English and the people who are mentioned in the credits aren't English as well, I'll say they have done an amazing job. I'm surprised there aren't more people in the credits, when having all those voices. Again, it's difficult to find the words to describe how great it is...

The controls.
I can't speak for IOS, but on the computer, the controls are very simple. I had to get used to the keys for side stepping, but found it easy after some time. I think the easy controls will make a great difference for a lot of people. For me, it is great to be able to sidestep, and to check the compass direction as well. It was not always clear if I had to interact with an object to proceed, or if that happened automatically.
When walking, you can hear the character slide against walls and objects. I find this feature quite unique and great. Especially if there are bigger places to explore in future games.

There are only a few puzzles in the game. The puzzles I saw were great. One of them too easy in my opinion, but it seems like the game is ment to fit an easy difficulty level. Many more puzzles are very much welcome in the future.

Different platforms.
The game is released for quite a lot of different platforms: Windows pc's, Mac OS, IOS and Android. This is so great to have more audio games released for the Mac OS, and for Android as well. It runs great without any issues at all on my Mac.

I think I have covered almost everything in the game without spoiling the story.
If you are caring much about the gameplay, then the game is not for you, not at all. Unless you are totally new to audio games.
Otherwise, if you are caring about the story, the amazing sound design and the fantastic voice acting, then I'll highly recommend the game.
The game is quite expensive, if you are thinking about it as a game. But if you are thinking about it as an audio drama, then considering all the amazing job with the sound design, voice acting and the story, then I think the price is fair.
Do I regret the purchase? If I think about it as a game, then I'll say yes. If I think about it as an audio drama, then no. I'm glad I have supported this great development, and I look forward to see how the gameplay hopefully will be improved in the future games.

Direct link to the game on the companys website:

Best regards SLJ.
Feel free to contact me privately if you have something in mind. If you do so, then please send me a mail instead of using the private message on the forum, since I don't check those very often.
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