Starfield is one of the biggest games of 2023, both figuratively and literally. It’s Bethesda’s first new IP in 25 years and a monumental landmark for Microsoft — a company that’s struggled to deliver consistent first-party hits this console generation. On top of that, Starfield’s scope is absolutely massive. It’s a grand space-faring adventure filled with multiple planets, storylines, space battles, and gunfights.
Sometimes, Starfield feels overwhelming with all of its different mechanics and features. Even Bethesda’s Pete Hines said that the game doesn’t really start until you’re done with the main story. But who has that kind of time? If you’re looking for a sci-fi game that’s less demanding, or just want to take a break from Starfield while continuing to soak in space vibes, you need to try Opus: Echo of Starsong.
First released in 2021, Opus: Echo of Starsong is a unique mix of a visual novel, puzzle adventure, and 2D side-scroller developed by Sigono. It takes place in a galaxy called Thousand Peaks and follows three characters: Jun, Eda, and Remi. Jun, now an old man, visits an unnamed asteroid and acts as the narrator as he recounts an adventure that he went on decades earlier.
In fact, Echo of Starsong’s sci-fi narrative is a bit richer than the main quest of Starfield. Bethesda’s story mostly involves running around space while collecting Artifacts, while saving more intriguing narratives for sidequests. Echo of Starsong, by comparison, is much more straightforward with its established characters.
Jun, exiled from his clan in the East Ocean planetary system, goes to Thousand Peaks in order to redeem himself by mining and collecting a valuable resource called Lumen, which can be found in asteroids. He meets Eda, a woman with powers to track asteroids, along with her bodyguard, Remi, who acts as the voice of reason in the group.
What makes Echo of Starsong’s narrative so strong is that over time, you can see the bonds form between the three, especially the romantic relationship between Jun and Eda. I was fully invested in them by the time the game’s tear-jerking finale came around.
Many of Echo of Starsong’s gameplay mechanics might sound dull on their own, but they are cohesive in the context of the entire package. The trio journey through Thousand Peaks in a sort of visual novel-type presentation that’s reminiscent of Oregon Trail. You can even travel around to different planets and get involved with space shenanigans — just like Starfield!
Instead of picking different Traits or customizing your own character, the group will have to get lucky in order to escape sticky situations by rolling a die. If I failed to roll a specific number or higher, I’d be in trouble. For example, I visited a location where local outlaws asked Jun for help, and the situation presented me with two speech choices. One of them forced me into a dice roll, while the other required me to have a certain resource on hand. A successful dice roll meant I was rewarded with sellable items, while failing meant I walked away with nothing.
Leaving it all up to chance can result in frustrating outcomes, but a spacefaring adventure should be unpredictable, especially since Echo of Starsong only offers one save file and autosaves constantly so you can’t easily save scum your way if you get a bad roll. Compare that to Starfield where I’d save right in front of an NPC and reload the file if I didn’t get my desired outcome.
It’s these chance mechanics that make Echo of Starsong feel like a cousin of Starfield at times. Rolling a die to convince a hostile party to stand down in the former is like having a high enough persuasion level in the latter in similar situations. Even navigation in both games feel similar. In Echo of Starsong, you’ll click on various destinations on a map menu, figuring out how much fuel you need to get to the next place. Likewise in Starfield, you’re constantly opening up the Starmap and fast traveling throughout the different galaxies while fulfilling the game’s many sidequests. Both games even let you customize your ship!
Echo of Starsong is a much, much different game than Starfield, but it might just be a perfect companion piece to Bethesda’s latest. It feels surprisingly down to earth with its heartfelt story and cute anime-inspired visuals. The game was released in 2021, but just like Jun and Eda, time doesn’t matter. The journey alone is worth it.
Opus: Echo of Starsong is available on PC, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox. It’s also included in Xbox Game Pass.