Echoes of Reality was a cataclysm started by Vara Brom, which was put to an end by the Freelancer by repeatedly going into the cataclysm. The name of the cataclysm itself is Echo of Reality, and since it keeps repeating itself several times, the term Echoes of Reality is interchangeably used.
During Echoes of Reality, a storm brewed above Northern Bastion, which caused growth of Shaper crystals. These crystals were valuable, and used to make special weapons, cosmetics, and gears for the Freelancers' use.
Vara Brom, the leader of the Spear Battalion was dissatisfied with how the Monitor did not wait for more Dominion troops to reach Bastion, and instead he went to capture the Cenotaph himself. When he failed the task, Vara and her battalion reached Bastion to capture the Dominion troops without receiving orders from the higher ups.
Although, Vara and Dr. Harken wanted to start a cataclysm, it was heavily implied that Vara separated from the Arcanist to start the cataclysm herself. She wanted to capture the device Harken was working on to send more Dominion troops inside the cataclysm which the two were supposed to start. But since they separated, Harken tried to escape, while Vara put a bounty on his head.
The Oncoming Storm
Cyphers all over Bastion began a conversation about what was going on. Madam Chronicler had been receiving word from Cyphers from other regions of Bastion: Ty Garron, Saul Metren, Ruc Bayen, and Curate Trall about getting amplifiers for better communication.
Meanwhile, inside Fort Tarsis, the Sentinels and Freelancers were concerned about the storm brewing and the havoc it could cause. Was this oncoming storm going to shape their future for the better or the worse?
The Dominion Civil War
Grandmaster Adams believed that the Dominion was behind the unknown Storm Cloud above Bastion. He sent the Freelancer to investigate their activity, based on the intelligence report received from Corvus.
When the Freelancer traveled to the camp, the Dominion had disappeared, while the outlaws were scavenging their technology. After stopping the scavengers, the Freelancer flies to a new location to encounter the Dominion.
The Dominion are seen fighting among themselves— Dominion troops against the Spear Battalion. The Freelancer fights bravely, but overhears that the Spear is after Dr. Harken's special device because of Cypher Faye. While the Spear kills all but one trooper, they gate away to a new location.
After identifying the location inside the Sovereign Mine, the freelancer faces off against a horde of Spear Battalion before reaching deep inside the mine. The Adjutant to Vara, a Dominion Valkyrie, has captured one Dominion Trooper who was in the Monitor’s troops.
The Freelancer fights against 4 Vanguard Valkyries before killing the Adjutant and learning about Vara's plan to start a Cataclysm. The Adjutant claims that Vara is more focused and can do a better job than the Monitor. However, the Freelancer dismisses the claim saying that the Anthem cannot be controlled, ending all the Spear troops.
The Freelancer locates the Dominion Trooper imprisoned inside a tent and brings him to Fort Tarsis for investigation.
Faye then suggested the Freelancer to meet an Augur named Herschel who had set up shop in the market. It turns out that the Augur had exotic weapons, gears, and cosmetics which would help the Freelancer to silence the cataclysm, in style.
The Search for the Arcanist
Interrogating the Dominion Trooper revealed the location of Doctor Harken.
Adams gathered three Freelancers and two Cyphers to form 2 teams. Team 1 consisted of The Freelancer and Faye. Team 2 comprised of Rythe, Jak, and Cyper Talako. The two teams followed opposite paths to reach the same location.
The Freelancer flew towards the Monument, only to be ambushed by the Dominion. The Freelancer destroys the turrets but finds it impossible to fly. Faye finds out that a grounder had been placed deep below the surface. The Freelancer enters the Bane Engine to fight against Dominion Troops. The Bane Engine itself is a large Shaper ruin.
Deep inside the Bane Engine, was Doctor Harken encapsulated inside a barrier. Because Rythe and Jak were ambushed by the Dominion troops elsewhere, The Freelancer not only had to defeat 4 Valkyries, but destroy the crystals forming the barrier without any assistance. When the crystals are destroyed, before the Freelancer could capture Harken, the Arcanist gates out.
Unfortunately, because of the enormous Shaper energy surge, the whole relic created a feedback. The Freelancer had no choice but to fly out as quickly as possible to avoid death.
Fortunately, the Freelancer escaped. Rythe and Jak found out that Harken gated directly into a Dominion strider. The Freelancer hurried to the location of the strider as it lost its power and fell down. A Fury remained guarding the spare battery for the strider. The Freelancer somehow defeated the fury, and also revived the downed javelins of Rythe and Jak.
Once the battery was retrieved, the Freelancer inserted it into the strider, but along with Rythe and Jak, had to clear the Dominion troops. After the combat ended, the Strider's cargo bay opened, and Harken complied to go to Fort Tarsis.
Rythe and Jak celebrated with the Freelancer and wished to go for drinks when they return home (which unfortunately, is never shown).
Constructing the Device
After Harken's capture, the Arcanist only wanted to speak with the Freelancer, and no one else. In the presence of Adams and Commander Vule, who gave the Arcanist only three minutes to talk, the Freelancer decided to listen out of desperation. Speaking with Dr. Harken revealed that there was a safer way to enter the cataclysm without being consumed by it. However, it was going to be a race against time. But since the people of Bastion were helpless, the Freelancer decided to end the cataclysm through this method.
Harken needed two items to build his device. The Freelancer ventured out in the wild. To get the first item, the Freelancer fought a few Ursixes around the Eddian grove. However, the item needed was a Bristleback quill. Bristleback being a crystallized chimeric Ursix, had to be located by Faye, and the Freelancer had to defeat its nearly indestructible body to obtain the quill. Bristlebacks aren’t native to Northern Bastion, so it must have made its way through a different method.
Around this time, Harken requested a third item—a pneumatic leg of an Escari. Without having another choice, the Freelancer entered the Mandible. The scars inside the Mandible were well coordinated and messing with a Shaper relic. Harken is quick to notice the Scars using a Dominion suppression field and wondered if they stole this Dominion technology or copied it. Deep inside the Mandible, the Freelancer battled a Luminary to get the pneumatic leg.
Finally, the second item—a transponder from a Dominion gating device. The Freelancer flew to Monument Watch and found several Spear troops trying to gate inside the cataclysm. Harken stated that this was a crude version of his device, and they were going to fail because they were using crystals as anchors for the gate. Crystals are not very stable because they disperse the Shaper energy.
The Freelancer defeated all the enemies and destroyed the crystals, but the gate was still encapsulated inside a barrier. Faye noticed the crystals grow, and that something was actually making them grow. More crystals sprouted from the ground, anchoring the gate. This time a Fury spawned which the Freelancer easily defeated because of experience. However, immediately, another Fury spawned through a gate, and this was an Ancient Crystal Guardian. Faye revealed that the furies were resonating with the crystal, to which Harken explained that Furies were unstable creatures.
Once the Ancient Crystal Guardian is defeated, the barrier opened revealing the required item. The freelancer was free to collect the Transponder. Harken claimed, likely sarcastically, that he felt like he was a part of the team. The freelancer clearly did not like this comment. Once the transponder was collected, the Freelancer furiously said that Harken had his two objects, and even a third one. The Arcanist laughed it off stating that he only wanted to see how far the Freelancer would go to get the things to stop the cataclysm.
How peculiar is it that an odd storm suddenly came into existence to the Bastionians?
It turns out, Vara, Kelrik, and the other Valkyries had been messing with a Shaper ruin, two weeks ago. Vara boasted that it was might that separated the weak from the worthy. She thrusted her spear into an echo receptacle ruin to start the Cataclysm called Echoes of Reality.
The fluid in the ruin engulfed Vara and her Valkyries completely, dissolved them, and drew them into the ruin
Braving the Cataclysm
Sometime after the Freelancer returned with the items Harken needed, outside Fort Tarsis, Haluk looked at the monstrous storm cloud wondering about its dangers. When the Freelancer joined his friend, Commander Vule stopped by to inform that Harken was missing from his cell. Haluk encouraged the Freelancer to go along with the commander, while he would convey the news to Adams.
Brin is distressed when the commander, a sentinel and the Freelancer enter the prison to investigate. Harken suddenly appeared inside the prison, stating he could have escaped any time, but didn't. While Brin handcuffs the arcanist, the Freelancer asks about the progress on the device. Harken had already built the, Egress, using which, the Freelancer would be capable of entering the cataclysm without being severely harmed.
The cataclysm itself was an alternate reality created by Vara Brom. Inside it were three regions trying to become real— Ring of Magnus, a shaper ruin, Britaheim, a creviced valley, and Casja's Forge, a closed cavelet. Each of these arenas were made real using a crystal encased inside a barrier. The Freelancer successfully destroyed the crystals, and in the process made Vara weaker. Freelancer also defeated the Valkyries Magnus, Brita, and Casja who were secretly hiding inside these arenas, guarding Vara.
The only way to remain safe inside the cataclysm was to remain within pockets of stable realities or destroying the rifts above the arenas. If the Freelancer spent too much time in the storm, their javelin would be severely damaged or Faye had to pull them back to the Fort.
When the Freelancer encountered Vara, she had become the size of a Titan, and equally powerful. Even though Vara summoned rings of fire, destructive orbs, and more Dominion enemies to keep her reality from being destroyed, the Freelancer defeated her with courage.
Unfortunately, this did not contain the cataclysm. Vara claimed that this was her reality, and she would be back once again. The Freelancer was pulled out of the cataclysm by Faye using the Egress.
When the Freelancer returned to Harken in the prison, the doctor simply said that he was a researcher, and without more data, it was impossible for him or for anyone to find a way to contain the cataclysm. Hence, the Freelancer had to find out the source of the cataclysm by entering it again and gathering shaper crystal samples.
Strange Anomalies in Bastion
While the Echo of Reality was expanding its reaches, intense shaper activity caused disturbing changes all across Bastion. Elementals spawned from the ground, causing harm to anything that moved near them. Shaper crystals were forming all over the land; the Dominion gated in special troops to gather these valuable crystals—Argent Trooper, Thunder Fang, and Ice Stalker. On top of that, Outlaws and Scar also showed an interest in these crystals. But it is a Freelancer’s duty to make sure that the resources of Bastion weren’t exploited by foreign powers.
In an effort to contain the cataclysm, Freelancers across Northern Bastion joined forces to make sure crystals did not fall into the wrong hands. They stopped the Scar, the Outlaws, and the Dominion from getting their hands on these resources.
Freelancers not only gathered enough crystals to make new and powerful equipment to survive on Coda, but they also saved many Dominion soldiers who were suspended in time when they tried to steal the mysterious crystalline wreckage for their nefarious purposes. But the Dominion being Dominion, fought against the Freelancers who rescued them. So, what needed to be done, was done by the Freelancers.
Among these strange activities happening in Bastion, storm gates or clouds began forming around areas where the shaper activity was the most intense. The shaper activity around storm clouds was so powerful that they forced the ground to produce crystals under them. Unfortunately, there is a reason why these are called gates; they regularly opened up into conjunctions. These anomalies, were caused by the Echo of Reality. The only way to contain these conjunctions was to enter the storm cloud, which is usually a bad idea.
However, the Freelancer now had the Egress and could gate through these anomalies. And if something were to go wrong, Faye could pull them back into the true reality.
If the enemies within the conjunction were to escape into Bastion, each Echo of Reality would have grown more powerful. Enemies from an alternate reality, including Bristlebacks, the shaper corrupt chimera would have been loose in Bastion making it even more dangerous.
Fortunately, the Echoes of Reality could not gain from this as the Freelancer contained the conjunctions. This awesome feat was cataloged by Madam Chronicler. Five such anomalies had to be contained. This also made it possible to collect valuable crystal resources from inside these conjunctions.
During the Freelancer’s subsequent entry into the cataclysm, the storm had grown more turbulent. More changes had appeared in this reality with additional arenas adding to the challenge of silencing each Echo of Reality—Diana’s Landing, a beachfront Dominion base, Castle Kelrik, a Fairy Tale castle in ruins, Crucible of Astrid, an activity inside a dormant volcano, and Sea of Takaro, a conduit of water containing a shaper relic. The Freelancer had to defeat new Valkyries, namely Diana, Kelrik, Astrid, and Takaro who remained hidden to protect Vara in these arenas. The previous Valkyries also returned like echoes reflected from a deep canyon. But they were no match for the Freelancer’s Might.
The Freelancer continued to brave the cataclysm, confront Vara's titan-like form, and contain the conjunctions, and returned with heaps of crystals for Harken to test his theory several times with a strong Resolve. Each time the Freelancer entered an Echo of Reality, secrets such as the Hall of Grabbits, hidden vaults, and Shaper spheres made it possible to gain more crystals for Harken. It was as if Vara wasn’t in full control of the cataclysm, as if there was something else spreading the cataclysm’s chaos.
When this happened, the Echo of Reality had spread its false reality to such an extent that several shaper artifacts became awake. A survey beacon captured a shaper spine spawning from the abyss and releasing massive energy. This energy scorched the walls and floors of the Sanctuary of Dunar, which was already in ruins from the cataclysm that brought Skorpions into Bastion. Amid this destruction, Harken finally had a breakthrough!
How to break the Spear
Harken created an attenuator for the Anthem of Creation, a device which could weaken reality—used along with the Dawn Shield, it would allow the Freelancer to reach the spear. Yes, the true heart of the cataclysm was in Vara’s spear, the same spear with which she caused disruption to the shaper ruin.
But Vara, her Valkyries, and the storm itself would do everything they could to stop the Freelancer. But the Freelancer not only puts an end to all the hiding Valkyries, but reaches the Throne of Echoes and subdues Vara’s Titan-like form. When the form withers to dust, Vara is back as a human in her Valkyrie armor.
The crystals covering the spear shatter. The Freelancer kicked away the spear as Vara fell to the ground crawling towards it. While Vara repeated her Dominion motto, “Might separates the weak from the worthy,” she revealed that it was Harken who claimed that this sacrifice will bring more order to this world through the Dominion. She also claimed that she followed Harken’s plan while she was severely in pain.
But when the Freelancer tried to help Vara, she only called them a puppet blind to its own string. As Vara walked away, she completely withered to dust, finally, silencing every Echo of Reality.
The Freelancer, with anger tried to converse with Harken through the comms channel. But Faye said that the Arcanist cut his link. The distressed Freelancer returned to the Fort.
Echoes lingering in a Permanently Changed World
Back at the fort, there was no prisoner. Haluk and Brin only had bad news to share with the Freelancer. Commander Vule and the Sentinels tried searching for Harken, who just vanished in front of Brin’s eyes. She showed the Freelancer a letter that the Arcanist left behind.
Harken explains in the letter that Vara had accused him of something he never did, and he had no interest in going to the prison in Antium. But he also claimed that he wouldn’t have helped the Freelancer if he had planned the cataclysm. He also claimed that the Freelancer would need his help again, someday, and he would be there to help as an ally.
Finally, Commander Vule returned to the prison with more bad news that Tassyn was displeased with how Harken went missing. But this left the Freelancer wondering what would happen when Harken would be caught eventually.
In the end, the world was permanently changed. The echoes of this cataclysm lingered in the destruction it caused. Although strange crystal growths didn’t happen anymore and the shaper activity reduced, anomalies continued to show up once in a while, however, they aren’t as dangerous as they were during the cataclysm.