Disclaimer – Review Code provided by N-Fusion.
The 90’s were a golden age for Isometric Fantasy RPG’s. Games like Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, Diablo and Planescape: Torment dominated the PC, bringing some of the most satisfyingly indepth roleplaying gameplay, this world has ever seen. The 90’s came and went, and the genre unfortunately went into a long hibernation. N-Fusion rolled up in 2016, launching their own take on the now re-surging genre for IOS and Android. Fast forward 3 a few years, and they are slapping it onto the Switch.
Ember is a mobile game at heart, which is made very evident by the lack of any real depth. This may look and feel like a DnD inspired magnum opus, but it only manages to slightly caress the surface. You play as a Lightbringer – a member of a now extinct race, with near godlike levels of power. After a jarring resurrection, you are quickly tasked with saving the world. Uniting the once genocidal races of said world, whilst defeating the nefariously unimaginative, Darkbringer, being your primary focus. Your journey will see you travelling a large, surprisingly empty world, interacting with the occasional bandit, villager or goblin. The occasional side quest, mostly comprising of the fetch variety, are scattered here and there to shake things up a tad. Ember is both barebones and generic, but also manages to hold your attention just long enough for the credits to roll, due to an almost brisk runtime.
That briskness mostly comes from the fact that adventuring, one of the key aspects of the genre, is incredibly underdeveloped. Entering a new area immediately bestows a full map. This inevitably results in little incentive to actually explore. If you were hoping for intrigue, hidden dungeons, or fantastical loot, you will be sorely disappointed. When it comes to conversing with the locals you, can occasionally choose a response. As to be expected, these are not implemented in a way that will provoke any real thought. As a whole, Ember is simply too lite to indulge in such frivolities.
Of course, being simple has its benefits. Ember is incredibly easy to just pick up and play, with a combat system tailored to that notion. The genre is typically very taxing on the old bonce, which is one of the reasons they are so popular. Ember decides to scale back on the complexity, allowing for a more relaxed experience. There is no character creation, no classes and limited attributes. Skills are gained through the clothes you wear, not the experience you’ve gained, so you are never locked into any one ‘build’. As skills lack a cooldown, take very few resources to use, whilst dealing significantly more damage than basic attacks; the art of fighting boils down to spamming abilities until the thing is dead. It leaves you satisfied on a purely surface level, but leaves you pining for more.
Once you have claimed the spoils of your conquests, you can indulge in crafting; probably the most indepth system Ember has to offer. Gather some materials, find a blueprint and pop to the nearest crafting station to create items of unimaginable power. You can get by without crafting, as the loot you find on your adventure is sufficient enough to see you through to the end. However, if you want to feel like the demi-god you are, even a brief fiddle with the crafting system will result yield increible results.
Most disappointingly however, is how Ember performs on the Switch. The game looks fairly good, with characters, enemies andenvironments all sporting a pleasingly design. The problem is performance. Ember stutters constantly, and I mean that quite literally. Practically every step is followed by a jarring hiccup that detracts from the already mindless gameplay on offer.
Ember is a passable experience, that serves as both an almost interesting travel companion, and competent enough introduction to the genre. Outside of that though, it leaves a lot to be desired.
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