While we all know that indie developers can make some solid Metroidvania adventure games and platformers, there are pelnty of other genres that the little guy excels at. RPGs, for instance, have seen some solid indie love in the past couple of years with games like The Age of Decadence, Divinity: Original Sin and Pillars of Eternity all practically begging for your bargain buck.
Ember, a project from N-Fusion Interactive, helps keep this trend alive, reminding us that you don’t have to be a big, mean AAA developer to put together an enjoyable adventure.
Ember is the story of the Lightbringer, the last of a race of druids who bonded with magical creatures called Ember. The Lightbringers were brought to near-extinction in the distant past after the other sentient races of the world grew fearful of their power. When danger faces the world again, the last Lightbringer is returned to life and reunited with their Ember companion to try and stop the coming darkness.
If you’ve played the early Divinity titles, namely Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity, you’ve got an idea of what this one’s like; I’ve also seen it compared to the later Ultima games. Ember plays out a bit like a combination between Diablo and an Elder Scrolls game. You’ve got a top-down view and control your party members from there, including using items and skills; the latter run on cooldowns and consume energy, so managing your characters is key to victory. Ember uses a classless system, so you’re generally free to do what you’d like, though I found the best results came from choosing magic, melee or ranged combat for each character rather than trying to create a jack-of-all-trades; since your skills are tied to the gear you use, pushing toward a particular sort of equipment will naturally lead to you becoming that sort of character.
Along with combat, Ember has a fairly expansive world to explore. There’s plenty to loot, fight, craft and talk about out there, and at around 30 hours you won’t be running out of things to do anytime soon. While the game starts off a little slow, Ember’s plot picks up as you keep going which is a nice reason to stick with the game. There’s more going on under the surface than is apparent at first, so assuming you can get past certain groan-worthy aspects of the game (there’s a villainous counterpart to your character called the “Darkbringer,” for instance, which sounds like a 13-year-old’s YouTube screen name) then you might find yourself enjoying Ember a little more than you’d expect.
Ember’s presentation is about on par with what you’d expect from an indie game that’s currently retailing for ten bucks on Steam. It’s not going to blow your mind or tax your GTX 1080, but Ember’s graphics look good enough for what they are. My sole complaint is that things can get a little crowded onscreen, but the interface helps you recognize useful items so it could be worse. Ember’s sound and music are standard if not impressive as well, so it’s unlikely you’ll have issues with any aspect of the game’s aesthetics.
All in all, $10 for a 30-hour RPG that’s not a complete joke is a pretty decent deal. Ember has a slow start that might put some players off at first, but those who stick with it will find that there’s a lot on offer for that low price. Mobile fans might also be interested in checking out the game’s iOS port if they need a little action-adventure on the go.