Ember – Some final thoughts
I have now completed Ember and figured I would share a few thoughts about the experience.
To put it simply, Ember is a tremendous amount of fun and is probably the best game I’ve played this year. I found it to have a deep and interesting story that unfolds not just through the events of the game, but through the dozens of books you find along the way. Plus there is a lot to learn through side conversations and tavern interactions. The more citizens you speak with and the more books you stop to read, the more you learn about Domus, the events that brought about the Lightbringer and the tension between different races. And even if the books don’t give enlightenment about the lore of the world, such as the famed tome, The Domus Pub Crawl, they are still amusing and add to the fabric of the game.
Additionally, Ember has great momentum, always moving you forward to the next quest. I never felt at a loss for something to do and there was no need to aimlessly grind. Instead, I was always involved in a quest both from the main story line or one of the several dozen side quests. These ranged from simple delivery runs, to locating lost artifacts, to returning wayward children and husbands, to negotiating trade routes. And even the side quests have side quests, so there is no cause to be idle.
Some have said the combat is simplistic, but I believe they are missing the point. If you recall the original Ultima series, which is an inspiration for Ember, you had 3 stats – Str, Dex, Int, and did damage based on your weapon stats and absorbed damage based on armor stats. While a shift from complex skills trees like we see in SotA, it holds true to the system used in Ultima, A Bard’s Tale, Wizardry and others. Even with that, each character has 3 special abilities they can employ based on weapon and armor combinations. And if the items skills aren’t to your liking, you can socket runes to make a more deadly combination.
Ember is also a lovely game to look at. I thought the game graphics and sound were very nicely done. I especially liked the rain and thunder as I walked through the cemetery and the sound of muffled voices calling for help as I crept through the catacombs. At other times, the birds sang as the forest turned to autumn. And the world felt pretty large to me with multiple locations to visit, plenty of houses to just wander into while the citizens were sitting down to dinner or sleeping. Like all good towns, there was a tavern to visit to pick up gossip, chat with the ladies and come close to getting into a brawl.
I’ve spent 40 hours exploring and being entertained by this world of Domus and I’m taken enough with the experience to start over, play a different style of character and choose an alternate path when presented with a decision. I know for certain this will change the outcome of several situations.
As a game that pays homage to classics like Ultima and The Bard’s Tale, Ember is work of art. As a game that offers 40 hours of entertainment for a mere $10, you are missing out if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity. Although the story is different, in many ways, Ember is a spiritual successor to Ultima. It looks and feels like Ultima 7/8 and with an interesting story and the wry humor that made the Ultimas such enduring games. But Ember stands as a solid adventure game and I truly hope this is the first title in a long running series.