Monday, February 20, 2017


I suppose Ember made its way onto my wishlist by appearing to be an isometric RPG with real-time combat with active pause. And I suppose its journey continued into my game library because of a heavy discount. The reason why I played it till the end, I do not know. I probably should have requested a refund but it did not occur to me to do so until many hours into the game.

A mobile game

I guess I thought it had more to it. That is the problem with lengthy games and the 2 hour limit on the Steam refund system. Ember definitely does not have 30+ hours of gameplay like it advertises on its store page, however. It took me 16 to beat it and I even got all the achievements.

I realized the game was mediocre at best when I had gotten more active skills and the user interface for combat truly started showing its weirdness. Using an ability on something that was not a character's current target required dragging the ability onto the desired enemy. Tactical movement similarly requires dragging of the party members' icons to the spot you want them to move to.

It was such an odd interface solution until I realized the game was a damn mobile-port. Although, considering the Shadowrun games for instance allow you to click to select everything, there is no good reason for the dragging in Ember. That was also when I noticed the developer, N-Fusion, being the same as Deus Ex: The Fall's. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. The Fall was not a complete disaster, just heavily limited by its main target platform. Being able to hold down mouse button to move would have been nice too -- Ember has quite a lot of manual overland traveling.

Contrived and shallow

Some user review described Ember being close to the first Diablo game. That is pretty accurate at least in mechanical depth I think -- characters have your classic four stats (Str, Dex, Int, and Vit) to which you get to put 2 points per level. Skills you get from worn equipment: 3 active ones from weapon, armor, and helm plus 2 passives from necklace and ring. And that is how far customization goes.

Apart from the skills on them, the equipment grants boring, linearly per item level increasing stat bonuses -- there are no 'side-grades'. Crafted gear is always the best, although it is so only by a small margin. I think the material required for level 9 gear, i.e. silver ore, was misplaced in the world as I was almost at the next gear tier (level 13) when I got to the part where silver could be found. And by that point I already had plenty of iron ore for the next tier stuff.

The crafting interface was somewhat bothersome to use. I wish World of Warcraft's very easy to use system was in every game. Just select the item you want to craft from a list and its materials are automatically used from your inventory. You do no need to add them yourself. I suppose Ember's crafting is such as it is because it allows you to discover recipes on your own. Thus you do not even need to buy/find the item recipes. Discovering stuff seemed like a lot of trouble, however, and so I just looked up them from a guide.

Bit unstable

I do not know which engine Ember uses -- maybe a custom one as I saw no mention of Unity -- but it seemed to run well and light enough. However, after a prolonged session the game's performance would always start to slowly degrade. After FPS dropped below 30 I had to restart the game as it got too painful. Then it would run well again for an hour or two.

Towards the endgame, Ember also started crashing randomly. At least it autosaves fairly often so it was not that big of a deal. It did crash right before the end cinematic was about to play, though, which was pretty annoying as I then had to fight the fairly challenging final boss again. She was considerably easier on the second attempt, however.

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