Lost Ember Review: An Indie Stunner That Lives Up to the Hype

Lost Ember tells a compelling story amid gorgeous backdrops that keep you playing until its beautiful conclusion.

When you visit the official site for Mooneye Studio's Lost Ember, one of the first things you will notice is a virtual wall of wreath-lined awards and accolades.

Games that so-prominently feature such an array of awards usually turn into one of two things. Some are can't miss releases that have dazzled everyone or underwhelming try-hards casting their acclaim net wide and with abandon. Thankfully, Lost Ember is decidedly the former.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of the game, I want to take a moment to discuss spoilers and their relative absence from this review. 

Lost Ember is not a Soulsborne style test of skill and nerve, but instead more an interactive movie. For that reason, I will keep any references to specific plot points minimal beyond the inciting story and largely selecting accompanying screenshots from the game's early stages. This is a game best-enjoyed as fresh as possible.

Lost Ember Review: An Indie Stunner That Lives Up to the Hype

Lost Ember puts you in control of a wolf being guided by an orb-like spirit with the ability to jump into the body of any other animals you come across. In as much as the game has "puzzles," they come in the form of using different animal abilities to get from where you are to where you need to be.

The path forward is rarely confusing, however, and never involves a complex chain of hopping from one type of animal to the next. Instead, the different animals largely serve to provide different ways of interacting with the world.

Some of the later stages even feature animals you don't need to ever enter into, yet which you almost certainly will just to see what it's like to be a sloth on a tree. Slow and carefree, mostly, if you're wondering.

A different way to explore also provides the creators of Lost Ember with a different way to tell a story and stage a scene, and they take full advantage of the design. Throughout the entirety of the game's roughly five hours of gameplay, you'll be treated to gorgeous visuals. From vibrant fields to cramped tunnels, soaring skies, deep lakes, and even snow-driven winter wonderlands, Lost Ember is a smorgasbord of stunning scenery.

As you move through the world toward the City of Light and atone for any misdeeds that have kept you from entering, you'll begin to come across memories scattered around the landscape.

Sometimes these memories will merely result in red, shimmering figures from the past appearing to create eye-catching tableaus. Other larger memories trigger cutscenes, where you are treated to key moments in the lives of the characters you are following in the footsteps of.

What's truly incredible about the game is that the former can be every bit as evocative and informative as the latter. The game's art direction deserves every ounce of praise it receives. As you move from one scene to the next, you'll quickly find yourself engrossed in the story being told by the statuesque memories. 

The game's plot had me completely hooked the entire time. While it took me about five hours to complete the Lost Ember, with some superfluous scavenging thrown in, I flew through it in what felt like half the time because I was so invested.

Lost Ember's straightforward approach also keeps things moving, with minimal instances where I was unclear about what I was supposed to do next that can plague games like this.

Lost Ember Review — The Bottom Line

Pros:

  • Plot maintains your interest and knocking you for an emotional loop
  • Animals handle beautifully, with significant changes from one to the next
  • Constantly presented with new ways to explore and interact with beautiful, picturesque settings

Cons:

  • Camera in confined spaces can lead to glitchy results
  • Relatively short playtime
  • Minimal fun available in time-boosting collectibles

While Lost Ember may not be a perfect game, it's not far off. The biggest reservation I have with the game is its price to playtime ratio, and even that comes down to subjective preferences.

However, Lost Ember's pacing is perfectly weighted. I rarely felt rushed or like I was spinning my wheels, with the game purring along at just the right speed. The only time that changed was during my brief dalliance with collectible hunting, and I would recommend foregoing any that you don't naturally come across in your travels. 

With so many collectibles scattered around the map, it means spending a significant portion of time veering off the beaten path and searching in nooks and crannies. While there is some benefit to seeing more of the world, it's outweighed by the blow it delivers to the game's pacing and the resulting hit to how you experience the story.

If you're considering buying Lost Ember, assess it on the merits of its main story. For the cost of two or three tickets to a movie, you'll be getting two or three movie runtimes worth of entertainment in the form of a beautiful and eye-catching world telling a beautiful and heart-wrenching story. If that sounds like a good deal, then make the purchase. You will not be disappointed.

[Note: A copy of Lost Ember was provided by Mooneye Studios for the purpose of this review.]

Our Rating
9
Lost Ember tells a compelling story amid gorgeous backdrops that keep you playing until its beautiful conclusion.
Reviewed On: PC

Contributor

Published Dec. 11th 2019

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