Life isn’t always easy. Inequality and injustice is everywhere, and sometimes it’s hard to distract yourself from the world we live in. For those times we have video games. Some find comfort in playing difficult games, focusing on the gameplay – while others just want to explore a beautiful foreign world to get away from it all. Lost Ember is very much the latter, which also tells a story focusing on that same, relatable inequality and injustice.
You play as a wolf, that also happens to be the reincarnated soul of a resistance leader. Guided by the soul of a seemingly high status man in this tribal society, you must travel the world exploring the memories of your past, all while trying to pass onto a better place. You have ancient powers on your side in this quest, as your spirit can inhabit the body of any animals you find.
Following the story of your character Kalani, you discover memories that need revealing in the form of patches of red smoke. Investigating enough of these cutscenes from the past enables you to break huge barriers blocking your progress, and your eventual way to the afterlife. Your past life’s actions are constantly brought into question by your floating soul companion, and there’s an interesting dynamic of him not being able to understand your breaking of the laws, or grasping that poverty is an issue in this society. Although you need to find these memories to progress, I was never unhappy that I had to go out of my way to learn more of Kalani’s story.
Exploring the beautiful world of Lost Ember is made so much more enjoyable through the eyes of its different inhabitants, be it an unimaginably adorable Wombat, a soaring bird or a water loving fish. The design of each of the real world creatures is incredibly charming and they all have their own “silly little things” to do on command, like spraying water or taking a nap. I often found myself playing as less convenient critters solely due to them being the more visually appealing. That said, switching between the animals is often key to finding your way around the obstacles in your path. You are able to topple buildings with the digging power of an echinda or roll through wombat tunnels when playing as my cutest little furry friend. There’s also something to be said for breaking the rules – trying to climb as many steps as possible with the flopping power of a fish out of water is strangely satisfying!
The environments you’ll be exploring are incredibly beautiful. There’s an array of vast mountain ranges, lush forests and ancient ruins that never cease to take your breath away. These locations are never just empty space either, and you’re rewarded for wandering off the beaten track with a selection of collectables. From discarded items adding to the lore, mushrooms and even shiny animals – Lost Ember is happy to reward those who check out every nook and cranny. The only slight disappointment in the environments are the underwater areas. There’s an odd blurry effect applied when diving below the surface, and what could have been a selection of gorgeous riverbeds end up being some of the least exciting places to explore.
Breaking up the exploration of the huge world and the story, there are some pretty impressive set pieces. In what is essentially a wander game, these more action packed moments are greatly appreciated. The different critters on offer mean that these segments are pleasantly varied. Flying through the fiery remains of a temple, or splashing your way through a stream only to plummet down a waterfall; these exciting sequences showcase the beauty of the game in interesting ways.
It’s the little things that really make Lost Ember a special game. From occasional smashable vases that are satisfying to shatter, dandelions that send seeds drifting as you collide with them, and even fields of sleeping fireflies you can disturb as you sprint through them. These small touches never cease to crack a smile, and add a more playful side to a game with an often serious narrative.
In a game with such an engrossing story, there is one constant aspect of Lost Ember that detracts from this emotional tale – and that’s the voice acting. Your journey is essentially narrated by the floating soul that travels with you, and I was often distracted from enjoying important scenes by the poor acting. It may be a personal preference, but it affected my enjoyment regardless.
Lost Ember is a beautiful experience, with gorgeous environments and a poignant story. Whether you are exploring Kalani’s troubled past, or frolicking in a field as a cute furry critter, there’s so much to enjoy packed into this wander game. If you can look past some questionable voice acting, Lost Ember is the perfect relaxing distraction for those days you need it the most.
Breathtaking environments full of collectables
An array of adorable animals to change into
An emotional and intriguing story
Poor voice work detracts from the narrative
Underwater sections are blurry and murky