Developer: Skymachine Studios
Publisher: Blowfish Studios
Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Serise X, PC
Reviewed On: PS4 Pro
Release Date: 19/04/2022
Reviewed By: Keith Lavelle
Review Rush was kindly supplied with a review code.
Are you old enough to remember Thief, and no I am not talking about the 2014 horrid re-boot. I am talking about the 1998 and 2000s games. These where master classes in the stealth genera, needing players to hide, get rid of lights and take out guards while stealing everything they can. This brings me to Winter Ember that seems to be a isometric version of these classics, but is it?
Winter Embers has a fairly generic story with a few fun twists later on in the story. By the time these plot twists happen, I had no connection to the story nor Arthur the main character.
Eight years prior to the events of the game, Arthur’s family home was attacked and everyone was killed bar him. After disappearing and doing a training he is back to seek his revenge.
Stealth Or Don’t Want To Stealth
Winter Ember’s camera is something that needs to be discussed and I want it out of the way. The isometric view point is no way a bad thing in fact I love isometric-top down styled games. The camera is way too close to the world. I understand the reasoning to make each more tense and move more strategic. All it serves to do is make the experience of moving about more hassle.
First, looking around corners feels good with only having limited sight. However, at times, the enemies can just walk up behind you. Ok, yes it could be my fault for not paying attention but it happens too much to be fun.
The stealth elements do work when in the grass. It will cover you unless you move near a guard. Waiting for them to pass by will allow you to sneak up behind them and silently kill them or knock them out. If the guard is knocked out, they will eventually wake up, so locking them in a room is the best thing or moving and killing them. Once you kill them, blood will pool on the floor. This will alert guards and common folks that something bad that will happen.
Cracks show with the cover system. The cover system works as long as you are close enough to a wall. Moving from cover to cover becomes a pain, with the camera where it is. When it comes to trying seeing the marker for cover, as items on the ground will obscure it. I gave up with the wall cover its way to annoying and fernickety to use.
Fighting And The Environment
Fighting in Winter Ember is terrible. With all the training Arthur did, he forgot how to fight. It feels slow and cumbersome, even with the speed Arthur flails about with his sword. Getting hurt will cause him to bleed again, alerting everyone around that something is wrong. I highly recommend taking the time to stealth your way through it.
For a game that wants to have the Thief feel to it, there are a lot of limitations on how you can interact with the environment. Arthur can craft arrows, some that are used to climb up buildings and some that can destroy planks. These are few and far between. It almost seems like a under developed addition someone liked and was shoehorned in. The rest of the world is just static.
Not All Is Bad!!
There is something about Winter Ember that had me hooked. I overlooked the flaws and there is a really good stealth adventure there. It just needs the edges ironed out, and some tweaking done.
The other aspect of Winter Ember that needs to be said it the snow covered world has a lot of character and a great steampunk feel. Even with the lack of interaction.
Overall, Winter Ember has a true stealth soul, but needs a bit of work done to thaw out the problems it has. If you are willing to overlook the problems, there is a fairly decent stealth adventure. I would hold off buying it just now, a wait for a few more updates.