Lost Ember is an adventure game where you play as a wolf that has the power to inhabit other animals. Travel across beautiful landscapes and discover what happened, through memories, to the ancient civilizations now in ruins. Lost Ember is available now on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Steam (current 10% discount). I’d like to thank Mooneye Studios for supplying me with a PS4 code in order to share this review with you today!
When I started to play Lost Ember, I was expecting to really enjoy playing as several animals from birds soaring through the skies to fish swimming in the depths of the sea. What I wasn’t expecting is the emotional journey I was about to embark on complete with amazing voice acting and a breathtaking soundtrack. Although the ending is a happy one considering, be prepared for some tears!
A Tragic Story of Greed, Violence, and Loss
Lost Ember is a tale of the Yanrana people and their once mighty city. They believe that by giving their dead their traditional funeral, their spirits can freely pass on to The City of Light. You awaken to a talking ball of light wondering why it can’t pass on and why it appears trapped with no one able to hear it. As it is said that those that are denied The City of Light stay behind and take the form of animals, the ball of light, or rather spirit guide, assumes you must be a Lost Ember, a lost soul. Together you set out to remember who you were in your past lives and if you can be redeemed.
All names of the Yanrana people are carved into medallions that they wear around their necks. You find one with the name Kalani inscribed on it. Another spirit appears and bestows upon you powers that will help get you were you need to go. Scattered around several environments like lush green hills, snowy hilltops, and dark caverns, are memories represented as red smoke. With each memory regained, you can break through “barriers” and move forward. I don’t want to give away more than that as this should be experienced for one’s self. Piecing together what I was seeing had me constantly questioning what kind of person my character was. The larger point of the premise is to see things through others’ perspective.
Controls, Rendering, and Frame-Rate Need Improvement
The animals you can change into were the ones I knew about such as the adorable wombats and moles, but there were a few surprises like bison and elephants! The movements felt quite real although I found it a tad annoying to have to repeatedly press the X button to move and use L2/R2 for up and down when it would have just been easier to move around with the joystick.
As the wolf you can hold R2 to run quite fast so I found myself using that animal the most. That or a bird as it was hard not to just fly everywhere when my wolf got stuck often outside of the marked paths. This was a little frustrating for an exploration game where you can check hidden places for collectibles. Sticking to paths at times and not being able to jump down more than 5 feet or die took me right out of the moment.
Another complaint I had with the controls was the lag whenever I moved too quickly or entered another area, the occasional crash, and the glitches. I would run into invisible walls not knowing where I can and cannot go which often got me stuck trying to button-mash my way out. One time as the mole rat, which allows you to dig underground to get to another side, I rose up in a pile of rocks and couldn’t move. As I panicked, I decided to release my mole from my possession and watched as it ran off and faded from my view as I continued to be a disembodied being becoming one with the earth. Luckily, you can Restart Last Checkpoint and not lose much time.
The Animals are Adorable and Full of Life
There are no enemies and when you fall, the game just puts you right back where you were. This helped put me back into a relaxed mood as I can just sit back and enjoy the scenery and story. I also wouldn’t have been able to bear it if I had to hurt any of the animals. However, it did feel weird to possess their bodies at my will only to abandon them in areas probably far from their homes, exposed out in the open. I tried to remind myself that this was just a game. Then, when I was a fish and transformed myself back into a wolf on land, I saw the poor thing flopping around unable to get back into the water! I quickly re-possessed it, dropped it off somewhere nice with some friends, and doggy-paddled my way back to shore.
It would probably ease my mind if every time I approached the animals, they didn’t run away as fast as possible. Even though I understand that I am a wolf and therefore a predator. Are all the animals actually people inside anyway or is that just a legend? It was still nice to become these animals and have the wolf disappear and become part of the gang. You can also do many “silly things”, as the game puts it, like munching on some berries or taking a nap. It made everything feel so much more alive, and made for some great snapshots too. They also added some baby animals that you can inhabit which significantly upped the cute factor!
Can’t Stop Thinking About What I Just Played
With all of the negatives I just mentioned, I still found myself immensely enjoying the game. The beauty and care that was taken in creating the wildlife and this emotional story far supersedes any of my grievances. My heart ached when I looked around and saw how much nature was thriving now that the humans were gone. The very same humans that over-cultivated which lead to pestilence and hunger. The song with lyrics at the end of the game along with certain revelations had me crying. Lost Ember took me only a few hours to play through but I still find myself thinking about my experience.