I first heard about Lost Ember a little over a year ago, a GIF of a grey wolf shifting into another animal popped up on my Twitter timeline, and that was it. I was sold.
The opening scenes see a spirit orb shunned from the City of Light, searching frantically for somebody to help. Luckily, we just so happen to be napping as a wolf nearby, and when the spirit asks for us to help, we do so… if a little cautiously at first.
At its core, Lost Ember is a walking sim. You explore the world, and the past, through the eyes of the lonely Wolf as you and your spirit companion try to piece together the past, so you can both move on. The narrative is told through a series of flashbacks, signalled in the world with plumes of smoke. As you watch each memory in turn, the past, and its secrets start to unravel as you piece together the mysteries of the two lost souls.
The mechanic that sets Lost Ember apart from other walking sim games is, your ability to shift into the other animals you encounter. The first one you come across is a wombat, and upon being able to jump into its furry little form, I spent a good half an hour rolling up and down a hill, for no reason other than I could. The second animal I was able to take the form of was a duckling, and friends, it was so obnoxiously cute; I sent videos to pretty much everyone in my contacts and several slack groups of me flapping my tiny wings and jumping around, before finally advancing in the game.
While the wombat and the duckling were some of my personal favourite furry friends, the game does actually use the shapeshifting for more than just vanity and adorableness; certain animals grant you access to locations previously off limits, fish let to you swim deep to the bottom of a rivers, moles let you dig under impassable boulders and birds let you fly across beautiful canyons.
After the novelty of shapeshifting wore off I started to find a greater appreciation for the environment I was running around in. The biomes shift seamlessly from one to another, each one more breath-taking than the last. There are a few scenes towards the end of the game that caused me to audibly gasp; one as you break through the canopy and soar through the air as a beautiful Macaw, surrounded by colour and sound, and another as a dark field is illuminated by fireflies that glisten in your wake.
Unfortunately there were times – usually when I was in one of the burrows or too close to a cliff edge- where the game clips a little, revealing the less than picturesque underbelly of the game, and while this wasn’t game breaking, it did ruin the emersion somewhat due to its semi regular occurrence. There was also a singular instance of getting myself so impossibly stuck, I had to reboot the game- I’m sure there’s something to be said about curiosity killing the cat, not sure about a wolf though.
Lost Ember is a story of forgiveness. It’s a story of how sometimes you have to look back before you’re able to move forward, and sometimes, you can’t do it alone. My time with Lost Ember was short but sweet, it’s first few steps were shaky and unsure, but towards the second half, the game progresses in leaps and bounds as it finds its footing, making way for a truly beautiful experience until the very end.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*