Games of the Year

Lost Ember

Lost Ember Screenshot 1
Lost Ember Screenshot 2
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A breathtakingly beautiful world holds the secrets of its past for you and your companion to uncover in this 5-hour journey. Experience the contrasting stories of the fall of mankind and the lush life in a world reclaimed by nature with a wolf as your main character and a determined companion at your side. Explore the land, sea, and air, as you possess any creature you come across to experience life from a whole new perspective. Fly through gargantuan canyon valleys as a parrot! Tumble through the grass as a wombat! Swim through shimmering lakes as a fish! Your journey will take you from densely wooded jungles, to lush rainforest canopies, to barren desert plains and archaic temples. Ultimately, you'll discover a tale of loyalty, despair, and betrayal, as echoes of the lost Yanrana culture come to life in a lush wilderness devoid of man.
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Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous
Review from Steam

A little gem for animal lovers and not only. The story, despite being slightly predictable, is well written and emotional. The trip itself is so gorgeous, and the places you visit so outwordly and magical! Maybe it's a bit short, take it as a dream to live in one session if you can :)

Review from Steam

Lost Ember is a (mostly) wordless narrative that pushes you to explore sun-soaked ruins in a lush, vibrant world that doubles as an apotheosis for your voiceless protagonist, a wolf traversing a strange, mystical environment while exploring its backstory through a myriad of frozen memories spread across the land.
Initially developed as a Kickstarter Project back in 2016, this indie title was recently re-released as a VR title for Steam and offers about 3 hours of gametime for a playthrough, possibly a few more if you’re keen on collecting all the mushrooms and relics hidden in every nook and cranny. Before we even start picking this thing apart, you ought to know there are absolutely no fights, puzzles or challenges between you and the ending cinematic. Lost Ember is primarily an immersive exploration experience and while it does provide a gimmick (which we will explore in detail further down below), the game simply isn’t about overcoming difficulty as much as it is about enjoying a fairly straightforward traversal of a diverse, sprawling world and enjoying its (mostly) visual narrative. To that end, I would recommend that you choose the minimalistic mode when prompted at the start of the campaign, as you will get a much more hands-on delivery of the story and may enjoy the mystery a lot more if you’re trying to figure it out from the imagery alone.
The elegant visual style is impressive by any standard - vibrant textures and gradients bless every surface and bloom effects come in no small dose from the first few minutes of gameplay. You control a wolf but can also possess most other creatures you encounter - flyers such as parrots or insects will enable you to dive from untold heights and enjoy breathtaking vistas, and small underwater cracks hinder your progress until you dive through them while mind controlling fish of various shapes and sizes. Controlling moles will allow you to dig tunnels under rock formations and jumping into mountain goats (my personal favorites) will give you the ability to climb great heights and traverse steep surfaces like it ain’t no thang. Which is great, because the natural winding paths, the mood transitions from vast deserts to towering mountain ranges, I would say, make up about half the eye candy this game is famous for, transcending its modest indie budget.
The other half are the ruins of the Yanren civilization - heavily inspired by the Inca. Like their real-life inspiration, the Yanren have built an ornate and elaborate chain of settlements, culminating in a giant, majestic hub they named Quilotasi, a citadel built on a mountaintop, indicative of a very deliberate and inspired shout-out to Machu Picchu.
Accompanying you is a wisp, commenting on your actions and providing a sort of translation for the things you see, but I found him kind of convention-breaking and mildly annoying. While your fates are bound and he is essential to the story and specifically to your character’s quest, I was so immersed in the aesthetic and non-verbal communication that makes up the majority of the game that a histrionic ball of light with a british accent felt somewhat out of place and distracting. Which is why I’d like to resubmit my earlier suggestion that you choose minimalism when starting the game, which will probably spare you his flavorless droning.
While there are a few bottleneck moments and maybe a handful of quick-time events between start and finish, for the majority of the playtime you’ll be running along a pretty obvious path and occasionally jumping into different animals for specific obstacles. Your inability to die (you just instantly respawn on the last safe spot if you fall off into the void) and the intuitive level design mostly guide you towards progression. Really, the only reason you would even stray off the path is to collect mushrooms or relics if you’re a completionist, but for the most part you’ll be pushing forward at a steady pace, motivated by the distressing memories uncovering what seems, at first, to be the sunset of an entire civilisation.
Every few minutes you get greeted by beauty - whether it’s a blood-red sunset as you transition between biomes, a pandemonium of parrots flanking your extraordinary flight through waterfalls or downriver slides ending in upward ramps throwing you violently into translucent lagoons. The color palettes are gorgeous and infuse the world with a kind of dreamlike filter. Throughout your journey, your come across memories releasing red smoke, through which you discover the fate of the Yanren civilisation, whose ruins adorn the twisting path you need to follow in order to reach your ultimate goal, The City of Light.
Without revealing too much of the story, I encourage you to seek out and uncover all of the memories - the majority of them you’ll uncover naturally, through the storyline’s progression, but in order for everything to make sense and figure out who plays exactly what role, you’re going to need all the puzzle pieces. As Kalani, the reincarnation of a Yanren as a sleek, blue eyed wolf, you will reconstruct not only the sequence of events that brought you here, but the roles and importances of all the other characters, who through their hubris, ignorance and impulsiveness set the stage for the bittersweet denouement you’re galloping towards.
The instrumental part of the soundtrack is fitting - string instruments and gentle piano licks paint an emotional and heartfelt backdrop for the whole experience, but it could have been so much more. Instead of having used the inevitable indie pop vocals that did absolutely nothing for the worldbuilding and consistency, the devs would have enriched their considerable worldbuilding efforts had they developed sounds and themes for the Yanren, adding a dimension of sound to what I perceive to be a fundamental pillar of the game’s lore. There’s a plethora of instruments they could have used, as the 15th century civilisations they drew visual inspiration from used very exotic and unique-sounding blowing and percussion instruments we can easily emulate nowadays. It just seems as a missed opportunity that would have further extended the appeal of an already vivid universe that doesn’t need hacky lyrics and talking wisp sidekicks to be profound or elaborate.
That said, it’s ultimately your decision how much you want to churn out for Lost Ember, as depending on what you appreciate in your entertainment, your enjoyment will vary dramatically. Its lean, careful aesthetics are backed up by a gripping and emotional story that, while brief, is best consumed not as a video game in the traditional sense of the word, but rather a journey through a vivid ecosystem, populated by the ghosts of long-forgotten peoples.

Review from Steam

Animal Simulator.
Very relaxed and slow paced game. You can run/fly/swim/crawl as 15 different animals.
The choice to switch bodies usually arrives when have to bypass water sections or high ground areas, but
you can always return to the default wolf shape or carry on exploring as a bird or something else.
Press W to proceed.
Two collectible types (relics and mushrooms) will challenge you to check corners, ledges above or below you,
but it's all about running forward. Even story memories aren't hidden - highlighted by red smoke and placed on your path.
No puzzles to slow you down - there isn't one. You can't even die by jumping off the heights (I tried).
Big and contrasting levels.
The first part of the game features only day-bright forest locations. Later, you travel to sandy canyons, oasis patches,
explore underwater, watch how evening lights changes and eventually have to fight through storms and blizzard.
And as you explore new lands, background story unfolds more and more, from the memories you learn the past of yourself
and your companion.

Review from Steam

Only one thing to say — the studio needs better level designers.
Lost Ember would benefit greatly if the locations were smaller and more dense detail-wise. There's absolutely no need to have so much space that is not inviting for the player to explore. It doesn't express much itself and doesn't contribute to the story; it only ever adds up the feeling of emptiness. The only motivator to keep lurking around is the collectibles, but they are so randomly placed, it is easier to take a day and vacuum-clean the locations with YouTube guide videos.
Other than that, I'm really on the fence whether I could recommend this game or not. This project is not, however, bad; the team just need more experience and better direction for their future projects, so I'll give them a pass.

Review from Steam

Tears Soo many tears

Review from Steam

You can play as a capybara

Review from Steam

Lodt Ember is an up to 5-7 hours adventure game, that is both lamentable and cute at the same time. It has interesting mechanics, hearttouching plot and a lot of cute and amazing creatures, that will help you through the story. Game graphic may look simple at the first look, but it's still breathtaking at some moments. Soundtrack composition, imo, could be little different than it is, but sometimes it still did bring feelings of joy and developers efforts.
I'd recommend to give Lost Ember a try, it surely will worth it.

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