Ember

The Steam Winter Sale is in full swing, and one of the titles available for a fabulous price is Ember. You can get a copy for just $3.99. For those who enjoyed the real Ultima and other single-player RPGs, Ember is a great buy. I did much smiting as the Warrior, but will most likely be heading back for another round as the Archer.

Ember on Steam

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

Image result for ember gameAnd so concludes the narrative of my adventures in Ember. To reveal any more would give away one of the endings.

So, what are my thoughts about Ember the game?

To put it simply, Ember is a tremendous amount of fun and is probably the best game I’ve played this year. I found it to have a deep and interesting story that unfolds not just through the events of the game, but through the dozens of books you find along the way. Plus there is a lot to learn through side conversations and tavern interactions. The more citizens you speak with and the more books you stop to read, the more you learn about Domus, the events that brought about the Lightbringer and the tension between different races. And even if the books don’t give enlightenment about the lore of the world, such as the famed tome, The Domus Pub Crawl, they are still amusing and add to the fabric of the game.

Additionally, Ember has great momentum, always moving you forward to the next quest. I never felt at a loss for something to do and there was no need to aimlessly grind. Instead, I was always involved in a quest both from the main story line or one of the several dozen side quests. These ranged from simple delivery runs, to locating lost artifacts, to returning wayward children and husbands, to negotiating trade routes. And even the side quests have side quests, so there is no cause to be idle.

Some have said the combat is simplistic, but I believe they are missing the point. If you recall the original Ultima series, which is an inspiration for Ember, you had 3 stats – Str, Dex, Int, and did damage based on your weapon stats and absorbed damage based on armor stats. While a shift from complex skills trees like we see in SotA, it holds true to the system used in Ultima, A Bard’s Tale, Wizardry and others. Even with that, each character has 3 special abilities they can employ based on weapon and armor combinations. And if the items skills aren’t to your liking, you can socket runes to make a more deadly combination.

Ember is also a lovely game to look at. I thought the game graphics and sound were very nicely done. I especially liked the rain and thunder as I walked through the cemetery and the sound of muffled voices calling for help as I crept through the catacombs. At other times, the birds sang as the forest turned to autumn. And the world felt pretty large to me with multiple locations to visit, plenty of houses to just wander into while the citizens were sitting down to dinner or sleeping. Like all good towns, there was a tavern to visit to pick up gossip, chat with the ladies and come close to getting into a brawl.

I’ve spent 40 hours exploring and being entertained by this world of Domus and I’m taken enough with the experience to start over, play a different style of character and choose an alternate path when presented with a decision. I know for certain this will change the outcome of several situations.

As a game that pays homage to classics like Ultima and The Bard’s Tale, Ember is work of art. As a game that offers 40 hours of entertainment for a mere $10, you are missing out if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity. Although the story is different, in many ways, Ember is a spiritual successor to Ultima. It looks and feels like Ultima 7/8 and with an interesting story and the wry humor that made the Ultimas such enduring games. But Ember stands as a solid adventure game and I truly hope this is the first title in a long running series.

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

With three shrines open, there wasn’t a moment to lose. We returned to the city of Radiance and spoke with the Elder Monks were ready to set their designs in motion. Having read through the old tomes, they believed they could open the portal and speak with the Ember Goddess. Through this interaction, perhaps we could help the Embers and resettle the peace that was beginning to tear itself apart.

The Kings and High Council members of the land had come out to witness this historic moment. It wasn’t a simple matter of throwing open the chamber doors and declaring I had come calling. The Ember Goddess was imprisoned and we had to remove ethereal shackles. But as we plunged forward to set this rescue in motion, I was forced to carry on alone. Mere mortals were not allowed to enter this sanctuary.

To my surprise and dismay, there was another who entered. The Darkbringer, he who had mocked and hurled jibes and had even stood against me in my quests, now stood as my confederate in this desperate time. Had the situation been different, I’m sure we would have been locked in mortal combat. But we were now forced to work together to free the Ember Goddess, she who stood over both of us. And there was no escape. We would either succeed in this final quest, or we would perish and remain trapped here forever.

Four trials lay ahead. Four labyrinths wherein we would have to destroy the source of power that kept the Goddess contained. A labyrinth riddled with protectors of an ancient origin duly bent of crushing on plans.

Putting our differences aside, the Darkbringer and I fought valiantly. Though we were outnumbered, we employed cunning and guile to gain the upper hand. Many enemies drew their final breath at the hand of my Whirling Blade. The Darkbringer was uniquely skilled with the Bow with enemies collapsing to their feet before they ever got close enough to strike a blow.

The chambers were searched and enemies vanquished. In a battle that was at any moment ready to turn against us and plunge us into everlasting darkness, we emerged victorious.

In the silence that followed, we returned to the Ember Goddess, broke the final seal to open the portal and gained our audience…

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Well, good evening! Very good of you to all show up like this. When I throw open the chamber door, we all yell surprise!

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All right then. I admit to being a little surprised by these turn of events. Now you just listen up Darkbringer, if that is indeed your real name, which I highly doubt. At the least sign of treason, I’ll twist your neck for you.

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Ok, well, this doesn’t look foreboding at all. I’m sure we just have to take a casual stroll through here, find the crystal that powers all of this, smack it with a hammer and be on our way.

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My goodness, you certainly know how to make a grand entrance don’t you?

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

The fun and frolic of the seaside was put on hold as I was pressed into service to visit the Cliffs of the Giants – the call of the Shrine compels me. Those poor devils have been shuffled off to one of the most frigid places in this realm. However, they bid me welcome and let me warm my cockles at their campfire. I was even able to make a peace offering with the raw fish I always keep in my pocket.

But this only served to bring up a larger problem, fishing off their shores by the Fish Co. The giants were relegated here by the Treaty, so it seems a bit wrong for fisherman in the City of Light to venture this far up to poach some salmon. Thus, I agreed to help out the giants. Additionally, they wouldn’t tell me the super secret location of their shrine until I at least looked into the matter.

So back to the docks I went and straight into the office of Fish Co. The owner was willing to troll other waters, but only if I managed to source a special fishing spot that The Old Man knew about. Figuring I could use my powers of persuasion, I found The Old Man on the edge of town and sat down to see what we could arrange.

He cast a dubious eye upon me and judged by my attire that I didn’t know my ice hole from a hole in the ground. I took offense. I took umbrage.

“Look here sir,” I retorted. “I may be newly back from the dead, but rest assured, I was poking my rod into ice holes all over this realm long before you took up to squatting on a bucket and staring out into the lonely sea.”

He scoffed at my bravado, then with intent to prove me wrong, threw down the gauntlet. He would tell me of his new fish source, but only if I could land Ole Puffy, a fish of legend and ingenious cunning, that has eluded him. If I succeeded, I would be rewarded with a map.

Thusly, I laid down my sword, grabbed my rod with both hands and went from hole to hole, casting it in deep to see what I could catch. I would claim victory over Ole Puffy, it was just a matter of time.

This proved to take longer than I thought, and I admit, I was discouraged. I had cast my line dozens of times with nary a notice. The day began to wane to night and my expectation of entering the Shrine began to dwindle. But then it happened. There was a bite at the line and the battle was on!

Zannon, frustrated and wanting to move on, used the power of the bow and skewered the fish repeatedly. It may not have been sportsmanly, but it was keenly effective.

I brought the pincushion fish back to The Old Man, and with a laugh of triumph, handed it over and demanded the map. This may not have been what he expected, but a deal is a deal. He acquiesced, but on my way back to Fish Co to settle this matter, I was accosted by another disgruntled fisherman, who bade me take an alternative course of action. He wanted Fish Co out of business and in exchange, would give me a few sticks of explosive and a tinderbox so as to sink the Blue Whale to the deep.

While it seemed like a good plan, I felt compelled to decline the offer. Now, if the Fish Co goes back on our bargain then by all means Lenny my good man, we shall board that craft under the cover of darkness and blow the bowels right out of it.

I took this news back to King Rok to see how he would roll with these changes and the plan seemed agreeable to him. So much so, that he showed me the location of the shrine.

I descended into the icy vault and was met by a hideous array of creatures that did not show the same glee at my fish offering as the giants. They were intent on doing me grievous bodily harm. Very well, the sword it shall be.

The three of us hacked our way through dozens of creatures that barred my path to the shrine. Each one met the same terrible fate, face down in the yellow snow. I made no qualms and looted their cold, dead corpses. I found some good swag that way. I even went so far as to enter the lair of Pyros, a menacing polar bear. I offered him fish in exchange for leaving the giants alone. But the uppity sod refused, only to show his claws. I kept that paw as a trophy and it makes a fine back scratcher.

But there was more important business to attend. Down in the icy catacombs, where no one had tread for centuries lay the shrine I was searching for. I had cleansed the chamber of evil and once again brought life to the altar through my offering. It glowed with a renewed radiance and I felt myself getting closer to my ultimate destiny.

I made a retreat and checked over every wrecked Shaman corpse on my way out. I left no pocket unturned. With heavy sacks full of loot, I stopped at local merchant who was quite keen to offer coins for the treasure I handed over.

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Hello lads. mind if I sit by the fire for a moment? My pockets are full of fish in case you might be interested in such things.

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Well, all right, I wasn’t expecting these

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I have a plan. It’s not tactically genius, but we lure the big lummox away and I stab him in the back. If that doesn’t work, Corra will set him on fire. If that doesn’t work, I’m going to need Zannon to run for the healer as we might be in serious trouble.

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My foolproof plan worked. We’re all still alive. Now let us get on with the task of sanctifying this altar.
Now, just for my own benefit, why was it built all the way down here?

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

The Ember Mines might have taken longer to reach than anticipated due to some navigational challenges, but we arrived just in time to save the King. Apparently, the King had gone down into the mine to greet some people and kiss some babies, but never returned. Why you would take a child into a mine is a question for later. Clearly they can’t hold a pickaxe.

Since I needed to visit an altar contained within the mines, I said I would check on the King and take care of my other business and none shall be the wiser. The guard readily agreed and we descended only to find dwarves gone mad. There was chaos in the tunnels as the miners had been stricken with some form of delirium and attacked all those who came near.

Stab me once with a pickaxe, shame on you. Stab me twice with a pickaxe, shame on me for not stabbing you with a sword. And so the battle was on. Hordes of dwarf miners blocked our path as we searched for both the King and the ember altar.

And when we reached the source of the malady, we found the Darkbringer standing off to the side letting out fits of maniacal laughter. Before I could smite him across the face for this act of cowardice, he disappeared and left his darklings behind to feast upon our bowels.

Well, the joke is on them, as I am still using my bowels and am determined to defend them. Our party, with the help of the King himself and his guards, wrestled the darklings to the ground, trod upon them soundly and used the power of steel and fire to silence their wicked ways. It was a terrible battle with some of the King’s men having a great fall and suffering a fatal blow. But he exited the melee victorious and thanked us for coming to his aid.

I replied that I’m always ready to help out a king and asked if he happened to see an altar about the place while he was being held captive. He replied in the affirmative and that the Darkbringer spoke of nothing but this altar and how I would soon arrive.

"Well, it’s nice to be thought of," I replied. "Perhaps you could point me in the direction of said altar before you depart this stifling catacomb of death?"

And so we made our way over to the altar and placed the ancient relic upon it, just as we’d been instructed to. When the roof didn’t collapse and no creature sprang out of the darkness, we looted the dwarven bodies for their rather swanky swords and armor and made a retreat to the nearest town where we could exchange them for gold.

When that business is concluded, it’s off to the docks, where we might be able to spend these coins on some more lively forms of entertainment. Shuffleboard for everyone!

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What do you mean, what am I doing? I’m following the tracks of course and they go this way!

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Hmm, a crossroads. I’m no good with making life-changing decisions!

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I’m not sure what that is, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s bad

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Yes, hello. Perhaps you could point me in the direction of the ember altar? Perhaps you’ve seen it?

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The Darkbringer? You diabolical bastard!

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Feeling a bit hot in here if I do say so. And perhaps not the best place to erect an altar. Not much foot traffic I’m guessing.

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

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