Winter Ember review: “lack of cohesion”

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Let’s find out together, in this quick review, if it is worth buying Winter Ember, the stealth with derivative mechanics developed by Skymachine Studios and published by Blowfish Studios

Rarely have we found ourselves in so much trouble reviewing a game with vast potential. While it is true that often the indie industry (but also high-budget projects, to be completely honest) has put us in front of productions of dubious taste (and equally dubious quality), it has rarely happened that our expectations were sunk. so deeply as to be even more disappointing than we expected. Indeed, much more often the opposite has happened: titles to which we would not have given a cent in terms of presentation turned out to be small pearls or in any case interesting productions (read our Ravenous Devils review).

Here, when we faced Winter Ember our expectations were not exactly low, but almost. A title deliberately inspired by Thief, with a protagonist that refers to the assassins of Assassin’s Creed, in a action in isometric view strongly devoted to stealth. The only thing that really attracted us to this title, developed by the guys at Skymachine Studios and published by Blowfish Studios (who also participated in the development of Yestermorrow), was its setting and the “mood” with which it was presented, in the initial trailers. And we assure you that, at the end of this review, it will probably be the only thing we will save from Winter Ember.

Artorias of the Abyss… ah no

Lack of cohesion. The summary of this Winter Ember review is in these three words. Starting from the banal and totally unstable narrative that narrates the revenge story of the noble Arthur Artorias (and unfortunately we are not at those levels of character writing), whose family is, in the space of one night, annihilated by unknown hitmen. He too is seriously injured and saved by a mysterious woman, who takes care of him. Years pass, Artorias wants revenge and trains to become a ruthless killer. Everything is narrated with animated cutscenes that mix the anime style of a couple of generations ago with bad animations and equally horrible lipsyncat first being funny, in the long run really embarrassing.

Lack of cohesion, we said. To give the final blow to the narrative sector is the dubbing, available in English, which to define low level is an understatement. Starting with the protagonist, misinterpreted and mismanaged on any emotional front, to switch to NPCs and secondary characters who just repeat the same phrases, with the same tones, throughout the story. In short: if Winter Ember had something to tell, she surely did not do it with the right spirit. Or the voice actors.

Winter Ember review: "lack of cohesion"

Thief, or at least you try | Winter Ember Review

Winter Ember, as mentioned at the beginning of this review, wants to resume the elements and the mood that permeate Thief, proposing them in their own style which, at first glance, was also pleasant. Arthur is a hitman and as such he loves to move in the shadows, avoiding frontal assaults and acting in secret to eliminate or stun the enemies that are between him and his target. For this reason, from the very beginning, the developers made sure to make the player prefer the stealth approach, with various winks and skills of the protagonist thrown into the gameplay from the first minute of control of the pad. And in any case, if you try to use a more direct approach by facing enemies in the face, already in the initial stages of the game you may find yourself licking your wounds.

In fact, thanks to a rather imprecise and punitive combat system, in which dodges and parry have little value considering the randomness with which the latter in particular are activated, direct confrontations are highly discouraged. Even in the final stages of the game, in an open fight you will be able to manage one, maximum two enemies, before finding yourself in really serious trouble. So, you can imagine, the stealth sector is the most refined and full of small gems and details that can bewitch fans of the genre? Eh, no.

Winter Ember review: "lack of cohesion"

What a pity | Winter Ember Review

We admit it: in the construction of the Stealth mechanics of Winter Ember you see love and passion, no doubt about it. There are good basic ideas, such as the use of the bow and a vast array of arrows useful for overcoming obstacles in different ways (by breaking down walls, for example, or by placing ropes to be able to climb). The cover system itself is also by no means poorly researched, as is the implementation of a rather large skill tree, including a wide variety of new talents for Arthur.

What Winter Ember lacks is the ability to mix everything: lack of cohesion, as we said a few paragraphs ago. So yes, the skill tree is there, it’s rich and varied, but you’ll rarely find yourself in the right situation to use any talent. The covers are well thought out, but they don’t work: the controls are in fact so woody and imprecise as to make them almost completely uselessbecause the input will not be received correctly and we will end up with a motionless Arthur in the center of the screen waiting for the enemy to notice his presence.

If we also want to add to everything graphic glitches related to lightingwhich in some situations changes at every step of the protagonist (similar problems, related to lighting, we had also found them in Yestermorrow) and disabling bugs and that they forced us to repeat a good portion of the game, because the software did not read as a collection a fundamental key for the continuation of the mission, you will understand well that Winter Ember has more corners to be smoothed than files to use.

Winter Ember review: "lack of cohesion"

Having so many ideas is not enough

At the end of this short review by Winter Ember, we are rather saddened by having to issue a similar verdict for a title that had so many good ideas. Unfortunately, it is not enough to have a series of mechanics in mind, all of which are interesting too, no doubt about it, to be able to mix them well in a well-thought-out result. However, considering how much the stealth market is suffering (Dishonored and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided have taught us many things), we hope that the next work of the guys at Skymachine Studios can rise further. Towards the heights of the sky.

Winter Ember is now currently available on current and last generation PCs and consoles. Let us know what you think below in the comments, we will continue to keep you updated with all the news, guides and reviews on videogame and tech! And if you are interested in game keys at advantageous prices, we recommend that you take a look at the InstantGaming catalog!

Points in favor

  • Fascinating setting
  • So many good ideas at the base …

Points against

  • … too many, and mixed very badly
  • Serious technical problems (between bugs and glitches)
  • Unresponsive and overly woody commands
  • Dull fiction, irritating dubbing