Lost Ember is a game about exploring. It isn’t exploring in the sense of wandering around and finding things, though there are elements of that, but more about exploring the past, its lessons, and an individual’s own ideas. Lost Ember is about looking at scenes from different perspectives, re-examining yourself, and how your own world is structured. The game is a journey and at the end of the journey lies the question – did you do the right thing?
You explore these themes as a wolf and a spirit. Lost Ember opens with this spirit searching for help among the animals and it is the wolf who responds. The reason the animals and spirits tie into each other is because of the beliefs of the Yanren, the civilization of the game, who believe that the animals are the embodiment of their people’s spirits that were not granted entry into the City of Light. The spirit doesn’t know who it is and that is one of the mysteries in the game along with the former identity of the wolf.
When the two join up players take control of the wolf who we soon find has the ability to jump into other animal bodies and possess them, which is helpful as a lot of the world is not easily navigated as a wolf. There are wombats that can roll, fish that swim (obviously), a number of birds including ducks and hummingbirds, goats, and a few others. Each has its own abilities to cross difficult terrain as well or allow access into areas that would otherwise be unaccessible allowing you to find collectibles and hidden paths. There’s a lot of transitioning from animal to animal and the actual system to do it is simple, so you can switch to your heart’s content as long as an animal is in range.
To match the animals the world of Lost Ember presents different biomes across its chapters from lush grassland, deserts, and forested areas. Each has a distinct look to it and they all pop with colour making them eye-catching, Each is generally well designed when it comes to pathways as well so you don’t get stuck in the area as you can see where you need to head to continue the story.
The story is told through unlocking memories with dioramas showing scenarios occurring while the spirit talks about what it thinks is going on. The pieces are quite easy to piece together and a lot of the time you’ll have worked out what is happening long before the spirit has finished its speculation. There are also some story paths that are easy to figure out a long while before the characters themselves do. It’s a decent story though and there are some good scenes, but that connection to the characters, bar Wolf, don’t ever really take hold.
On PS4, Lost Ember also suffers from some bugs and performance issues. This included falling through the world when possessing a character, Wolf getting stuck in the environment on a few occasions, stuttering when moving in the environment and mini freezes halting the game, all of which impacted the experience quite a lot. Patches are required to improve the performance to make Lost Ember a better play experience.