Ember Knights

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Twin Sails Interactive
Developer: Doom Turtle
Release Date: July 18, 2023


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PC Preview - 'Ember Knights'

by Cody Medellin on Sept. 20, 2022 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Ember Knights is an action roguelite for 1-4 players where you play as legendary knights, the last spark of hope against the mad sorcerer Praxis and his hordes of unwavering fiends.

Roguelites from indie studios are common on the PC. Pick any setting or any viewpoint, and there's almost a guarantee that it has been used in the genre before. Multiplayer is a less common thing but present in a decent amount of roguelites, and it's always fun to tackle the journey with a friend. The presence of these elements in Ember Knights is welcome, and the game does try to stand out in a few different ways.

For the most part, if you've played a roguelike before, then you'll know what to expect in Ember Knights. The dungeons are randomized with some small rooms and some wide rooms, but nothing is bigger than a screen in size. Enemies are also randomized, as are some of the boss encounters. Some rooms that you run into will grant temporary elemental buffs. Coins can be used in shops to get more temporary buffs for your journey, almost all of them stacking upon one another to make you strong for the run. Combat has you doling out light combos and performing dodge rolls, but you only have one life, and losing it means returning to the hub world to start over. You don't completely reset, as you can decipher some of the mystery orbs you've found to unlock more temporary buffs to randomly find. You also get to carry over your embers, which serve two purposes. Actively, you'll be spending them at the mystic tree to get more permanent upgrades, like additional coin drops or starting health. Passively, collecting embers allows you to select different weapons to begin your journey.

Everything mentioned so far follows the roguelike playbook perfectly, but one of the things that makes the game stand out are the weapons and elements. At the time of this writing, there are only four weapons on offer: a bow and arrow, a sword, a hammer, and a staff. As expected, each behaves differently when it comes to attack time and moves, but they all feel good to wield. The elemental updates cover the range of expected elements — air, earth, fire and water — and they also come in various types, from creating an area of stalagmites around you for a short while to creating a long-reaching wave of ice. The elemental attacks recharge over time, making them feel like special moves instead of something you'll rely on all the time, but when combined with relics that produce lighting or inflict enemies with poison, the combat is great for experimentation.

Complementing the combat is the multiplayer. The traditional two-player co-op found in some roguelikes has been doubled, so four players can go on randomized dungeon adventures. Playing with a group of four is more enticing once you unlock all of the weapons, so everyone can feel distinct with their basic move sets. Ember Knights also has real online play, so players are no longer reliant on Steam Remote Play to get their multiplayer fix. Since this isn't something most roguelikes do, the feature is a big selling point for this title.

Thus far, the presentation is quite good. The graphics go for a sprite-based look that is more in line with the 16-bit era of games; there's a chunkiness to the characters, and the liberal use of color for characters and the dungeon backdrops. The frame rate is smooth no matter how many effects and enemies are on-screen, while the music fits in the usual dungeon adventuring fare.

Steam Deck owners will be pleased to know that the game is already marked as Verified, laying to rest any questions about whether this will work on the system. There aren't many graphical options to tweak, but the game runs at the full 1280x800 resolution of the system. It averages four to five hours of battery life on a full charge, making it a perfect choice for quick and lengthy runs alike.

In its current state, Ember Knights has a solid base to work from. The combat is tight, the weapons and elemental combinations give you a good range to fight with, and the presentation is already awesome. The presence of four-player multiplayer is the real highlight, and the option of playing either locally or online means that playing solo is more of a choice rather than something you're stuck with. The developers have stated that it might be a full year before the game gets a full release, but here's hoping that the game progresses smoothly during its Early Access phase.

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