Into the Emberlands – Preview
Follow Genre: Roguelike
Developer: Tiny Roar
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Platform: PC
Tested on: PC

Into the Emberlands – Preview

Good: Nails the balance between challenging and relaxing
Bad: Fast travel system could be improved
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VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

If you’re an avid reader of our site, you may have noticed that we’ve had our eye on Into the Emberlands for a while now –ever since it was first presented in October of 2022, under the title Wanderful, in fact. The game has undergone some massive changes since then and has now officially hit Early Access. For developer Tiny Roar, it’s obviously a passion project, but how well were they able to translate that passion into their (almost) finished product? We grabbed our lantern and ventured into the Emberlands to find out.

Cozy games have been gaining popularity for quite some time now, with mainstays like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley being joined by indie titles like Mail Time and Garden Life. The term cozy gaming typically describes a vibe or an aesthetic rather than these games being a genre of their own, although you’ll often find that it applies to particular genres like life sims, puzzle titles, or farming games. By contrast, roguelike games are typically found on the opposite side of the video game spectrum. They’re designed to challenge the player and are often brutally difficult. Into the Emberlands pulls off the seemingly impossible by combining roguelike gameplay with a cozy vibe. As far as roguelikes go, this is by far the easiest one we’ve ever played, but the unique combination keeps things engaging and interesting throughout the game’s runtime.

Central to Into the Emberlands are the Knacks, blue gnome-like creatures (no, not those) that inhabit a peaceful village in a forest. Or at least, they used to, because the forest has been covered by a thick black fog called Miasma and the village has been completely wrecked. Players take on the role of the Lightbearer, a Knack carrying an Ember Lantern, who has a seemingly simple task: venture into the Miasma to find the other Knacks and guide them home so that they can aid in rebuilding the village. Oh and while you’re out, you might as well also collect the necessary resources so that the other Knacks can rebuild things, right? This is easier said than done of course, because every step you take in the Miasma drains light from your Ember Lantern. If it ever goes out, that means game over. You’ll lose everything you’ve collected and a new Lightbearer will step up, with the original becoming another Knack lost in the Miasma. There are ways to restore some light while you’re out and about but keeping an eye on your lantern and returning home in time is a key component of Into the Emberlands’ gameplay. In true roguelike fashion, the environment is randomly generated every time you venture out into the wilds, making it so that no two runs are identical.

It’s a simple concept but it’s executed masterfully. The game provides you with a handy checklist of things you need to find in order to progress. This means that you’ll always know what to do next. However, Into the Emberlands isn’t afraid to let you roam free. There are a handful of tutorial quests, of course, but once you move past these, you’re left to your own devices, in the best way possible. This is a game that actually wants you to plan ahead and make decisions based on what you think the best available option is: gathering natural resources like wood and stone requires tools but these have limited use before they break. Do you use them on the outskirts of your village where you’re close enough to return home before your embers run out? Or do you venture deeper into the Miasma where you might find a bigger bounty, but risk not being able to get back home? Do you try to negotiate with that troll or are you better off avoiding it altogether? As you progress and gather upgrades, you’ll find that your expeditions become more efficient, resulting in a game where you feel like you’re actually progressing based on your own merit instead of the direction that the game wants to push you in.

One element that did irk us, and that we hope is fixed in the game’s full release, is the built-in fast travel system. Venture far enough into the Miasma and eventually you’ll find a Metro Station, which you can use to travel from and to the village. However, each time you level up the village itself, any Metro Stations you’ve discovered are reset, meaning you’ll have to seek them out again in the wilderness. It’s a tedious and repetitive system that could do with a rework, especially if the game’s playable area expands with content updates. It’s not that Into the Emberlands is a brutally difficult game, as that would go against the cozy vibe, but we’d much rather go out and explore new areas rather than rethread biomes we’ve already explored, even if they are randomly regenerated again.

Even for the casual observer, Into the Emberlands’ cozy nature should be clear at a glance, thanks to the game’s adorable aesthetics. The opening sequence, which sets up the game’s story, is presented as a pop-up book. We’d say that this is where the art direction is at its best. That’s saying a lot because it’s hard not to crack a smile seeing a row of Knacks follow you home like a bunch of baby animals. Oh and speaking of animals, there are unlockable animal companions, which are always a big plus in our opinion. While we enjoyed the top-down visuals for what they were, the actual in-game visuals didn’t have the same impact, even though everything was still adorable. The music also underlines the cozy atmosphere, sounding appropriately zen-like.

Peering ahead, the future looks bright for Into the Emberlands. Players can expect the obligatory bug fixes and gameplay polish that are an integral part of the Early Access process, of course. However, there’s a significant chunk of announced content also to come, including unlockable player characters and pets as well as new tools and trinkets. There are even new biomes and encounters in the pipeline. The development team is actively monitoring and responding to feedback on the game on the Steam forums and there is an active Discord server as well. With results too, we suppose, as we didn’t run into any notable bugs during our time with the game. Speaking of time, we assumed that Into the Emberlands would feel light on content this early on in the design process, especially given the €6.59 RRP. However, even five hours in, we still weren’t done with everything and from what we gather, the current build already offers 8-10 hours worth of content for completionists. Take note, Sherwood Extreme!


We were pleasantly surprised by just how well Into the Emberlands’ unique blend of a cozy vibe and roguelike gameplay works. The game offers just enough challenge to keep you motivated while still maintaining a relaxed atmosphere. It’s a fantastic little way to unwind after a stressful day. We’d love to see a rework of the game’s fast travel system, but given how Tiny Roar is actively listening to player feedback, we wouldn’t be surprised if this happens down the line. With a ton of new content on the horizon too, this is a title that is well worth picking up.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
Into the Emberlands - Preview, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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