Winter Ember – Review
Follow Genre: Adventure, stealth
Developer: Sky Machine Studios
Publisher: Blowfish Studios, Gamera Games
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch, Xbox Series X/S,
Tested on: PC

Winter Ember – Review

Site Score
Good: Hgh quality cutscenes, Nicely voiced 
Bad: Combat feels too stiff, Hard to find your way around 
User Score
(1 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 6.0/10 (1 vote cast)

A well-known saying is that you must fight fire with fire and this is very true in Winter Ember. Our main character Arthur is just enjoying his regular life until a mysterious group decides to throw a wrench in the gears. Now set on a path of revenge, you will utilize the cover of the night and every tool in the thief’s arsenal to get to your final destination and uncover the truth behind the dreadful night that started it all. 


The story starts rather strangely. In a nice mansion in an undisclosed location, we see a group of people enjoying their evening. Our main character Arthur is having company over and everything looks fine until there is some commotion in the main hall. Your butler is struck by the blade of a stranger and the murdering won’t stop there. Suddenly the group comes for you and after beating you up they leave you for dead. The last thing you see is a lit match dropping to the ground and everything is set ablaze. Luckily there is one other survivor that saves your life and then the game proceeds to fast forward to a few years later. Arthur bears scars from that night and is out for revenge. 

The story starts out interesting but it only gives short updates between certain events in the game. There is your typical build-up but there isn’t a constant flow of new information. In the beginning, you don‘t have a clue where you are or where to go, so a more coherent introduction would have done wonders here.  


It feels like most work has been put into the visuals. The intro is fully animated, much like a Japanese-inspired cartoon. This immediately gives a good first impression and fans of this style will be glad to hear that most story scenes are animated this way. The gameplay portion itself is viewed from an isometric perspective to give you a nice overlook of the field. The many locations are beautifully crafted with both lively interiors and exteriors, making them look right at home in the game’s setting. As Arthur is a thief, you will be sneaking around most of the time. To give you a better indication of how visible you are, the screen will noticeably change to emphasize how well you are hiding and blending in with the shadows. When you are exposed to light, the game will feature a brighter/warmer tone and while you are sneaking it turns to this colder and darker setting where you won’t stand out.


It is always a nice extra when games feature full voice acting and this is also the case for Winter Ember. As you roam through the cold streets you will hear the many conversations and responses of the guards to the things happening around them. This immerses the player in a lively world and all of this is accompanied by calm background music. The music is of high quality and gives off Skyrim vibes, especially when moving inside the rustic, fireplace-lit houses. Equally great are the various sound effects, these sound crystal clear and correspond nicely with the actions on screen, be it lockpicking, breaking something, or breaking stuff.


Winter Ember is an adventure game that mainly focuses on stealth mechanics. It all begins with a short tutorial on how to use stealth to your advantage and how to dispose of enemies. Immediately, the controls feel familiar and are easy to learn, making the game suitable for anyone. To traverse successfully from point A to point B you’ll need to check the environment, manipulate it if possible and outsmart your prey. Early on it becomes clear that the AI isn’t that aware of its surroundings. Unlike in titles like Hitman where people react to every change in the environment, in Winter Ember they will only respond to your presence directly. They will only investigate when you come too close, yet if you quickly make yourself scarce, they will return to their original position quite rapidly.  

In a stealth game, you aren’t always able to take out your opponent silently. If you are spotted you’ll have to take on your enemy face-to-face or try to disengage and try again a while later. With a few combat tactics in his arsenal, Arthur will be able to fend off assailants but this feels a bit off. In most games, fights feel direct, while here it all feels a bit more stiff and cumbersome. Dodging feels off, and it’s sometimes completely useless, so blocking or parrying will be your best bet. A successful parry will leave the enemy stunned for a short while, yet because the combat feels so disconnected, it could take some time before Arthur will beat down his enemy.  

Besides fighting your way through enemies, you’ll also have to utilize the tools of the thief to get where you need to be. You have a bow and can craft a variety of arrows from the various parts found around the compounds. The craftable arrows range from normal arrow-tipped ones that hurt enemies to arrows that work like a grappling hook or those that can bust open weak surfaces. Another essential tool is the lock pick. In a fun and initially simple mini-game, you must push the rocker down until it wobbles, do it too early and your pick will be pushed back, do it too late and it will break. On the easy locks this is quite forgiving, but starting on medium-difficulty locks it feels like there isn’t much room for error. Some doors can only be opened by special keys and others will only open from the inside. 

One thing that was slightly frustrating about Winter Ember is running around like a headless chicken. You have a map and minimap to show you where to go, yet because housing interiors and exteriors are so large, it is easy to get lost or run in circles. Sometimes you’ll need to find a small hidden window to progress or find a hidden spot that takes you way back. At first, it has its charm, but getting lost over and over again grows old fairly quickly.  


Winter Ember is a game with potential, yet lacking polish in some gameplay elements. While the stealth, crafting, and lock picking feel nicely thought out, the combat itself feels stiff and not that enjoyable. This will push you more to a stealth-based playstyle but as the enemies don’t really react to what goes on around them, this also becomes boring after a while. It’s upsetting as there has been so much work poured into crafting the nice visuals, creating the amazingly beautiful cutscenes, and voicing all characters that play a role. It feels like the outer layer of the game is nicely done, but the core had to cook for a little while longer.  

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 6.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Winter Ember – Review, 6.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

Never give up on a dream. It might be a long nightmare, but one day it will change into a beautiful reality - MC_JP 2014

No Comments

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.