Archives by Day

February 2023

Winter Ember

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Blowfish Studios
Developer: Sky Machine Studios
Release Date: April 19, 2022


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PC Preview - 'Winter Ember'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Feb. 15, 2022 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Winter Ember is an isometric stealth game where you infiltrate and explore vast sandboxes as Arthur Artorias, a faceless man returning home for revenge after spending years in exile.

In Winter Ember, Arthur Artorias is the last scion of a noble family who were all brutally massacred in a single night. Arthur escaped and even found love with the woman who helped him get away. As the years pass, his need for revenge finally overwhelms him, and armed with years of training, he sets out to kill those responsible for the death of his family. As you can imagine, this will not be a cheerful story.

Winter Ember is a stealth game at heart, and it feels familiar. Most of the core genre mechanics are present, so you can sneak, hide in shadows, knock out or kill enemies, hide bodies, pickpocket, and more. What stands out is that Winter Ember is more reminiscent of the original Metal Gear Solid than most modern stealth games. It has more bells and whistles, but the general feel of the game, combined with the overhead camera angles, yields a pleasantly old-school feel.

Combat is an option in Winter Ember, but it doesn't seem like a great first choice. When facing a single foe, you can weave, dodge and parry well enough to take them down. Combat focuses on breaking an enemy's guard through heavy attacks, repeated blows, or carefully timed blocks, and then unleashing hell upon them. However, Arthur operates by the same rules, and that means any situation where he doesn't have a numbers advantage is one where he can end up much worse for the wear — if he comes out of it at all.

One particularly cool aspect is how damage works. In a lot of stealth games, it doesn't matter how injured you are, only that you have at least one HP left. Winter Ember adds a twist to this, with Arthur starting to bleed once his health dips below a certain level. (The exact threshold depends on certain skills.) Unlike a lot of games, bleeding isn't a slow drip until you die. Arthur seems to survive while bleeding for some time, but when he's bleeding, he leaves a notable bloody trail behind him. This means that a healthy Arthur can sneak by unnoticed, while a damaged one might risk leading guards straight to him. This can be a double-edged sword, as you can use the blood trail to lead a guard to a position where you can sneak up behind him and take him out before he realizes where you are.

Trickery is a great way to avoid getting into that position in the first place. One of the key features in Winter Ember is the arrow crafting system. You get various bits of arrows that you can combine into different items. You can use a regular arrow to generate lanterns, a poison arrow to weaken foes, or arrows that allow you to open new paths in the environment. Of course, arrows are limited, so you need to figure out the best place to use your tools for success.

Naturally, there are a variety of skills to be had by leveling up Arthur, which allows players to customize how they play. You can build for more combat options, allowing for more damage, better defenses, or killing enemies quickly with daggers. Stealth lets you be sneakier, kill multiple enemies at once, and generally not get noticed. You can also prioritize inventory with more item space, better rewards for pickpocketing, or the ability to not use an arrow. These skills can also be leveled up multiple times. The arrow recovery skill goes from a lowly 20% to a massive 50% chance; it's pretty great to have a 50% chance of keeping your best arrows!

Overall, Winter Ember looks to be a nice take on the stealth genre. The shift in perspective and "older" feeling of the game work well to help it stand out among the legions of stealth games on the market. We'll have to see just how stealthy Arthur's revenge can get when the game comes out in Q2 2022.

More articles about Winter Ember
blog comments powered by Disqus