If you could be any animal, what would you be and why? No, this isn’t one of those dreaded interview questions. It’s essentially the premise behind Lost Ember, Mooneye Studios‘ open world adventure released earlier this year.
Lost Ember takes place in a world where humans no longer exist — only animals. When the humans died, they either reincarnated as animals on earth or ascended as little balls of light to a place aptly named The City of Light. The game opens with a spirit searching for someone to help him find his way to the City of Light when he meets you, a wolf.
Along your journey, the two of you discover that you have a special ability to possess other animals. Cool. The spirit realizes that you must be a Lost Ember, a member of the extinct Yanrana tribe who was denied access to the City of Light. You and your floating-ball-of-light sidekick venture on to find out why.
Right off the bat, I was intrigued by Lost Ember‘s unique concept. You see the world through the eyes of wombats, buffalo, mountain goats, hummingbirds, fish, and more. The creative plot runs incredibly deep as you come across more and more memories from your past life, making for hours upon hours of gameplay.
The greatest thing about Lost Ember has to be its breathtakingly beautiful graphics. There are acres and acres of nature to explore with such intricate details, right down to the fur on the animals’ backs. Even if you aren’t a big nature lover, it’s hard not to be amazed at how stunning your virtual surroundings are. To go along with it, the soundtrack is filled with earthy and soft instrumental music, making for a perfect relaxation game.
While I did love exploring the massive world, I’ll admit that it seemed a bit… overdone. You could spend as much time as you want wandering around and experimenting with the abilities of different animals, but there honestly isn’t much to find other than what’s necessary to the story. There are collectible relics, mushrooms, and “legendary” glowing animals scattered throughout, but none of these things serve any purpose. There’s no incentive to collect anything because none of it is useful.
It’s obvious that Mooneye Studios spent a ton of time on the graphics, but this unfortunately caused the mechanics of Lost Ember to suffer. I ran into a ton of glitches where I got stuck in the middle of possessing an animal and had to restart from the checkpoint (which had some frustratingly long loading times).
The camera angles were also really faulty, especially in small spaces. This made it easy to get lost and turned around. Then I ran into finicky controls and I ended up accidentally falling off more cliffs than I’d like to admit.
I would have liked to see a map, even if it was just a basic “you are here” sort of thing, in the instances that I did get turned around. I wanted to keep the flow of the story going, but I kept getting stopped by its lack of direction. Though, I suppose if we’re being realistic here, animals don’t know how to read maps. Maybe that was the point.
By the end of Lost Ember, the plot seemed to drag on to the point where I skipped several cut scenes because I didn’t need them to understand the bigger picture.
Lost Ember is worthy of checking out only for the way it captures the beauty of nature when left unharmed by humans. Plus, let’s be honest, the wombats are adorable and deserve everyone’s attention. Perhaps I would pick the game up again just to play around as different animals, but beyond that, I’ve had my fill.
Lost Ember is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam. A Nintendo Switch release is coming in 2020 and a virtual reality version of the game is reportedly in development. This review is based on a PS4 copy of the game provided by the publisher.