There is nothing in the slightest bit original about Ember and that is its greatest asset. It’s a dose of nostalgia as intense and satisfying as Stranger Things, aimed at a generation who grew up playing Tolkien-esque swords and sorcery games.
It weaves together a tapestry of cliches so pronounced it feels as warm and comforting as a log fire in a tavern filled with lovable rogues and a barman with a propensity for dishing out quests.
You take charge of a small band of adventurers trying to prevent the destruction of a familiar but richly textured land. All the usual suspects are here: the mage, the warrior and the archer, all facing off against increasingly diabolical hordes of goblins and the undead. Slash, hack, loot, level up.
It’s a dance as old as video games themselves, and one that’s executed almost flawlessly by indie developer N-Fusion. It’s like playing the original Diablo but on a device less than 1cm thick, and with genuinely impressive graphics (you can even zoom in to see the detail on your funky new suit of armour or pointy wizard's hat). Even the game’s loot makes subtle reference to classic RPGs, including Warcraft and Dark Souls.
The mechanics are similar to Baldur’s Gate, with real-time combat augmented by the ability to pause time while you pick special abilities for your team, and for the most part you can breeze through on semi auto-pilot as your minions dispatch dire bears and darklings and other nonsense creatures, allowing you to soak up the atmosphere of the haunted forests and icy tundra.
The only real caveat for fans of the genre is you need an iPad to really appreciate it: even a Plus-size iPhone makes it a chore to read the reams of lore that makes the game so blissfully immersive. Beyond that, it’s an excellent game that will give you 20 hours of hacking and slashing, a remarkable achievement for something you can play on the underground, proving that retro titles don’t have to wear the ubiquitous 8-bit uniform.