Upon initial glance, Empire of Ember from Poleaxe Games shows fantastic promise with a premise that automatically caught my attention. You are a Battlemage who must rebuild a city from the ground up. With both weapons and magic, you must bring forth an uprising as you rally up troops through the game’s first-person real-time strategy mechanics that control your soldiers on the battlefield. This is a recipe for large-scale battles between different factions. But does Empire of Ember deliver on a rewarding experience, or is it just another indie game to possibly check out? Here is my review for Empire of Ember.
Empire of Ember is developed and published by Poleaxe Games, and it is their debut game. The game recently celebrated its official release on Steam on January 20, 2022, after its Steam early access commencement back on March 30, 2021. It is available on PC via Steam.
The Fall of an Empire, A Medieval Adventure from Poleaxe Games
As aforementioned, you play as a Battlemage who commands troops on the battlefield while joining in on the action as well. The tale of your character is a tragic one. Growing up, you looked up to your mentor as he trained you in the art of sorcery and weapon handling. And you lived in a big city surrounded by prosperity and people.
That is until one day, the city is suddenly under attack, causing the deaths of many and even your mentor. These events bring our hero to the spotlight as he must reconstruct what was lost and avenge the fall of the empire. This kickstarts the narrative from Poleaxe and the overall gameplay aspects on which you will start to embark on.
Wield Both Sword and Magic in Empire of Ember
The game’s formula juices together first-person action with real-time strategy elements that pits the player right into battle. This is where the heart of the game begins to glow. You’re on the field with your troops, where you can then set commands for them to either attack, fall back, follow you, etc. I usually told the archers to attack right away while the melee soldiers followed me onto the side to give the enemy a surprise attack. From there, chaos ensues. Rivalries clash and clink as one soldier triumphs while another falls to their doom. With my magical abilities and heavy sword, I would then charge into battle to slaughter my enemies. And once the last foe fell, we cheered in victory.
With each victory, I was awarded plenty of XP and items that I would then use back at my city to continue rebuilding it. I added structures for the people, buildings to produce resources, and a bunch of folks to occupy the space. On a side note, you can also trade with the merchant to acquire new weapons and resources to help you on your way.
You can also add catapults to aid you when a siege on your city takes place, which is something I recommend doing. The reason why is that whenever an enemy force is descending on your city, you need to be prepared. You can prevent this by running into them on the strategy map where you move from spot to spot across the land. If you take care of them, your city will be safe for the time being – but you’ll need to keep an eye on the day meter as well. If you have troops training and it takes days for them to complete their steps, you might want to stay busy by doing some dungeon crawling and Easy to Hard enemy encounters.
While I had fun with the combat, I wasn’t enjoying the city-building aspects. It might be because the graphics are a little bland, but it felt like an optional chore for me to decorate a city. I only cared for the resource buildings and upgrading my Tower, then I would get ready for the next battle. It is nice to walk around the city that you’re creating, but I can only do so much before I started to get bored with the activity. The only intriguing spot in the city to go to is the court, where you must make story-changing decisions to affect the outcome of the empire.
How Does Empire of Ember Look and Sound?
If you go into Empire of Ember thinking you’re about to experience a mid-tier indie title, you’re right. It is known that the game concluded its Steam early access run, but I’m finding myself still running into some issues with both the graphics and the audio. Some of the environments are fairly stale, and they don’t offer much variety in terms of locations. It’s all background bundles of nature that leave nothing new to the immersion; only displays for the carnage to continue between enemies. I even found some structures that didn’t touch the floor, and the NPCs perform the same movements every few minutes. There’s barely any variety here, and I wish that was something Poleaxe Games would touch upon.
Now, the audio isn’t great, but it’s also not that bad. The voice acting is pretty fair and lively, and some of the musical melodies are worth checking out. But when it comes time to go into battle, be prepared to hear some muffled voices. Some of the soldiers sound like they recorded their lines with an old microphone that only produces half the power. And some of the written dialogue during cutscenes won’t contain any voices, even though a good majority of the scenes feature them. These can all break the magic of immersion, and I hate to say that my involvement didn’t feel all that real.
Poleaxe Games have crafted an indie game that is clearly still in Steam early access, for some of the content doesn’t feel polished. I had a great thrill at commanding my troops during battle, and the resource management is nice to toy around with. I’m not much of a city builder, but I did feel the impact whenever I held court for story choices to then construct a new building, hoping to assemble a powerful empire. But alas, Empire of Ember game is a set above subpar reception, with some faithful moments of gameplay to keep you playing. I’ll keep an eye on where Poleaxe Games will go from here. But in the meantime, I’ll just have to read some of the mixed reviews from other players on Steam.
- Combat is engaging
- Leveling up is a bonus
- Story elements work well
- Voice acting brings some characters to life
- Bland environments
- Muffled audio issues
- City building
- Immersion breaks when encountering issues
- The game still feels like it's in early access