Embr (PC) Review

By Nikola Suprak 30.03.2021

Review for Embr on PC

Firefighters have a rough job. They work long hours, work demanding shifts, and have to save all sorts of dumb kittens from being stuck in a tree. Who keeps putting cats up in trees? Please stop. Worst of all, they don't even get video games dedicated to them to honour their greatness. It is incredibly rare to find a fire-fighting-themed game, because apparently putting out fires isn't "cool." There are plenty of titles where the player has the ability to start fires, but extinguishing them is much rarer which is what makes Embr so unique. This gives you all the tools you'll need to fight fires, and plenty of burning houses to try these tools out. It might not sound like the most interesting thing on Steam, but sit down and play it for just a couple of minutes, and it'll be obvious that this is more than just a few sparks.

Embr takes place in a dystopian future/libertarian fever dream, where fire-fighters have become a privatized business. Somewhere Ayn Rand just let out a moan of pleasure. Now, private companies run around fighting fires for greed and profit, and the company you work for, Embr, is probably the best on account of them getting to the app store first, snatching up the most clever name. There isn't really a story here, per se, but this framework at least establishes what is going on for the rest of the adventure. Essentially, notices will pop up on a smart phone app that say "help help I'm on fire" and the courageous crew of Embr races to put them out. A variety of structures will be engulfed in flame, and the goal here is to put them out as quickly as possible, while rescuing the very flammable people trapped inside. It is a first-person fire-fighting simulator... so get out there and fight some fires!

Screenshot for Embr on PC

The two words that best sum up Embr is 'weird' and 'fun.' This is a strange game. The goal in each level is to save as many people in this burning building as possible, and maybe make a little extra cash along the way. The people that need saving are oblivious morons, and will sit looking at their phone while their entire house burns to ash around them. Pick them up, run over to the safety zone, and chuck them into it (quite literally, if you want) and the game will spit out some cash as a reward. There is this strange, quirky aesthetic to it all that is downright charming, and that zaniness is reinforced by the bizarre premise and goofy execution. It's a great package all together, and feels a bit like Overcooked, but with the possibility of people burning to death. One of the strengths of the game is its inherent wackiness, and even after playing for several hours players might find themselves still smiling at the absurdity of all this.

More importantly though, this game is fun. This is that frantic, fast-paced sort of fun that makes people want to dive into the next level immediately after finishing one. Saving people sounds simple enough, but the layouts to the houses can be complex, and the best path through isn't always apparent. There is an app that will show where the people are at, so it is possible to at least figure out which way the best direction to move is. The catch here is that just going from one to the next in any order isn't the best use of time, and the level changes the longer the action goes on, blocking off paths that were previously opened. Prioritizing who to save first and which way to go becomes a huge factor in the success of the more difficult levels near the end of the game, and an almost perfect job was done in making the game frantic in just the right way to optimize the action in each level. You may need to use a ladder to get up to a window, break down a door with the axe, extinguish some fire, pick up a fan to blow away the poisonous gas, and then carry some poor slob down to the safety zone, all within thirty seconds or so in order to make sure enough time is left over to save everyone else.

Screenshot for Embr on PC

It sounds like a simple idea, but the core gameplay here is almost perfectly designed to make this very addicting to keep coming back to. Topping an old score, or earning extra cash are both alluring options, and this is one of those almost perfect pick up and play type games that are great in small doses. It does feel slightly strange that the actual firefighting feels like a bit of an afterthought. While there are plenty of fires to fight, it is a bit of a losing battle and the goal here isn't really to put out the fires. The fires are just obstacles to get through to get to the things that really matter, which here are the cash and the people. There is something satisfying about going through and putting out the fire in here, so it feels a bit strange where the player is punished for doing so. Systematically eliminating the fire is a good way to lose the mission, and the optimal way to play involves blowing through the fire as quickly as possible and only putting out what is needed to get to be able to move through the fire. This isn't necessarily bad by itself, but it takes a bit to get used to and it feels odd not really fighting the fires and instead just sort of blowing through them.

Screenshot for Embr on PC

The bigger issue is that the single player game is very basic. There are some limited upgrades here, sure, but the only one that really changed how the game is played is the one that shows where the hidden loot is. That one at least throws out an alert for the cash, so it is no longer necessary to just randomly dig around rooms until the safe is found. Everything else just makes equipment slightly better, and even worse is the fact this doesn't change tremendously throughout the course of things, and there aren't enough tricks here to keep it all interesting. Levels largely blend together, and the gameplay is most;y the same from beginning to end. There are only so many ways to arrange people in burning buildings, and even when levels get bigger and people are harder to get to, it doesn't feel like anything has changed. The gameplay is fun at first, but it starts to wear thin especially when it becomes apparent that there aren't any new surprises waiting in store. It is a perfectly fun game for what it is, but it doesn't feel like the idea was expanded to its full potential just yet. There is apparently more to come, so the possibility exists that some future version will be a better, more complete pack. In its current build though, things are a bit lacking.

The multiplayer does wind up saving things, though, and while the single player campaign doesn't feel like it has enough content just yet, the multiplayer helps to make up for it. This is probably just a bit too complex to become the same sort of phenomenon that games like Overcooked have become, but if you find a group of people that know what they're doing, it is an absolute blast to tackle the multiplayer challenges here. It is a near perfect level of structured chaos, and trying to communicate with people the best way to get through this is a lot of fun. The limitations are a lot less apparent here, and it almost feels like this game was designed with the multiplayer in mind, and the single player campaign was tacked on later to help appeal to a larger market. It was hard to even go back into single player after playing multiplayer, and the chaos and laughing and yelling of a constantly changing level where everything is burning up is a wonder to behold. Hopefully the developer keeps building off of what it has here, because this is the sort of multiplayer with long term staying power.

Screenshot for Embr on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Embr is, in a way, a lot like its namesake. It burns bright while it lasts, sure, and it is initially a lot of fun to run around putting out fires and dealing with the general chaos of the game. Unfortunately, it burns out quickly, and soon all that is left is the faint glow of the once bright fire. At this point, this just doesn't have any sort of staying power, and the novelty of the whole experience wears off very quickly. This isn't a bad title, and even with its shortcomings it is worth the time for a quick play-through. Perhaps it might even warrant a second one some time down the line, but this is the sort of game that could've been much better with a few more ideas, and maybe if improvements come in the future this could truly be a great experience. For now, it doesn't quite generate the heat it was hoping to.

Developer

Muse Games

Publisher

Curve Digital

Genre

Action

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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