PREVIEW: Embr

Jun
22

PREVIEW: Embr

Firefighting with style.

Released: Steam Early Access
Genre: Action, Simulation,
Developer: Muse Games
Publisher: Curve Digital
Release date: 21 May, 2020

Overview

Embr is one of those ideas you’d think have been made to death – a firefighting simulator with co-op. Sounds like a blast!

And it is, to the point I’m shocked Embr is the first game I truly know to have accomplished this task successfully while being in an Early Access state. Massive performance issues are keeping me from recommending it at this stage unless you want to support Early Access, but the core game presented more than succeeds at being a fun and rather well done firefighter simulator. With some friends, this game is a no-brainer and I can’t wait to see what the full release brings.

Gameplay

The game starts off immediately with a very fitting phone screen (from the Embr responder team) as the menu, which you use to create loadouts, pick the level and manage your game through options and entering multiplayer. A crisp and clear UI gets you immediately into the action – from the fast and well designed tutorial to the levels themselves.

You join the Embr responder team and are tasked to enter burning places and rescue any civilians inside, while trying to complete a few side objectives that may appear. The game is pretty clear that clearing the fire is a lesser priority (an almost impossible task, really) than rescuing the civilians. You need to pace yourself and balance both objective completion and level exploration for side goals and extra goodies. In co-op, levels can get quite chaotic and really add to the charm and panic that Embr tries to give the player every time a house is burning and you must get it before it collapses (dynamically, from my experience, which is really cool) and the civilians (and your paycheck) are gone.

As I mentioned before, there are loadouts! Basically every player can create their “inventory” which are then carried to the level. Multiple slots are available so you can equip yourself with whatever may sound the best depending on the building you’re tackling. Your first unlock will be a ladder so you can, for example, use it to tackle the upper floor of a house while your friend tackles the ground floor. The loadouts create this really unexpected and interesting dynamic between players in a co-op experience, adding a tactical element to the experience that I much appreciated.

Besides ladders, detectors and so on, your Embr responder is traditionally packed with 2 core instruments: an axe to break down pretty much any object that may block your path – from a door or window to boxes or barrels; the other is a water pistol (works more like a hose though) that can be recharged in any water source inside the house (like sinks) and can work for other purposes besides putting out fires – linking ripped electric cables to create an electric flow and allow you to (de)activate an air vent or other electrical devices.

The game overall has a simple premise and the charm comes from playing it (alone or with friends) and creating your own adventures and stories about the rescues you pulled off. The only part I’d truly like to see improved is the level variety, not in quantity but in quality – level variety isn’t massive but is certainly more varied than I expected so you’re definitely getting good gameplay, a very interesting co-op tactical dynamic and decent level variety but I wish the game on release goes a bit wacky and introduces some really insane and creative fires for us to put out and save civilians out of.

Audio

Embr sounds great overall. The soundtrack isn’t very varied but is really enjoyable to listen to and adds to the gameplay in general. Sound effects from the fire, breaking doors and windows and everything involving this chaotic adventures sounds great and makes the gameplay even more enjoyable on top of the tight and well made physics-based gameplay.

Graphics

Embr has a rather simple yet distinctive cartoony style to it. Textures are very plain and simple, making the game look really clear, allowing you to easily spot interactive objects in the environment and detect what you should – like a true Embr responder!

I really love how clean the graphics look and the physics really add a very fun game that also has great presentation.

However, the game has abysmal performance. At 900p on the lowest settings, I had a tough time reached 60 FPS – on a GTX 1060 6Gb and an i7 7700K. I tried messing around with the options and config files but not much helped boost the framerate to an acceptable level – there needs to be 1 or 2 serious performance fixes before the game can run how it should and truly give the fluid and fun experience it has.

Conclusion

Embr is more easily sold once played than read about, it’s your actions and the fun you have with the wacky physics and the interesting mechanics that make the game shine rather than it’s presentation or content (which is plentiful anyway) – with a few (up to 3 plus you) friends and with the price of 19,99€, Embr is a no-brainer purchase… once the performance is improved massively.

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