The game's title and 4 ember knights ready for battle with a sinister dark force watching over them

Ember Knights Review

Game: Ember Knights
Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam (Windows), Xbox One and PS4)
Developer|Publisher: Doom Turtle | Twin Sails
Age Rating: EU 7 | US Everyone 10+
Price:  US $19.99 | UK £17.99 | EU € 19,99
Release Date: July 18th, 2023

Review code provided with many thanks to Sandbox Strategies.

Rogue Light

The rogue-lite genre still burns with a fiery passion in the gaming realm. While there have been some signs of fatigue setting in, I’ve still found myself warmed to the genre. Much like a bad habit, I can’t help jumping into run after run, attempting to gradually edge closer to the end of the game. It also helps that this genre is ideal for quick gaming sessions, even if you can only spare five minutes of precious gaming time.

Ember Knights absolutely nails this addictive gameplay loop. Though it’s a familiar one, what might appeal to most people with this top down action game, is that you can play with up to four players locally. 

One of the ember knights standing proudly with his sword.
A hot headed hero.

A Spark of Hope

We have probably been here before with this story premise. There is an evil sorcerer that is up to no good. After siphoning life out of the ember tree, he roams through the four prime worlds causing havoc and summoning all sorts of nasties too. With the last glint of energy from the ember tree, a wise old mage summons you, the Ember Knights, to pursue the sorcerer and restore order to the realms.

Of course, it won’t be that easy since you’re underpowered. You’ll need to grind away on run after run, collecting ember orbs which can be used to gradually upgrade your abilities after being extinguished. Additionally, you will unlock new abilities, such as new spells, as well as runes which can buff your stats. All are provided by helpful NPCs you can chat to on your journey. It’s a steady stream of new content, even if you fail early in a run. As is the case with these action games, the story is more the colourful sprinkles on the cupcake, or in this case, the light kindling on the fire. You’re really here for the gameplay, which I’m pleased to say the game delivers.

Graphics make use of vibrant pixel art which is very appealing on the eyes. The game even features beautifully animated cutscenes. Levels are varied with some unique enemy designs to suit each one. Creepy insects in the forests and cold-hearted knights in the ice fortress.

Something that really impressed me was how the character sprites reflect off water. A nice touch not often seen in games. Animations of the characters and enemies are smooth and there is a decent thumping soundtrack which plays as you explore through the levels. Performance of the game was solid across the board, on TV or handheld.

A reflection of the ember knight can be seen in the water.
I appreciate games that feature reflections.

Pick Up and Slay for All Players

Probably the most appealing design of Ember Knights is how accessible the game is to all audiences. Whether you are new to the genre, or an experienced rogue-lite knight, the controls are easy to pick up and play. The only buttons you really need to learn are attack, dodge and a button (or two) to use a spell. Considering local co-op is a key feature of the game, you can fling a controller at your friend who is more casual and they should find the controls responsive and easy to understand.

That is not to say there isn’t some depth to the formula. To be successful you do need to time your dodges just right. When an enemy is going to land a major attack, this is helpfully highlighted with a glowing region or arrow. You need to be quick to react but it’s a helpful guide. Enemies are relentless, bosses are horrifically tough but with this addictive gameplay loop, it’s hard not to return to the hub world and fire up for another round. This is all made more appealing thanks to random level generation and enemy and item placement.

You start out with just a sword but as you progress through you will unlock multiple new weapons. All of which feel different and have unique attacks. You can use bows and arrows, hammers and even a spinning blade that looks very similar to a buzzsaw but doesn’t quite get the certified ‘buzzsaw approved’ certificate I used to dish out all the time. But it doesn’t need it, because Ember Knights literally reinvents the buzzsaw, once you have grinded enough ember souls, of course. Having the diverse range of weapons only adds to the appeal of co-op, since players can all choose the weapons that suit them. Go for a range of styles, or if you prefer, have everyone use the sword. Either way, you’re in for a fun round.  

The sorcerer is standing saying 'it wont be long now', whilst enemies attack the ember knight.
Occasionally the sorcerer will pop up to mock you.


Probably the game’s major drawback is that it really does follow the template of an action rogue-lite too familiar checklist and doesn’t bring anything new to the genre. So it’s worth repeating, if you’re tired of this genre or it’s never suited, this really won’t change your mind. This is a game that relies on repeating run after run to gradually improve. Some runs are going to go awful and last a few rooms. But with persistence, you will reach the later levels, defeat that tough golem boss and pump your fists in victory. Then you’ll die in the next room and repeat the process again, as is the rogue-lite way. What may draw the more fatigued players is playing in co-op which really makes the game come alive.

I encountered one glitch during the review where if I left the game in standby on the Switch it froze, with the only fix being a restart. So ideally make sure you have finished a run until that gets patched. 

Two giant bosses with helmets and giant ice shields face down a ember knight.
I don’t think these brothers do plumbing!

Conclusion: Burning Bright

Ember Knights is a rogue-lite that burns with a fiery passion of pick-up and play controls and enjoyable arcade style gameplay. Simple to pick up but hard to put down. It’s made all the more brighter if you can play with friends. While the formula is familiar, there is no denying that this is a polished experience in every aspect of a game’s core goal of entertaining the player.

Ember Knights is another example where you don’t need to reinvent the formula to make a fun game. So if you’re looking for your next game night, alone or with friends, consider adding this to the schedule. 

Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot

I like it a lot

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