Too hot, hot damn
As a key emergency service, it’s surprising how few games feature firefighting as their main premise. Usually relegated to a brief mechanic within a larger release or developed as a realistic simulator, Embr looks set to buck the trend. Bringing us frantic co-operative action, Muse Games’ latest title is set within a hyper-capitalist society, playing as a first responder for Embr LLC. Coming out as an early access release, it’s certainly enjoyable and holds promise but sadly, it’s all too brief.
Traditional firefighting teams are long gone, now replaced by privatised fire brigades, an area which Embr LLC holds an 85% market share for. Working on their behalf, you’ll pick up job requests across the city via their smartphone app, seeing clients ping their need for assistance. We’re certainly used to seeing critiques of capitalism within gaming, Journey To The Savage Planet being a recent example, but Embr remains firmly rooted on Earth. Showing us privatisation on steroids, it’s a highly satirised view on the gig economy.
Fighting Fire With Friends
Whilst you can play Embr alone, multiplayer quickly unlocks after completing the tutorial, allowing two to four players via online co-op. Upon accepting requests, Embr’s app advised you what this entails. It could be rescuing clients, salvaging valuable items for them or even escaping traps laid by Embr’s Canadian rivals, Hosr. Extinguishing the fire is not your primary objective, treating fire purely as an obstacle instead and there’s a time limit to achieve the goal before the building burns down.
Armed with an axe, water hose and ladder, fire isn’t the only problem responders face and each building contains numerous hazards, such as electricity, toxic gas or burning support beams. Furthermore, your water supply is limited, requiring you to make regular refills via designated sinks. If you run out, you’ll soon struggle to advance through the building, but the ladder can be used to find different entry points.
Each responder has a health bar, and if you fall foul of hazards, it’ll quickly deplete, knocking you to the floor. If you’re in co-op, teammates can rescue you, but they have to be quick; otherwise, you’ve failed the mission. Most requests will involve rescuing clients to some degree, many of whom seem blissfully unaware of their predicament. Once you grab clients, you’ll need to take them to a designated safe zone, dropping them gently or launching them from afar. They aren’t invincible though, and a heavy fall can kill them, so it’s a risky move, but there’s an undeniable satisfaction in landing that shot from afar.
Once you complete the main objective, it’ll reveal a set of optional tasks and how thorough you are determines your score. Clients will leave a review, determining how much cash you earn and award up to Five flames. These flames act as a reputation system and reaching a set level unlocks new requests. With this money, players can start purchasing new equipment like sprinklers, alongside upgrading your existing gear. Embr also lets you improve your car, investing in a bigger chassis and buy new clothing. Clothes are particularly important as they contain bonuses like reduced fire damage, so it pays to invest.
Burns Out Quickly
There’s a lot of depth to Embr’s gameplay mechanics, but right now, its biggest problem is its short length. After 2-3 hours, job requests are all completed and whilst the scoring system adds replayability, there’s limited variety in mission types, so it becomes quickly repetitive. This isn’t unexpected considering its early access state, but early adopters would be wise to take note. Muse Games have promised significant expansions in future updates, however, including new environments, features and a nearly tripled campaign size.
Players willing to invest, however, will find Embr an enjoyable experience, one that’s easy to learn and certainly left me wanting more. Co-op play is undoubtedly the highlight, and whilst there’s nothing wrong with single player, completing missions with friends certainly feels more rewarding. Its presentation is certainly strong, utilising a vibrant, cartoony approach that suits Embr’s humour well, backed up by a fitting soundtrack.
Muse Games have done an excellent job with Embr, and it certainly holds promise for when it finishes development. There’s good depth to its mechanics, co-op play is great with friends, and it’s visually quite appealing. It’s a cautious recommendation at this time due to its brevity, though Muse Games are currently promising a wide feature expansion in future updates. All being said, what we’ve seen so far has been great and it’s one to watch out for.
[Reviewed on PC]