Release roundup: Empire of Ember, Synth Riders & Generation Zero

Stepping away from hot new console game releases for a moment, we’re taking a moment to check out one game that’s coming in a few months but which just launched into Early Access: Empire of Ember. We’re also taking a look at new content for one of our VR favorites Synth Riders and upcoming content for Generation Zero.

Empire of Ember launches into Early Access

Developer Poleaxe Games has just launched their ambitious first person action RPG Empire of Ember into Steam’s early access program – with the full 1.0 launch expected late this summer. For a game that we first heard about way back in 2018, we were curious to try it out first hand when it became available on Steam.

For what is essentially an indie game, Empire of Ember is absolutely massive in its scope – mixing and mashing different genres into one and combining mechanics to create something rather unique. It’s an action RPG at heart, but although you’ll recognize mechanics from the likes of Diablo or Risen, Empire of Ember doesn’t play out from an isometric or 3rd person perspective, but from a first person point of view.

So while you’ll recognize familiar RPG tropes like melee, magic and ranged combat, it all feels different due to the camera angle and controls used. Those controls aren’t always great though, because in its Early Access launch state we thought combat felt rather clunky at times and could use quite a bit of refinement.

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The game also features elements of real time strategy where you command NPC characters to fight alongside you, evoking memories of games like Mount & Blade or Kingdom Under Fire 2. Add city building elements to that, and you have an incredibly complex template for a game on your hands – and it’s one that’s set against the backdrop of a narrative-driven campaign that was penned by one of Telltale’s former lead writers.

PoleAxe is hoping to launch Empire of Ember out of Early Access in just a few months’ time while incorporating community feedback, but with so many mechanics in play we can imagine that being a very optimistic estimate. We really hope they’ll pull this one off and don’t rush it – the current build already shows a lot of promise, but with something so ambitious there’s a risk of unfulfilled potential at the end of the tunnel as well.

Synth Riders receives new licensed content

It wasn’t too long ago that we took a look at a new Synth Riders music pack that features music by Muse as well as a new ‘experience’ type of gameplay. Now, developer Kluge is doing the same thing again with a brand new pack dubbed the “Adrenaline” collection, which focuses on punk rock as a genre.

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Kluge’s also continuing the trend of adding licensed music to the game, with The Offspring’s “Come Out and Play” and “Self Esteem” included as well as song by Bad Religion, Rancid and The Interrupters. Come Out and Play also gives players the chance to try out Synth Riders’ second experience-like level, with added visuals synced to the pace of the music.

Besides five new paid songs, the Adrenaline pack also contains three additional free songs, further increasingly the already massive roster of free songs that come with any purchase of the game for any platform. Over here, we’re hoping they’ll tackle some EDM/trance music in the future – the flowing nature of this rhythm-based VR hit is extremely well suited to it.

Generation Zero heads back (or forward?) to 1990 soon

Systemic Reaction is part of the Swedish Avalanche Studios group, and besides the more recent release of Second Extinction (now in Early Access) they’re also still heavily supporting Generation Zero, which came out just over two years ago and has steadily grown into a game that’s being enjoyed by its community of players despite an initially lukewarm reception to the game when it first launched.

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We only jumped into the game world very recently, and the quality of the world building is truly excellent – which is why the recent announcement that the developer is planning a whole range of “year 3” content was more than welcome. It’ll shift the narrative from the end of the 1980s to 1990, and will also introduce features like base building and defense.

We can’t wait to explore more of this alternate reality version of 1980s/1990 Sweden where man faces off against robots, and once a new narrative chapter opens up we’ll try to get a crew of survivors together again to share our thoughts on it.

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