These days, it’s hard not to feel like we’re all living in some personalized version of Groundhog Day or Edge of Tomorrow. With COVID-19 shutting down so many normal aspects of our life (rightfully so, with safety in mind), our lives have become much more limited. So thank goodness for the new content that we are receiving in spite of the times. But not all new content is worth the time and money.
Now on Steam, Switch, and Xbox One, The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines by developer tinyDino Games is billed as “a twin-stick fantasy shooter centered around the ability to stop time”. Story-wise, you play as Gregor, a new recruit who is going through his training as an Ambassador (basically a time altering mage). This serves as a tutorial for the game, showing players how to use ranged melee attacks, ranged magical attacks, healing, and the time stopping mechanic. Upon completion, you and your mentor look over the land and the capital city, only to see it destroyed. As one of the last known Ambassadors, it becomes your mission to discover who or what is responsible and attempt to restore the capital and its citizens. But does the game fall into the worth or not worth your time category?
The music is varied and catchy. It’s a perfect blend of medieval inspired melodies with pounding rhythms that drive the action forward. It took me a while to figure it out, but the theme from the first world reminded me of Crystallize by Lindsey Stirling (minus the dubstep). The formerly mentioned tutorial is just the right length; not too short, not too long. And the first area feels like an expansion of that. It eases the player in while utilizing all of the learned mechanics.
After being overly generous with healing items (food), the game becomes extremely stingy with them after the first world. And it doesn’t properly explain the health regeneration mechanic that occurs in between levels. In lieu of a levelling system, The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines rewards you with new equipment every three levels or so. But these equipment changes (melee weapon, magic weapon, and armor) aren’t really upgrades. Rather they are different skins with altered abilities that end up being a trade off. For example, more HP results in less mobility or more damage results in a longer charge time.
And the biggest issue is the generic and repetitive gameplay. Each level tasks you with clearing all the enemies before the exit door opens up. Play about 10 of those levels and then fight a boss. Rinse and repeat for three-ish worlds. The end result is a game that feels like you’ve done everything it has to offer within the first 30-60 minutes of gameplay. There are achievements, collectibles, and other modes to be explored, but what for?
In the end, it’s hard to recommend The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines. It’s not innovative, it’s not fun, the art style is not impressive, and the gameplay is very repetitive. I appreciate the difficulty that goes into game development. The challenges that result from COVID-19 and the constraints of a small team with a limited budget as well. But this game just doesn’t raise the bar in any aspect. Best case scenario, it meets expectations. And with so much competition out there and backlogs to attend to, this one isn’t worth the investment.