The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines is a pixelated twin-stick “shooter” that sees the player kill all enemies in a level in order to proceed to the next. Now, I put “shooter” in quotations simply because there are no guns here, rather an array of swords, magical weapons, crossbows and strangely enough, even with the addition of swords, there is no melee combat. Developed by tinyDino Games and published by The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild, they have tried to bring something new to the twin-stick genre, but in trying to be somewhat unique have they somehow missed the point of keeping their game enticing?
The player takes control of Gregor, an Ambassador of Time, who is tasked with finding those responsible for destroying the Eternal Fellowship’s capital city, although the story does not go much further than this as it is only used as a means of purpose. The game very much remains the same throughout. Enter a portal, kill every enemy in each level before reaching a boss where the player can then proceed to the next portal and repeat the process. Although new enemies are thrown in to keep the player on their toes the game decides to take a lazier route by adding quantity and not so much quality.
At the beginning of the game the player is taught how to pause time. When this happens a big circle surrounds the player and anything inside this circle including incoming trajectories come to a complete halt. The developers had an opportunity here to really toy with the concept of time control, although there is not enough focus on or in-depth use with it. It is a useful tool, however I never had to use it cleverly, only when my health was low and I had to freeze an enemy to force my way out of a sticky situation. Other than survival and trying to retrieve all the collectibles, it is never really used in an outside the box way in which to solve any puzzles.
When beginning Gregor’s journey there are two difficulties to choose, one in which where the player dies and the progress of the level is saved and the other is where death results in the player replaying the level in its entirety. I played on the more difficult setting and it only really ever became an issue when having to figure out a pattern in which to kill a boss or in the later levels where the game just lazily threw a silly amount of enemies. When retrying a level there is a big advantage in that the level has no changes after a death. Knowing where all the enemies are is a massive advantage and the playing process of this game ultimately comes down to “if at first you don’t succeed…”
The boss fights in this game are a definite highlight and the most difficult test of a player’s abilities. Too many times a boss would have a slither of health remaining only to blast me with some obnoxious move that sent me back to the starting line. Infuriating but mistakes were only ever because of a fault of my own. However, I always breathed a sigh of relief when that last little bit of red bar disappears from screen and had that satisfying feeling of victory. I do not often swear while gaming, but some of these battles got intense.
Throughout the play through various items are unlocked. Standard weapons, magic weapons and armour, each with their own unique abilities and perks. Using the right setup for the right enemy is important to make light work of each level, especially the boss fight. Swapping items on the fly is made easy. The player can simply bring up the item screen, select which one to use and resume the action. During a single level I would make an item switch multiple times to keep the advantage on my foes.
With the graphics being pixelated and also having a top down view there were quite a few times where a structure inside a level became a hindrance as it blended the foreground and background, hiding enemies from sight. It is an annoying problem as a vast majority of enemies have ranged attacks. Too often I would not be given a chance to avoid an attack and with a limited amount of hits allowed per level and limited food available to heal, it puts the player in a situation that is beyond their control. Only by repeating a level does the player have an opportunity to take out a hidden enemy with a smart bit of pre-fire, which I actually used as tactic a lot.
Music is exactly what would be expected and fitting of this type of title. A medieval 8-bit sounding tune that varies per portal that is entered. It is catchy, but only there for filler as game sounds are the focus. Gregor lets out a grunt when being hit, when a weapon hits an enemy there is a grunt and slashing on flesh sound. Nothing special, but it does its job of keeping the player aware of what is happening. In the later stages of the game when there are so many things to focus on on-screen sometimes relying on in-game sounds is important.
With the violent premise this game brings, I would not play it in front of the little ones. Fortunately, it is easily paused and resumed without hassle, plus levels are short and many so the game can be played in short sittings when there is a bit of spare time away from the kids. Although the colours are enticing to younger eyes, the questions about “that red stuff” coming out of the people is one that should be avoided at all costs.
Overall, I did enjoy this game in shorter spurts. If not for its repetitive nature I believe it could be a much more enjoyable title. There was an opportunity here to let the player do something maybe not new, but fun with the ability of controlling time and it is disappointing to see that it was missed. There is a silver lining for “completionist’s” and achievement/trophy hunter’s as the player is rewarded for challenges for each level. Timed and no-hit runs are a plenty. For fans of this genre, this game will be enjoyed. For anyone else it may be worth waiting for a sale before grabbing this one.
+ Easy to pick up and play
+ Boss fights
+ Simple, yet unique items
– Lazy difficulty increase
– Hidden enemies
– Art-style can be visually confusing
Brando for One More Game
The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines was reviewed on an Xbox One X and is available now on Xbox, PC and Nintendo Switch.
The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild provided a review code for this. Our thoughts on this game are ours and ours alone.