Drop blocks to make your own maze in the demo for tower defense game Emberward

Emberward Demo Trailer (v0.1.7) - YouTube Emberward Demo Trailer (v0.1.7) - YouTube
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A cute tower defense game launched last week that has you use tetromino blocks in order to DIY a tower defense maze. Emberward, the debut title from indie studio Refic Games, is a creative little game that makes you use your head to puzzle out ideal layouts for your maze before using a suite of towers you've chosen yourself to defend the bonfire at its center. There's a demo out now that lets you play through the first area with a slightly limited set of abilities.

It's a pretty neat setup. Each run through you're given a starting set of towers and a deck of blocks, but from there you get new towers and blocks for your deck from winning a few waves of attackers per level. You also get experience to build out your chosen character's talent tree, and you find relics along the way that give little tweaks to your powers. It's a pretty standard setup, but the way you build up gives you satisfying customization without being overwhelming or requiring you to get over-involved in meta strategy.

It's a pretty neat concept. The combination of customizing your own suite of towers with choosing block placement means you have an ideal strategy set up in advance—like lots of switchbacks or long straightaways—that you then must adapt to the tactical situation when you actually see the layout of the level you're fighting on.

Things get more complicated as you find larger towers that require more space to place, and as you empower your block walls with runes that boost their effectiveness. I was even surprised to find "drone" towers that send out attackers against enemies, rather than lie in wait for them. After a couple runs of the demo this one went on my list of games to watch in the future just because the space for neat game designs is so broad—I'm interested to see what new characters and towers will bring.

You can find Emberward on Steam for $15, with a 10% off launch sale for the next couple of days.

The early access launch of Emberward has two regions with their own set of enemies, a forest and a desert. There are 25 towers and 42 relics, along with tower upgrades and a talent tree for each of the three playable characters. The roadmap sets out an update adding a Frozen Ruins region with new towers, relics, and characters, as well as a final region with higher difficulties and yet more towers/relics/characters. Beyond those two updates Refic hopes to add custom game modes, an in-game compendium, controller support, extra maps and variant boss battles, and Steam achievements in the future.

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.