Sitting at the crossroads of high fantasy and science fiction, The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines is a game that fails to offer a fresh take on the oversaturated genre of twin-stick shooters.
You’re Gregor: a stout, impressively bearded novitiate in The Fellowship and on mission to save his land through clichéd Tolkienesque locales mired in names that blur the line between referential and derivative – Mount Arawn, Morrigan, and The Fellowship, to name a few.
After a quick run-through of abilities and controls, which jarringly breaks the fourth wall as characters refer to “your HUD” or features of “the level”, Gregor is abruptly thrust into his misadventures through definitely-not-Middle-Earth.
The Ambassador Fractured Timelines isn’t just a cool inconsequential name; while Gregor doesn’t amount to much of a powerful Mage, his trademark ability to manipulate time is certainly used thoroughly throughout your journey. You make use of it to cross crumbling bridges, dodge enemy attacks, and slip through timed doors.
It’s an interesting idea, albeit one that’s rarely integral to progressing through the game’s fast-paced Zelda-like levels. Whilst the heavy influences The Ambassador Fractured Timelines pulls from are masters of incorporating key ideas into its standard gameplay loops, The Ambassador rarely requires you to recall your time-bending moveset at all.
It’s clear that if The Ambassador had made better use of its time manipulation, either in combat or in puzzles, it would’ve made the game far more compelling. Instead, levels follow identical patterns: move through the area, kill all enemies, activate portal. Rinse and repeat.
It doesn’t help that individual levels feel far too short but each world contains so many levels that they feels. There’s an inescapable stuttering pace without a compelling story, intriguing puzzles, or a jamming soundtrack to motivate you; it makes progression feel like a chore.
The Ambassador of Time offers little in the way of accessibility options. Barebones graphics and audio settings are available to the player. While sound cues aren’t necessary to progress in the game, which makes the game more accessible for Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing players.
The game’s Lord of the Rings-inspired font is often difficult to read, especially when in full-screen mode where the pixel art graphics look poorest. Aside from the text, the graphics quality will cause accessibility issues for Blind players or players with vision loss. Between the 30fps frame-rate cap and the massive dip in graphics quality in full screen, even sighted players will struggle with distinguishing some enemy sprites and attacks from the background.
Underwhelming, even bosses are turned from daunting foes into cakewalk snores featuring the same baseline mechanic that sees you endure enemies or attacks until the boss is vulnerable, resulting in a victory that feels inconsequential.
Ultimately, The Ambassador just does not stand out in a market that is full of fresher, more innovative takes on time manipulation, twin-stick shooter combat, and pixel art. If you love the genre, the game might be worth a play-through – just don’t expect any unique ideas.