Occasionally, a game will come along that perhaps would've been better off existing in a different medium – like a television show or a graphic novel. Winter Ember contains one sole positive, and that's the animated cutscenes that players are treated to every once in a while throughout their journey to drive the story along. As a stealth game, Winter Ember drops the ball by having basic movement feel like a constant hassle. There's no dedicated jump button, rolls frequently aren't registered, resulting in deaths entirely out of player control, and movement is severely restricted, getting you stuck in objects and forcing you to reload checkpoints to make progress. Enemies may even "notice" a sneaking player behind them without even turning around. What's worse is the system to either knock out an enemy or slit their throats. While this should provide a sense of tension for navigating a level, the hit-or-miss nature of how stealth works leaves a feeling dread whenever an enemy shows up because success or failure depends on whether the game feels like functioning as it should. Combat is imprecise and lumbering, resulting in enemies hitting you even if you try to dodge their attacks.
The voice acting is terrible, ranging from overdramatic to underperformed. Also, the game forces players into doing objectives a certain way, taking away their freedom of choice. Some objectives are made unclear, requiring players to interact with objects they know to be inaccessible to trigger a few lines of bad dialogue that will only then point them to the next objective. Getting lost and spending a longer time than necessary in a room is likely, too, as objects you need to crouch under or otherwise interact with won't be highlighted in any way, which is a frustrating ordeal when virtually every aspect of the game is undercooked. Regrettably, this is one such experience where even if it's offered to you for free, it'll still find ways to confuse and disappoint you.