Ember Knight Solitaire

Ember Knight Solitaire

Probably one of the more complex solitaire games I’ve played so far, Ember Knight Solitaire doesn’t restrict itself to this genre, borrowing instead mechanics from Match 3, Blackjack, Hidden Objects and topping all of the above with a nice RPG feel.

Naturally, it contains all the elements that you’d expect in any decent solitaire game: power-ups that recharge with your matches, bonus cards and jokers, special cards on the board that you’d have to unlock with a key / hammer etc or that require to be matched several times based on their number or suite etc. There are plenty of levels (200 in fact) in which you can experience all sorts of combinations from these mechanics. Additionally, you can also choose between 3 difficulty settings (Beginner / Normal / Expert) and 3 different game modes: the classic solitaire where you need to select a card one unit higher / lower than the current one, a pair solitaire – in which you need to make pairs of the same card, and a mode that I’ve never encountered before requiring matches of two cards that add to a 14 unit total. The difficulty or the game mode can be changed any time before starting a level, and the bonuses / coins acquired are kept between different modes.

Some of the cards from the deck trigger a mini game of sorts: either a match-3, or a blackjack, or a memory, or a shell game. These are all restricted in movements and have a timer. They do give some extra coins, but they can also be skipped if one finds them annoying. Apart from these minigames, there’s sometimes a small hidden object scene before starting a new batch of 10 levels, and an enjoyable story unfolds via dialogues, every 5 levels, sadly without voice overs.

The whole RPG feel comes from the fact that you play as one of four possible characters, each of them bringing new bonuses to your game. You will use this character during battles with monsters (every 5 levels will bring you into card battler level), in which you will need to create matches from the board to charge up your attack or the health replenishment spell. Both you and the enemy take turns in making matches from a common board and card stack, and whichever of you manages to bring the other’s health down to 0 wins. To make things easier, the player character starts with a health advantage during the majority of the game, but as you progress, your enemies will increase in health, thus being more and more difficult to beat. The AI is balanced (neither too smart nor too bad), but it does skip matches sometimes, even if they’re possible – likely, this is done in order to facilitate your win. And just like the difficulty setting and game mode, the character can also be swapped in-between two levels.

Completing levels will award coins, and combos will add multipliers to these points. With the points earned, you will be able to buy passive bonuses (more undoes, seeing the amount of cards in the deck, increased drop rate for bonus cards, more life or attack power during battles etc.) but also power-ups or wild cards. There are plenty of options to choose from and acquiring everything will take most of the game (they do cost quite a lot), but unfortunately one thing that is missing is that there’s no way to purchase a joker card. Out of the 7 non-passive bonuses that can be purchased, only 5 can be equipped simultaneously in the character slots – which means that you can mix and match them based on the level configuration.

Ember Knight Solitaire is casual and relaxing, but not trivial – even on easy, the levels are not-so-easy, if one aims to get the maximum amount of stars (4 stars = no cards left on the board, with each card left decreasing the stars by 1). Re-dealing the deck will fail the level (it will still be possible to skip it though) and in order to be able to unlock the next batch of 10 levels you will need at least 1 star in all previous levels on average. The recharge for the power-ups also takes quite long – for example an arrow that removes a card from the board takes 60 matches until it’s usable, and you are not allowed to select which card to remove (a random one is selected from those remaining on the board). Additionally, buying these power-ups / bonuses require you to complete several levels with a pretty high score (in very rough estimates, you have enough money to buy a new bonus only every 5-10 levels). The deck is also limited, with no option to add more than 2 cards to it (available only by buying two passive abilities from the shop).

It takes around 15h to complete the game and I certainly enjoyed the time spent in it. Priced at $8 at the moment, it is a bit cheaper than Legends of Solitaire: Diamond Relic ($9.99) – a game that has the same mechanics and which was also developed by The Revills Games, but more expensive than the community’s favorite title by the same company, namely Chef Solitaire: USA ($2.99).

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