We live in a gig economy where companies like Uber, Lyft and AirBnb have been able to change the way we do business through the rise of social networking and mobile computing. Inspired by this economic market, Muse Games has made traveling the next logical step: the emergency services. Players who join the Embr Respondr crew take on the role of a contract firefighter tasked with fighting fires, rescuing captured civilians, and protecting their reputation from irritated user reviews.
“As Embr Respondr, you are responsible for saving lives,” says director Matthew Niederberger. “When you open your map in the Embr app, you will find that some calls come in – some houses are on fire – and you can choose which ones to respond to. You can fight these fires alone or team up with friends and people together rescue. “
Rescuing civilians is not always easy and every call has its own dangers. Fortunately, overcoming Embr’s environmental threats often results in silly assaults thanks to Embr’s system-driven mechanics. Civilians follow you towards security, but you have to clear a path for them. Do you push the flames back with your water hose? Are you using your ax to open a new exit on a nearby wall? Or do you use a ladder to connect to the floor?
Players decide how to overcome every obstacle and how to avoid every challenge, but fire is like a wild creature, and you don’t always know what it will do. When it took me too long in a building, the fire flowed through the floor and I fell into the basement, so I had to find another way outside. On another mission, I accidentally hit a civilian unconscious when I hit him with my water hose and had to take him to safety.
“When developing puzzles with a solution, we discovered early on that the game would fall apart if someone didn’t understand it. From a design perspective, we stopped developing puzzles and started designing obstacles, ”says Niederberger. “It’s kind of a philosophical piece of our design ethic these days. We just put things in the way of the players and give them a lot of tools. They could find a more interesting way to get through them than we could.”
This toolset will be significantly expanded if you use your extinguishing revenue to buy new devices and vehicles directly via the Embr app. Most devices can be upgraded several times. For example, water hoses have upgrades for greater water capacity and hose pressure that make it easier to move people and obstacles around. An auto refill upgrade means that you don’t have to walk back to your reaction vehicle during a mission. Another practical tool is the gripping hook, which can be used to pull people and other objects around. This can be expanded to achieve a greater range or to pull heavier objects.
Embr isn’t the only firefighting squad on the market, and as you advance to firefighting fame, you may face the competition. A Canadian firefighting startup named Hosr wants to bring socialized fire fighting back to the United States. However, since you signed a non-competition agreement with Embr, Hosr cannot stop what makes you their enemy.
“Every now and then you will get a somewhat suspicious call and it will not be your usual rescue mission,” says Niederberger. “If you get one of these suspicious calls, you may end up in a building and have to use your fire fighting knowledge to escape as much as possible.” These missions will be a little more puzzling. There are mechanics that you need to learn a little more closely. Therefore, you may need to spray water on an outlet that has the wires cut, for example to open a door. “
Embr is goofy and full of strange antics, but also offers an interesting commentary on the dangers of working as a agency worker. Muse Games plans to release Embr on PC early next year and is currently exploring console options. It couldn’t set the world on fire, but we can’t wait to play more.