LadiesGamers Strayed Lights

Strayed Lights Review

Game: Strayed Lights
Genre: Action, Adventure
System: Steam (Windows & Linux) ( Also available on Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox)
Developer|Publisher: Embers
Controller Support: Yes
Price: UK £20.99 | US $24.99 | EU € 24,99
Release Date: April 25th, 2023

Review code provided with many thanks to The Game Marketer. 

Beautiful and Cinematic

Strayed Lights is a 3D action-adventure game. It makes a striking impression with its beautiful art direction, but its focus on parry mechanics in gameplay may not be everyone’s cup of tea. You begin as a new flame, newly awoken, who quickly grows and turns into a vibrant, glowing protagonist. Then before you know it, a dark entity corrupts you with some black goo, and the goal appears to be to remove this oily depression whilst also assisting NPCs suffering the same ailment.

The game’s narrative is presented without any text or voice acting. However, the emotions the characters express are quite clear, with characters conveying joy and fear with just their body language. Without knowing any deep details, I felt a lot of sympathy for the fates of the characters. This feels like another game that’s up to the player’s interpretation in terms of subject matter. For me, I look at it from a mental health perspective and see it as an adventure, wherein to get to the light and remove the shadow, you need to keep moving forward. Of course, what you take from it may be entirely different. 

The games protagonist looks out at the environment. Light beams from the night sky revealing a large circular building
Take in beautiful environments.

Themes of Dark and Light

The clash between the themes of dark and light comes together in a presentation that is cinematic and beautiful. I found the environment quite fascinating. Exploring dark dreary caves, majestic night gardens, to full blooming greenery. They are large in scale, stretching out far into the distance encouraging the player to explore, looking for secret orbs and general signs of life. Expect some sweet moments, for example, when you can pet the wildlife. But this calmness won’t last. Before you know it you will encounter enemies and boss fights which always tend to turn into these epic encounters as if the fate of the world depended on it. The immersion into this is further assisted by the game’s soundtrack, which shifts from mysterious and relaxing in the exploration sections to grand during fights. I don’t have any niggles with how the game presents itself and the performance on PC was great. The game offers a photo mode if you do want to pause to capture a nice moment. 

Press Parry to Win

The game’s general flow is you run around exploring these wide open areas with the way being relatively clear. Sometimes you will need to engage in some platforming, but this is not too taxing. Controls are generally easy to pick up and play, with short-to-the-point tutorials popping up when a new mechanic is introduced. A controller is highly recommended for the experience.

The make-or-break aspect of the gameplay for many will be the games parry system which requires modest mastery to be victorious. If you’re not familiar with how this works, you need to tap a button just before an enemy attack in order to deflect its attack. Easy enough in principle, but you need a sharp eye and a quick finger to monitor enemies’ movements carefully and picking just the right moment to press. When you’re successful, a gauge gradually fills at the bottom of the screen, and once this is filled, you can tap the trigger to totally vanquish the enemy.

Obtain Crystals

Strayed Lights expands the idea further by requiring you to change your colour to match that of the enemy to cause damage. If you’re a different colour, it’s okay. You don’t receive damage, but the enemy will be unharmed. Any attacks you successfully parry will replenish your health, making the mechanic kinder than most games, especially ones with Souls in the title.

You can obtain crystals from defeated enemies and use these to upgrade your abilities. Some of these include the ability to inflict a small amount of damage without the parry. However, the parry mechanic is still the core of combat, and I’m just not very good at it. Enemy fights, and especially boss fights, can feel like quite the slog with large health bars. But again, this was probably made worse by the difficulty I had with combat. The good news is the game can be saved anywhere, and even on failure, checkpoints are generous.

The protagonist is fighting two golem like creatures. They are clearly struggling with the fight with a heavily depleted health bar in the bottom left of the screen
Two-on-one combat is tough.

Hints with each Failure

I became especially frustrated when I had to deal with more than one enemy at once. Nothing is worse than trying to time a parry with one foe in front of you while another sod in the corner throws projectiles at you. For me, the game was more stressful than calm, as its graphical style implies. I often dreaded enemy encounters as they just put me in a rigid sense of tension as I struggled to parry them at the right moment.

Some form of accessibility feature to slow enemy attacks may have helped me, but the game features none of this. It does, however, give you hints with each failure, which to me, just reminded me of how much I suck at the game. In all honesty, I had more fun exploring than fighting enemies.

Still, one can’t deny the epic spectacle, especially in the boss fights. The rare times I was getting the combat down, I felt pretty proud of myself. It was a little odd to see quick time events (QTEs) make an appearance in the boss fights. A gaming troupe I thought was making its way out of the industry. Fortunately, they are pretty straightforward but are required to conclude the boss fights.

The protagonist is petting a mystical creature glowing blue. Its a calming picture that feels relaxing
You can pet the wildlife.

Conclusion: Stay in the Light

Strayed Lights looks beautiful and has a deep combat system that is rewarding for those able to click with it. It just didn’t click for me. Much like the NPCs in this game, I felt lonely and desperately needed a hug. Though I honestly like what this game is going for. The presentation feels cinematic, with large open areas to explore and epic boss battles.

So it’s another of those examples of a game I like but just could not connect with its parry system. I have enough real-life stresses currently, which is not helping. With that in mind, I still recommend it, but a demo would have been really helpful for players to test the waters before they commit to purchasing. If you have fast reflexes and don’t mind long battles, then go into the light and have fun. But if you’re looking for a calmer experience, then seek light elsewhere. 

Final Verdict: I Like it 

I like it

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