Strayed Lights, from developer and publisher Embers, is an atmospheric trip filled with just the right amount of rhythm and action.
The game kicks off with you taking on the role of a baby light. Some sort of light form? A lightling? A “Strayed Light”, I guess?! Things escalate quickly though, as you get drawn into the narrative and encounter a mirrored surface of sorts transforming you into a more mature form. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only thing that happens and suddenly a darker, more sinister version of yourself gets brought forth as well.
This is where things get intriguing and the game throws you straight into the deep end. After plummeting to the bottom of a crystal cave, you’ll face off against your dark doppelganger after it literally tears light from your body. It’s a rough start that’ll quickly teach you how to parry attacks and dodge. You see, Stray Light‘s key gameplay mechanic, one essential to survival, is the ability to parry but this comes with one major caveat – you can only pull it off when you are the same colour as your foe.
As you might expect, combat revolves a lot around this colour-swapping mechanic as you’ll have to do it continuously to parry attacks. Further complicating things is that some enemies can also shift to purple, which indicates an upcoming unparryable (is this a word?) attack that needs to be dodged.
It honestly felt a lot like Sekiro at times, forcing you to read enemy movements, watch for their telegraphed attack patterns, and then react accordingly. If you were a fan of performing the parries and counters in Sekiro, Strayed Lights’ combat will feel extremely familiar to you.
Parry enough attacks and you’ll slowly charge up a meter at the bottom of the screen that, when full, allows you to unleash your inner light and obliterate your enemy. This forms the basic combat loop as you explore the game’s world and defeat enemies, which in turn rewards you with resources to upgrade your abilities.
Exploration is made a little more challenging by the fact Strayed Lights has no map. After the tutorial segment, don’t expect a lot of directions or hand-holding. Now this gripe is coming from someone that’s gotten used to modern game design, but it would have been useful to have some sort of map if only to make it easier to track down all the collectibles.
Talking of exploration, Strayed Lights‘ environmental design is absolutely fantastic, and the world is often nothing short of gorgeous. Every single area in the game is screenshot-worthy and thankfully, the developers clearly knew this and included a photo mode. The graphics, overall art style, and designs are striking and extremely well done. Enemy designs are also quite varied and there are a ton of fine details to soak up in the environments.
Backing up all that visual splendour is an incredible soundtrack from Austin Wintory who lends his talents to the game. It’s an essential component as, in the absence of voice acting, a combination of visuals, sound effects, and music do all the heavy lifting and manages to convey the emotional tale.
Overall, Strayed Lights is an extremely solid action-adventure game that draws inspiration from the ‘Souls-like genre when it comes to the parry-focused combat. If you struggle with games like that, you might get a bit frustrated at first but, thankfully, Strayed Lights is way more lenient. Once you defeat an enemy, you’ll replenish your entire health bar and this helps alleviate the frustration of persistent damage or having to worry about healing items.
Strayed Lights incredible soundtrack and overall visual design feel are amazing, and it really does draw you into the world and narrative despite its minimalistic approach to storytelling. Embers have done a great job here and I highly recommend picking up Strayed Lights if you can – and maybe that sweet soundtrack too as I found myself listening to it outside of the game too!
Strayed Lights was reviewed on PC using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One/Xbox Series, and Nintendo Switch.
Strayed Lights (PC) ReviewStrayed Lights (PC) Review
- Fast-paced 'Souls-like combat
- Parry window not nearly as punishing as Sekiro
- Gorgeous Visuals
- Great Soundtrack
- Potentially high difficulty
- Lack of a map for collectible hunting