Developed and published by Embers, Strayed Lights is a unique action-adventure game where you will spend most of your time parrying enemy attacks. Out of all the action games that I have played in the past few months when it comes to the combat system, Strayed Lights is one of the most unique titles that I have played as it makes parry the main star of the combat instead of fancy attack moves or complicated melee combos. This is our review of the PS5 version of Strayed Lights in which we parry some attacks and achieve satisfying wins against cool bosses.
In Strayed Lights, you play as a newly born flame who is later taken over by a shadow giving a unique power to it of changing its colors. Your main goal in the game is to free yourself of the dark and corruption which is surrounding you. For this, you travel through beautifully designed areas and levels in order to find more flames like you and alongside them, defeat everything that is corrupted around you. As you progress in the world, you will come across different hostile creatures hell-bent on destroying you but in fact, they are also your siblings who just went rogue. You will use your power of light to pacify them and bring them back to light.
The gameplay of Strayed Lights is pretty unique when it comes to combat. While the movement is fairly standard as you use the left joystick to move around, and dodge with O, and holding down O allows you to sprint, and you can also jump with the X key. The right stick is dedicated to the camera angle, pretty much the normal action-adventure controller layout. One unique mechanic that Strayed Lights incorporates in combat is switching colors from orange to blue in order to match your enemies. Enemies in the game will come in two different colors and they also switch between the two. These are orange and blue and the main way of dealing damage to them is by parrying their attacks by blocking right before the attack connects with them which fills your energy bar. Once this bar is filled, you release this energy in one powerful attack which neutralizes your enemy.
This might sound a little easy but certain enemies land fast combos and they change their color after every attack, so you have to change your own color while trying to parry their attack as well. This is also the only way by which you can regain your health in the game. The enemies in the game hit hard and you will die a lot as well, but death is not too harsh as you will just spawn right outside the arena trigger zone for the fight that you just lost. This gives you an easy way to keep trying the fight, understand the incoming attack patterns, and finally defeat the enemies. Some enemies also turn purple and land a powerful attack which cannot be parried and here, you have to dodge out of their way. Apart from your parry, pressing R2 also allows you to land an attack combo but the game really focuses on the parry and building the energy bar to unleash it on your enemies.
Strayed Lights also outshines when it comes to its visuals and level design. The game features a sort of open-world design and there is plenty of exploration as well apart from the main paths. After starting in a rather gloomy-looking atmosphere, Strayed Light really opens up and completely changes its visual aesthetics when you reach the outside. When I first started the game, I was going in blind and my first impression was that the game will continue to be this dark and gloomy with its purple and blue hues throughout but after progressing in the game, it really opens up and then you really see the beauty in its level design. The environment is open and gives you the freedom of exploring different paths to see what the world is hiding.
While most of the paths eventually lead to the same locations, sometimes you will end up finding hidden collectibles which are mostly shown with hues and shades of their respective colors. In an open area, you might see a small area to the side with a little blue hue and you will get to know that there is something hiding there and upon exploring that location, you will find a collectible or a resource that you can use. The maps are really big in size, and you can sometimes feel lost and might start going around in circles because there is no in-game map. This is more of a problem with the first few levels of the game which are underground and in a confusing cave system but in the open areas, it is much more manageable.
Even though Strayed Lights has a lot of areas to explore, pressing the touchpad instantly brings you back to the central hub of the game where you will find the Inner Hub where you can spend the resources that you collect to purchase new Active and Passive skills for your character. There are two in-game resources, and you use these to purchase new Active and Passive skills. Strayed Lights does not offer too much complexity when it comes to skill trees and abilities however there is still a decent number of skills and upgrades to purchase. When you first start the game, your combat skills are fairly limited, and the game will feel much tougher as well. This makes purchasing these new skills much more vital since they will help you take down your enemies much more easily than normal.
You will find Active Skills which are basically new attacks that you can land on your enemies. Unlike your basic melee combo, these attacks require Action Points, and you earn them by defeating enemies. The Passive Skills are more like character upgrades and once done, you will have their bonuses active at all times and these include the likes of increased health and more. Apart from purchasing upgrades, this central area also gives you instant access to all of the different areas that you have unlocked so far. Upon entering, you will find yourself at the exact spot where you left that world so this could be considered as a fast travel mechanic between different worlds of the game.
Each of these worlds is filled with different enemies that you will have to take out as you explore the areas. The enemies stay still inside a small arena-like area, and you will only engage them once you enter their arena’s range. If you stay outside this range, the combat sequence will not trigger, and the enemies will remain frozen in their spots. Each enemy type has its own unique enemy type and the attack intensity and speed vary with each enemy type as well. Some enemies are easier to defeat while others are tougher to defeat even if nearly all enemy types use the same type of mechanics.
The combat of Strayed Lights is definitely not easy and requires a little bit of practice before you can get used to shifting colors and filling up the bar. Still, the smaller enemies only prove to be a distraction for the main show, which is the boss battles of the game. The real and demanding fights of the game are its different bosses that you will come face-to-face with throughout your journey and defeating them is extremely satisfying. For me, the combat of Strayed Lights is a love-and-hate affair because the dodge mechanic sometimes feels absolutely useless.
Probably the clunkiest mechanic when it comes to the gameplay of Strayed Lights is its dodge mechanic. Tied to the same key as that of the sprint, O, for dodging you need to tap the O key and for sprinting, you need to press and hold the O button. This causes a great problem in combat because it sometimes just refuses to accept the input as a dodge even when you tap it because you start running for a second instead. This causes frustration in fights because sometimes enemies will land attacks that cannot be parried, and the only safe way is to dodge out of the way. For me, this is the worst bit of the combat and one mechanic that I hated even after completing the game. The parry windows are also pretty inconsistent because not all enemies have the same attack speed. Sometimes it would register a parry while other times, it would just miss it completely.
Defeating enemies certainly feels satisfying in Strayed Lights because the combat scenarios are usually tough and intense. Anticipating incoming attacks, understanding attack patterns, changing colors within attack combos to parry them, and then landing back attacks, it certainly gets your blood pumping. However, once you are done with the enemy, it is really satisfying. The learning curve of the game is certainly on the higher side but if you have been playing similar titles and especially love rhythm games then you will not have a bad time with Strayed Lights because it is all about timing. You time your parries right and you would be taking out enemies in no time. The only real mechanic that you really need to understand and get good at is the parry and once you have it under control, the game becomes a breeze.
While the game really shines when it comes to its level design, visuals, and overall presentation, the sound design does feel a little in the background. While you are exploring and roaming around different areas, the soundtrack drops to the background of the gameplay to the point that sometimes you do not even feel like anything is playing in the background. With that being said, the soundtrack is certainly there and you will mostly hear it during boss fights and normal enemy encounters because, during these instances, it will pick up pace and will match the intensity of the gameplay. The audio design is good but you might not notice it right away but once you do, you start to enjoy it as well.
Overall, Strayed Lights is a solid game only let down by a few clunky gameplay and combat mechanics. I would have preferred if these issues were resolved before the game was released but I really hope that the dodge mechanic is optimized further in a future patch. It is really pushing the game behind because a game like Strayed Lights will be remembered because of its precise and quick combat and having a lousy dodge mechanic is just going to ruin it for a lot of players. I really like the overall movement mechanics since they are smooth as butter but not the dodge. The narrative is pretty decent, and I love the visual presentation of the game. It is certainly for players who want a fast-paced game that is a little bit on the tougher side.
While Strayed Lights is a difficult game to master, its combat is fluid and extremely satisfying once you get the hand of it. It takes some time getting used to the timings and even then the game might surprise you by throwing an enemy in the mix that has a new attack pattern and it may throw you a little off guard. With no audio dialogue in the game, the game perfectly manages to portray its narrative across, and I love the beautiful visuals of the game as well. It surely is a unique experience however it might be a little too much for the casual players because Strayed Lights requires focus and quick reflexes to survive and progress. The combat controls could have been better and more refined, but it manages to pull everything off just fine. If you love challenging yet satisfying action adventure games set in beautiful worlds, you will love Strayed Light. If you have around 7-8 hours to kill, Strayed Lights could be a decent game to pick and play.
Final Score: 8.0/10