Atmospheric action-adventure Strayed Lights from Embers is ready for you on PlayStation 5. Learn more about it in our Strayed Lights review!
Don’t you just hate it when you are born? Wait, hang on. There’s more to that sentence. Don’t you just hate it when you are born and only just learned how to walk, but then you discover you have an evil twin who wants to destroy the world? Well, joke’s on him because by trying to destroy the world, he ends up creating life and everything in it. It’s now up to you to restore balance to the world. This is the dilemma being faced by the protagonist of Strayed Light, an action-adventure game from indie studio Embers.
The first thing you’ll notice about Strayed Lights is the color palette. The game attempts to go for this rich and vibrant blue/orange vibe and, for the most part, gets it right. The colors are vibrant enough to encourage you to want to explore, but no sooner do you do so do you realize that the world is barren and not worth the effort. Yes, there is some architecture that occasionally piques your curiosity, especially toward the end. You never truly feel the cutscene world filled with manga-esque fighting abilities, combos, and finishers, or cute and intriguing wildlife lines up with the empty and drab world of gameplay.
As expected in action-adventure games these days, there are collectibles to grant you additional energy boosts to be had off the beaten path. But the linearity and the bareness of the world soon quell that desire to explore. For me, the main issue with the game lies in its combat. Strangely the combat is its most interesting feature and, at the same time, the one I find most bothersome. The blue/orange that rings throughout the game is also present in its protagonist and the monsters you face along the way.
Whilst you are able to switch between blue and orange, Enemies at will can shift between blue, orange, and purple colors. The idea of the combat is you switch to match the color of the incoming attack to allow you to parry it and, in the case of purple attacks, be completely out of the way to avoid taking a hit that has the potential to reduce your max HP with the only way of healing and restoring lost HP being successfully parrying multiple attacks in quick succession.
In terms of defense, this mechanic makes sense since it just works, but it is the offense that this game seems to lack. You can press the R2 button during combat to unleash a three-hit combo upon your enemies… and that’s about it for the 6-7 hours of gameplay you can expect from Strayed Lights. Yes, you are able to unlock several abilities for the Triangle button to use during combat, but you soon realize that for basic combat, attacking is pointless. It is nothing like the ultra-cool-attacks of the cutscenes, which makes things even more frustrating.
Though Strayed Lights is an action game by trade, it breaks away by being more of a rhythm action game. When enemies attack and switch colors mid-combo, it is up to you to notice their patterns and adapt. Whilst you can no doubt counter by attacking when you see an opening, it is often better to just parry their attacks as necessary because each successfully parried attack fills up a stagger meter, and filling it allows you to finish them up with a flashy attack.
In fairness to the game, it is prudent to attack during boss fights as relying on parrying alone can be a little tricky but not impossible, especially during one of the mid-game boss fights that has a purple combo that lasts a whole 17 seconds. No doubt this will jar if you choose not to attack. Once you do get into the swing of things, the rhythmic nature of the combat can be interesting, dare I say fun even, but this one gimmick I don’t feel is enough to keep you interested for a full playthrough of the game.
Soundtrack-wise and audio, the overall package is OK. Not terrible, just… OK. The music fits the requirements of trying to be atmospheric but at no point achieves memorability. There is no doubt a core of quality buried somewhere in the game. The story tries to hint at deeper lore and tries its best to be intriguing, and once in a while, it hits the mark. The boss fights are certainly the best part of the game, even though one or two of them outstay their welcome by trying to be multi-phased affairs, but the character designs and anime/manga-inspired finishes to fights show a potential that the game was certainly trying to reach.
Trophy-wise, Strayed Lights has a full list with a Platinum trophy. The list includes 10 Bronze trophies, 9 Silver trophies, and 6 Gold trophies. Most trophies will pop as you progress through the game and upgrade your character. Defeat a boss without receiving damage, chain several perfect parries in a row, and unlock all skills, and you’ll be well on your way toward adding a shiny Platinum trophy to your collection. Unfortunately for trophy hunters, there are some missable trophies along the way to keep in mind. You can get some extra tips by checking out this Strayed Lights Trophy Guide.
Whilst Strayed Lights fails to sustain the quality for the most part, it does, however, hit it enough to acknowledge the potential that this game has. If there had been a little more to the combat other than rhythmic defending, more to exploring than those colorful rocks, Strayed Lights could certainly have been one to watch. But no harm to Embers since I am sure that, in time, they will carve out their niche and potentially create something a lot more fascinating in the future. Strayed Lights is out on PlayStation 5 for $24.99. There’s also a PlayStation 4 version of the game available as a separate purchase for the same price.
Disclaimer This Strayed Lights review is based on a PlayStation 5 copy provided by Embers.