Strayed Lights is the first effort of the French Embers. It’s an evocative adventure with a unique style and gameplay that puts its creators on our radar for the future.
The story is a bit reminiscent of Ori as it deals with creatures made of pure light, the threat of darkness and all of this in a prehistoric world where there is only nature. You control a creature that, while living happily and doing its own thing, is suddenly shattered by an unknown force into hundreds of smaller “siblings” who then scatter. So your goal is to collect those entities again. Some are friendly from the start, others want their bundles to recover from the gnawing darkness. The non-verbal mode of narration is a conscious choice, since on the one hand the game takes place in a time when the reason has not been discovered and on the other hand some things are deliberately left “flush”, with the beautiful choreography of cutscenes in between leaving the interpretation of events up to the player.
The game is a third-person action-adventure with lots of melee combat. These battles are the main thing and generally how you free the beings that came from the character at the start, in case the darkness took them. The basic mechanism is the color change to blue and orange. By parrying while you are the same color as the enemy, not only do you take damage and possibly a better opening for a counterattack, but you also recover some of your energy. In case you don’t have the same costume, just parry. Apart from the color mechanic, the moves available to you are triple hit combo, dodge, special moves that you acquire during the game and can upgrade, while the finishing move is exclusively one. Yes, a finisher that once you hit enemies enough, you use it to “cleanse” the darkness. The special moves consist of a strong attack that knocks enemies away, an attack that immobilizes enemies for a while, and there’s also a buff that lets you parry for a while with full boons regardless of color.
The combat system is simple, understandable and easy to use. However, he falls into the trap of repetition. It’s quite fun to learn and change colors right before attacking, since enemies “telegraph” everything pretty well. But we’re talking about very few enemy types you face, the only difference being their health percentage towards the end. Since the game is also quite short in duration (four-five hours), this is a problem in terms of combat. Of course, the situation is saved by the imposing bosses, which offer enough of a challenge, forcing you to use all your supplies and the techniques you learn during the game. In a sense, the game could be a boss rush with a bit of exploration and not really losing much in terms of gameplay. Remember that many titles do just that. Speaking of exploration, the world consists of an open hub that leads to individual areas that you can explore. You do a lot of platforming while there are also various secrets and goodies to discover. Of course, the secrets aren’t the best hidden, nor is it a true open-world game. In fact, aside from the great art direction, the world seems pretty empty.
What undoubtedly satisfies is the technical field. Some things like cutscenes have already been mentioned, but let’s go a little deeper here. It is clear that the most worked part of the game is its presentation. During the adventure, you visit dozens of locations, each with its own distinct interest. Vibrant colors, animation in many background elements. Even though the aesthetic tends to be more abstract, as is the case with most indies, there are some nice details. Despite the nature of the game, the lighting effects are a bit of a missed opportunity. There are quite a few lighting and particle effects, but they serve more functional purposes like attack telegraphs. The result is crystal clear, since the player needs to see exactly what is happening in front of him and around him, but the rich possibilities of modern graphics engines remain untapped. The sound is excellent. Austin Wintory’s instrumental score sets a unique atmosphere and just the right emotional tone, given that all of the characters are silent and there’s generally no trace of speech. The effects are also incredibly high quality, conveying the ethereal nature of the protagonist as well as the enemies.
If we had to sum up Strayed Lights, we’d say it’s an interesting base for something better to come. It’s a worthy first attempt, but without the “filler” for something fuller. In any case, it’s a unique experience that deserves your attention if you want to take a break from what you are currently playing.
- Beautiful presentation
- great sound
- Interesting combat system
- Big and beautiful people
- Limited variety of enemies
- Easy and uninteresting exploration
- it quickly becomes repetitive
- Some additional lighting techniques would be welcome
- Short duration
|PLATFORM:||PS5Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC|