It’s time for me to tell you all about Strayed Lights, a new indie action-adventure game from Embers, and let me start by saying, it’s mighty impressive. That probably tells you all you need to know about my thoughts on the game, and to an extent, it does, but allow me to dive into what makes Strayed Lights so special.
First of all, there are no words. Seriously, it’s a wordless title that puts an emphasis on feeling and emotions in a dreamlike world which does, admittedly, sound rather idyllic. However, a place that should be vibrant with its beauty instead falls to chaos and corruption, though it does boast a mysterious appeal with something akin to the beauty of the night. Simply put, this ethereal world is enthralling. I get lost in the backdrops, locations, and general aesthetic of the game alone.
Still, before I fall any deeper down the rabbit hole of Strayed Lights’ gorgeous setting, allow me to set the scene for you and dive into the game’s story. You play as a nascent flame. One shrouded in shadows. As we all know, a light should shine bright and path the way through the darkness. As such, that’s the aim of the game here – to escape the clutches of those that want to keep you dim.
To do this, you must go on a journey. One that leads you across various plains, such as an effulgent forest which, unsurprisingly, oozes beauty even in a desolate world that longs to break free of the darkness that holds it. Of course, an adventure isn’t complete without its perils. Therefore, as you seek to shine brighter, you must survive perilous encounters with creatures that succumb to impairment courtesy of their emotions as you face your own inner demons.
While you need to step out of the shadows and into the light, you also need to help your siblings – those that already fell too far into the darkness, allowing different emotions to grip them in a way that controls them. Honestly, when you consider the story and the events that unfold within, you can’t help but feel a certain sense of melancholy Something that grips you deep within, forcing you to face a wave of sadness as you see what’s become of the flames that ignited before you.
In order to survive this mysterious world, you soon find that you need to fight, and that leads me along nicely to the combat system. In this wordless realm, you need to rely on switching between two colours to fight back against the beasts that seek to harm you. Should an orange creature be on the attack, you need to switch to an orange flame, whereas a blue creature requires you to become a blue flame.
It’s a system that I quite like, as it keeps you on your toes at all times due to your foes being able to alter their colouration in the heat of battle. It also offers a more in-depth combat system than I expected at first, as parries play a crucial part. Luckily for me, my years as a From Software fan ensure that parries aren’t new to me. However, what is new is that, should you perform a parry in the correct matching colour, you replenish a small amount of health. Should you parry in the incorrect colour, you just block incoming damage.
Little things like that help to elevate Strayed Lights to new levels. And then there’s the dodging mechanic. You might think, ‘hang on, if I can parry, why dodge?’ At least, that’s the thinking of some Dark Souls players. However, in this indie gem, while you can only switch between blue and orange, your opponents might change to purple and, if they do, you must dodge – unless you’re happy to take some damage, that is.
I do have one misgiving about the combat, however. When the energy metre is full (something you fill with parries in the correct colour), you can press ZL and ZR to use it. This normally puts you into a semi-cutscene action shot where you once again have to press the buttons. Sometimes, it takes several presses for the manoeuvre to register, which breaks the flow of combat. While this doesn’t diminish my enjoyment too much, it does still break the immersion.
Furthermore, during scenes like this, there appears to be some stuttering at times. Though the recent patch looks to combat this issue, along with fixes to rare crashes, UI improvements, and faster loadings to further enhance performance, among other things. So with the patch in mind, some issues within the game may soon become a thing of the past – something I’m grateful for, as Strayed Lights is proving to be one of my favourite ever indie games.
I do have to mention the odd drop in frame rates that I experience, but that’s also a problem that’s fixable through some patchwork. As for the controls, I have to say that Strayed Lights is very fluid. Each movement feels smooth, making it a joy to explore such an enigmatic world. Better still, the layout for the button actions is well thought out, making it easy to switch between colours in the middle of a fight.
Now, I guess there’s just one thing left for me to discuss, and that’s the soundtrack. Strayed Lights features an atmospheric and emotional soundtrack that adds to the melancholic feeling of the world. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the music is as haunting as it is beautiful, which, to me, captures the essence of this wordless world as you fight to be that beacon of hope a land of darkness needs.
In all honesty, I need more than the performance issues to deter me from this game. And, luckily, while there are some problems, the team at Embers is clearly ready to combat them at pace with the new patch. Plus, with how delightful the world is to explore, from luscious forests to creepy caves, and how intuitive the combat is, I highly recommend that you give Strayed Lights a try.
After you’re done with Strayed Lights you might want to check out the biggest game on Nintendo Switch this year. In which case, you might want to read our Zelda: Tears of thee Kingdom review.
Strayed Lights Switch review
Though there are some performance issues, an incoming patch intends to tackle them so that you can fully enjoy what is set to be one of the best indie games of the year. With a mysterious yet gorgeous world backed by a hauntingly brilliant soundtrack and fun combat that keeps you on your toes, Strayed Lights is a gem of a game that I can’t stop playing.