Parrying is tough to get right in games. Some players prefer to simply dodge if given the option. Others just go for an all-out offense. But in Strayed Lights, neither tactic will get you far. Going hands-on with the game at PAX East, I experienced a new demo of the game ahead of its April 25th release date. Developed and published by Embers Studio, the game appears at the Boston convention courtesy of PAX Rising, the exclusive indie showcase on the show floor. And I can see how it made the cut.
Combat aside, the game has gorgeous visuals. Players take on the role of a tiny light that grows into a humanoid figure over time (think the Human Torch). As this fiery figure, players explore a dark, dreamlike world. Members of Embers Studio explained that many of the areas consist of caves and ravines and other dark places so that your light-based character stands out. Nevertheless, the title still has some brighter areas, such as a forest, showcased briefly in the trailer.
Water and Fire
I know many people have talked about rain and water effects in games lately. I won’t name any names, but Strayed Lights blows these out of the water, literally, with its animations. And the locales of this world have the score of Austin Wintory in the background. Players may know Wintory from scoring Journey, and it speaks to the testament of the visuals that it took me a moment to tune into the soundtrack. Embers Studio approached him first with a pitch, and right from the start, he had interest. He wanted to know what was going on and what the emotions were in this game.
And Strayed Lights leans heavily on emotion. “There are no words spoken or written,” game director Maxime Philipp told me about the story. “We want to keep some parts mysterious so players can interpret them. We give you the pieces of the puzzle so you can put them together.”
I also asked about the difficulty. With all of the parrying, Strayed Lights has drawn a comparison to Sekiro. But will it be as difficult? “Sekiro is one of the inspirations,” Philipp told me. “But we wanted it to be accessible.” As such, there aren’t various difficulty options, but the game eases you into the gameplay and gets progressively harder as it goes.
Strayed Lights Colors Me Impressed
In the demo I played, I experienced this myself. The demo began with the basic tutorial. I learned how to parry, and how parrying builds energy that one can release once the energy bar is full. A color mechanic makes things interesting. The protagonist here can switch back and forth between blue and red colors. Parry a blue enemy while you are blue, for example, and you’ll block the attack and heal. Parry with the wrong color and you’ll still avoid damage, but you won’t regain health. Purple-colored enemy attacks must be dodged. And then you can also attack and use abilities gained from a skill tree, but I found parrying really is the way to go.
From the tutorial, I then jumped ahead to a canyon. I battled enemies as I descended, finally reaching a massive boss. I almost lost, but managed to use the color-coordination in my favor to regain health and then finish it off with my stun ability, one of three the demo offered as a choice. The parrying took me some time to get used to, since enemies will telegraph attacks well in advance before finally striking. As such, I had to wait a bit to get the timing just right. But once I figured out the parry window, I fell into the groove of things.
Currently, PAX East attendees can check out the canyon demo on the show floor today. However, those not at PAX East can download a different demo taking place in a forest, with a large monkey boss at the end. Each demo has the same tutorial section and then branches off. In the full game, which will take around six hours to complete, players will be able to choose which area to go to after the tutorial, from a hub world.
With a team of just nine people, Embers Studio is fired up about its time at PAX East. It’s the first American event for the French studio, and they are excited about their first game. The Strayed Lights release date is on April 25th for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.