Strayed Lights

Strayed Lights

Colourful and enigmatic.

strayed lights

There’s a distinct style I think indie games are developing that’s a strange dichotomy.  It’s obvious when you glimpse screenshots that they are indie games, and yet you’d be hard pressed to say they look alike.  Strayed Lights grabbed my attention in this way – from the screens I saw it’s clear it’s an indie title and my brain went “that looks familiar“, though it’s not really like anything I’ve played before.  A good start then as it meant I didn’t really know what I was in for with Embers’ latest game… and not going to lie, I’m still not 100% sure after playing either.  What I do know is that there’s a colourful, charismatic and confident game here absolutely lives or dies on whether you make the effort to understand what it is trying to say; and equally it couldn’t care if you don’t.  Knowing where the studio is based it’s not a surprise that it’s character seems quintessentially French – could nationality be a new gaming genre?

Starting out in Strayed Lights you’re given no direction or instruction, merely the expectation of being born and having to fight for survival.  The first being you encounter seems to be drawn from your own soul, splitting you into different factions and setting up the combat mechanics that you’ll get to grips with over the next few hours.  It’s then over to you to explore a faux open world, save what could be your kindred from terrible fates, and try and escape the abandoned lands all around you.  At least that’s the impression I got, it could well be something very different, there’s a fair amount left to interpretation.  The main thing that isn’t though is that you’ll need to batter foes that appear as they’re your path to self improvement and ultimate success, as well as being practice for the bigger, badder things you’ll meet along the way.

I like the twist on combat in Strayed Lights – it’s not about offensive at all.  You can attack, but it’s not as effective as the primary method of countering.  Each fight relies on you reading the attack of the enemy and blocking at the right point to leech some energy from the opponent, up to the stage where they’re weakened and you finish them off (banish/vaporise/make invisible/whatever it is).  The catch is you can only siphon energy when you match their state, represented by either a blue or orange colour, so you have two elements to manage – when are they going to hit you and what colour are they when the do it.  Get it right and you’ll take some energy and refill a portion of your health; be the incorrect colour and you’ll simply block the damage; get it all wrong and you’ll take some punishment.  Each creature encountered has their own attack patterns to learn and some add in unblockable attacks where dodging is the only option to avoid a hit.  Win and you’ll recover all health and ability points, lose and it’s back to the last checkpoint to try again.

Helping in the fights are 3 skills that you can swap between, assuming you’ve unlocked them: one that allows blocking and energy gain regardless of colour matching, one that rushes in with an attack, and one lets you stun enemies so they can’t attack.  All of them have a use in particular situations, with the first one (balance) being very useful across standard and boss fights.  With a restriction on the number of times you can use them in a battle it needs some tactical thought.  For instance, balance is no good against an unblockable attack so don’t trigger it then, or the blast might not reach if you’re too far away.  There’s a cerebral element to all the fighting that requires quick responses and on the fly reading of moves, as well as an understanding of the off-beat timing that some of the incoming punches can have.  When it comes together it’s pretty satisfying, though it can make you feel stupid as well, particularly against the large multi-stage bosses.  These give more opportunity to learn a pattern, though hit harder and longer and tend to add in annoyingly large radius unavoidable area attacks.

Whilst fighting is the key thing you’ll do in Strayed Lights, there’s a bit of exploring to take on and find additional improvements to energy gathering, or unlocking clues to the history of the world.  You’ll try to understand what’s been going on and why it feels so empty, with large buildings and structures looming around, though many of the paths you have to take are quite linear and aim to funnel you towards the next boss encounter.  The backdrops are pretty with pastel colours and a sort of subdued vibrancy that makes everything seem ethereal, and it causes the characters to really pop with their glowing limbs and featureless faces.  Of course, you need to focus on the colours on display so it makes sense that the environment doesn’t distract, and this design choice has a lovely visual impact.  On the audio front it’s atmospheric though a tad forgettable, and maybe because there’s not a lot of complexity going for it.  It’s pared back like the visuals, though keeping the key sounds you’d expect.

Strayed Lights is good then, and offers something fairly unique as you grow with your character from birth through to adulthood.  The combat is the stand out, and if it wasn’t for the block/counter focus it would probably be a bit of a harder sell.  Whilst the world is stylised, there’s not much to it and spending time exploring doesn’t yield too many secrets to make it compelling.  It’s also not that difficult, the main challenges coming with fighting more than one enemy at once, and that can either be a masterclass in space management, or massive frustration.  I’m not one to complain about an easy game, I just thought there would be more risk rather than just respawning on death.  However, any title that has arachnophobia options might be worth considering, and this one is certainly worth delving deeper if it catches your eye.

A PS5 review copy of Strayed Lights was provided by Embers’ PR team, and the game is available now on PlayStation, Xbox, PC and Switch for around £25.

The Verdict


The Good: Lovely style | Interesting combat

The Bad: Too pared back in the details | Slightly imprecise response at times

The following two tabs change content below.


Co-founder & Editor at Codec Moments

Gamer, F1 fanatic, one half of the Muddyfunkrs DJ duo (find us over on Hive Radio UK), MGS obsessed, tech geek.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *