Somewhere between the insanity of Dark Souls and the beauty and exploration of Journey sits Strayed Lights, a beautiful light Souls style game which combines tense and challenging fighting with chilled exploration, collectable hunting and a gorgeous soundtrack to bring it all together. Playing it is an interesting experience, never quite letting you fully relax or get rammed full of adrenaline, but still bouncing you merrily between the two as you try to parry, dodge and attack while switching between your two different coloured forms. Happily, its not as complicated as it sounds.
There isn’t an obvious storyline in Strayed Lights, giving you the chance to form your own ideas as to what’s going on and why it’s all happening. What is apparent though is you’re playing a… thing, that’s born from light and can change between a red fire-like state and a blue icy looking form. In your general exploration these two versions of yourself make no difference, but it’s when you come to battle your enemies that they really become important.
The reason being combat in Strayed Lights is largely based on your ability to parry attacks coming at you. While you can go on the offensive and have a pop at your enemies through various unlockable attacks, it’s those well timed parries that will drain the enemy’s health the most and build up to you being able to defeat them. But the bad guys change colour when they attack, between blue, orange and purple, and matching your own colour to that of your attacker is what causes the damage. The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice though that I never mentioned about changing your own colour to purple – that’s because you can’t block those attacks. It’s dodge or get nailed, and timing these dodges can be one of the bigger (and more frustrating) challenges you’ll face.
But the constant parrying and dodging feels really good on the whole, requiring you to learn the sequence of attacks coming at you and get your positioning and timing just right. The parry timing is quite forgiving which, for folks like me who get fed up with the excessive challenge of a Souls game, is a welcome element that removes a lot of the feelings of unfair frustration. If you mess things up here it’s absolutely your own fault. The largely defence-oriented combat is great though, and gives a welcome twist on a genre so often targeted at landing intricately timed attacks on excessively massive enemies.
Between fights you’ve got plenty of time to explore and hunt for the collectable items that help you levels yourself up and unlock abilities and attacks. Combat is relatively spread out, and there’s very little in terms of jeopardy as you run around enjoying the gorgeous vistas around you in their pinks, deep purples and rich contrast. There are some genuinely beautiful areas to be seen, and the limited colour pallet only goes to contribute to these amazing views. And speaking of beautiful presentation, everything you do is accompanied by yet another wonderful Austin Wintory soundtrack. If you don’t recognise the name it’s the same composer behind the incredible soundtracks for games such as Journey, Abzu and Flow, so you can probably imagine just how the background music sounds throughout Strayed Lights as well. It really adds to the atmosphere and is most definitely worthy of note.
So while it’s not the longest game in the world checking in at around 8 hours if you take your time, the experience itself is pretty unique and gives a lovely mix of chilled exploring and intense combat. There’s challenge without excessive frustration, and while the lack of clear information can be a bit off-putting and the dodging a bit of a lottery at times, I really enjoyed my time with Strayed Lights. It’s less bonkers than a Souls game, has that wonderful music to enjoy and really looks the part as well.
It’s an easy one to recommend, that’s for sure.
Reviewed on PS5