PAX East 2023: Strayed Lights
Life begins in a culmination of light and darkness. The world around you is broken, doused in an unending haze of bright purple. In a canyon of darkness, a small child of fire and light emerges. The child walks terrified at the flashing lightning and deafening thunder. Shortly, the light comes across a beacon and soon becomes a warrior. Confused at being endowed with the powers of light and dark, the warrior sets off on a grand quest of self-discovery and mending a broken world.
The trailer for Strayed Lights wowed me when it was unveiled earlier this year. The vibrant color palette created an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue. The trailer for Strayed Lights teased a journey unlike any other. A journey of mythic beasts and grand darkness enveloping a beautiful world. Strayed Lights was selected for the PAX Rising booth at PAX East 2023, a high honor for an indie studio. After some time with the demo, I was left stunned, surprised, and amazed.
A Universe in Upheaval
"We set out to tell a game about life. It was a daunting task as that is a big topic to tackle. We wanted to make something reachable and understandable," Alexandre Arramon tells me of the development process. "We wanted to make a game that the players could understand, but we placed an emphasis on visual storytelling and immersion. With the exception of tutorials for combat, there is very little UI."
Strayed Lights is all about what you see, what you hear, and what you feel. There is no specific explanation of where you or what you are, leaving the interpretation of the world entirely to the player. It's a feeling reminiscent of movies like Fantasia, where the story is in motion, and one can see and hear it through its music.
An Explosion of Color
The sharp visuals that convey a universe of light and dark are breathtaking. Vibrant mauve permeates a world of divine blues and fiery yellows. Cliffs, trees, and oceans all encompass a dreamlike world of intrigue. It's a land of beauty and danger. more beautiful than one can feel and more dangerous than can ever be imagined.
The opening moments of the demo were grand and epic, like taking place in a majestic dream in the center of the universe. A climactic battle showcases the basics of the game. Strayed Lights plays as an action game, but the objective is not to destroy but to restore. Fighting involves attacking, dodging, and, most importantly, parrying.
“We felt that in this particular journey of self-discovery and mending the world, we could craft an action game where parrying was important and restoring the world was even more important."
Fighting and finishing enemies attacking an enemy weakens it but doesn't destroy it. Parrying enough gives players a special attack that can fully weaken and dissolve the evil energies. As simple as this is, the execution was incredibly immersive and engaging. One hit won't end the player but can knock out a significant amount of health. The bouts turned into a true herculean fight. Each battle feels like an epic showdown.
Everything Has Lead You To This Moment
Strayed Lights isn't as straightforward, however. The beings in this world are imbued with a flaming aura. That aura can change color. Naturally, attacks and parries with the same color are the most effective. Fighting with a different aura makes an attack or parry incompatible. The demo featured enemies that switched colors on the fly. Some enemies switched to purple, which can only be dodged and is defensible. Fortunately, the spot-on controls helped created a fluid and reachable action experience that made each fight exciting and challenging.
The finishing move defeats the enemy but doesn't kill or necessarily destroys. in a grand finishing move, the player's character uses their gift to successfully defeat the beast. The enemy is drained of the darkness dwelling within them and is subsequently neutralized. Who these beings are and what they are doing continues to be a mystery, but even the most basic enemies put up a fight. This
was made clear during one battle where two enemies appeared at once, proving quite a handful.
Move fast and strike faster
There is a primal instinct to the game and its enemies. They are aggressive and unpredictable, as well as strange and macabre. It's clear the darkness in Strayed Lights has twisted and transformed the land into an existence that is grotesque and malformed. Strangely, there is a sense of awe-inspiring amazement at the calamity presented.
The last leg of the demo had me face a lion-like monster. Like the giant cat it mimics, its attacks are violent and unpredictable. Fighting with everything it has, it was able to knock me out several times. Dodging and parrying, as well as using the right color, are essential to this particular boss fight. There were moments were I had to take the briefest of pauses and commend the art style of the game.
Use their strength against them
There was an undeniable beauty to the chaos. A young spirit in a broken land doing everything they can to win and save the land against this fiery beast. Every moment of survival felt like hope trying to stay alive. Strayed Lights was enthralling and engrossing in ways I never knew a game could be. After a bout involving razor-thin close class and a raging cat flaming in rage, I was able to successfully parry and weaken the beast.
The demo concluded with a climactic fall from a cliff and the demonic lion falling as well. Separated by rubble, there is the knowledge that the beast still exists and will be stalking the player. What is next on this journey is unknown. During my demo, I experienced strength, courage, and sadness all at once. That alone has invested me in seeing the rest of this adventure through.
A journey unlike any other
When asked what players are hoping to take away from this, Alexandre said the following;
"We hope players come away with a profound sense of adventure in this tale of light, dark, and hope."
That is exactly what I got in the 15-minute demo. Strayed Lights earned its place at PAX Rising for a reason. That reason is a profound sense of adventure, unlike anything I've seen. With its vivid world, sharp combat, and mysterious intrigue, I am ready to embark on this journey of Strayed Lights.
Strayed Lights launches April 25th, 2023, for PC and console. Strayed Lights has a demo now available for free on Steam.