Strayed Lights is a third-person action adventure game and debut title from Embers, set in a primordial world composed of light, shadow, and nature.
You take control of an ambiguous entity of light that is soon corrupted by darkness and split up into countless siblings by unknown forces. While many of your newfound compatriots are harmless, a handful have become hulking abominations engulfed by darkness that only you can quell. There is no dialogue or text used throughout the adventure, but the basic throughlines of cleansing corruption or reclaiming a lost power were easy enough to follow thanks to an incredible musical score and fantastic cinematics. It’s all just vague enough to mean a lot or nothing at all, depending on how you interpret it.
You’ll travel through a hub world that branches into a few domains and meet friends and foes alike. You and all the other creatures in the game can switch between blue and red states that serve only to complicate the parry-based combat. Successful parries matching the correct color state will weaken enemies and also heal you slightly, while parries in the wrong color will act as a block, only preventing damage. You have access to a dodge and basic three-hit combo as well as three special moves you’ll unlock and upgrade over time: a lunging attack, a move that stuns enemies for a short while, and, by far the most useful, a momentary buff that ignores the color system and lets you just parry. Once you’ve filled an enemy’s damage meter, you’ll need to cleanse them with a burst of light, which is just a little anticlimactic as your one and only finishing move.
Enemies have good telegraphs for attacks, and it feels rewarding to successfully switch to the right color just before a parry. But there are a total of about four or five enemy types and very little changes between encounters over the roughly 4-hour playtime. I will say that boss fights achieve a high level of spectacle and feel like they received a lot more development effort than the repeated fodder enemies dotting the disparate landscapes. There are hidden collectibles and upgrades to find in the different domains as well, but the compulsion to explore was constantly hampered by how easy and short most pathing to those pickups would be. There was rarely much of interest off the main path.
It’s clear a particular amount of attention was paid to the parry combat and boss encounters, and I happen to be a sucker for both of those things in games. There are the beginnings of a much more interesting defensive-heavy combat system that could turn the parry mechanic into its own meta game, but at present it feels incomplete. Strayed Lights instead leans on the merit of its gorgeous art direction, beautiful music, and well-choreographed boss cinematics, which may be enough for some but leaves the core of the experience feeling a bit empty.
Strayed Lights is out April 25 for $24.99 on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Strayed Lights.