PAX East 2023: Strayed Lights Offers a Visual Feast and Silky Smooth Gameplay

On my final day at PAX East 2023, I had the privilege of playing Strayed Lights, the first game from developer and publisher Embers, a French studio founded in 2019. The game has been in development for three years, with a highly collaborative team of nine specialists.

Embers describes Strayed Lights by noting that players will “Explore a dark and oneiric world of rampant nature and corrupted cities. Embody a tiny being of light on its path towards awakening. Fight [their] inner demons and restore [their] balance.” This atmospheric action-adventure game is highly engaging and worthy of attention.

The game has a deep and moving soundtrack written by Austin Wintory who was recently nominated for the first-ever Grammy award for video game music for the soundtrack of Aliens: Fireteam Elite. The music entwines beautifully with the colorful art style and helps to tell the emotional story as you traverse an internal world. Strayed Lights contains no words or dialogue, so the empirical storytelling of the music is key.

The developer team were kind and welcoming at the demo, allowing me to interview and ask questions for as long as I desired. It’s always nice when a good game has good humans behind it, and this is definitely the case for Strayed Lights.

When I asked the team about their inspiration for the game, they said it started with gameplay. They wanted to make a fluid and smooth experience that was both challenging and enjoyable to play. (They definitely succeeded. The range of movement is fully immersive, with combat that scales up well.) Once they established the mechanics of the game, they crafted a beautiful story around it.

The writers and developers explained that “resilience and duality” comprise the major themes of the game. Strayed Lights is about “life and emotion, going through adversity and finding balance.” Each antagonist is a human emotion “gone too far.” Combat in the game isn’t about killing enemies, but rather “calming them and restoring balance.”

Check out this gameplay demonstration of Strayed Lights.

In order to do so, players must match the color of the enemy and then parry at the right moment. This begins to fill a status bar that once full allows the player to subdue the attacker. The combat style takes inspiration from aikido, which uses the energy of the attacker against them.

The visuals for the game are stunning, with colors that drip with emotion and parallel the emotional journey players take. The developers said the use of scale was also important as they developed this 3-D world.

The demo at PAX East contained the tutorial and part of the first level, including a boss fight. I was able to progress quickly through the tutorial and reach the boss. After two tries, I was able to quell the angry creature and complete the demo. As I caught my flight back to Seattle, I found myself returning to this game and thinking about how much fun the combat was and how smooth the gameplay felt. I will definitely be buying this game at release.

Strayed Lights releases April 25, 2023 on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5|4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam.

Tell us what you think! Will you be checking out Embers’ fist game, Strayed Lights? Share your reactions in the comments below or join the conversation on Boss Rush Network’s Discord and Facebook.

Source: Embers

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