STAFF REVIEW of Strayed Lights (Xbox One)

Monday, May 15, 2023.
by Peggy Doyle

Strayed Lights Box art When I has the opportunity to preview Strayed Lights a few months ago I was truly taken by the art style, music and story that I was able to play. Now that the full release is out, I was keen to dive in and see what had changed and where the story was going to take me. Would I still struggle with the unusual combat system in place? Would the story be fleshed out enough to continue the emotional journey I has started?

Fitting from the developers with the name Embers, Strayed Lights starts at the beginning of your life as a light, a mere spark of light, an ember. I was drawn in immediately with the art style as they made this ember resemble a toddler, complete with uneasy balance a real toddler would have. As you toddle along for the first little while, finding your patch, you eventually grow and get faster in your movement. You learn to sprint and jump. You are taught some simple mechanisms for traversing the world you are in. To be honest, for the first hour of Strayed Lights I felt relatively lost as you aren’t given any real sort of direction and there is no hand holding to teach you. I guess this sort of falls in line with the newborn character that you are, as you are alone and must learn to survive on your own. After your light energy (your soul?) is ripped from you by a shadowy entity, you face them down. During this encounter your core is shattered, with fragments being spread throughout the world. Your story is about finding your fragments and making yourself whole again.

Very rarely will a game introduce me to a new fighting mechanic. I’ve been gaming for about four decades and have experienced it all, or so I thought. Normally you have attacks like guns, swords or bows, or even melee attacks to take your enemies down, but Strayed Lights gave me something new. You rely almost exclusively on a unique parrying system for your battles. Now, as someone who is not good at parrying in most games, and only really use this technique to pass tutorials normally, this was a huge wake up call. How was I going to play a game that relied on parrying as it’s only real fight mechanic? I struggled; I struggled a lot.

Using your left bumper on the Xbox controller, you change the colour of the light you have to match the colour being used by the enemy. You will start with one colour, eventually adding more colours that you will rotate though in your battles. Your first two are blue and orange. Besides these colours to match and parry, there is also a third colour, purple, that you can’t parry, so you have to dodge that one. You also have some minor offensive attacks. Changing colours and parrying on time was not a great experience for me at first, but I did eventually get better at it. Not great, but better at least. Parrying is also the only way to regain health in Strayed Lights, meaning at times I was forced to play dangerously at low health in order to try to get the perfect parries to regain health. This goes against the philosophy of most games I’ve played where you can rely on health potions, or skills that let you regenerate health while hiding for example.

Parrying is also how you build up enough energy to use powerful attacks against enemies. As you fill an enemy damage meter you will use a sort of ultimate ability to permanently destroy and remove them from the world. With the parrying being the only real form of combat, it did get repetitive and I did wish for some more options, but I have to also celebrate the simplicity of this choice. The story is ultimately about battling your demons and dark emotions, so having a simple defense style to fight makes sense if you think about it. You’re not really going to attack them, more so fend them off and dispel them.

Running around the beautiful alien sci-fi world was smooth but the platforming had moments that left me completely frustrated. Often your character would only climb if they were in a very specific spot and then they might still struggle before they would climb. When you land after a large jump, you will hit the ground and have to wait for a few moments to regain composure and stand. This can amount to a lot of wasted time. There are moments when every second counts. The platforming felt cumbersome at times, but thankfully this wasn’t the main focus on the game, the battles were.

As you are moving throughout the world there are crystals to find and collect, as well as collecting others after defeating your enemies. There are items connected to lore that you can locate as well. Moving around the open world is easy and you can search around and find your way back to original path relatively quickly in each section. You use these crystals to upgrade your skills. While the skill tree is minimal, there were enough options to make the game more interesting. Skills include better and more powerful attacks (like a lunge attack) and even a buff that allows you to ignore the colours temporarily and just parry without worrying about matching the enemy attack colour. This was a perk that was used often by me. Most perks have cool down periods between uses.

There is no dialogue in Strayed Lights, Embers instead choosing to rely on the atmosphere, design and music to guide you through the story. Thankfully this is an easy task as they have chose to work with Austin Wintory, the genius behind the music in games like Journey and Abzu, who is a master of making you feel things through music. Working with ethereal wind instruments or dancing percussion, the soundtrack moved you through each section as if you were learning a new language each time the world changed around you. The soundtrack for Strayed Lights is nothing short of a masterpiece. The world's atmosphere and backdrop are full of rich greens, blues, pinks and purple and your bright flame of a character stands out in contrast to the rich background colours. I couldn’t help but snap some screenshots in game. Even though the fighting mechanic in Strayed Lights was frustrating to me, the design and soundtrack kept me anchored in my chair and wanting to keep moving forward to see what treats may lie around the next bend.

Strayed Lights is short and sweet with a run time of around five hours to complete. A unique third person adventure game for a debut from Embers. The unique combat style was something I didn’t truly enjoy at first, but once you learned the cadence of each enemies’ attacks it became more intuitive and almost Zen like at times, especially with the soundtrack swelling during the boss battles. It’s easy to overlook the shortcoming with the finicky platforming mechanics or lack of variety in enemies when you were feasting on the sights and sounds around you. It’s a great debut from Embers and a reminder that sometimes simple things can bring you joy. In short, Strayed Lights shines bright.

**Strayed Lights was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


Site Statistics

Registered Members: 76,419
Forum Posts: 725,959
Xbox One Titles: 5,241
Xbox 360 Titles: 1,086
Xbox 360 Kinect Titles: 95
Xbox 360 Arcade Titles: 586
Original Xbox Titles: 987
Staff Reviews: 2,458
Member Reviews: 10,339
News Articles: 16,514
Screenshots: 37,803
Xbox 360 Achievements: 45,112
Xbox 360 Faceplates: 2,016
Cheat Codes: 1,706

Latest News

See News Archives

Community Forum Activity

KeyWe Giveaway!
Post by Variation-XBA
0 Replies, 16323 Views

2021: XBA is still here
Post by shrew king
32 Replies, 130720 Views

Watch Dogs: Legion
Post by Nato King
0 Replies, 98677 Views

Xbox Series X or S
Post by Nato King
5 Replies, 114822 Views

Spellbreak Grand Magus Pack (3) and Starter Pack (7) Giveaway!
Post by Variation-XBA
0 Replies, 108693 Views

I pay $ 1000! I search the Element 54 Canadian launch Team signaturen Faceplate
Post by Smill
0 Replies, 124284 Views

Xbox one no signal
Post by debrartin
0 Replies, 122144 Views

do you remember?
Post by SnoochyBoochy
3 Replies, 162986 Views

i haz xbox
Post by SnoochyBoochy
0 Replies, 126522 Views

Claiming the first thread of 2020
Post by Kraft
7 Replies, 206062 Views

Important! I pay $ 1000! I search the Sweden launch and the Element 54 Faceplate
Post by Smill
3 Replies, 122136 Views

Squad Up
Post by samslophead
0 Replies, 213480 Views

TERA Skinned Xbox One X Giveaway!
Post by Variation-XBA
0 Replies, 152014 Views

Starfield Release expectations?
Post by DJ tx
4 Replies, 265545 Views

Issue with Xbox live on Xbox home
Post by rcmpayne
0 Replies, 148367 Views

© 2000-2023 - All rights reserved. All trademarks are properties of their respective owners.
Xbox is a registered trademark of Microsoft. is not affiliated with Microsoft.

Made in Canada
Site Design by Cameron Graphics