Date: April 26, 2023
The action-adventure Strayed Lights came out yesterday, and we thought it does a great job marrying heartfelt narrative and tight, parry-based combat. The devs were kind enough to take time out of a busy launch week to answer a few of our questions — check out the interview below, or read our Strayed Lights review first if you’d like more context!
EIP: You’ve said in other interviews that the game’s combat was inspired by Sekiro, so should players expect the game to be as difficult as a FromSoft title? What’s your overall approach to difficulty?
Embers: We love games like Sekiro because they rely on the feeling of overcoming hardship. That said, we wanted to bring this feeling to a broader audience so Strayed Lights should be accessible to most players. We took the easy to learn, hard to master approach by crafting a parry mechanic that is forgiving. To support this, we made sure that we are not punishing but encouraging the use of the parry, both by allowing it to be off (in color or timing) and adding mechanics to reward those that master it.
EIP: The color matching system for parries is pretty unique – can you talk about how that mechanic came to be? Did it go through any significant changes during development?
Embers: For Strayed Lights we wanted to add novelty to the parry mechanic, and were inspired by an old shoot ‘em up: Ikaruga, so we mixed it with a color system of having to match the color of the enemy to parry (blue or orange). This completes our meticulous approach to combat and immersive flow by reinforcing observation of enemy movements to react accordingly. It got a 3rd color during prototyping to force dodges instead of parries and create more movement.
EIP: There’s no text or dialog in Strayed Lights, which is also a fairly uncommon choice. What led to this choice?
Embers: We love games in which you have no text or only a low amount (Ico, Journey, Shadow of the Colossus, etc.). We feel there is a beauty to focusing on experiencing or showing rather than telling and that it increases immersion so we took the challenge. Also, the story we wanted to tell is about human emotions and finding balance, which is something to achieve not with speech but actions.
EIP: The game’s art style as a whole feels very bold and stylized, but still quite readable – was there a particular intention or goal with this design decision?
Embers: We wanted to have a design that is both unique and supporting gameplay. Therefore, in order to make the gameplay colors as readable as possible, we decided to use as much as possible contrasts in colors used, scales and levels of detail. Thus, the characters stand out from the environment, and this encouraged us to have strong lighting effects in often foggy environments.
EIP: What was the biggest struggle during development?
Embers: Introducing players to the atypical approach of parry first in combat. We believed strongly that parry is both achievable and rewarding, but we had to have an entry in the game that also convinced players to try it. This made us take great care in how we handle the tutorial and the order and rate at which you unlock your actions.
EIP: What is the team most proud of?
Embers: The game as a whole. It went from being a crazy idea of doing a game in 3 years with less than 10 people that could tackle bigger budget production to a finished product that we are all proud of. We had time to develop an intuitive and rewarding gameplay experience with a story focused on unique encounters that are memorable.
EIP: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Embers: We hope that you will enjoy the gameplay of Strayed Lights as much as we did while creating it. We can’t wait to have people try it and discover the world and its atypical inhabitants and see how they interpret the events.
Thanks again to Embers for answering our questions! Strayed Lights is available now on all major platforms, and you can support the devs directly by buying it from their site. (That isn’t an affiliate link — we just thought the game was awesome, and Valve probably has enough money already.)