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Stray [2022 -- BlueTwelve Studio]

Started by Doc_Brown, Jul 01, 2023, 11:00 PM

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It's hard to be too critical of Stray, considering the small size of the team that made it.  The game looks great, both in terms of graphical fidelity and level of detail.  From a technical standpoint, I only noticed a couple of bugs, and there were only a few instances where the game paused briefly to load during gameplay.  And yet due to their small size, the game is lacking in other regards, specifically rudimentary gameplay and short length.

I don't blame the developers for using jump prompts rather than giving players free reign, but there's very little for you to actually do, otherwise.  Sometimes you'll have to run from enemies, other times you can fight back, but the game is a largely linear affair and for the most part you navigate the game world completing fetch quests.  Sure, it's cute that you can meow, scratch things, et cetera, but let's not confuse that with gameplay.

I will say I love the game world--an underground city inhabited by robots after mankind has gone extinct--but we get to experience too little of it.  Toward the end, you wind up in a control room overlooking the city, and while you can make out specific areas you've visited, they add up to a block or two at most.  The setting was based on Kowloon Walled City, and a part of me wishes they'd just given us that (KWC was only 6.4 acres in size).

The areas we do get are mixed.  The Slums is probably the highlight, thanks to its verticality and twisting streets, and while Midtown is larger it achieves this by going wide rather than tall.  Most of the rest of the areas are disappointingly brief, usually very linear by design and with little to do aside from getting from point A to point B.  Some gameplay does slow things down, though, such as some stealth and puzzle solving.

On the faster side of gameplay are the aforementioned chase and combat sequences, both of which involve the Zurks (swarms of little monsters) and neither of which are great.  The latter is particularly annoying, since you fight back with a UV light that doesn't instantly kill them and very quickly overheats.  It's all too common to shine the light on an approaching swarm only to have them pounce on you--and therefore out of the light.

I don't regret playing Stray, mind you.  Playing as a cat gives you a unique ground level perspective, and it allows you to platform up buildings on things that would be too small for a human protagonist (things like pipes, air conditioners, and signs).  But man what I wouldn't give to have a version of this game that was open world and had more actual substance to its gameplay.  What we got feels more like a very polished prototype.
Roads?  Where we're going we don't need roads.