Stray Blade puts you in the blade-wielding hands of Farren as they try to escape the Valley of Acrea after an unfortunate incident. This action-adventure game’s combat will put you through the wringer just like a Dark Souls game, but give you the fun of mascot-led adventure games. While there is a strong stench of death in the air, the world feels somewhat light-hearted due to your constant respawns and fun interactions between Farren and their animal sidekick Boji. The world-building the devs at Point Blank Games have done is reminiscent of games like Kena: Bridge of Spirits. You are thrust into a world with little information but build your knowledge through the use of visual storytelling as well as from the words of your furry counterpart. Stray Blade features a beautifully-crafted world marred by violence and strife along with combat that feels like a 90s version of a Souls game.
Found the treasure only to die
The story of Stray Blade focuses on Farren who found this ancient world and immediately died. Afterward, they are brought back to life and discover they are stuck in this valley until they are able to find the one individual who can help them escape. Your sidekick along the way is Boji. This little furry creature is one of the game’s many highlights. Throughout my journey, Boji was there to make remarks, help in combat, and tell me more about the story.
While at first the story seemed a bit dull, it was quickly developed through visual storytelling of a world filled with beasts and armed guards fighting to survive along with snippets of lore from Boji. After a while, I found myself invested in the story despite its rough start.
On top of the story, there is a beautiful world to explore with many reasons to return to previous areas. Changes slowly happen as you delve deeper into the environment and unlock blueprints that allow you to craft better weapons and armor. You can head back to fight more enemies and discover new secrets. Finding new hidden paths and running into a wide range of foes was enjoyable and made my exploration efforts feel constantly rewarded.
Dark Souls’ little cousin
On the cover, you might expect the combat to be responsive and that the gameplay would be polished to a sheen but that isn’t the case. I won’t say that others won’t find it enjoyable, but the combat certainly wasn’t for me. While I love Souls games, the way that Stray Blade’s combat was designed often threw me off. The parry and dodge system works by having enemies glow either red for dodge or blue for parry, but the mechanics never became natural enough that I was parrying every attack perfectly because attacks felt inconsistent across all the enemies. When I got that perfect dodge or parry, it made me feel great until I immediately got hit by another attack that came out of nowhere.
There were many instances where the combat felt laggy and unresponsive, and a few times where the enemies seemed to track me despite being in a fixed animation making the dodging feel almost pointless. There is a degree of skill in it, so it never feels unfair. Many fights felt too reliant on parrying and dodging for any other strategy to have an impact. If I didn’t break an enemy’s poise, I was wailing on them for what felt like an eternity. I guess this gives merit to the tried and true comment of “git gud.”
The world building done for Stray Blade is great and shouldn’t be ignored. The story is something that is easy to comprehend, yet has hidden layers that really flesh out the world around you. Combined with a companion that makes the trip a bit more enjoyable and great exploration, there is something there for many to enjoy. Unfortunately, for a game that is focused on fighting, the off-beat combat throws off the fun exploration.
Stray Blade was reviewed on PC with a code provided by Point Blank Games. It is also available on PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
- Great exploration that gives you reasons to return to previously traversed areas
- Intriguing story that builds as you investigate the valley
- Fun animal companion that offers story and witty remarks
- Combat is too reliant on parrying and dodging to be worthwhile
- Timing and attacks feel wildly inconsistent between enemies