Another action RPG? I hear you, but maybe Stray Blade has something going for it. For starters, it teams you up with a virtual furry buddy.
Having somebody around to lend a hand is an exciting and often anecdote-worthy event in the most popular of action RPGs. Think of all those stories of Elden Ring players and their interactions with other players and how that shapes certain encounters. Or indeed that game’s summons, that act as a proxy for a pal when the going gets tough. How many of us have thanked our ethereal killer jellyfish for wailing on a boss in the same way we did if it was another player? No? Just me?
Stray Blade’s Boji is sort of like that ethereal jellyfish, just a bit more permanent. This anthropomorphic creature finds the player character dead, but now mysteriously revived, in the ancient ruins of a lost civilization that holds great magical potency. The protagonist is effectively chained to this crumbling, yet deceptively powerful place. The only way to break free is to uncover its long-lost secrets and fight gargantuan beasts.
Boji assists combat encounters, and comes with its own set of upgradable abilities to accentuate the player’s own skillset. The player improves by fighting, Boji does it by discovering pieces of ancient lore.
Interestingly, when the player dies and is reborn (the de-facto rule with these kinds of action RPGs), the world moves on. Time flows on in the world, so there’s no killing the same three skeletons after a checkpoint over and over. This also means places change over time, so new enemies can crop up in places they didn’t before, and actions of the player have a tangible, long-lasting impact on the environment.
Combat promises quick-footed action with a strategic ‘High Noon’ style face-off aspect that should help to tilt tough battles in the player’s favour. It sounds good on paper, but obviously, getting hands-on with it will be the true test of how well it works out.
Stray Blade has a bit of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West to it. More so than the obvious From Software comparisons that are normally housed in this particular sub-genre. Its look is more vibrant and characters have a pleasingly chunky style to them, but still has a dark side that demonstrates the underlying decay of the world.
We’ll see if Stray Blade can validate coming back to life when it releases some time in 2023.
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