- Everything Is Context Sensitive
- Be Prepared To Run
- When In Hubs, Explore Everything
- There Is Combat
- Cat’s Can’t Read Maps
- The World Is Vertical
- Ask B-12 For Help
Being a cat is pretty darn awesome. Not only do you have nine lives, but you also get the power of unlimited meows and a free pass to accidentally knock things off shelves. Stray is the latest cat-based game, and we are fairly certain it manages to deliver the most accurate depiction of a cat in recent years.
Stray, when taken as a whole, is not that complicated mechanically, but that doesn’t mean it is simplistic, or lacking in nuance. In fact, Stray is excellent at delivering a meaningful experience, whilst also maintaining a fair challenge in all of its Chapters. We are here to ease that entry even further.
Everything Is Context Sensitive
One aspect of Stray that may come as a surprise is that just about everything is context-sensitive. Whether that be scratching a post, knocking down paint pots, or even just jumping. This limits your freedom somewhat as you can’t just jump whenever and wherever, but don’t let this initial shocker deter you from digging deeper.
Despite all of these scripted jumps and whatnot, Stray has a lot of freedom hidden in its world. Just because you can’t jump on the spot doesn’t mean you can’t climb just about any building if you can find the right path. Think of platforming less as a restricted system, and more of an Assassin’s Creed-esque free-running system.
Be Prepared To Run
Stray has a lot of Chapters, and within those Chapters, the game tends to focus on a specific type of gameplay. For example, in The Slums, the game takes on more of a classic adventure style of play. In other areas, however, you will be expected to do some running since, well, you’re a tiny cat.
There is very little combat in Stray, and most encounters with enemies will require some degree of evasion. In the early-mid game, these tend to be running sequences. These are linear and not too long – just be prepared to hold that run button and avoid Zurks like they are the plague – heck, they basically are the plague. A tip is to remember that holding the “jump” button will have you jumping automatically – very handy.
When In Hubs, Explore Everything
There are a few hubs in Stray that make up a more relaxed, almost detective style of gameplay. In these areas, you have a lot of space to mess around in, and the game is not afraid to hide all kinds of things. These can be hidden items or even quests. The most notable is The Slums.
You can spend a large chunk of your playtime just running around this place finding all kinds of interesting gubbins. One robot wants to learn music, so go find him some sheet music. There is a vendor who will trade valuable items for various pieces of junk. These little side quests can often lead, or aid, in larger quests later in the game, so no exploration is ever wasted. You can even get little clues on how the story will progress if you look hard enough.
There Is Combat
Earlier we mentioned you will spend a lot of time running away from enemies – and this is true – however, there is a section where you can fight back. This is a very short section in the grand scheme. It’s also pretty awesome being able to take the fight to the Zurks for a short while.
Combat is incredibly simple. You shine a light on something, and it dies. That’s it. The nuance comes from your inability to use your UV light constantly, and overheating will leave you defenceless. The best way to engage in combat is to use your cat-like grace to outmanoeuvre the enemy and blast them in a hit-and-run kind of way. Easy peasy.
Cat’s Can’t Read Maps
One thing that might throw some people off is the lack of a map. Now Stray is not an open-world game, but it does have some larger hub areas. It can be daunting to players who love a good map. Don’t worry, however. Stray has some phenomenal level design, and a map is not needed to get around.
Even the largest areas of Stray have a wonderful sense of interconnectivity and flow. It may be overwhelming at first, but after a few minutes, you will be running around these open areas like a pro. Every street corner of each hub is instantly recognisable. The game doesn’t have a map, because it has been designed to not need one.
The World Is Vertical
What makes Stray stand out – besides the whole cat thing – is how vertical the game can get. Often the solution to a problem is not on ground level and running around trying to find an open door will not get you very far. You want to be looking up and down constantly to find new ways to approach old problems.
Being a cat, you are very nimble. Climbing buildings is easy if you can find the right environmental objects to get you up top. Things like boxes, or air conditioning will serve you well. Going up isn’t the only way. Sometimes, looking down can get you where you want to go. You are more than capable of squeezing through small gaps for example.
Ask B-12 For Help
If you ever get lost, or you are unsure what to do, you (nearly) always have access to your partner in crime, B-12. This charming little drone will be your connection to the world. Sure, you can climb and navigate, but as a cat, you can’t exactly communicate or operate complex machinery. B-12 can.
Not only that, B-12 can offer hints and advice whenever you need it. If you can’t remember what you need to do with an item, B-12 will tell you. If you don’t know where to go, B-12 will give you a hint. The game doesn’t hold your hand, but if you need a nudge in the right direction, you can rely on your floating buddy.
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