Playing a part of the animal kingdom in video games is not really out of the ordinary. Everything from Spider to Maneater experimented with this concept. Even though this sub-genre is not exactly on everyone’s radar, there’s no doubt that these types of games bring a certain amount of freshness to the gaming community. Stray is the newest addition to this category and it brings a new perspective in escapism with which gamers are enamored. In Stray, players take control of a cat that somehow ended up in a strange, out worldly city that’s crawling with both robotic friendlies and hostiles. The story centers on this cat finding its way out of this strange neon-soaked cybercity and reuniting with its family before it’s too late.
The gameplay that goes with Stray seems to be a mix of platforming, puzzle-solving, stealth, and adventure. This city is populated with humanoid robots that players can interact within a number of ways. Naturally, since players will be taking control of a cat, there will be contextual actions they can take throughout the environment to act like one. Things like rubbing against NPCs legs, sharpening claws on the side of the couch, balancing on beams, and sleeping on random inanimate objects can be done. Of course, since this will be an adventure game, there will be a number of obstacles to overcome. The cat will need to bypass a number of environmental puzzles by using objects to solve them. Things like pushing a heavy object over a ledge to break through a floor to using a steel cup to clog up a venting fan will be the norm. Everything will rely mostly on common sense and physics for players to figure out their next pathway throughout this adventure.
Lost, But Not Forgotten
Even though this city will have a slew of environmental hazards to bypass, there will indeed also be enemies to take on. According to the trailer, this city seems to be invaded by an alien threat called Zurks. They will attack the cat in swarms and players will need to find ways to avoid them and later on, the cat will become equipped to smite them on contact. Apparently, later on in the campaign, the cat will meet a small friendly drone named B-12. This companion will tag along with the cat throughout its journey to help out with interacting with the world. This drone will assist with the opening; doors, latches, safes, and things of that ilk. Thus, B-12 will help the cat talk to the mechanical NPCs that habitat this city which will open up all-new gameplay mechanics throughout the playthrough. Through these conversations, players will unravel mysteries that surround this city and discover what exactly is going on.
Even though Stray seems to be a somber, slow-paced game, there are going to be some moments of high-octane action. From what was shown in the trailer, the cat will have moments being chased by the Zurks and quick-witted timing and platforming will win the day. On top of this, there will be segments of the on-the-rails vehicle riding to where the player must steer make-shift vehicles while avoiding obstacles. So, it seems that developers Annapurna Interactive are stitching together an adventure that breaks up the mundanity of exploration and item collecting. Throughout the course of the story, the cat will eventually become equipped with a little backpack that will carry B-12 and also will be used for storing inventory. Most likely, Stray will have light RPG mechanics to where the cat can gather consumables and even trade items with merchants. Maybe B-12 will have something to do with the cat upgrading its abilities, or it is possible that the cat could do it on its own. Players will have to wait and see how things turn out.
A Cat’s Life
As mentioned before, the cat in Stray will be mostly harmless until it teams up with B-12. By that point in the game, the cat will be able to defend itself through the use of a special light that will pop the Zurks on contact. Chances are that this light will be the default type of attack that will most likely be upgraded throughout the story. Of course, that’s just speculation, and it is safe to assume that the developers over at Annapurna Interactive will implement different abilities for the cat to fight with. This also may be true with unlocking abilities for the cat to traverse the environment. From what was shown in the trailer, Stray could be a very linear game. If nothing else, maybe this adventure will be more tuned to a Metroidvania format to where the cat may need different abilities to unlock different pathways through the city.
Even though the story seems initially thin, it appears that more exposition will be laid out to players through the use of conversations with NPCs. It is clear that the cat will encounter all manners of colorful characters that will either assist in fleshing out the story or providing new tools to use. Of course, this won’t be possible until players come across B-12 later in the game. The trailer gave players a general taste of what the adventure entails, but there is definitely still some mystery surrounding this title. At least, gamers know that this world seems interesting and it is brimming with intrigue. It will be interesting to figure out exactly what the Zurks are and what happened to the human race. As of right now, Stray seems to be well into development and things are coming together.
Stray was originally slated to be released in October of 2021, but unforeseen circumstances have delayed this title. There is still some information to unravel about this game and hopefully Annpurna Interactive will unveil some more content before its release. As of right now, Stray seems to be an interesting little indie adventure that could breathe some new life in a dormant sub-genre. Stray is expected to launch in early 2022 for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and the PC.