The action-adventure genre has long been a staple of the industry, and it doesn’t seem like its popularity will be waning down – not anytime soon at least. 2022 has been an absolute rollercoaster of a ride when it comes to action-adventure titles with the likes of Horizon Forbidden West having been released to rave reviews, and others like Dying Light 2: Stay Human having been released to a rather lukewarm reception yet still managed to be a commercial success.
However, amongst the barrage of these AAA titles lies BlueTwelve Studio’s upcoming Stray – an action-adventure game starring an interesting protagonist; a cat of all things. BlueTwelve is a small indie studio that claims to be comprised of both cats and humans alike, and Stray is the studio’s debut title. After a fair bit of delays, Stray is finally looking to be on track to release next month. Suffice to say, it’s looking to be an intriguing game – and one that could surprisingly end up being one of the biggest games that 2022 has to offer.
Stray sees players controlling a well, stray cat that has apparently been separated from its family, and has ended up in a cyberpunk dystopia. Why the cat ended up here is a mystery that players will need to solve, which will entail solving another long-standing ancient mystery and finding a way back home to its loved ones. Of course, given the fact that our protagonist is a cat – BlueTwelve wouldn’t most likely have a lot of room for characterization – although it could be argued that a cute cuddly furball doesn’t need a well-defined character and motivations to be adorable and worth rooting for. Obviously, a cat cannot communicate with robots on its own – so a drone by the name of B-12 will be aiding the cat in their adventures – and there’s a great potential to explore a growing bond between the two creatures.
As mentioned before, Stray is set in the distant future where the world is overrun by robots. The cyberpunk dystopia looks to be one that’s going to be a treat to explore. The game looks visually striking, and that can be credited to the stellar visual design on display here. There’s a stark contrast between the bustling neon-lit streets and the murky underbellies of this city, yet the artists have managed to retain some continuity within the many different environments. The walls are filled with varied graffiti, and the streets are filled with a ton of puddles that reflect the neon lights, and so on.
While Stray isn’t an open-world title, the game seems to be taking place in large and open-ended levels with a bunch of side paths and alternative routes that one could take to reach the objective. The cat is a nimble creature, and as such – it can scale up buildings and other structures with relative ease, and thoroughly exploring these areas will most likely net some sort of reward or story beats or lore information of some kind.
This leads us nicely into the gameplay for Stray. BlueTwelve’s debut title is played in the third-person perspective and will see players exploring the game’s distinct locales and completing quests for a bunch of NPCs that you find around the world as you slowly and steadily advance your greater quest to somehow reach back home. The bread and butter of the gameplay will entail solving puzzles and parkouring through the environments, which while not revolutionary in any way – looks supremely fun with smooth animations that all blend in seamlessly with one another. The developers have also added a few neat blemishes to the gameplay proceedings, such as you being able to scratch the sides of a sofa (because why not?) and being able to surprise people by catching them off-guard among others.
While Stray is technically an action-adventure title, it seems that it will be really light on the action side of things. Players will start the game without any powers and will have to resort to creative strategies to avoid enemy encounters. The trailer showcases multiple instances of this, with the cat barely managing to scrape by enemy encounters by jumping to higher vantage points. But then, later on, players will have access to what’s looking to be a purple UV light that will make short work of enemies. We don’t know if there will be more options to dispatch enemies in the final release, but the focus on avoiding combat altogether looks to be a neat idea – and one that’s worth exploring to its fullest potential.
Why Stray could end up becoming one of the biggest games of the year comes down to two major factors. The first is obvious enough, the release date and platforms. Stray’s development cycle hasn’t been the smoothest, and that can at least partly be blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic and its after-effects on the games industry. Either way, Stray is set to release on July 19th – which is usually a dry spell for video game releases. This gives BlueTwelve’s debut an ample amount of time to shine in the spotlight, which is further helped by the game’s cross-gen release on both the PS4 and PS5. The cross-gen release essentially provides a large target demographic for the developer, which is really great for potential sales figures. Furthermore, Stray will also be available for free on launch for all PS Plus Extra and Premium members – which practically guarantees that a large number of players would at least try out the game.
The second major reason is the simple fact that Stray is simply shaping up to be a great game with a highly popular setting. Games set against a cyberpunk dystopia are frequent, but highly anticipated games utilizing that backdrop such as the likes of Cyberpunk 2077 have failed to deliver on their lofty promises. While there’s no guarantee that Stray will be of markedly higher quality than other cyberpunk games, if it manages to deliver on what it promises – it could end up filling the void for countless fans craving for that very same experience. To add to that, Stray’s gameplay loop and progression systems might be simple, but in the current market scenario where most releases are bloated with extensive skill trees and shoehorned RPG mechanics – this simplistic nature might actually work in Stray‘s favor to help it carve out a distinct identity of its own.
So to conclude, the stars look to be aligning in favor of BlueTwelve’s debut title. A perfect stage has been set for Stray, and all that’s left now is to deliver a game that delivers on its promises of a likable action adventure featuring a cat. Provided BlueTwelve succeeds in that, Stray could end up being one of the dark horses of 2022, and we are hoping with crossed fingers that it ends up being worthy of all the hype and anticipation.
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