Inspired by classics of the survival horror genre, and featuring a soundtrack partly composed by the legendary Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill fame, it’s safe to say we were drawn in by Stray Souls like a moth to a flame. Finally going hands-on with the title, however, it’s clear to see that it’s not ready for the limelight just yet.
Stray Souls opens with a pretty shocking scene, in which a man seemingly murders his family. We’re then fast-forwarded a number of years and put in control of a young man called Daniel, moving into a property he’s unexpectedly inherited from a grandmother he’s never met. It soon becomes clear that this house holds some pretty dark secrets, though while we’d be running like hell upon experiencing strange phenomena like an apparition of a woman peering around corners, Daniel largely takes it in his stride.
He does get out of the house eventually, though. In fact, Stray Souls will take you through a variety of locations. And while you’re defenceless in the opening section, you soon find yourself armed and more than capable of taking down any grotesque creatures that stand in your way. We’d say that Daniel is too keen to be the hero, even, soon shouting one liners at his attackers before letting rip with a hail of bullets. It feels a little silly.
But all things considered, that’s the least of Stray Souls’ problems. You’ll find that the camera is pretty terrible, for example, especially when you’re in tight environments. Character faces are also a little too animated, making tense scenes almost comical. Hopefully these issues, as well as a general lack of polish, can be quickly resolved with a patch or two. But then there are problems that may be harder to fix. The combat, for example, is simply perfunctory. It doesn’t help that so many enemies are thrown at you – any tension developed is soon lost when the game essentially becomes a shooter with ammo crates strewn every few yards or so.
Despite being billed as a survival horror game, there’s no inventory system here, either. Want to heal? You simply need to find a first aid box. Keen to see what the key is for that you just picked up? You can’t examine it. It robs the game of the much-needed resource management element to truly make situations feel tense. Instead, Stray Souls feels streamlined and a little bit shallow.
Thankfully there are some promising aspects. The visuals are rather nice at least, and the premise is pretty neat. There are some solid puzzles to solve, too, which are very reminiscent of those found in classic survival horror titles. It’s just a shame that all these elements are diluted by so much guff. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel though: the developer of Stray Souls, Jukai Studio, is currently working on a hefty patch to address many of the issues that players have reported.
Jump into Stray Souls right now, then, and chances are you won’t be impressed or have a good time. But give it a while and that might change. We can’t ever see Stray Souls standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the big hitters of the genre, but it could end up being a worthy diversion after a bit of work.
Stray Souls is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.