Anchor Staff Writer
In a world wiped of humanity, robots rise to power, residing over a decimated earth riddled with sentient bacteria. Walled away in an underground city, sunlight is foreign to these mechanical citizens who have until now, been forgotten by the outside world. An unlikely hero, a small feline, falls into the heart of the city and unfolds into a dystopian story told via an adventure-style video game that has proven to be one of the most popular releases of this year.
“Stray” was developed by BlueTwelve Studio in partnership with Annapurna Interactive: a video game publisher best known for their previous projects like “Outer Wilds” and “What Remains of Edith Finch.” The publisher’s renowned success allowed for vast excitement across social media prior to the release of “Stray” this past July. Launch day couldn’t have come sooner as the promise of a completely unique storyline hooked thousands of video game fans from the beginning: The player would traverse a post-apocalyptic world as a humble house cat, destined to rescue a community of robotic citizens from their city-disguised prison beneath the ground.
Tackling such an obscure plot is no small feat, but the team of creative minds behind “Stray” showed no fear. BlueTwelve Studio introduced their players to an outwardly zany city with loveable characters and a dark history, creating a widely unique experience almost immediately. The environment alone was ingenious, seen in the discarded city inspired greatly by the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, where tightly-packed buildings create a maze to be uncovered. The citizens roaming Walled City 99 in “Stray” cultivate a broken-down world that would be difficult for any human to navigate, but a simple playground for a cat. Typical feline habits are utilized as game mechanics as the player leaps between platforms, paws objects off of high ledges to solve puzzles, and scratches away at secrets. Just like its players, many robotic characters of the world of “Stray” are delighted to meet the feline outsider, creating several charming moments between AI and pet.
“Stray” quickly wormed its way into the hearts of its audience. A recorded 62,963 concurrent players were already immersed within three hours after release, setting a trend for how quickly it would rise to popularity within the following months. The cyberpunk video game is debated to be this year’s best release, competing against incredible titles from beloved franchises, such as “Elden Ring” and “Dying Light 2 Stay Human.”
Having a unique plot, mechanics and endearing characters, “Stray” has proven itself to be a worthy contender, and many are waiting with bated breath to see where the story is taken next. A sequel hasn’t been guaranteed, but the heartfelt yet ominous ending, where computer screens flicker just outside the city’s walls, seem to imply an opportunity to continue this adventure with our newest feline friend. Until then, “Stray” seems that it will continue to rise in popularity, creating a community of fans who have too fallen in love with this cyberpunk world, conquered by the cutest protagonist of 2022.