Developers boasting that their games are so rich that it’s nearly impossible for one person to experience everything seems to be all the rage right now. Dying Light 2 studio Techland revealed earlier this year that it took more than 500 hours to explore everything the sequel has to offer. Bethesda either didn’t hear the negative reaction to it or decided to ignore it, and a few months later Bethesda made a similar announcement of its own, when it revealed that Starfield would have more than 1,000 satellites when it launches in 2023. Planets to explore.
While there’s been quite a bit of backlash and discussion around these two examples in particular, when it comes to video games, most of us go for the “bigger is better” rhetoric. Perhaps now more than ever, many AAA games sell for $70 at launch. To protect video games that consume all their resources, sometimes bigger is better. Take a recent example from Xenoblade Chronicles 3. If you’ve played the latest installment, or just read the reviews, you’ll quickly see that trying to reduce this game to one that doesn’t require a lot of your time simply won’t work.
But that’s not always true, and I think Stray has shown me that more than any previous game. If you missed the Stray hype before this, I highly recommend correcting it if possible. It’s available on Steam, broke Annapurna’s concurrent player record on launch day, and is still a free download if you own PS Plus Extra or Premium. Best of all, even if you do have live service games or something like Xenoblade taking up almost all of your video game time right now, Stray won’t distract you, if at all.
Check out the stray version
If you’re anything like me, Stray is likely to be a welcome break from honing your chosen battle pass, or move on to a side quest that can add three hours to your virtual journey. Stray took me nearly five hours (five hours and 45 seconds to be exact) from start to finish, and I’m the type of person who’s often fascinated by the simple things that lie right in front of me.
Just because it’s short doesn’t mean it’s not deserving of respect, which is indeed the point I want to make. This story is not only unique, but also fascinating, and I come back for more whenever I have free time, and it even touched me more than once. If you don’t have to hold back tears when the game’s main feline falls into the city of death and starts limp, you may want to check your pulse. There’s one more moment at the end of the game that I won’t spoil here because I’m trying to convince some of you to play it, but to quote the great Michael Scott, it makes me feel as though my heart has dropped into A bucket of boiling tears.
It’s worth emphasizing that Stray wasn’t my first short game. For the first 30 years of my life, I didn’t play 100 hours of epics very often, when all of a sudden I could be a cat game made me step back and say, “Wait, is there another way?” Sonic 2 is probably my favorite game to date. Technically even shorter than Stray, and while it can’t save my game, it’s probably a 100 hour game for a 4 year old. I was obviously more patient then than I am now. I certainly wouldn’t finish Sonic Origins if I had to restart the game every time I used up my life.
Realizing that I’m probably a short game right now, and it’s not just because Stray is also very good. The first time I started playing Breath of the Wild before Stray was released definitely had a lot to do with it. I’m well aware of how much life it will cost me, and between playing something new and the limited time I have to actually play the game each day, it will be a challenge to complete BOTW before the sequel arrives. On the other hand, I don’t hate it. Quite the opposite. I like what I’ve seen so far. It’s beautiful, and every time I launch it, I have a hard time believing it’s on the Nintendo Switch, let alone the Switch games that have been available since the console’s launch.
When I find a few precious hours to play, the first decision I have to make is whether I’m going to play something on the Switch or PS5. Aside from never-ending games like Fortnite and Rocket League, I try to have a match at any given time. Lately, that means I have to decide between Stray and BOTW. Strey wins the fight every time. Again, not because I don’t like BOTW, but because I prefer Stray. I can play it for a short time. Even though I only played it for 30 minutes, its story has improved a lot. That’s not the case for a 50-hour game like BOTW (and honestly, probably at least double that if you really want to experience it).
Now that Stray is in my rearview mirror, I’ll naturally re-select my Switch and BOTW at least half the time, maybe even more depending on the next PS5 game in my never-ending backlog. Games that don’t consume my life might be my precedent right now, especially when they’re as new and unique as Stray. That probably means that games like BOTW and Starfield will take me longer when they finally arrive, because if there’s an interesting game and a game with a good story to tell, I’ll just give up. I don’t need to know exactly how long it will take to play the game, but knowing whether it’s going to be closer to 5 hours or 50 hours will have a big impact on my priorities from now on.
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