We spent several years desperately looking for solid new horror games to play, so this sudden flood of new releases we’ve been seeing in the genre isn’t something we’re complaining about in the slightest. Jukai Studio’s Stray Souls is one such upcoming title that has certainly turned a few heads. From what’s looking like an atmospheric setting to the emphasis being places on classic survival horror gameplay to how visually impressive it’s looking, the game has certainly piqued our interest in what we’ve seen of it so far. Hoping to learn more about it and what players should expect from it when it launches sometime later this year, we recently reached out to its developers with some of our questions. Below, you can read our interview with Stray Souls game director Artur Laczkowski.
"During the early days of Stray Souls’ development, we took a lot of inspiration from what we consider to be the best of the best in survival horror games."
Stray Souls seems to be taking plenty of inspiration from survival horror classics. Can you talk about some games that you looked at the most to take cues from for the development of Stray Souls?
During the early days of Stray Souls’ development, we took a lot of inspiration from what we consider to be the best of the best in survival horror games. There’s heavy influence from Capcoms’ remakes of Resident Evil 2-4 in a lot of the mechanics of Stray Souls, and when we were creating the atmosphere of the game, we looked at the Silent Hill series for inspiration on how to get the perfect spooky mood. Alan Wake had an influence on the way we handle weapons and inventory, but also was crucial to influencing the narrative itself. We drew inspiration from The Last of Us in creating our environments and some gameplay elements and finally, we sprinkled a little bit of influence from Souls games into our combat systems.
Stray Souls seems to be placing a lot of emphasis on its technical aspects, from its photorealistic visuals to its facial animations. How much have you focused on that aspect of the experience during development, and what can you tell us about the technologies you have used to achieve that?
The visual elements of Stray Souls have been paramount to our development process. We’re doing some really cool things with Metahuman and Unreal 5 to create realistic characters that can truly express the full range of human emotion on their faces.
A horror game’s setting can make or break the experience, and sure enough, Aspen Falls looks like a pivotal part of the game. What should players expect from it in terms of its atmosphere, backstory, and design?
Aspen Falls is at the epicenter of the story of Stray Souls, and as such, we aimed for it to be something players would immediately resonate with. The atmosphere was definitely influenced by the aesthetic of Silent Hill, but we think that players’ experience while exploring the town will have its own flavor unique to Stray Souls. Regarding the backstory of the town, we can’t really say too much without spoiling the story, but as we mentioned before, Aspen Falls is at the epicenter of the events of the game similar to how Silent Hill is the town that ties together that franchise.
"The visual elements of Stray Souls have been paramount to our development process. We’re doing some really cool things with Metahuman and Unreal 5 to create realistic characters that can truly express the full range of human emotion on their faces."
What can you tell us about the game’s combat? How much of a focus will it be throughout the experience?
We really aimed to have as balanced of an experience throughout Stray Souls as possible. There are some areas that are definitely “combat focused” while other places may have some encounters, but balance that with exploration and puzzles. The combat itself was designed to give players the ability to strategize exactly how they want to approach each encounter. We’re looking forward to sharing more about all of that in the months to come.
How extensive will the options in the game’s branching story be? How much will they impact the story and how it plays out?
Our system is a bit different than something you would find in a visually similar game like The Quarry or Until Dawn. The approach we took was more akin to the player projecting their emotions onto Daniel’s reactions to certain revelations about his past, and those projections ultimately influencing the choices they will make along the way. This results in a much tighter narrative that fits our vision for the overall experience in the game.
What can you tell us about the game’s randomization system? How much variety will it inject into proceedings, especially where replays are concerned?
Players will essentially be on their toes regardless of whether they’re on their second playthrough or their tenth. Randomization of key items, resources such as health and ammo, and even enemy placement will go a long way in keeping the player off balance in subsequent runs. One cool thing about our random weather system is that some players may run into enemies while it’s bright and sunny, making it fairly easy to find and dispatch them, but in a subsequent run, it’ll be overcast with heavy fog which will ramp up the difficulty of these encounters quite a bit.
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of the game be?
It’s difficult to say because everyone will play the game at their own pace, but more industrious players may find their sessions extended by exploring the world and really rooting out everything the game has to offer.
"Aspen Falls is at the epicenter of the story of Stray Souls, and as such, we aimed for it to be something players would immediately resonate with."
Do you have any plans to eventually bring the game to the Switch as well?
You can never say never, but at this time, we do not have plans for Switch.
What frame rate and resolution will the game target on the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S?
60 FPS with adaptive resolution, capping out at 4K on the PS5 and Xbox Series X, and 1440p on the Xbox Series S. The exact range on this is still TBD.
What are your thoughts on the Steam Deck? Do you have plans for any specific optimizations for the device?
We absolutely want to get Stray Souls into the hands of as many players as possible and Steam Deck is part of those plans! We don’t necessarily have any specific plans, but the game will benefit from the same optimizations and rendering settings as other devices in its class.