The best way to describe Lost in Random is as a board game-inspired fairy tale that borrows from the works of Tim Burton. That might not sound a lot on paper, but the action-adventure game, created by Zoink (the developers behind the underrated indie gem Fe) and published by EA Originals manages to be an intriguing version of this concept. The publisher has been hyping this game up in the past couple of EA Play Lives, and it's finally time for launch.
Windows Central got a sneak peek of the game, which is out on Sept. 10, and played a couple of hours of a preview build. There's a lot more of this upcoming Xbox game to go, but it drew us in with a striking visual design, easy-to-understand but challenging-to-master gameplay, and a theme of randomness symbolized by a six-sided die.
The game begins with a roll of a very important die, called the dark dice (no idea why they don't use the singular). Rolling a six on the dark dice when you reach 12 years old will grant you the "privilege" of living with the Queen, a tall and striking figure that hides her face behind a mask. That sounds great for our protagonist Even's sister Odd, who rolls a six. However, Even starts having dreams and hallucinations that say otherwise. She goes on a quest then to reach the Queen and save her sister.
As you can see, the die imagery is strong right off the bat. It ties into the game in multiple ways, from the game's themes of randomness to the board-game aesthetic, which Zoink developers said was a huge inspiration in the conceptual stages of planning. Olov Redmalm, creative director and lead writer on the project, told media in an August event that members of the team started painting and creating images to figure out where their next game was headed. It was about setting a mood first, along with the game mechanics, and then crafting the story and all the details after.
"It wasn't until painting of a girl and a dice in this giant board game world," he said. "When that image came up we knew there was something there."
To tie together the board game imagery and this theme of randomness, the team created a combat system tied to your die, a sentient, magical die named Dicey, and a set of cards. Each combat scenario requires you to hack and slash at your opponents, but there's a twist. When you defeat or deal a decent amount of damage to the enemies, you gain energy, which you can then use to roll Dicey. Depending on how much you roll, you can play a card from your deck, which can grant you access to new weapons and traps. For example, rolling well allowed me to use the Bow of One, an early-game weapon that turns your trusty slingshot into a powered-up bow and arrow. I also enjoyed using a trap simply called Bomb!, and you could probably guess what that did.
It's all fairly easy to comprehend, which makes jumping into combat a breeze. I didn't get to experience enough of it to say how it's going to scale up over the course of the runtime, but the game is constantly giving you new cards that you can work into your strategy. In the presentation, I saw a card that can allow you to slow down time in a certain area, which I was not able to unlock during my playtime, so there is a lot to look out for.
When you're not in combat, you're exploring the six areas of this world, each named after a side of a die. In my time with the game, I got to explore Even and Odd's One area but was able to make my way to Twotown. Each of the towns has their own themes. In Twotown, for example, everybody has two personalities that are set by the roll of the queen's dice. One day they could be jovial and the next, dour and melancholy. However, this has gone on so long that people are starting to physically manifest these personalities, sometimes in grotesque ways. In one area, you meet a merchant who has a personality on his back, and both try to make deals with you to remove the other one out of the business and the picture.
Making your way through all the areas to get to the Queen isn't going to be easy. You're a child, but you're mostly on your own, tasked with making sense of the world around you, along with the weird dreams you're having and the ghost you have to follow. The developers say this is all a part of the theme of randomness, that the world doesn't work in a way that makes sense nor does it always work out in your favor. Part of Even's story about growing up is how she learns to deal with that. If you roll badly in combat, that's just a part of the system.
"There's so much randomness in the world, and there's so much randomness in your life, and there's also so much randomness in Even's life, and she actually has to learn how to live with that," Head of Development Klaus Lyngeled said.
To add to that randomness, the team hired Ryan North, arguably most well known as a comics writer on the delightful The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and for the Adventure Time comic books. North wrote the dialogue, according to the Zoink team, and it shows. The game's dialogue is chock full of dark humor, surprising observations, and creative character mannerisms. It's in line with a world that looks straight out of Tim Burton concept art, but it still manages to surprise you, even after a couple of hours.
If Lost in Random can keep up its sense of surprise throughout its full runtime, I think Zoink will have a hit on its hands. The game is a wild mix of horror, fairy-tale wonder, and unique combat, and we can't wait to see what the rest of it has in store.
Lost in Random is set to launch on Sept. 10, 2021, on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.
Die or dice?
Lost in Random
Everything comes down to a roll of a die
EA Originals' Lost in Random has Even set out on a quest to rescue her sister Odd from the mysterious and imposing Queen. Along the way, she must confront the randomness of the world and rely on her friend, who also just happens to be a sentient die.
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