In the world of Random, there are six worlds, each representative of the side of a die. There's Onecroft at the bottom of the world and Sixtopia at the top, where the evil and towering queen lives. She has decreed that there will be no dice in the world of Random, and nothing will be left up to chance. Instead, she will control everything with her die, including the fates of children. This is where Even comes in. Her sister, Odd, has been taken from her to live with the queen, and she must go and rescue her with a die of her own.
Lost in Random, when described like this, feels a little too on the nose. The dice imagery is very heavy-handed, and the idea of randomness is worn on its sleeve. Even so, this indie from Zoink and EA Originals works. It's a game that takes an idea and spreads it throughout every bit of itself; it's much deeper than a vague description would lead you to believe. Sure, it's not spread evenly and suffers slightly when it comes to combat, but the game's writing is great, creating that connection to the randomness theme and bringing you along for the ride.
Bottom line: Lost in Random is all about randomness, and while that idea doesn't go far enough in some cases, the game is still a great coming-of-age tale with tons of laughs and tension.
- Excellent writing
- Neat combat system
- Gorgeous aesthetic
- Combat doesn't scale super well
- Map is atrocious
Lost in Random: What I liked
Lost in Random hits a lot of the most important notes many of us would recognize from our favorite fairy tales. There's an important quest, a magical world, an evil queen, monstrous creatures, and lessons learned along the way. It's also able to separate itself from those traditions by bringing in games, specifically board games, and uses them to traverse the world. It may look like a standard fairy tale game, even more so with the Tim Burton-esque aesthetic, but the gaming aspects keep the player on their toes.
|Category||Lost in Random|
|Title||Lost in Random|
|Minimum Requirements||Windows 10 (64-bit)|
AMD FX 6100 / Intel i3 6300
NVIDIA GTX 750 / AMD Radeon R9 270X
|Play Time||12-14 hours|
What helps this along is a key aspect of board games: the die. Dice are a great way to randomize movements and add some probability. Strategy is important to some of the best and most complex games, but a bit of luck keeps players on edge and forces them to keep rolling dice for better results.
Lost in Random is centered around a die, specifically a dice (the game uses "dice" as singular here) named Dicey that has two stick arms, two stick legs, and walks around muttering in a foreign language. Our hero Even finds him in what is essentially a junk pile, and the two become fast friends. He becomes her weapon as well, interacting with some cards she found to do damage to enemies or heal her. With the cards, Lost in Random almost becomes a full-fledged board game where the idea of randomness is paramount.
Combat always follows the same formula. You have to gather crystals from enemies (usually by using your slingshot to shoot them off their bodies). After a certain amount of crystals, you draw a card. You can choose to roll Dicey at any time after the first card, but eventually, your hand will become full of potential cards to use. You then roll Dicey, and the number you get equals the number of points you have to play cards, which each have an assigned point value.
It sounds like a lot written out, but it makes more sense when playing. It's an easy system to get into, and the more you do it, the more it becomes like second nature. The dice and card system also adds that randomness the developers are aiming for. You start with a few basic cards, like the Bow of One that gives you a bow and arrow or the Sword of Three, which gives you a sword, and some health elixirs. As you buy and earn more cards, there are more options, making it tougher to get the cards you want. The dice rolls also might not give you the number of points you need, so you have to constantly keep breaking off crystals and rolling to keep going.
As you can probably guess, the "random" in the game's title isn't just for show. It's a huge theme in both the combat and the narrative. Even has to go on a quest to rescue her sister from the evil queen, but it's not as easy as waltzing into the castle and demanding her back. Many obstacles are thrown her way that keep her from reaching her goals, so much so that she breaks down multiple times throughout the game wanting to give up. The developers stated in our preview that nothing goes according to plan in the real world, and that's reflected in the world of Random. Beyond a roll of a die making a random decision, it also strikes Even and teaches her how the world works.
It's interesting to watch all these sobering lessons about life, determination in the face of adversity, musings about the complexities of war, the stresses of labor, socio-economic class differences, the power of intrusive thoughts, and more come to light in the middle of what is a fairy tale, but it works. Sure, there are moments when things just magically happen to Even to move her from place to place, but that seems in line with its influences. However, the theme of randomness and the constant transitions between the magical and more grounded tones make the down moments feel more effective.
I would be remiss not to mention the dialogue, which handles the highs and lows of the story equally well. It can be poignant when it needs to be, but more importantly, it's just funny. Ryan North of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl fame was in charge of the dialogue, and it shows. It's snappy, witty, and often unexpected. The juxtaposition between a lot of the more serious moments and the wackiness of others never feels out of place. It's not necessarily realistic, like many other elements of the narrative, but it feels in line with this absurd world. It also makes some of the darker elements easier to swallow.
It's also a great way to keep you motivated in not just following the main questline, but in doing sidequests where you interact and do small errands for others. They're not essential to completing the story (I skipped a number of them and never felt like I was missing out on rewards), but you want to seek them out anyway. In general, while a couple of the quests feel like an excuse to make you explore each of the six areas more, they're mostly a way to get you to learn about the world, to move Even's story forward, and to just have fun with the surroundings.
Lost in Random: What I didn't like
While the developers strive for randomness, making it a part of the game's foundation, it never fully feels like the player is a full participant. Even faces a lot of it throughout her journey, both in and out of combat, but specifically in battle, it never feels like it goes all the way. You roll Dicey and have a deck of cards, but you can only take 15 cards into battle with you, which isn't a lot. Even if you don't get the card you want, you usually just have to wait a turn, and you'll get a new batch. While this becomes a bit stressful on the higher difficulty, you never feel like you're struggling.
There are two types of battles here: the regular ones where you just fight enemies and the board games where you have to move a piece around the board and fight enemies. Despite the slight change-ups, they're still straightforward. The boss battles, on the other hand, are long and don't feature any checkpoints. So, if you mess up, you have to start all over again. Considering that the rest of the game is so forgiving, even on the greater difficulty, it feels a bit dissonant.
It feels even less random in the late game where you have more resources. Dicey starts broken with only one or two dots on a side. By the end of the game, you get all six possibilities, which opens the door for playing cards in your deck. They do get slightly more expensive as you go, but when you're able to roll six, you don't feel held back. The game then becomes almost too easy. The developers do introduce some clever elements and new enemies to keep you in suspense, but the stakes getting higher and the difficulty getting lower doesn't feel like the right way to go.
I played the game on PC, and it's worth noting that Lost in Random would be played better on a controller. Movement is imprecise, especially in some of the narrow paths around Random, and mouse sensitivity needs to be adjusted. I also want to point out the in-game map, which is atrocious. There's no marker that tells you where you are, and the layout often feels incorrect. When you have multiple quests to complete, you'll often find yourself looking at this map and feeling let down. It's easier to use landmarks in the world to figure out where you are, but even then, I found myself going around in circles. The elements are all there for a clean experience, but it needs a cleanup.
Lost in Random: Should you buy?
Lost in Random is one part gothic fairy tale, one part contemporary dark comedy, and another part cartoon. Despite combining a lot of elements, it does manage to stick well to that one theme of randomness. It's satisfying to see a game where one idea permeates throughout both mechanics and narrative and to see it done well. The combat doesn't always work, but it's unique enough and it flows well.
It's also a game where the writing sticks with you long after you're done. It tackles a lot of topics, but none of them feel out of place. All of them feel relevant to Even as she goes about her journey, and they make you care about what she learns and where she ends up. It's a typical hero's journey, coming-of-age tale, but it ensures you're along for the ride where it matters, and no matter your roll, you'll make it to the end.
Lost in Random is out now on PC through Origin, Nintendo Switch, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, and Xbox One. This is certainly a game to check out if you're looking for one of the best Xbox games.
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