Developer: SkyBox Labs
Publisher: SkyBox Labs
Music: SkyBox Labs
Platforms: Switch, Steam, Xbox One, iOS
Release Date: 17th October 2019
Genre: Adventure, Puzzles
Stela starts off with a rock in some sort of cave, out of nowhere the rocks starts glowing with weird blue ruins and out of them a woman is born. This is where we get introduced to our unnamed main protagonist who we will go on an adventure with. Like a newborn baby not knowing anything about the world we set out to explore and find what has happened, traversing desolate and hostile environments, facing both beasts and humanoid monsters. Stela’s story is told in the same way as games like Limbo or Journey, having to piece it together the narrative through symbols and world interactions.
Stela is a 2 Dimensional 3D game that focuses on puzzles and platforming. Stela is quite interesting as it plays almost like an interactive movie, having very simple inputs. I played through the whole game using just 1 hand in two hours. While I played it on PC I would have preferred doing so on a console to fully enjoy the immersive experience.
The puzzles were fairly simple, usually asking you to move objects, jump on a timer, or move when the light turns green. While I enjoyed these puzzles because they were simple and let me focus more on the story and the environment. There were several times I found the puzzles to be unfair, either lacking in prompts or directions. Having me play and die to see what I was supposed to do rather than letting me figure it out, I also managed to get 77% of the achievements by just playing through the game once making them feel kind of worthless.
The audio and visuals are some of the best I have experienced! Just like other games like Limbo or A Story of 2 Brothers the game features beautiful desolate areas, ranging from dilapidated buildings to snowy peaks to and area that reminds me of the Mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings. Each area features its own soundtrack and exclusive visual style, making each zone feel unique and interesting.
Overall I really enjoyed Stela. It took me 2 hours on the dot to play through the whole game and I felt completely immersed the whole time. The visual style and audio was captivating and felt original, I especially fell for the violins in the first section! The narrative made me curious and the ending was a real head spin. All this made me want to play through the game again to figure out the ending. I also got hints that there may have been an alternate ending but that is not confirmed.
While the puzzles were nice and easy, helping the game play feel smooth. It also was frustrating not having standard prompts for things, this often made me feel like I died not because of my bad decision making but because the game felt unfair. With all that considered, I would recommend Stela to anyone who likes adventures and theorising about narratives. I would also recommend playing it on Xbox One or the Nintendo Switch as that will maximise your immersion and therefore really let you enjoy the cinematic experience that is Stela.
Reviewed by William Haumann @William_Haumann on April 1st 2020