Lost in Random is the next game from Fe and Flipping Death developer Zoink, and it's been on my radar ever since it was first teased last year. It was initially described as a game about a young girl exploring a world governed by randomness with her magical dice companion, and that was all I needed to hear. It recently received a proper debut at EA Play Live, which was more than enough to set the hook that Zoink had been dangling. But while the first trailer for Lost in Random did establish the basics of the game, it also left me with a zillion questions about what it is and how it plays. So, I was eager to sit in on a post-reveal chat with game directors Klaus Lyngeled and Olov Redmalm, who offered a clearer idea of what Lost in Random is really about.
Oh the places you'll go
Random is a strange, fairytale-like world ruled by a mysterious dark force that wields a black, six-sided dice. This dice can affect anything and everything in Random, from daily events to people's personalities. Most importantly, at age 12, citizens of Random roll the dice to determine their lot in life. If you roll a one, you join the other Ones in the slums of Random. Twos have two personalities that swap each day, and the town of Threes is run by three competing siblings. Meanwhile, the Sixes live in a utopia positioned as the envy of all citizens. This coming-of-age dice roll ceremony is integral to the structure of Random, and it's what kicks off the journey of our protagonist, Even.
"Her story starts when her sister, Odd, rolls this dark dice to see what part of the world she'll end up in," Redmalm explains. "She gets sent to Sixtopia, which is this celebrity dream world that everybody wants to go to. And everyone says she's a lucky one – she gets to go to the Sixers world. But Odd doesn't want to. She wants to stay with her sister, her other half. So Even decides to go after Odd. She runs away from home and follows this strange ghost into the night, and she ends up in this secret place where she finds Dicey, this long forgotten magical dice. Even is out to finder her sister, and along the way she discovers that there's more she can do for others."
Redmalm describes Even as a purehearted spitfire of a girl who's abruptly thrown into the problems of adults, her journey through Random often mirroring the confusion and helplessness we sometimes feel as we're besieged by life. And Random is as much a character as Even herself. Lyngeled says that Zoink wanted to create a universe that feels authentic and lived-in but also totally different from our world, hence the variety of strange creatures inhabiting it. There's a living cabinet who sells you useful items, a frog witch who dabbles in dice magic, and monsters ranging from robotic to bestial, with caricatured humans seamlessly mixed in. The clear aesthetic of Lost in Random – something approaching 'realistic claymation', as Lyngeled put it – helps sell these wild character designs, and Zoink is planning to leverage a broad cast of voice actors to help bring them to life.
Combat built on controlled chaos
While Even's journey begins with familial motives, it soon snowballs into something much bigger and more dangerous. Lyngeled and Redmalm describe Lost in Random as an eclectic mix of genres and elements. It's a linear game with a focused story spanning roughly 12 to 14 hours. It has light RPG elements like collectible abilities and side quests with dialogue trees, and while your path is fairly straightforward, there are countless nooks and crannies to encourage exploration.
Lyngeled says Zoink wanted to focus more on gameplay mechanics with Lost in Random, and that's especially clear in the game's combat. He and Redmalm withheld the finer details of combat to share them at a more in-depth talk in the future, but they still had plenty to say about the kinds of Trials even will find herself in.
With Dicey at her side, Even takes part in battles based around board games. For example, the evil chess bishop seen in the game's trailer is part of an encounter loosely inspired by the iconic giant chess game in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. There are action components to these board games, hence the melee and shooting seen in the trailer, as well as tactical sides that revolve around Dicey and his "Swiss army knife" selection of abilities.
"I'm not going to try to explain exactly how it works because it's quite a unique game mechanic, but it's really a mix of action and the dice itself, when you throw it, it sort of turns into a tactics game," Lyngeled says. "You make choices from the randomness that comes out of the dice. You switch between the tactics and the action. There's a bunch of other cool stuff thrown into this too. The world itself has a board game feel to it.
"That's really the theme we are exploring," he adds. "Randomness can be really annoying, and it's something you want to control, and that's what the game is about. Finding a way where it's actually fun to have the randomness [and] roll with the punches. We're trying to design the game in a way that it feels like you can use the randomness in a good way in battles. What choices do you make if you get a 1 or a 2, just like in a board game. How do you make the best of the situation? And that's what the story is about too, so it fits together well. Every game has some randomness built into it, but here we are putting it out in the open. Here it is, look at it, how do you deal with it?"
Even is bursting with personality in Lost in Random's reveal trailer, but at this point, I'm most interested in Dicey. He's a crystallization of the laws of Random, the driving force in combat, and Even's greatest ally – and, let's not forget, an adorable little companion cube on legs. I also love the idea that Dicey allows Even to help the people of Random as a whole rather in addition to her sister, which seems to be a driving theme for the story.
"Even is out to find her sister, and along the way she discovers that there's more she can do for others," Redmalm says. "And to add to her temper, she's one to quickly get into fights while Dicey is more careful like a puppy. He'll try to hold her back like, 'Maybe don't get into a fight with that big guy.' But she does anyway. And when they are in battle, things kind of turn. Dicey loses control and becomes this Swiss army knife of crazy power, and Even is like 'Whoa, OK, we're doing this now.' Dicey enables her to become this superhero."
In many ways, Dicey is as much a catalyst for Even's quest as her sister's dice roll, and he'll certainly determine how it plays out. I can't wait to see the interactions between Even and Dicey, and now that he's been described as being puppy-like, I can only hope that we'll be able to pet the dice when Lost in Random launches sometime in 2021.