When I first heard the premise of Stray Gods, I was already incredibly invested. A musical roleplaying game where you are trying to discern the identity of a murderer? That sounds like my three favourite genres mashed all together. I knew booting up Stray Gods for the first time would either blend incredibly well to make this incredible new genre or it would falter and be a slough to get through.
The story set up for Stray Gods is simple. We play as Grace, a band member and dropout who is accused of murdering Calliope, a muse who shows up on her doorstep after being attacked. After Calliope passes, Grace gains her muse powers and needs to learn to master her new abilities to uncover the truth. This takes place over the course of a few days, with each day progressing the investigation one step further. With plenty of choice along the way, I was immediately struck to start over and play through just to see what elements of the story I had missed.
I was surprised to find out that even though we run the gamut of Greek gods in Stray Gods and have to deal with their hubris constantly, the story hits incredibly well. The journey we go on as Grace and navigating her new position in the world is a touching and emotional story. With player choice in the forefront, I was surprised to see how much my choices were actually reflected in the game.
“I was surprised to find out that even though we run the gamut of Greek gods in Stray Gods and have to deal with their hubris constantly, the story hits incredibly well.”
I felt in control to the point of how Grace’s story went, how her relationships grew or faded, and whether she could find the murderer in question. They do this by not only throwing us into the deep end of the Greek god hierarchy and placing Grace in this weird half-in, half-out state and trying to maintain her human relations while trying to learn her place in this new world but also giving us the power to decide who Grace sides herself with.
There is some genuinely amazing voice acting on display here. With a casting just absolutely stacked, no one should be surprised with the likes of Laura Bailey, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Troy Baker, and so on. Every single person nails it and brings their all. That’s something you can really feel with the incredible amount of emotion that’s on display here. I was amazed by the songs and performances. What first surprised me was the amount of player agency in each song.
As Grace, when her lines are coming up, you can change the flow of each piece, which is done simply by a timed choice of words. Are they getting dissed in a song? Why not turn the crowd on the singer? Or better yet, put yourself out there as understanding the issues they are working through and cement yourself as someone they can rely on.
“I was amazed by the songs and performances.”
It is incredible how Summerfall Studios could weave in this much player choice while maintaining the flow no matter what was chosen. There was never this awkward lull as the characters attempted to find themselves in the new music styling, depending on how Grace decided to respond. I have never seen anything like it. Granted, how many musical games are there outside of Karmaflow?
The gameplay and visuals of Stray Gods are pretty simple, But it does a fantastic job of portraying the emotional journey. Told in a comic book-like art style, each still changing frequently, it suits this visual novel-esque story of growth and acceptance.
Even though it is told in stills, Summerfall Studio manages to squeeze the essence of each character into every scene, and when Grace gets that look in her eyes, and they start to glow, you know it’s about to kick off. The gameplay is mostly moving to other locations and making dialogue choices. But again, I have yet to see a game that blends its musical stylings with player agency before, and I really hope this is a start of a new genre.
Overall, Stray Gods was a blast. There was so much love and care put into each scene, and how the player could change the flow of singing based on choice, and no matter what choice was made, it all sounded incredible, was awe-inspiring. While I think Stray Gods may be designed for a hyper-specific niche, I fall into that niche, and it was a wonderful time that I couldn’t wait to experience again.