If the concept of a story-driven musical adventure game interests you, then look no further than Stray Gods: The Musical Role Playing Game.
Inspired by musicals, including buffy the vampire slayerthe iconic episode of “Once More, With Feeling” and Wickedthe Summerfall Studios title is a bold mix of ideas that makes so much sense that we wondered why there hadn’t been a musical game like this before.
It all starts fairly normally for Grace, who dropped out of college at the start of the game, as she spends the day auditioning for her band.
But her night takes a dramatic turn when she not only learns that Greek gods exist, but also finds herself accused of killing one. She has seven days to clear her name to Athena – and she must use the power of song to uncover the truth.
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It turns out that Grace inherited the muse powers of the deceased Calliope, and it’s through musical numbers in crucial conversations and confrontations that Grace can persuade the various gods she meets – including Persephone, Apollo and Aphrodite – to open up about their feelings.
Indeed, there is a clear connection to “Once More, With Feeling” in more ways than one.
wandering gods does not turn away from his inspirations. Music is central to the storytelling – the story simply wouldn’t have worked without it – and how, through player choice, Grace can steer the direction of the song is a genius in narrative design.
By bonding with Grace’s powers as a muse, you as Grace can set the tone, and in doing so, the lyrics, melodies, and arrangements change, dramatically altering the dynamics and context of the scene. The player’s choice is usually limited to three options at a time, most often representing one of three personality types.
Refusing to back down during a heated confrontation may see Grace, in a song, unload a rap or sing with a backing up choir, while being more sympathetic could slow the tempo and open up to harmonies.
There are 23 different songs in total (although you won’t see them all in one playthrough, such is the nature of choice-based games), and these range from love songs and ballads to battles of rock and songs.
Laura Bailey delivers a solid performance as Grace and is backed by an impressive cast that includes The last of us stars Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker, Rahul Kohli, The Walking Deadby Khary Payton and Felicia Day. The stars’ voices help bring their individual characters to life, especially during musical moments.
There’s rarely a dull moment as Grace travels from location to location investigating the murder and questioning suspects, learning about the gods and their history in the process.
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It’s just a shame there’s wasted potential in the storytelling. Despite some emotional moments and tricky decisions to make, the story unfolds in a relatively straightforward fashion.
The murder mystery tries to keep you guessing but isn’t particularly deep, and the supporting plots, characters, and world-building – while strong and often featuring more intrigue than the main story – don’t elevate not enough the overall story to a level where it stays with you long after the game is over.
The game’s opening moments also set up Grace’s inner feelings, but there’s a lack of follow through.
As Grace sings and then shares with Calliope, we learn that she feels adrift and without a sense of belonging. She doesn’t know what her place in life is. Grace’s life changes later that night when she becomes a god, but how this life-changing moment affects Grace’s outlook isn’t really explored afterward, at least not to a satisfying extent.
However, none of this stops the game from being entertaining from the title screen to the end credits. The novelty of the idea carries it far, but the execution is also neat.
To further emphasize the ambition behind it all, the studio is releasing four different soundtracks for the game’s launch, each depicting the different paths you can take.
There really is no such thing wandering gods out there right now, and while it doesn’t reach the heights of some of the musicals that have inspired the game, its narrative design and the unique way player choice affects the story makes for a refreshing ride and agreeable.
Platform reviewed on: computer
Stray Gods: The Musical Role Playing Game was released on August 10, 2023 on PC, Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox.