Every now and then, you are given something that, at first glance, you question, “Why does this exists”? That’s how I felt when I was given Stray Gods, a musical choices matter adventure game, and yes, my eyes were primarily focused on the term “musical.” As someone who happens to be a fan of Broadway shows, this interested me and also scared me at the same time at how quickly this can fall on its face. But by the time I reached the end, I realized that some people will hate this game with a passion, while others like me will view it as an underrated gem.
Stray Gods comes from us from the main writer of the Dragon Age games, David Gaider; it takes place in the modern world and focuses on college dropout Grace, voiced by famed voice actor Laura Bailey. She comes into contact with Calliope, also voiced by Last of Us alumni Ashley Johnson, who collapses dead in front of her. So due to this case of “you don’t know everything,” Grace is brought before a collection of Greek Gods and must prove within seven days that she didn’t kill Calliope, or she will be killed. So, you have a goal set and a new set of powers that allows Grace to get info from suspects by allowing them to sing them out. All in the style of a mix of webcomic/visual novel.
This is also a good time to mention that the voice cast for this game is stacked; this is a who’s who of famous voice actors/actresses coming together in this musical adventure. It reminds me a lot of those musical tribute concerts where the fun is seeing who is coming out next to sing a Broadway hit; the only difference is that every song here is original, and given how the game is designed, they are truly original.
What I mean by that is the game is designed in similar nature to a Telltale game. Where during a conversation, you are given choices, and your choices affect the outcome of the situation, except here, the results are immediate and change the lyrics of the song. When this mechanic was introduced, I was ready to see it fall on its face because mixing instant choice with music without ruining the song’s rhythm was a lot to handle, and I was worried the game would drop all of its plates in that moment. But no, it actually feels natural and doesn’t feel like a sharp edit in the song’s structure. You also have the traditional Telltale style choices matter where you can form relationships and side with other characters, and after one full playthrough and half a second one, it doesn’t feel as artificial as it did with Telltale’s structure because I actually felt like the different choices, I was making mattered.
Then you have the heart of this game, the music. Now if you are the type of person who does not like anything below traditional musicals, then this isn’t for you. There are a handful of songs that do feel like they are just singing & talking, talking but also singing; however, there is an in-universe reason to get around that nitpick, which in the end, was a very smart choice on the developers. But the music gets the job done at the end of the day. It sounds like something you would actually hear during an off-Broadway musical, which is not a complaint because that is the style of musicals they are going for in the game. It is a soundtrack I enjoyed in the moment primarily because of how much your choices can affect the lyrics and overall tone of each song, but it isn’t something I would seek out on Spotify, even without the personal choice aspect removed.
So, in the end, Stray Gods was an unexpected gem that will speak to a very specific audience. The crossover between musical fans and people interested in these types of games is probably very small. That’s why I think they got all this all-star talent to help bring the characters to life; since the game is designed like a visual novel, the voices is the only thing you have to bring these characters once again to life. So, if this game is at all interesting to you, go for it. This game has no middle ground; you will either love it or find it annoying; as for me, I loved it, and I hope this opens the door for developers to experiment and make more weird stuff.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on PC