I was always going to be a sucker for Stray Gods – it’s an RPG musical, for god’s sake – but I was woefully unprepared for just how exciting the premise and narrative potential that Summerfall Studios have cooked up.
With the game demo released last week, I sat down to see whether my expectations would be met. The short answer is: yes, this combines all my interests – video games and musicals. The long answer is that Stray Gods is a musical that looks like it will pull at the heartstrings, embrace its campy side, and give us a video game we won’t soon forget.
The first segment of the demo introduces players to the protagonist Grace (Laura Bailey), a 20s-something woman in a band alongside her best friend Freddie (Janina Gavankar). They’re looking for someone to complete their merry band, but nobody seems to be making the cut. We see Freddie try to reach out to Grace, because there is a clear emotional and logical disconnect in our protagonist – one that feels hauntingly real to witness – but to no avail. Even in a room full of people, Grace is alone and adrift.
The rest of the segment cuts to what I’ve been gnawing at the bit to see: music! To be more exact, we’re treated to a soliloquy from Grace where she likens herself to a boat with no oar, lost at sea and unsure if there’s something wrong with the world, or just wrong with her. If that isn’t a mood, then I don’t know what is.
It’s at this point we meet Calliope. Spoilers ahead here, but while it’s not established that Calliope is a Muse – and not just any Muse, but the last one to ever exist ever – it’s obvious that this is the character that will grant Grace the gift of song. Fitting really, it’s almost as if the last Muse knew they were in a musical RPG or something…
During the talk with Calliope, we’re introduced to something very familiar: a dialogue wheel! Hell yeah! You can really tell there are some BioWare roots in this thing, huh? Geekiness aside, you’re asked to pick what sort of personality you’d like for Grace to adopt throughout the game. Are you going to be a rough-and-tumble kind of gal and kick some serious ass, or would you prefer to talk your way out of things using your wits? And then there’s Clever. This seems like the last option I’d pick personally, but it is what it is.
Regardless of what you pick, you’ll be able to make your own choices as you continue through the game. These can be dialogue options, where you’ll pick what Grace says/sings, which for the latter, is nothing short of masterful. I can’t imagine how long people worked at trying to make a song flow, with its beat, rhythm, etc, while keeping in mind the importance of respecting the player’s choice.
It isn’t just what you say/sing that you have control over though. A second segment involved in the demo highlighted the numerous paths players can take. With these new powers you’re given the option of siding with Freddie, taking a chance with Pan, or going it alone to figure out just what the fates have in store for you.
All in all, it’s a pretty short demo but it allowed me to see the set-up for what will be Grace’s adventure into the world of Gods and Monsters. And let me tell you, it sure does look promising.
And if you’re not convinced, then you’re in luck. The demo for Stray Gods is available to play now for PC on Steam.