Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical Review
A Star Is Born
In 2023, I recaptured my love of musicals. From seeing Spamalot and Avenue Q live to prepping my evening with Hadestown, musicals encompass two things I love — music and storytelling. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever thought of combining a musical with a choose-your-own-adventure roleplaying game, but wilder things have happened. Summerfall Studios’ Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical is unlike any other experience I have ever had playing an RPG, and it offers a unique perspective that, while not perfect, is highly original.
Players are introduced to Grace and her friend Freddie who are looking for new members for their band. Not having much luck, Freddie leaves Grace alone in the community center, where she pours her heart out in a beautiful musical number about being like a boat lost at sea. It is in this vulnerable moment that she meets Calliope, who is entranced by her voice and auditions on the spot. After this encounter, Grace goes home only to find Calliope bleeding out on her floor. In this quick moment, Calliope’s sparkling soul known as an eidolon is passed to Grace. With Calliope’s soul now inside her, Grace meets the Chorus consisting of Athena, Apollo, Persephone, and Aphrodite, and is accused of killing Calliope, the last Muse. It is here that Grace is given seven days to prove her innocence or be killed.
Stray Gods is an amateur detective story and one where the heroine sleuth has godlike powers that can force people to speak the truth. Throughout the narrative, Grace meets with various Idols to dig deep and find the truth behind Calliope’s murder. Those familiar with Greek mythology will meet tons of familiar faces, from Pan the horned trickster to Hecate the goddess of crossroads. Throughout the investigation, Grace makes decisions based on her interactions with the various characters, using the power of song to extract information from them.
Given the game is a roleplaying musical, Stray Gods’ “combat system” comes in the form of song battles, wherein Grace and her opponent converse through song, and players make decisions based on the choices they have. What is unique is that no two playthroughs will be alike, as songs transform based on choices. At the beginning of the game, players can choose between three personality traits for Grace which include charming, kick-ass, and clever. This plays into how many of the songs can play out. In one of the earliest interactions with Pan, players can change the tone and sound of the song “Lost Girls” based on which personality trait they wish to bestow on Grace in that instance. This means that based on the player selections, song lyrics and genre change in the moment.
This unique choice-driven combat system gives Stray Gods a lot of staying power and replayability. There are so many ways to explore the story, and how much information is revealed to Grace is squarely up to the player. By forging relationships with some characters, players potentially alienate others from being a part of Grace’s cause. This is on top of the fact that Grace can also romance a fair number of the cast, and those relationships can also change based on the player’s choices. It’s absolutely impressive how many permutations exist in the game.
Stray Gods also has an amazing voice cast, with everyone singing their own parts. Laura Bailey absolutely shines as Grace, and even with the multiple personalities that she has to juggle within Grace’s character, she at no point falters. Bailey does an amazing job making Grace a character the player wants to root for and gives a compelling performance from start to finish. Troy Baker does a phenomenal job commanding the role of Apollo, offering a sympathetic performance. A huge standout comes in the form of Orpheus, voiced by Anthony Rapp, who lends his vocals to one of the best songs in the game during a very interesting and difficult story point. There is such tremendous talent in the cast of Stray Gods, with each performer shining throughout the game’s runtime.
While music is key to Stray Gods, it’s not without a few flaws. Not every song is a knockout, as sometimes actors are straining their voices to fit with some perplexing lyrics. While the overall writing in the game is fantastic, it’s hard to ignore moments of awkward dialogue and song lyrics causing a change in the overall flow and tone of the game. There are also instances of audio mixing being odd, with certain instrumentals coming in louder than the vocal performance and vice versa, and an instance where the subtitles came before the vocalist even began their performance. While these issues are not full-on game-breakers, they are noticeable enough to be distracting from the overall experience.
Although music is the highlight of Stray Gods, the visuals do a phenomenal job to compliment the entire package. The game sports beautiful comic book-style visuals that are reminiscent of The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. There is a rawness in the character and setting design that is very unique. Stray Gods visually oozes personality and makes one feel as if wandering through a gorgeous comic book, wanting to keep turning the pages.
There is no game out there like Stray Gods, and while its execution has some flaws, its originality shines through. Summerfall Studios has crafted a memorable experience with loveable characters and catchy songs to boot. It’s been weeks since I completed both my playthroughs, and I’m still singing many of the songs because they are unforgettable. Stray Gods casts a spell on the RPG genre, showcasing that risks truly can pay off, and succeeds by being an experience like no other.
Disclosure: This review is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Catchy soundtrack with varying song versions
Excellent characters and voice cast
Highly original concept
Some of the songs don't flow as well as others
Audio issues present in some songs