Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

Review of the video game Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical. College dropout Grace is accused of murdering the last muse by a pantheon of Greek gods. In order to escape a death penalty, she has to find a way to prove her innocence within a week.

I’ve had my eyes on Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical since it was still in its early kickstarter days. Being a big fan of Bioware, Telltale Games and musicals in general, the fundamental idea behind a musical choice matters roleplaying game was already more than enough to spark my interest. The fact that it would revolve around Greek mythology with Laura Bailey voicing the main character was honestly just the cherry on top. There was no doubt I would play this game when it would finally release.

At the time of writing this review, a few weeks after my first (and as for now only) playthrough, I find myself still haunted by the story and its characters. Ironically, despite my initial excitement, this is not something I expected this game to evoke in me. Though I’ve loved Greek mythology since my early primary school years, I tend to be very critical of reinterpretations and retellings of these ancient stories. There’s a lot of them out there, and more often than not they are lacking creativity. It’s hard to take these well-known story beats and archetypes and craft something original with them. Admittedly, reimagining (Greek) gods in a modern day urban setting already helps with circumventing expectations. Still, I went into Stray Gods thinking the Greek mythology would more be flavour than anything else. I was wrong.

Though the main plot is a murder mystery with a rather predictable perpetrator, most of the side plots touch upon sensitive themes involving grief, trauma, regret and resentment. As you might expect from immortal beings, a lot of the gods and creatures you meet are stuck in the past. As Grace you have the chance to help them find a new way forward. The writers didn’t shy away from controversial subject matters, and they handled it with grace (pun somewhat intended). Additionally, the worldbuilding explaining how the gods ended up where they are now had me intrigued. I suspect much of the created lore didn’t make it into the game, but hopefully it will find a way to us in the future. I have many questions.

As for the game mechanics, these are fairly simple. The gameplay is a mix between a visual novel (pleasant art with minimal animation) and a Bioware dialogue wheel. In the beginning you choose one of three character traits for Grace, and this chosen trait will unlock specific extra dialogue options. During musical acts there’s a timer for your choices, but you can easily turn this mechanic off.

Speaking of Stray Gods‘ unique selling point, I was very pleased with the variable songs. The first time I saw the mechanic in action, I was squealing with delight (truth be told, Khary Payton’s suave performance also didn’t help). Each song gives you several opportunities to influence the direction it’s taking. Similar to the three personality traits Grace can have, there are three “vibes” you can choose for the songs. Though sticking to a specific vibe results in a cohesive song, it’s entirely possible to mix things up. During my playthrough, I mostly chose a combination of vibes per song and I didn’t feel like this had a negative impact on my experience. In fact, since then I’ve listened to the four different albums on Spotify and I’ve come to the conclusion that some lyrics only come up when you use certain combinations. In other words, you’ll need to replay Stray Gods a LOT if you want to hear every possible song. Though some songs could have used more polishing, there are some living in my head rent free. Also, there were some (musical) jokes I could greatly appreciate.

One thing that could use some improvement is the sound mixing during dialogues. Some characters are much louder than others, while others were hardly audible. If this were to be fixed, I would immediately change my rating to four and a half stars.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention there are four romance options in this game! Well, I neglected all the ancient Greek gods and their emotional shenanigans and romanced Freddie. Then I cried. Loved it.

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