I’ve played plenty of video games over the years that have both rewarded and punished me for the choices I’ve made, creating this powerful sense of agency in the narrative. Those games feel like I have a hand in shaping the outcome of the story, one in which successfully navigating a tricky conversation is empowering and not quite finding the words for a tough heart-to-heart is devastating. Stray Gods: A Roleplaying Musical builds on that sensation but within the three-act structure of a musical. This combination is an impressive accomplishment, and it’s incredible to watch how all those choices can build on one another, culminating in a finale that you helped shape. Together, it makes Stray Gods one of the most memorable gaming experiences I’ve ever had.
Set within our world–but one in which there’s an ounce of truth to the myths surrounding the Greek gods, titans, and their multitude of offspring–Stray Gods starts off like your typical visual novel. Conversations pause in order to present you with a multitude of dialogue options, some of which allow you to gain additional insight into other characters while others push the story forward to the next scene. Almost immediately, you have a chance to flirt with your cute best friend and kickstart one of several different romances. There’s comfort in this familiarity. And then the game quickly reveals what separates itself from its contemporaries: the music.
You actively participate in every musical number during Stray Gods runtime, of which there are many across its three acts. Like conversations in choice-driven visual novels and RPGs, each song can branch, and the effects of your choices impact not only the direction of that particular song but every performance that succeeds it. Choices are divided into three categories–Kickass, Clever, and Charming–informing both the method by which you’re trying to convince someone of something, and how a song can transform. Kickass choices are aggressive and confrontational and make songs take on a more punk rock vibe, while Clever choices are thoughtful and strategic and lean into jazz. Charming choices, on the other hand, are empathetic and caring and create a more melodious tune. Though all of the songs might begin one way, they can drastically change depending on what you choose.
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