Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical Review

Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical is an interactive musical with a focus on Greek gods in the modern world. From what I could see before release, I was interested to try out the promised blend of a role-playing experience paired with a musical presentation.

Grace is in a band, yet the college dropout still feels like she’s missing her place in the world. While singing her struggle one night, she’s joined by a new friend, Calliope. What might have been a sweet harmony turns discordant when soon after, Calliope shows up at her apartment, bleeding to death. In parting, something from her becomes a part of Grace, and before she knows it, Grace has been swept up in a world where Greek gods walk among us. Rather than gods, they call themselves “idols,” and hide in plain sight. Grace is accused of murdering Calliope, and she is given just seven days to clear her name by finding the real killer.


With time running out to assemble her defense, you control Grace as she makes her way into the world of the idols to gather information. Stray Gods’ gameplay primarily consists of dialogue, with different choices to learn more about the murder and get access to new locations and people to talk to. With the deck stacked against her, Grace’s only saving ... y’know ... is that she has inherited the powers of the muse. With these powers, Grace is able to coax her conversation partners into song; the better to persuade or get the truth out of them. These songs effectively act as “battles”, with the back-and-forth between Grace and her opponent resembling combat, but mechanically, they fall a bit flat. My opponent’s reaction during the song would change based on my words, but it was only what I said at the very end of the song that seemed to matter. Sometimes whether I “won” or “lost”, I could still continue on the same.

The seven-day timeline was something I had to keep an eye out for myself as I could normally choose to go to a few places before time might actually pass. At the start of the game, you’ll choose whether you’re charming, kickass, or clever. These traits will impact whether or not you can make certain dialogue choices, affecting how you progress the story. If you fail to make a decision in time (though you have to option to remove the timer) your following line will be automatically picked seemingly based on your chosen trait. I’m not really sure if Stray Gods has a failure state or a “bad ending” condition to reach depending on choices made, unless perhaps you go out of your way to upset pretty much everyone.

At times, the pacing of the songs could be a little drawn out when I was at heavy info-dump sections of the story, though it was also my choice to continue certain lines of questioning, just for my interest. Other times I felt like I’d stroll out from one song and straight into another.

With multiple story paths, Stray Gods’ save system — as well as its focus on music and song-based dialogue exchanges — can hinder its replayability. You can skip the spoken dialogue lines, but this option obviously isn’t available during songs, forcing you to replay them from the top each time. The save system is automatic, so if you want to go back and change a story path, rather than just loading an older save, you’ll basically erase anything that happens after that point. So, it is effectively impossible to create branching saves at different branches of the story. It is stated that the saves roll back in this way due to the changes potentially causing issues in the songs, it still seems unnecessarily harsh. As a playthrough can be done in a day, and there are smaller story branches asides from a few major decisions, I feel this will discourage those who wish to try to see everything in the game. As far as I saw, Stray Gods doesn’t seem to have a backlog or dialogue history option to review lines if you happened to blank out or skip too much, either. You are given a journal with character profiles filling in the more you interact with them to reflect, though.

Stray Gods has a few romance options, as well. The routes seem accessible, as I actually changed my mind on someone partway through, and was actually able to change who I went for at the final hour. Perhaps this was only because I had picked flirty dialogue options earlier in the run, though. I think the romances are fine, but as the entire timeline takes place over a week, they aren't very strong. There is a smidge of stale humor here and there that falls flat, but not enough to distract from the characters or narrative. One thing I appreciated was the cast of minor characters, some of which you could actively talk to, and one side story that was pretty cute. I think a point in the story might be a tad contentious for some people, but I can at least say that Stray Gods didn’t pussyfoot its way around the idols being involved in major world events. Others might appreciate how it was used to add a taste of post-war immigrant family struggle over just a straight murder conspiracy plot.

The most notable thing about the visual presentation is how Stray Gods is seemingly static but also animated. Rather than sticking to changing sprites that stand in place, or making a playable cartoon, Summerfall Studios has chosen the happy medium of a motion comic. To those unfamiliar with the style, might seem a little half-baked, but I think it was a decent choice. It goes quite well with the illustrated style as the design choices and thick lines certainly would suit a comic. Color is well used to suit the moods of the few environments, and Grace's powers shape a fantastical stage to fit the mood, not just the reality of their location.

Of course, Stray Gods being “the roleplaying musical,” the more important part of the presentation is the music. With a fully orchestrated soundtrack, the care put into these songs is evident, with callback segments from prior songs playing in the more climactic clashes. I really enjoyed that choosing the more aggressive options would usually add a rock flavor to the song. There are at least a couple of songs I’ll be looking forward to hearing some version of outside of the game. As I stated earlier, half of a song remains largely the same, but your choices will create different lines and change up the music. This doesn't only affect lyrics alone, but also whether or not others join in as well. It’ll be interesting to see how a release of this soundtrack would work with several permutations of each song.

While Stray Gods was largely developed in Melbourne, Australia, most of the voice cast are prominent American voice actors, who also sing their own roles. While I’m no music critic, I feel as though the choice was made as the entire game's dialogue is spoken, so they wanted people who could do both, as many professional singers might not be able to. Of course, some of these actors have sung in works previously, and nobody sounds bad by any means. One particular actor I thought did a good job of sounding different from their usual style, and it wasn’t until I read their name in the credits and played again that I actually realized it was them.

While Stray Gods is subtitled The “Roleplaying” Musical, it plays much more akin to a visual novel or adventure game than what one might call an RPG, though the musical part still applies. I don’t find much of a comparison to more traditional or solo roleplaying experiences either, besides some dialogue options. The story isn’t super flashy, and it isn’t really hard to figure it out, there are still some minor twists and unexpected subjects. I think romance fans might be a touch disappointed, as it doesn’t take center stage. In any case, the music is especially fun and some tracks definitely would have a place in theatre. There are consequential decisions and allies you choose, but when I went back to replay songs and try for different endings, most things played out the same way, even if the participants were not the same.

With limited role-playing components, a so-so narrative, dialogue choices that don't seem to have significant impact, and a lack of replayability, Strays Gods: The Roleplaying Musical doesn't quite come together as well as it could. Still, this unique blend of styles will scratch those with an itch for an urban fantasy musical with entertaining songs.