[Editor’s note: Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical will release on August 10 to give room between it and Baldur’s Gate 3.]
With the recent release date of Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical set for August 4, 2023, I have been eagerly awaiting a chance to play a demo. Now this chance is upon us thanks to LudoNarraCon, a digital narrative games festival by indie games publisher Fellow Traveller. It’s occurring right now May 4-8 on Steam and showcases a huge number of games with a narrative focus. Stray Gods was originally called Chorus and is developed by Melbourne-based Summerfall Studios and publisher Humble Games. With the likes of David Gaider as Creative Director (Dragon Age), Troy Baker as Voice Director (The Last of Us), and many amazing voice actors in the cast, I was excited to dive in.
In a modern fantasy world, college dropout Grace (voiced by the legendary Laura Bailey) is granted the power of a Muse – power she’ll need to find out the truth behind her predecessor’s death before time runs out. In Stray Gods, your choices matter. You’ll decide who Grace allies with, who she can trust, and who may betray her in this beautifully hand-illustrated roleplaying musical. Your choices will also impact Grace’s relationship with the four romance options in the game: Freddie, Pan, Persephone, and Apollo.
Starting the demo, we see four characters sitting through hours of auditions for their band, though it was mainly to see who was out there and who would show up. Clearly at the end of their tether, Grace and Freddie start talking and we are given a choice amongst three options to continue the conversation. Two of the band members head off for the evening, leaving Grace and Freddie behind. Grace is looking off to the side, looking a little upset. The character art and facial expression animations are extremely well done. Freddie asks if she is ok and now one of the dialogue options is highlighted in pink with a heart icon which I assume is a love interest/romance line of dialogue.
Freddie leaves and Grace stays behind, then Grace breaks into singing a beautiful song. A music track kicks in, and the song certainly evokes emotion. Mid-song another character walks in, listening intently to Grace. This character introduces herself as Calliope (voiced by Ashley Johnson, The Last of Us), complimenting Grace’s amazing voice. She admits she’s here for an audition, and you are given another dialogue prompt where you can choose to let her audition (which I did), ask if she’s sure, or tell her everyone else has gone. Letting her audition, she starts singing the same song, and Grace joins in as a duet. Partway through the song we are prompted to choose our trait from charming, kickass or clever. I like that the music keeps playing in the background, and when you make your choice, it waits a few moments to jump back in-time with the music.
The next scene shot forward a little in time and features Grace, Freddie and another character called Pan (voiced by Khary Payton, The Walking Dead) who looks to have ram horns on his head. They sang a song together and we were faced with a succession of timed choices, with each choice colour coded to the three traits we could choose earlier. It’s not clear whether our choices will build ‘reputation’ in those three traits or how it will be utilised, but it certainly represented how Grace sang next after each choice. I didn’t fully understand the context of this particular scene, but it was intriguing, nonetheless.
The demo for Stray Gods: The Roleplaying on Steam is only short, at around 15 minutes or so, but it’s certainly got its hooks in me. Despite the game being ‘just’ a musical narrative game with meaningful choices, it’s much more engaging than others in the genre and it looks incredible so far. The singing from all the voice actors was outstanding, there was raw emotion in that first song/duet, and I am super keen to see the full story play out upon the game’s release on August 4, 2023. This demo and heaps more are available on Steam as part of LudoNarraCon until May 8, so definitely check it out.