I have covered a lot of visual novel style games for the XPN Network website and Youtube channel. Some of them are mundane, run of the mill asset flip games made with very little effort, but some of them really stand out and shine at how polished and unique they are. Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical falls into the latter, it's one of the most unique visual novel-like games I have ever played and it was so refreshing to experience.
Stray Gods was developed by Summerfall Studios as their debut game. It's written by David Gaider (lead writer on Dragon Age and Knights of the Old Republic) and it combines visual novel gameplay and the full blown feeling of experience a musical at the theatre. The game was mainly inspired by the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Once More, With Feeling" and that really shows in the final product.
I don't want to go into too much detail on the story, as with these types of games I feel like it spoils the experience if you know too much before playing them. However the game is set in a modern world where the Greek gods have been forced to live among mortals. They have disguised themselves and taken on human appearances, but they are still very powerful beings. One day, the last Muse, Calliope, is murdered. The gods are the prime suspects, and Grace, a young woman with a mysterious past, is accused of the crime.
Grace must clear her name and find the real killer. Along the way, she will learn about the gods' true nature and their plans for the world. She will also have to make difficult choices that will affect her own future. The game's story is full of twists and turns, and it is sure to keep you guessing until the very end.
The game's story is open-ended, and your choices will affect the outcome. There are multiple endings, and you will have to decide who you trust and who you can rely on as the story unfolds.
The musical numbers are also a highlight of the game. They are catchy and well-written, and they help to move the story forward. The voice acting is also excellent, and the cast does a great job of bringing the characters to life. There are around 20 musical numbers in the game, each with its own unique style and feel. The songs are written by Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory, Montaigne (Eurovision Australia's Jess Cerro), and the Australian musical trio Tripod (musicians Scott Edgar, Steven Gates, and Simon Hall). The songs sound fully orchestrated and are performed by the cast giving you the feeling that you are sitting there in a theatre watching a show. It's really hard to describe in writing and its definitely something that stands out more when you experience it first hand. There are also thousands of potential variations to what soundtrack you will get in each playthrough based on the choices and decisions you make during the story, so there's alot of reason to replay the game to experience them as each decision can lead to a slightly different version of the same song. You could play the game hundreds of times and never get the same experience twice, and I love how much replayability that provides.
The core gameplay on offer is a mix of visual novel and those FMV like games where you are basically watching watching a movie, with interactive sections where you talk to characters, and make choices that affect the story. You start the game picking from three traits, these traits each come with their own special dialogue options. They also heavily affect how Grace acts throughout the game.
Graphically the game looks stunning. With its detailed hand-illustrated artwork and characters looking absolutely phenomenal, coming across as a comic book that has come to life. The only issue I encountered was the odd time the audio levels didn't seem quite right, with certain parts being too loud or too quiet.
Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical is a gorgeous game, filled with fantastic musical numbers, well written dialogue that's performed by a great cast, and all wrapped up into a visual novel/FMV package to die for. The ability to change the songs whilst they are in progress is a unique touch but doesn't always land perfectly.
TOTAL SCORE: 8.5/10
Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical was released onto the Xbox store on the 10th August 2023. The game is playable on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S consoles. The game is priced at £24.99 and can be purchased HERE. A copy of the game was provided for this review. A huge thanks for that!