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Review: "Stray Gods" is a lyrical, must-have experience
With complete transparency, I first backed this game in 2019 when it was known as Chorus. I will happily give my money to the writing talents of David Gaider any day of the week, and I’m genuinely pleased with the result.
Greek mythology continues to fascinate modern-day entertainment, providing us with fresh stories while keeping us tethered to a rich, literary past, especially with Stray Gods: The Role-Playing Musical.
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Grace (voice of Laura Bailey) is a college dropout drifting through life with her best friend Freddie (voice of Janina Gavankar) in their band and generally feeling lost and directionless. Fairly par for the course these days, but Grace’s life gets spicy pretty quickly.
The last muse, Calliope, crashes the band’s auditions and then later into Grace’s apartment — only for her callback, she’s bleeding out. She dies in Grace’s arms and passes her power (or her eidol) to the young singer.
Before there’s time to process, Grace is entwined in the lives of ancient gods, including the goddess of wisdom, Athena (voice of Felicia Day), the goddess of love, Aphrodite (voice of Merle Dandridge), the god of prophecy, Apollo (voice of Troy Baker), and the once-queen of the Underworld, Persephone (voice of Mary Elizabeth McGlynn). Now, with those voice actors alone, who wouldn’t want to delve in?
But hey, also lending their talents to the voice cast is Khary Payton, Erika Ishii (my Destiny friends know her as Ana Bray), Abubakar Salim, Rahul Kohli, Anjali Bhimani, Broadway star Anthony Rapp — this cast is the Milky Way, it’s so star-studded.
Athena believes that Grace is responsible for killing Calliope and allows her seven days to collect evidence to prove her guiltlessness, which kickstarts Grace’s journey. Some of the gods offer their help but others must be persuaded of Grace's innocence first.
With Calliope's power, Grace causes people around her to sing their true feelings. It's made clear, however, that this isn't force, merely inspiration. With this special ability, she retraces Calliope's last steps to uncover the truth.
But would this really be a David Gaider project if you couldn’t romance characters? Of course not. There are four distinct characters Grace can flirt with, culminating in a kiss scene at the end of the game: Freddie, Persephone, Apollo, or the god of the wild, Pan (voice of Khary Payton). I found myself wishing the romances had a bit more depth to them, but they were sweet and endearing as budding relationships go. After all, the primary events of the game occur in the span of a week.
What makes Stray Gods incredibly unique is that it's an interactive musical. During each song, time-sensitive lyric choices appear. Grace can be charismatic and charming, clinical and clever, or hot-tempered and headstrong. These decisions influence the following lyric and even the genre of music. For example, harsher attitudes inspire more of a rock n' roll or rap beat.
Stray Gods is narratively engaging with rich character development and plenty of choices, allowing for at least a few playthroughs. It’s a refreshing new spin on the continued influence that Greek mythology holds over media, only this time, players get to sing along with the chorus.