I am not ashamed to admit that a good book, show, or game can make me absolutely bawl. In fact, I LOVE that they can make such a profound emotional connection with me. When I first read Guy Gavriel Kay’s final book of the Fionavar Tapestry series, the Darkest Road, not only did I read through the night, but I was ugly crying through a good chunk of the book and I loved it. There is nothing wrong with getting emotional over a book, a movie, or a game, and I believe we should celebrate that they can move us to strong emotion. I challenge anyone to watch the movie UP and not cry. Do you get goosebumps when you see the Star Wars scroll and hear that amazing score?
Are you a fan of the Dragon Age games? “Shadows fall And hope has fled, Steel your heart The dawn will come” still gives me chills. If you learn anything about me this week of Blaugust, I hope it is that I love games that make me cry and laugh. I gravitate toward stories that can create a genuine emotional connection between me and the protagonist and supporting characters. It is one reason why I will eternally be a Bioware fangirl. I have generally enjoyed the combat parts of their games, but mostly it is about the story and the cast of characters in it. There have been moments in each of their games that have made me belly laugh, moments that have made me cry, and characters I have loved, brought to life through wonderful voice acting.
From my early playthrough of Baldur’s Gate (go for the eyes Boo!), I have loved being able to shape my characters through the ways they are allowed to interact with the story in Bioware games. It is one of the reasons why when David Gaider, one of the former head writers at Bioware, announced his partnership to create a musical game (originally called Chorus), I jumped right into the crowdfunding campaign. I adore musicals, so this concept of a musical done in game format was a no brainer for me. Well, this week the game came out under the changed name Stray Gods, and I dumped everything else I was playing to consume it. This is not like a Bioware RPG in some ways, you don’t go through some story and cinematic content and then fight baddies. It is all story and cinematic content with a little bit of “look around” thrown in.
I wish it had a longer story arc. If they had thrown in a few actual “typical” combat mechanics in it would have stretched out the game a lot, but this isn’t that kind of game and never wanted to be. I’m pretty sure people who aren’t already “take my money” types over the concept may question whether they got their money’s worth. I backed the Fig campaign, but I feel sufficiently entertained and plan to play it again as the “kick ass” Grace arc so I am fine with the money equation. I also somehow completely skipped getting into a romance, so that is something to figure out too. I noticed a message popped up regularly about the journal being updated. Reading through the journal as the story progresses has given me some added insight into Grace’s thoughts about the situation, so hopefully everyone clues in to doing that while playing.
Not everyone is happy with the game. Being on Steam gives it a larger footprint and the joy-killers who have to squish anything innovative are making themselves known. I’ll never understand the type of person who has to hate on something that they were never going to like in the first place. Do they not know themselves well enough by now to just ignore a game that wasn’t designed to please them? This was a labor of love, backed by a crowdfunding campaign for a first time studio with a few veteran members. I did enjoy seeing so many familiar names within the backers credits, people from Bioware who turned up to support one of their past colleagues.
I understand why people want to categorize a game so they know what to expect. With Stray Gods, you are being gamed into the middle of a musical. You get to direct the emotional flavor of the story. You get to direct which of the cast of characters has a larger role in your journey. If you enjoy musicals and you want to feel like you are in the middle of one, then you will be happy playing a role in the game. If you don’t like musical theater, then why on earth even pay attention to a game like this one? But I digress.
The voice cast is really good, and most of them really understand how to bring digital characters to life from their work voicing games. They bring an element of emotional depth to their spoken lines that caught me “in the feels” a few times. Some of them are much better singers than others, some do a better job singing emotionally and doing lines that way, and some blew me away with their singing. A few of the songs were a bit off to me and the audio has some rough patches. It feels stitched together, which is fair since it was created during COVID and had to be stitched together. I’m happy to say the game did make me emotional in several places, not a full on cry fest throughout, but I came to care enough about characters that their songs could make me teary-eyed. I still love the concept of this type of game and hope it does well enough for a bit of DLC added in the future. Despite wrapping up with a satisfying conclusion, there are plenty of stories that still could be told.