'Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical' lets players perform an interactive Broadway show
Video games stories often shift and splinter based on a player’s unique actions.
But “Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical” goes a step further: Not only does it present branching paths through an urban fantasy, but it’s also bursting with interactive music.
Unlike other games that focus on shooting, spells or swordplay, “Stray Gods” is all about singing. Forced to clear her name after being accused of murder, protagonist Grace has to use her newfound powers as a muse to investigate the game’s modern-day Greek gods, swapping styles depending on the player’s approach. You can sing compassionately in one verse then get angrier in the next. Each choice will solicit divergent reactions and progress the story differently.
“I would say it’s hundreds or maybe thousands of really noticeably discrete versions, and then it gets into the millions once you start getting into the more subtle variations of this instrument versus that instrument,” says “Stray Gods” composer Austin Wintory.
Protagonist Grace and modern-day Greek gods Persephone, Apollo, Athena and Aphrodite meet in a high-rise office building. (Courtesy of Humble Bundle Games/Summerfall Studios)
Wintory has won accolades in the game industry for his soundtracks to indies like “Journey” and blockbusters like “Assassin’s Creed.” But he always wanted to work on something that put the music front and center.
“I thought, well, a musical is sort of the most obvious example of that,” he says, “and no one’s ever really done a video game musical the way I was picturing it.”
He pitched the idea to a game developer friend who hated it. But that friend also introduced him to Liam Esler, co-founder of Summerfall Studios, the Australia-based company that went on to make “Stray Gods.”
Wintory worked closely with writer David Gaider — the man behind the popular “Dragon Age” series — and songwriting collaborators including pop musician Montaigne and the band Tripod, consisting of Scott Edgar, Steven Gates, Simon Hall. Troy Baker, “The Last of Us” voice actor, not only appeared in the game, but also directed a star-studded cast in the recording booth.
“There were no weak links as far as I’m concerned,” Wintory said of the voice talent. “A few of them, Merle Dandridge, Anthony Rapp, of course, very well known on Broadway, are thoroughly tenured singers that could hold their own in far dicier waters than we put them through.”
It adds up to a one-of-a-kind game. In my playthrough, my diplomatic approach gradually gave way to punk-rock rage, as I had Grace ally with the roguish Pan, help a minotaur confess his feelings to an Oracle, and challenged Persephone, Queen of the Underworld. But that’s just one example; every player will walk away with their own personalized musical.
“I had to kind of create a fantasy mental image,” says Wintory, “It would be that sort of watercooler conversation where two people have had such different experiences that they almost can’t believe they played the same game. One says, ‘Oh, I liked how this one scene, this character did that.’ And the other person said, ‘I didn’t ever even see that scene. How did you get there? What were the steps that you took?’ And hopefully people kind of organically realize just how stupidly much content there is buried under the hood of the game.”
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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