Stray was always going to be a cult hit. A game about a cat going on a wild adventure in a dystopian city full of robots? I’m in. We’re all in. But, after my 8-ish hours with the game, guiding the cute kitty out of danger, the credits rolled – and I was less than impressed. Needless to say, there will be spoilers from here in on.
See, everything up until that point was great. For a studio’s first game, Stray was brilliant and polished and fun. The way the cat moves is realistic, the puzzles were interesting, and the world sucked me in and made me care about what was happening. Seeing the 16-hour clock on the wall made me wonder what planet we were even on because earth only has 12 hours after all.
At first, the robots were scared of me, and it was both cute and horrifying – will they be enemies? Luckily, the answer is no. As I befriended more of them along the way, I found it fascinating that these circuit-driven entities mimic human behaviour; Elliot is cold and needs a blanket, and the paternal relationship between father and son makes you forget that these are in fact robots.
When you factor in the fact that you are separated from your pack of strays at the start of the game, you realize that this journey you are embarking on actually means something. Or, at least that’s what I thought.
As I journeyed ever closer to the game’s ending, the tension ramped up. I was excited to find out what the big finale was going to be. Who was the man behind the curtain? Was there even a man left out there? These thoughts peaked as I reached the control room and had to turn on the computers.
It’s at this point you see the city below for what it is: an underground city built by humans for shelter against the elements above. Well, that’s what I inferred from it anyway. This was an interesting revelation, and as I scrambled along the computer tops to turn on the PCs and divert power to the subway doors to open them, I was finally ready to see the outside world.
The PCs turned on, the doors opened, and I was met with a cutscene. oh, it’s finally time. The cat then simply walked outside and gave a side-eyed look at the camera before the credits descended and we fade to black. Talk about disappointing.
Not only did all this interesting worldbuilding go to waste, but we didn’t even find out what happened to the cat. Did it finally find its friends again? What about the robots? What about the humans? Where are we? All of these questions were broached throughout the game’s playthrough, but the ending failed to answer even the most basic of questions. As the player, you begin to wonder: what was the point of that whole journey?
Stray is a good game that is worth playing, but the Stray ending really marred my experience with it. Maybe the developers wanted to leave us on a cliffhanger, but it simply didn’t end up coming off that way, and it dragged what could have been a game of the year contender down.