Stray (PS5)

I enjoyed the first couple hours of this game. But I stopped playing at Midtown.

The game goes from a novel and relaxing walking simulator with a couple simple puzzles, to un-fun and  tedious really quick. Spoilers below.

In the main story line you're asked to procure a hat and a coat. This quest is when I stopped playing

  • The hat store isn't open, because NPC 1 (the owner) is waiting on NPC 2 (a worker) who is waiting NPC 3 (his co-worker) to stock shelves.

    NPC 2 says NPC 3 is at a bar. I head to what looks like a bar, but NPC 4 (the bouncer) says it isn't open. I then think my game is bugged, but it turns out there is a bar and a club, I went to the wrong place.

    I go to the actual bar and then have to speak to the NPC 5, NPC 6, NPC 7. NPC 7 says somebody is in the back drunk and I can wake him up with a hit to the head. Drunk guy is NPC 3 (they are wearing same outfit as NPC 2). I knock bottles onto drunk NPC 3's head, then he and NPC 2 start bringing in boxes to the hat shop. I still can't get into the store until they are done. I wait 5 minutes, they never stop bringing in boxes.

    Turns out getting into boxes is a new mechanic and I can sneak in this way. Figures I guess, cats love that, but I was still kind of frustrated by this point. Why not introduce this mechanic earlier in the game so players know they can do this? Why can't I sneak in and just grab the hat without so much conversation with NPCs?

  • Then I try to steal the coat from the coat store, but am stopped by NPC 8 (the store owner). A game mechanic in the first town was to collect stuff to sell and get quest items, so I look for stuff around the level for 45 minutes that I can sell. There is nothing. I look for a way to sneak past NPC 8, I can't.

    I'm about done with the game at this point and look up what needed to be done. Turns out I had to talk to NPC 9 carrying a boombox in a different area, and do a quest I thought was optional, that I ignored previously - to destroy security cameras.

    Once I do this I'll get a cassette tape from NPC 9, I can take that tape to the store, put it into a boombox (another new mechanic the player would never know about unless they tried to interact with everything in the area) in a back room, NPC 8 will get distracted and then I can steal the coat.

I gave up at this point. The game went from solid and enjoyable to super tedious and not worth my time. It's hard for me to explain why really. The main reason I think was that I didn't find the quest structure logical or intuitive, it felt disjointed from the theme that the first part of the game established. 

Especially for the coat quest - how is the player supposed to know they'll get a cassette as a mandatory quest item? How is it relevant to the story? How are they supposed to know to put it into a boombox to distract an NPC? Why do I have to talk to every NPC in town when there are really only a handful that give quests? How is any of this related to being a cat or any of the fun cat mechanics? Why do none of the NPCs say anything interesting that would be at all memorable? Why not just sneak around the shop and steal these things without having to chat to the entire town?

It's too bad really, the game is great looking with solid sound design and the store has a solid beginning.