- How Are The Companions Connected?
- What Was Responsible For Ending Humanity?
- How Did The Cats Survive In Stray?
Stray is set in an intricate post-cyberpunk world, in which you take control of a far-from-home feline, using your special cat powers to explore beautifully crafted environments and aid the various characters you will meet along the way. A narrative-driven experience, the gameplay serves mainly as a vehicle for the story, and exploration for its own sake is encouraged, as your cat journeys into the smog-filled depths of Walled City 99.
Throughout the story of Stray, reference is made to the mysterious disappearance of humanity, and how their technology and achievements have had a long-lasting impact on the lives of those that remain. The game takes a slow-paced approach to its story, slowly feeding you little nuggets of information, and methodically building up its overarching narrative. At first, however, humans are barely mentioned, and your focus is primarily drawn to the Companions.
How Are The Companions Connected?
The Companions are a race of robotic humanoids originally created to serve humanity. They possess varying degrees of artificial and emotional intelligence, as some can be seen performing complex tasks such as computing, while others can barely understand the mere concept of emotions. They populate the various levels of Walled City 99 and became a self-governing community after the disappearance of their human creators. They generally hold humans in high regard and can be found praising them for their technological ingenuity.
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Companions can be seen experiencing different emotions, via their emoji expressions on the screens that serve as their faces. They refer to humans primarily as their 'Soft One Ancestors,' believing that they are descended from humanity itself. This is primarily due to the various social and biological aspects of the Companions' personality, such as inheriting the concept of 'social class' and conditions such as hypochondria. They are said to have evolved from 'simple art,' which was described by humans as vital for desperate times.
They repeatedly refer to a place called 'The Outside,' where humans are said to still inhabit, and to which no Companion has gone before. A group called The Outsiders have made it their mission to reach The Upper Level and progress into the Outside, in order to discover if humanity still exists. However, many Companions are content with their lives in The Slums and have no desire to leave.
I take care of the plants. The humans improved them so much. Now they require very little light. I just add a bit of water and look how big they get! It really is amazing technology.
Whilst the trope of a robotic slave race rising up and overthrowing their inferior human overlords is a popular narrative thread, there is never any reference made to conflict between The Companions and humans, and the robots appear to have had no negative impact on the fate of humanity.
What Was Responsible For Ending Humanity?
At first glance, the enemy in Stray appears to be the ravenous Zurk. A race of genetically modified bacteria, the Zurk were originally created by humanity to eat bio-organic waste, but they instead evolved to be able to consume anything, even metallic objects. This makes them deadly to the robotic Companions, and the Zurk are viewed as their race's most dangerous enemy. Swarm like in nature, you will find many chase sequences requiring you to run from hordes of angry Zurk, and so far only one weakness has been discovered; exposure to intense light.
Early on in the game, you are somewhat led to believe that the Zurk could be responsible for humanities disappearances, but as time goes on, the story reveals that the Zurk are only present within the lowest depths of the Walled City, and that direct sunlight proves fatal to them, meaning that they could not possibly have caused humanity to become extinct on the surface.
The last known surviving human is B-12, albeit in android form. His human consciousness was a former scientist, and much of the game relies on you restoring his lost memories. It is through B-12 that you learn much of Stray's lore, and eventually how the human race fell. In the final chapters of Stray, B-12 fully recovers his memory, and it reveals that the human race was wiped out by an unnamed plague. Despite creating Walled City 99, no human was able to enter the containment zone in time, and B-12 reveals that in a last-ditch effort, he downloaded his mind into a computer, surviving in solitude for years, before you came along and allowed him to become a droid.
Due to the technological innovations and the existence of Walled City 99 itself, it is safe to assume that the humans were long aware of the plague, and tried various methods of isolation and containment in order to survive. It is unclear why no human was able to make it into the city before humanity fell, or if there are surviving populations alive in other similar locations. Because of this, humanity cannot accurately be described as extinct, as many of the characters we meet in Stray only have a very limited knowledge of the Outside, and you are not given any sort of information as to the global situation, only what B-12 remembers before he was digitized.
How Did The Cats Survive In Stray?
While not much reference is made to the continued existence of life above the surface, it is safe to assume the unknown plague that killed off humanity was not able to affect cats. The beginning of the game shows you living with various other feline companions, and it can be assumed that thanks to the resourcefulness of their species, cats have continued their survival on the Outside, perhaps alongside other animals.
The ending of the game shows you escaping Walled City 99 back into the outside world, and the tranquil imagery and setting do not demonstrate any danger or threat that the cat is fearful of. While it mourns the loss of B-12, accomplishing the mission both the Outsiders and the cat set out to achieve is shown as a happy ending, and despite the electronic flickering on the wall in the final cinematic, perhaps pointing towards a future sequel, the story of Stray is not one of a gloomy post-apocalyptic world, but rather a message of hope and companionship.
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