Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Strife: Veteran Edition Review

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strife_logoThere are a handful of games out there that are almost universally loved by gamers.  Off the top of my head, two of these titles are Deus Ex and Skyrim, and the one thing they have in common is that they successfully blend the first-person perspective and elements from RPGs into a cohesive experience.  Oddly enough, when we look back at the history of gaming you rarely have anyone mention Strife: Quest for Sigil, developed by Rogue Entertainment.  It was one of the earliest games to combine these genres and it differentiated itself from many of its hybrid peers in that the game focused almost exclusively on gameplay and hid items like the map and the character’s inventory from the main HUD.  The end result was a large field of view for the player and it all looked a lot less busy than the games that came before it.  This probably had to do with the use of the Doom engine, but regardless of why this title utilizes the full screen for your adventuring or decided to rely much more heavily on combat than any other aspect is irrelevant.  Strife did it and it did it well.

strife2The basic premise of the game is that you play a mercenary in a time where a religious cult, The Order, has oppressed a society and is converting humans into cyborgs.  Macil, a leader of the rebels combating this takeover, has hired you to seek out pieces of The Sigil, an artifact that can apparently rid the world of The Order.  In the game you move about a central town hub, taking missions as you go, to continue this larger quest by going to branching levels.  It has a surprising commonality to the way open world titles work today, although it of course modern games aren’t as transparent as they were back then.  Each of these levels are diverse in terms of the look and scope of the area, but given that this title is from 1996 and confined to the limitations of the Doom engine, you will find little more than empty areas or a handful of enemies everywhere you quest.  This also creates a more binary system as to how to handle each mission – to get the items that make up each quest requires you to either kill someone or attempt to talk them into giving it over, and then usually kill them when they react by attacking you.   Your ability to speak with everyone in the game, many of them having different dialogue options, is alone a unique factor of any Doom clone of the time and I remember that it was mind blowing back then.  Sure, often times not much comes of it, but I still take solace in a title that is focusing more on the plot and characters in it rather than simply making you a floating gun with killing as your sole purpose.  Strife may not be doing a whole lot more than other shooters of the time, but it’s sure trying to hide that fact behind a lot of intriguing concepts.

strife3That said it is still confined to the limitations and tropes of the time period it released.  You will be exploring areas that have far too much real estate for the task at hand, the game will allow you to go anywhere (which includes backtracking an entire level) and waste hours searching a non-specific objective, and you can get into missions where your resources are too low and unless you have an earlier bailout save you might be stuck indefinitely.  There’s even a red herring in the beginning of the game that if you collect it your progress is halted for the rest of the campaign (see our quick look video on how to avoid that).  Some of these flaws can be a deal breaker if you’re not ready to put up with aspects that were commonplace almost two decades ago, and it’s a far stretch to say the average Skyrim fan will find a connection here.  If you want to see the building blocks of modern titles and you can set your expectations appropriately, you may very well find a gem in Strife, especially if you found the more complex Deus Ex tolerable nowadays.

Publisher Night Dive Studios has updated this title and given it digital distribution on Steam in the new Veteran Edition, but this is an updated version of the original title and not a remaster or remake in any way.  On Steam the game even lists 1996 as its release date, which is a touch that I was thankful to see.  Most of the changes made are to allow you to play Strife on modern systems with little or no issues, and my Windows 7 64-bit modern rig booted it right up without so much as a hiccup.  Now you can play the game in higher resolutions (like 1080p) and with that comes a widescreen format that does a great job of adapting the view without everything looking stretched.  Night Dive didn’t stop there, Strife: Veteran Edition now adds lighting effects, texture options, anti aliasing, a choice between DirectX and OpenGL (and V-Sync), controller support (worked with 360 controller seamlessly), and the completion of a multiplayer mode.  Don’t worry if you want to go all old school and have it look and act like the classic title, there is a classic mode that even re-introduces game bugs, so you too are covered.  For those that have ever tried to screw around with DOSbox and other solutions to play Strife, it’s great to have a version that just works like all your other Steam games, and this is a particular perk for those of us who force gamepads upon all of our PC titles.  It looks great, it runs great, and it feels great.  If you want to play this game today, this is the version to have.

Original Strife with Hi-Res Mod

Original Strife with Hi-Res Mod

Strife: Veteran Edition

Strife: Veteran Edition

Strife did not get its day in the sun and while it was a somewhat innovative product of its time, there’s no incredible reason to pick it up now unless you want to peer into the golden days of modern game design.  That’s not to say it isn’t significant, but that it skates the line of nostalgia and the ability to be appreciated by contemporary audiences.  If you give it a chance, Strife has some fun times and impressive moments both in gameplay and plot that make saving the oppressed from The Order compelling, but if you need it to forget the time it came from and rise above the hassle, this won’t be for you.  Strife: Veteran Edition makes replaying this game about as easy as it’s going to get, provided you remember that this still has the Doom engine as its platform.  I don’t think it will get more appreciation now than it did back then, but hopefully it will find an endearing experience to budding gamers and those that let it pass the first time.

Final Score: 3 out of 5  (review policy)

Strife Veteran Edition was provided to our site via a Steam code from publisher Night Dive Studios.  It was played for approximately twelve hours and the campaign can take as much as 20+ hours to complete depending on the player and whether or not you use a guide.  Strife: Veteran Edition can be purchased on Steam for a current retail price of $9.99.

Written by Fred Rojas

December 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Posted in PC/Mac, Reviews

Tagged with , ,

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