Lately I’ve had the flu so I’m more or less bedridden. To pass the time between two sneezes, I took the opportunity to discover some old games and I came across “Strife: Quest for the Sigil” finally I play its reissue which allows you to easily play it in HD on Steam and without tweaking his PC “Strife: Veteran Edition”.
The Steam page talks about Strife as a classic released in 1996 but for my part, I talked about it around me, no one seems to know this game even though it seems to me to have some great qualities for the time.
Strife: Precursor to Deus Ex
In addition to having been forgotten by everyone when he invented many mechanics that will have brought glory to his descendants, Strife had a complicated development.
A complicated genesis:
In 1992 Scott Host created a video game studio in Chicago called Cygnus Interactive, whose most famous game was a Shoot them up called Raptor call of the shadows in 1994.
At the same time Scott and one of his colleagues are starting to work on a 3d game project called Second Sword.
Upon learning this, ID Software, the creators of Wolfnstein, Doom, Quake (in short, the fps gods of the time) decided to contact them to offer them a deal which basically said:
“You’re good, Raptor was a good game. So instead of tinkering with a technically outdated thing, come join us in Texas and we’ll give you the engine of Doom.”
A difficult proposition for Scott to refuse. Unfortunately, the transition is proving difficult. The new project being much more complex than Second Sword, the studio had to hire a lot. This change of scale, coupled with the stress of the move, results in serious interpersonal problems within Cygnus. Annoyed, Scott drops the case and returns to Chicago. The other employees stay in Dallas and found Rogue Entertainment, which will continue the development of this new project: Strife. But the delay was substantial and when the game finally came out in May 1996, it was already overtaken by the competition. Duke Nukem 3D arrived earlier this year, Quake will be released a month later. A game using Doom’s engine, I guess immediately come across as cheesy.
A revolution :
However, when you play it again in 2023, you realize that Strife was a good game. Where interaction in Duke Nukem 3D boiled down to slipping bills into strippers’ underwear and, in id games, to empty magazines into the heads of the dreadful people who rushed at us (finally in the belly it also worked since there was no localization of the damage), Strife already offered a city populated by passers-by going about their business, merchants of equipment and care, NPCs giving main and secondary quests and especially enemies whose behavior depended on the context: the guards of the Order (local equivalent of the Galactic Empire, against which stands a rebellion that will join the protagonist) did not attack on sight but only when the alarm was triggered or the player entered a prohibited area. Areas that otherwise were linked to each other like those of a Half-Life, the smooth transitions between levels giving the impression of a single vast open space.
Of course, Strife wasn’t perfect. In wanting to create realistic environments with an engine as limited as that of Doom, Rogue has sometimes crashed: the sets remain very abstract (hence the omnipresence of panels which are there to remind us that such a building is a prison or a power plant) and we sometimes come across guys who seem to have chosen to take up residence in secret passages. While the game world is open, it’s also quite small, with a single village that acts as the central area. And even if the scenario contains some good ideas – in particular an unexpected twist halfway through – it remains b-movies or z-movies next to the Hollywood staging of that of Half-Life or the quality of writing of Deus Ex.
But above all, playing Strife in 2023 allows you to enjoy the aesthetic pleasure of placing it back in the history of video games, to notice how this FPS-RPG, revolutionary on many points, is a “transition game”, both very modern and filled with clichés inherited from the first FPS. There is a weapon to assemble like in Hexen, teleporters and cupboards that make enemies appear right behind the player like in the cheapest level of Doom… And all these elements, a little outdated perhaps, make also from Strife a kind of lungfish, a weird thing stuck between two stages of evolution, unique and a little farted but not devoid of charm.
I really had a good moment in front this game so I hope if you try it you will have the same!
Have a good day, take care of yourself and your loved ones and see you soon!