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Strife

aka: Strife: Quest for the Sigil, Strife: Trust No One
Moby ID: 960
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Description official descriptions

In the distant future, the Earth is ruled by a group of people who call themselves "The Order". Many disasters have plagued the planet, and after many wars, misery, and death, the Order controls people's lives and deprives them of their freedom. A rebel organization has been formed, seeking to overthrow the Order and whoever else might be behind their rise to power. Somewhere in the depths of a ruined Town Hall, a group of people who oppose the Order's regime welcome a lone wanderer to become the one who will free the Earth from terror.

Strife is a plot-driven first-person shooter that uses the Doom engine. Rather than taking the player through a linear series of levels, the game offers a continuous world with free-roaming elements and a central "hub" (the town), which the player can visit between missions and explore. Although there are no true role-playing elements in the game, it has several features rarely seen in contemporary FPSs: there are "friendly" areas where there are no enemies but people to talk to, stores where new equipment can be bought, and taverns where the latest gossip is told. The player can also purchase upgrades that permanently increase the player character's health bar.

The game has a branching storyline with a few paths that lead to three different endings. These paths are determined by a decision the player makes during the course of the plot.

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Credits (DOS version)

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Reviews

Critics

Average score: 68% (based on 21 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 58 ratings with 7 reviews)

Gameplay and technology may be two separate things, but you need both.

The Good
There's a lot of creative juice running through Strife's veins that's for sure. The game sets itself appart from other Doom clones by introducing a lot of rpg touches like npc interaction, sidequests, hub-based levels and character improvement (albeit not with the standard experience points) as well as other gameplay-enhancing gimmicks.

Taking place in a post apocaliptic world, Strife casts you as a roguish character who gets caught in the fight for freedom of a rebel alliance intent on overthrowing your typical oh-so-evil despotic cult. As the story moves along things start to go really trippy, with genetic experiments gone wrong, betrayals, extraterrestrial intervention, and all sort of kooky sci-fi things told mostly via the game itself and on stylish comic-booky cutscenes and fully voice-acted (make that very well voice-acted) conversations. The plot can get a little far-fetched, especially since among it all you remain the typical last hope of humankind, but it's entertaining and remarkably interesting for an fps plot, and besides you have two possible endings to give you an excuse to go at it again.

The game is an fps at it's core, so you have a nice arsenal of things that go boom, and while most of it is standard fare (machine gun, rocket launcher, grenade launcher, flame thrower, etc.) there are weapons with different ammo configurations (explosive rounds, incendiary rounds, poison bolts, etc.), as well as a weird "ultimate weapon" from which you collect pieces as you go defeating bosses and which has different and overlapping powers. You'll get to try those weapons on the many, many, many enemies which occupy the collection of maps which composes Strife's world, maps which are very well designed and combine large open areas with winding corridors, and span everything from military outposts to frontier towns and alien spaceships all filled with enemies, items and secret areas and challenges.

The goodies are handled via a nice inventory system which deepens the gameplay options by including the standard collection of bio-suits, medikits and other interesting items like targetting computers (for enhaced accuracy) as well as teleporting beacons for calling some backup.

The rpg angle is small but serviceable, essentially aside from getting bigger guns and inventory space, you can purchase health upgrades as well as accuracy enhancements (tough they don't seem to make a major difference). You also have to supply yourself with ammo and equipment from stores (especially early in the game) and so money becomes another aspect to consider and the game does deliver a much deeper gameplay experience than the usual shooter fps games.

The Bad
There is a lot of "sameness" in this game, and the level design usually has "filler" sequences in it, plus there are some odd elements like the addition of "secret" areas which felt coherent in Doom, but not so here (why the hell after finding a secret cave you come to a giant pedestal with a weapon on top of it in the rebel base????). Similarly, the amount and disposition of the firefights and challenges is a total borefest, there is one very interesting sequence which involves a co-ordinated assault on an enemy base, but that's the only standout sequence on Strife. The savegame system is a piece of crap since it only has one slot (reason number one why I didn't even try to check out the other ending) and the enemy and critter design sucks. Trust me, I know it sounds like bitching when one says things like that, but they are all completely boring stormtropper wanna-bes or Fisher-Price robot-thingies.

Yet all of that is merely bitching when compared to the one big, huge, crippling flaw of this game: The Doom engine.

I know we all like to say how the creative elements are all that matter, and how we would all play anything as long as it has a good story and solid gameplay... but this is the game that proves that technology DOES matter. It may not necessarily be the top element in our priorities, but it DOES matter. Strife is a game done in 1996 with 1992 technology, and the results are just terrible. It's as if a game would come out now using the Quake 1 engine.... And while the gameplay of Strife is something new, it's not THE gameplay experience, in fact, System Shock did the fps/rpg with a plot -thing earlier and used a much more advanced engine than Doom's (not to mention that it was a much better game).... No, I'm sorry, but if I'm going back to the Doom days, I'm gonna do it with Doom, where the violence is plenty, the action is fast and furious and there is no reason for you to turn your brain on. One may think that the technical deficiencies affect Strife only on the graphic front, but the problems seep into the very bones and structure of the game, and they take their toll on the gameplay just as they do the graphics.

Strife just came out to late man... tooo late... And I know what you are thinking: "Stupid Kid, I know your kind! You just want the latest 3D particle effects and thingamagingies and known nuthin' of real gaming!! Go play your Quake 8 and leave real gaming to men"

....well dude, that's exactly what I tought of the kind of people that dissed Strife... until I played it!

The Bottom Line
Real sad man... Strife is not a triple A title, but it sure has a lot of honest creative work poured into it. I feel pity for it, for if it weren't because of it's dated technology, Strife would have been a decent title and an entertaining fps. As it stands it's just too little too late.

Let Strife be a lesson to all you idealistic designers, and know that even if you have a killer game design it's nothing without the technology to at least support it.

DOS · by Zovni (10504) · 2003

A truely innovative game which never caught on due to a somewhat outdated engine

The Good
Because it had an actual plot, this was the second FPS (the first being Dark Forces) that I ever had the patience to play from beginning to end. The programmers really did some amazing things with the ol' Doom engine.

For one thing, instead of linear levels the game used a hub system like Hexen where you could go back and forth between several different interconnected areas. Also instead of mission briefings your objectives were relayed to you in-game either by people you talked to or by your everpresent partner "Blackbird" on the radio. This gave the game a smooth transition and seamlessness I hadn't seen since until Half-Life came along.

Also, instead of a dead world populated only by monsters trying to kill you, Strife had various "friendly" areas such as two towns and two rebel bases where you could just wander around and talk to people or buy stuff. Even some of the "action" levels started out friendly and you could even have conversations with the guards (until you started shooting or entered a restricted area, at which point they'd start trying to kill you). Also, there was a great deal of variety to the levels (ranging from occupied town squares to old ruins) instead of the usual endless similar corridors.

When you talked to a major character, you got a close-up screen with comic art and speech. The comic art of the various characters was extremely well drawn, and the speech was pretty good as well. Your partner, Blackbird, also had various funny or oddball things to say over the radio about the various situations you found yourself in.

The action itself was pretty much standard Doom fare, with enemies who weren't too bright but who came at you in ridicuously large numbers. The enemies themselves ranged from the standard gun-toting guards to a variety of cool-looking battle robots. In terms of weaponry there were a few innovations, such as incindery grenades and a flamethrower you could use to sadistically burn your enemies alive, and a crossbow with poison arrows you could use to kill guards without setting off the alarm. There was even an item you could use to teleport friendly rebel soldiers to your location to fight for you (albeit not particularly well).

Also helping to set this game apart were the various set pieces in it. For example, at several points in the game you could sneak past hordes of guards with a fake ID or by pretending to be the janitor. One particularly fun level had you storming an enemy castle, and fighting alongside you was a small army of rebels engaging the enemie's forces in a large scale battle royale which was a real change from the typical one-man-against-the-world FPS scenario. In a similar scenario a single boss-character would show up in the middle of the rebel base and would wind up slaughtering them left and right if you didn't intervene. Finally, towards the ending of the game you were given a choice of two different "paths" which would lead you to two seperate endings. The good ending was your typical save-the-world-get-the-girl scenario, and was pretty tough since you had to go through several extra levels. Despite the grim outcome, I found the bad ending to be most interesting because of the surprise (and boy was it a surprise) identity of the final enemy.

The Bad
Well, the Doom engine was a bit dated at the time (I believe Quake was just coming out) but the programmers made enough tweaks to it (such as jumping/ducking, more "true life" textures, and a hub-based level system) so that it seemed fresh. I also think it didn't have support for mouse aiming, but when I played the game I hadn't heard of mouse aiming anyway so it didn't really make a difference to me.

Though this probably doesn't apply anymore, when I got the game it really cheesed me that it took a whopping 70 megabytes of hard disk space, and you had to install the full game and couldn't play it from the CD. I know that nowadays you could toss 70 megs out the window and never miss it, but back then I only had 30 megs free on my hard disk (which was all I ever needed for any of the other games I owned) and had to do some seriously weird stuff with my HD to get this game to work. But I think it was worth it. The game also didn't allow you to have multiple save slots for a single game, but a small patch (or creative copy/pasting) fixed this oversight.

My only real complaint was that the very last section of the game (the Order Factory) was pretty much just five levels of repetitive shooting and button-hunting, with none of the interactivity, creativity or atmosphere that made the rest of the game so compelling. However things did pick up when you reached the end of the Factory and got to the endgame.

The Bottom Line
After Half-Life's example, most modern first person shooters contain many of the elements which made this game so interesting. However, for it's time Strife was a very different and very enjoyable FPS experience.

DOS · by Alan Chan (3610) · 2000

Too late for a great game

The Good
This game was excellent. It took many of the Doom great features and used them to give a step further in gaming. Now is when you can say "At least a FPS with a plot!!". It wasn't just shooting everything that move. Even more, if you do it, you will get frustrated soon. Sometimes you'll have to talk with characters. Sometimes you will find allies or friends.

And, in a certain part of the story, you will have to choose to fight in one side or another.

What else could you ask?

The Bad
First of all, the graphics weren't too innovative by the time it was released.

Second, and most important... IT CAME TOO LATE!! Why?? When people were moving towards new game technologies, like Quake and other polygon based engines, Strife went into the light, using a technology from two years before.

It was a pity, because the game couldn't enjoy the recognition that it deserved.

The Bottom Line
Late delivering for a very good game.

DOS · by Emepol (212) · 2004

[ View all 7 player reviews ]

Trivia

Code

The source code of the game has unfortunately been lost; attempts to reverse engineer the code were made by the fans. The game can currently be played more or less faithfully with various source ports, such as ZDoom or Chocolate Strife (a port which uses code directly disassembled from the game executable itself).

Development history

Strife was originally in development by Cygnus Studios, the creators of Raptor: Call of the Shadows, and id Software was supposed to publish the game. However, game designer Jim Molinets left Cygnus and joined Rogue Entertainment, thus carrying his game design over with him. Cygnus and id no longer had anything to do with Strife at that point. Rich Fleider and Tim Neveu from Cygnus also joined the Rogue team as well to work on Strife. Shortly afterwards, Cygnus Studios was renamed to Mountain King Studios, and Mountain King hired new staff to work on their next project, Demonstar.

Extras

The CD-ROM package includes the "town map" on one side and the "field guide" on the other side of a sheet. The field guide illustrates the different enemies, weapons, ammo, armor, medical supplies, cold hard cash, and miscellaneous items encountered during the game.

Game engine

Strife was the Doom engine's last gasps for air. Not counting Chex Quest (which was only distributed in cereal boxes), it would be the final commercial standalone game to use id's engine.

Marketing

  • Ads in US PC gaming magazines displayed review scores for the game-- 82% from PC Gamer, and 3/5 from Computer Gaming World. These are respectable but less-than-fantastic scores, so seems a bit odd that Velocity would choose to display these so prominently.
  • Strife (at least in the UK) had a controversial advertising campaign. The ad took the form of a recipe:

*Strife

(for 8 people)

Ingredients: 1 brain (medium), 1 pair of balls (large)

Blend until smooth.

Sip during game play.*

The main part of the ad was a huge photo - The surface of a kitchen table with a few nice-looking herbs scattered around and, right in the middle, what looked like a big, wet, recently removed human brain and a large pair of...of...ah...hmm... Needless to say, there were lots of complaints and many magazines either refused to run the ad or plastered huge black boxes over the entire thing.

Patches

One of the things that people really complained about when Strife was released, was that it only had one save slot. Rogue fixed it in the version 1.3 patch, allowing you to have multiple save slots.

Rarity

The publisher Velocity closed down shortly after Strife was released and it is unclear who has held the rights to the game ever since, which is one of the reasons for its rarity.

Information also contributed by hydra9, Matt Dabrowski, NeoMoose, Roger Wilco, Spartan_234, Timo Takalo

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Derrick 'Knight' Steele.

Additional contributors: Shadowcat, Unicorn Lynx, Jeanne, Dae, Alaka, Havoc Crow, oct, Patrick Bregger.

Game added March 5, 2000. Last modified July 8, 2024.