22 Jun 2016
When I was little, I played every action game I could get my hands on. However, there was one particular game that always stuck with me: Strife. The last commercial release to use the Doom engine, Strife mystified me with gameplay elements I had personally never seen before. Before Strife, everything had been a boomfest: Kiloblaster. Death Rally. Realms of Chaos. Doom, Heretic, Quake. All action, no **** Not that that was ever a bad thing. Where Doom set a space marine against demon hordes and Quake against lovecraftian horrors, Strife took a different route, blending a medieval world of tunics, crossbows and stone castles with an invading dark future of computers, killer cyborgs and energy rifles. You are a mercenary, just arrived to the small town of Tarnhill, caught in a struggle for power between the oppressive, fanatical Order and the resistance fighters of the Front- a recipe for violence, and to be sure, Strife does not shirk on big, tough fights against multiple foes, with the fast player movement and diverse range of weapons you'd expect from a 90s FPS. But Strife also had something different from other id tech games: Dialogue. It had characters with full voice-acting, a story of betrayal and ancient conspiracy, a sultry-voiced lady with a radio guiding you on your way, a hub-level system that let you revisit previous areas (I didn't play Hexen until years after the fact), hand-drawn portraits and cutscenes, an inventory system a la Heretic, shops, two branching story routes and three endings, and even a rudimentary leveling system. I did not know it at the time, and even then, I had only played the demo, but Strife was the beginning of a lifelong love of the FPS/RPG hybrid. It may have been the first RPG I ever played period- or least the first one I enjoyed (I'm looking at you, Lands of Lore.) Sadly, the studio that created Strife closed, the source code was lost, and game was entirely out of print for almost 20 years, an unjust fate for such a gem. However, late in 2014, this "Veteran" edition of the game was released, and at last I was given a chance to experience Strife as it had been intended, and with yet more to offer. I would call this version the definitive edition- not only is the original game restored in its entirety, but the demo version is included as a seperate episode (with deferring dialogue and character placement from the final version), the multiplayer mode cut from the original release has been included, and there is an entire extra secret level, designed by a guy who created one of the reverse-engineered source ports and was instrumental in the release of this version. Also present are three "talisman" items, cut from the original release, that if gathered grant the player berserk power comparable to the powerup in Doom, turning your feeble punch-dagger into a weapon capable of destroying Inquisitors, a rare, powerful enemy that serves as a miniboss, in one or two punches. Also mercifully included are objective indicators on your map, which will certainly be a mercy to any first-time Strife players, as some of the later areas of the game are as convoluted as any Doom level. If you ever thought Doom and its derivatives were lacking a certain something, that maybe you wanted a more cinematic experience but with that same fast, frenetic combat, then Strife might be what you're looking for. Just remember... Trust No One.