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Some thoughts on The Original Strife: Veteran Edition

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Weblinks: Steam, GOG.com

Strife: Quest for the Sigil was both a critical and commercial disappointment for Rogue Entertainment in 1996. Development delays meant that the Doom engine powered game was put up against Duke Nukem 3D and Quake. Publisher Velocity was in the process of going out of business. The source code to the game was mislaid by its developers. Even the trademark on the name Strife was lost in the ensuing years.

I first played the Strife demo as part of my journey through the golden age of MS-DOS shareware, and while it was memorable, the game's inherent complexity discouraged me from playing further. Years later work began on reverse engineering Strife using the released Doom code. I remember loading the demo in 2008 in Vavoom only to be unable to open the initial cell door. Still, it was promising. Night Dive Studios would later use this community project to craft The Original Strife: Veteran Edition.

Strife does bear remembering. By being one of the first games to blend the FPS and RPG genres it became a forerunner for titles such as Deus Ex. The character of Blackbird is one of the earliest examples of a voice in your ear that would become common in later games. It broke new ground for FPS games by including multiple possible endings. The town of Tarnhill with its interconnecting hubs proved prescient. All this while still remaining a Doom clone in the best sense of the term.

The one thing that I failed to realize when I was younger is that Strife is not a true open world but a linear shooter with branching paths. The Veteran Edition emphasizes this by adding dynamic objective markers on the automap as well as reworking some dead ends. Once untangled I found Strife to be a far more enjoyable game to play, as I now felt freer to experiment with the game's mechanics and was able to complete the main campaign over the course of a single day.

In Strife you can interact with non-hostile characters, explore superfluous areas, purchase items, and improve your skills. The game also features a stealth mechanic wherein you can move unnoticed or disguised around enemies until their attention is drawn to you, although this like most of the systems I have mentioned is hindered by how static the hub areas are. Greater flexibility and communication between these elements could have allowed the world to breath a lot more.


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Combat is also not without its faults. Only two of the main weapons I found to have much general utility, namely the assault rifle and the mini-missile launcher, causing me to burn through their ammunition to the point that I would often feel deprived. A flamethrower can be unlocked that helps alleviate this, but I missed it on my first playthrough. A lot of the mechanical monsters are also far more aggravating than they need to be, especially when flying or attached to the ceiling.

I also cannot excuse how demanding the Veteran Edition is, noticeably heating my graphics card while being unplayable on my brother's maxed out Lenovo N200 laptop. Having the menus be navigable with both the keyboard and mouse caused conflicts, the environmental suit is still weird, and the weak jump does not gel well with the rest of the controls. That said I do admire the respect they have shown by including a classic mode, the demo campaign, and by bundling the MS-DOS version.

What graphical effects were added are also just subtle enough to update the visuals while still complimenting the original artwork. It would have been nice if more of the game had been subtitled though, as much of Blackbird's dialogue in particular can be hard to make out at times. Not that it would stop her from being problematic. Her role as a reward for the player is awkward to say the least, but I also often found myself giving the game back talk in response to her caustic remarks.

The rest of the story and characters do hold up well enough in a functional sort of way though, and the game even manages to introduce some legitimate intrigue when setting up the break for its two divergent endings. You do also feel a real sense of progression as you go about assaulting the castle or collecting the five pieces of the Sigil, motivating you to press on even when facing some of the game's more labyrinthine areas such as the sewer, factory, or mine.

At its heart Strife is a classic FPS game with a lot of unique flourishes and trail breaking features. While its marriage of two genres is not perfect and even with the Veteran Edition some things are still left to be desired, it was just a huge joy for me to be able play another venerable FPS from my favourite era of gaming. It is remarkable that a game that had been lost by its own creators was able to be brought back in such a fashion. Kudos to the community for making this happen. Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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About the author -
Hamish Paul Wilson is a free software developer, game critic, amateur writer, and farm labourer living in Alberta, Canada. He is an advocate of both DRM free Linux gaming and the free software movement alongside his other causes, and more information on him can be found at his icculus.org hompage where he lists everything he is currently involved in.
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8 comments

rea987 8 March 2017 at 11:36 pm UTC
Strife: Quest for the Sigil is an interesting title which was introduced me by Ross's Game Dungeon. It was an abandonware back then; so I have a shot with GZDoom and it worked flawlessly. When the game was released on Steam as The Original Strife: Veteran Edition, I was quite shocked to see a publisher remembers its existence.

View video on youtube.com

Yeah, Veteran Editions some technical issues; as a Doom Engine game its new renderer uses unnecessary amount of system resources that users of older hardware consider to switching original software renderer. It's not a game killer by any means but not being able to have enhanced graphics with older hardware was a bit bummer. Frankly, I still consider it the most creative id Tech 1 game ever made. Such a shame financially it couldn't do well...
Avehicle7887 8 March 2017 at 11:55 pm UTC
This was one of those games for me that I started way too many times but never finished when I was a kid. A couple of months ago I finished it for the first time, quite the experience for an FPS/RPG from 1996 I may say.
no_information_here 9 March 2017 at 1:39 am UTC
Nice article with interesting observations, Hamish. I enjoy your writing!
Hamish 9 March 2017 at 5:00 am UTC
no_information_hereNice article with interesting observations, Hamish. I enjoy your writing!
Cheers!

rea987Strife: Quest for the Sigil is an interesting title which was introduced me by Ross's Game Dungeon. It was an abandonware back then; so I have a shot with GZDoom and it worked flawlessly. When the game was released on Steam as The Original Strife: Veteran Edition, I was quite shocked to see a publisher remembers its existence.
Yeah, that video comes up a lot when people talk about Strife, and probably did have a lot to do with the Veteran Edition being made due to the increased interest it generated for the game. I can't say I quite get the appeal of it myself though - I got really tired of his delivery really damn fast.

In my case I was introduced to Strife the exact same way I was introduced to Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, Quake, Blood, and so many others by use of the venerable dosgames.com:
http://dosgames.com/g_3d.php

It is remarkable that website is still going actually, considering I have been going there since I was seven.
stan 9 March 2017 at 5:11 pm UTC
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After watching parts of the video Rea987 linked I want to play Strife… But just to be sure, does it block alt-tab? And is it possible to remap the keys and play with a non-qwerty keyboard layout?
Hamish 9 March 2017 at 5:34 pm UTC
stanAfter watching parts of the video Rea987 linked I want to play Strife… But just to be sure, does it block alt-tab? And is it possible to remap the keys and play with a non-qwerty keyboard layout?
Alt-tab does not seem to work in the Veteran Edition due to it still being on SDL 1.2 but you can rebind keys as much as you like. As as has been mentioned on GOL before though you could just use the WAD data to play in one of the Strife supporting source ports that use SDL 2.

Still while it is nice to have and there really is no good reason why the Veteran Edition can not be upgraded to use SDL 2, not having proper Alt-Tab support has never been a game breaker for me.
stan 9 March 2017 at 6:06 pm UTC
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Thanks Hamish.
rea987 9 March 2017 at 10:50 pm UTC
stanAfter watching parts of the video Rea987 linked I want to play Strife… But just to be sure, does it block alt-tab? And is it possible to remap the keys and play with a non-qwerty keyboard layout?

Well, if you get Steam version,

(Shift+Tab) + (Alt+Tab) would work for you.


Last edited by rea987 on 9 March 2017 at 10:57 pm UTC
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