Last year at PAX East, Devolver Digital was demoing Enter the Gungeon, and playing the game at that show set my expectations high. I reviewed Enter the Gungeon not too long ago, and that game met those expectations. I can only hope that Devolver and the developers at Pixel Titans can deliver again, because STRAFE fits perfectly into the slot that Gungeon was occupying in my mind. I already knew about the game, having given a single dollar to its Kickstarter during its crowdfunding phase. However, getting it in my hands, running around that derelict starship—it sold me on the concept of procedural Quake all over again.
STRAFE is a roguelike FPS that is inspired by the speed focused shooters of the late 90s. I spoke with director Thom Glunt during my demo, and he told me a bit about the origins of the project. Coming from the world of music video production, Thom games a bit on the side, particularly enjoying older PC shooters. When he loaded up Quake once again, he found that the gameplay was still solid, but the sense of discovery that the game had fostered was lost, as he knew where every secret was hidden. After finding a kindred spirit that could code the game in Steve Raney, Pixel Titans was formed, and STRAFE began its journey from concept to Kickstarter to full-fledged indie darling.
Beyond just the excellent shooting, STRAFE has quite a few fun mechanics to toy around with. Throwing objects around was more important than I would have imagined, and your character is able to pick up and chuck explosive barrels at their foes with relative ease. Once you run out of bullets, your empty guns turn into projectiles or melee weapons depending on the weapon, although experimenting with any of these fun side modes could cost you your life considering how fast STRAFE’s enemies can swarm you if you give them a chance.
Graphically, STRAFE looks better than I had anticipated. You’ve seen the gameplay in trailers if you’ve been following along with the game’s development, but seeing it in person running at full speed is something entirely different. As a fan of old school shooters myself, it was like being there on launch day to play Super Mario 64. The game was different and modern, but also intimately familiar.
I had made excuses to myself and Thom since they didn’t have a gamepad for me to play on. I was worried I would stumble around and generally make a fool of myself since I don’t normally play FPS games with a mouse and keyboard, but I felt right at home as soon as I was let loose on the Icarus. The old Unreal Tournament instincts came right back to me and that pick up and play nature will serve STRAFE well as it tries to convert the unwashed console shooter masses to this style of gameplay.
If I got any of the above details wrong, I apologize, because I was hearing this story and getting tips as I was blasting Gluttons in the face with a shotgun. The blazing fast action of STRAFE is something to behold, and the team has really captured the feeling of older shooters without making a game that feels dated right off the bat. It proves that there is something to this style of gameplay that is worth exploring further. STRAFE is scheduled for release in early 2017, and I’ll be ready with some heavy metal and a can of soda.
STRAFE was demoed in the Devolver Digital booth at PAX East 2016. It will be available on IBM compatible PCs and Mac in early 2017