Released in 1996, Strife: Quest for the Sigil was, in a phrase, ahead of its time. This Doom engine shooter was practically a RPG, with wide hub levels to explore and plenty of unique NPCs to talk to. In a way, every FPS/RPG hybrid, such as E.Y.E Divine Cybermancy or Fallout: New Vegas owes just as much to Strife as it does Ultima Underworld. However, does Strife still hold up today? Without a doubt, yes.
Strife focuses on a nameless rebel who awakes in a dark world controlled by the order, a shady cult which is mostly composed of cyborgs. The entire game has a very fantasy meets sci-fi vibe to it, where cyborgs dressed as crusaders wielding assault rifles guard every corner. It's a very unique aesthetic, and it makes exploring the game's vast world very fun, to say the least. The graphics are what you would expect for a Doom engine game, but character portraits are surprisingly detailed.
The sound design is decent enough, always getting the job done. Voice acting can be a bit hokey at times, and the soundtrack doesn't stand out nearly as much as, say, that of Duke Nukem 3D, Doom, or Redneck Rampage. Certain tracks, such as Sewers or Town are quite atmospheric, and the voice acting does have its charm at certain parts of the game. However, you won't see me going out of my way to listen to the soundtrack anytime soon.
The gameplay is broken up into two main sections, exploration and role playing in the hubs and shooting in the levels. Hubs are scattered with objectives, and a mysterious voice on the radio known as Blackbird leading you to your objectives. In the hub, you can talk to certain people to advance the plot and gain missions, or purchase items and gear for your missions. On missions, you mostly shoot anything that moves, while occasionally talking to plot-important NPCs. The game allows for three seperate endings depending on the choices you make, like any RPG worth its salt.
Weapons range from knife-gauntlets to explosive-tipped crossbow bolts to rocket launchers, all of them having their use. By the end of the game, you'll need to put all of your heavy weapons to use, as you'll be facing off against some truly difficult bosses and enemies. The difficulty perfectly ramps up as the game progresses, giving you a nice feel for the gameplay before things get really tough.
Overall, is Strife worth it? It honestly depends on your preference. If you come into the game expecting Doom, prepare to be disappointed. It's honestly more of a RPG than it is a shooter, and that's not a problem for some. Personally, I was a tad disappointed when I first booted up Strife, but now that I knew what was coming, I thoroughly enjoyed it. If nothing else, it's worth revisiting to know where such a great genre got some of its roots.
This game was obtained from the developer and reviewed on the PC.