Strife (also known as Strife: Quest for the Sigil, and not to be confused with the 2015 game of the same name) is a sci-fi fantasy role-playing shooter developed by Rogue Entertainment and published for MS-DOS PCs in North America (by Velocity on May 15, 1996) and Europe (by Studio 3DO on May 31, 1996). The shareware version was originally released on February 23, 1996.
Built on the id Tech 1 engine (similar to the Doom and Heretic series), Strife incorporates numerous elements from role-playing games (including open-world exploration with a central hub, conversation paths with non-player characters, and systems for inventory, currency, and stat improvement). The game itself was originally in development by Cygnus Studios, before internal conflict caused part of the team to form Rogue Entertainment in order to continue development.
The game's lore mixes sci-fi and fantasy elements, set in a world where a comet impact unleashed a plague that decimated or mutated a large part of the world's population. Those who have mutated formed The Order, a highly-technological cybernetic cult of those mutated by the plague (which caused them to hear the voice of the "One God"). As the Order enslaved the remaining populace, players take control of an unnamed wandering mercenary seeking to join the rag-tag resistance movement, known as The Front, in the town of Tarnhill.
As it is the only licensed game using the id Tech 1 engine to not have its source code released, support for the game through the engine's numerous source ports were scarce prior to a major reverse engineering effort by numerous source port developers. One notable release is the 2013 "2.0.0" release of Chocolate Doom (which preserves the "look and feel" of the original), which was used as the base for an official enhanced re-release known as Strife: Veteran Edition (or The Original Strife: Veteran Edition, as the trademark then belonged to S2 Games).
The enhanced re-release was developed and digitally published by Nightdive Studios on December 12, 2014 for the PC, Mac, and Linux. In addition to new modern graphical options (such as widescreen support and dynamic lighting), an updated user interface, and updated controls, this version features adds some of the original game's incomplete features (such as a Capture the Flag mode and objective markers on the map) along with a new secret quest (with a new secret level). This version was later released for the Nintendo Switch on October 25, 2020.
The events of Strife take place within a world stricken by disease and oppression. In a time before, the world had been peaceful, even idyllic, though this reality was abruptly shattered and replaced by one far more bleak the day a solitary comet collided with the planet. In droves, People mysteriously began to fall sick, and millions would soon perish in a massive viral outbreak which coincided with the comet's arrival. Not all that were afflicted by the plague would die, but those that didn't laid claim to hearing a voice within their heads, a voice which they were compelled to obey. Those who could hear the voice began to look down upon those who could not, and before long they formed The Order, an organization devoted to achieving the goals of The One God, no matter the cost. The unafflicted were forced to submit to The Order; all aspects of life would eventually come under Order control, even procreation, and The Order's violent and indiscriminate ways led the remaining survivors to hide what few healthy women and children that remained below ground, as far from The Order's reach as could be mustered.
For a time, those who suffered under The Order's persecution thought of little else save survival or escape from their bonds. Unfortunately, it became ever more apparent with the passage of time that The Order's influence was all-pervasive, and that if left unchecked the last remnants of humanity would simply be hunted to extinction or converted into mindless servants. It was from this realization that the resistance movement known as The Front came to be, a desperate gathering of citizens hoping to wrest The Order's influence from the lives of the populace by force. With The Order's significant numbers, advanced weaponry, and zealous methods, The Front could not afford to openly combat their adversaries until the conditions were right, and so its operatives maintained the utmost secrecy, hiding in the shadows and gathering arms and recruits where they could be found while also gathering any information that could possibly give them an edge against their oppressors.
The player enters these circumstances under the guise of a wandering mercenary whose displeasure with The Order has led him to offer his services to The Front. After a brief test of loyalty, the resistance welcomes him into the fold, sending him on important missions against The Order. Over the course of the game, the mercenary encounters and defeats several important figures within the cult, including The Programmer, The Bishop, and The Loremaster. Toward the game's climax, the wanderer discovers that The Order is controlled by an otherworldly being known as The Entity, and that the comet that heralded the beginning of the troubles was presumably the vessel that the creature had arrived in. Defeating The Entity is the player's final task in Strife, and depending upon what actions were taken beforehand, one of two endings is possible after winning, as well as a third in which the player loses to The Entity. In the better of the two endings, both The Order and the plague are eradicated, while in the lesser ending, the plague persists despite The Order's demise, causing the survivors to lose hope.
At the game's outset, the player arrives in the town of Tarnhill hoping to contact The Front. Tarnhill represents one of several neutral "hub" zones within Strife in which the player will not be attacked unless they behave aggressively. These areas serve a number of gameplay purposes. Missions are typically accepted and turned in within them, and they also contain various shops from which players can purchase weapons, ammunition, armor, health packs, and other items. Furthermore, certain characters here also have the ability to increase the player's weapon accuracy and maximum hit points. Both can be upgraded a total of ten times over the course of the game, though there are usually prerequisites for receiving said upgrades. Players are rewarded with currency upon completing most missions, and it is understood (and in some instances specifically verbalized) that the player is to use this money in order to prepare themselves for the coming missions. In this sense, the hub areas of Strife can be viewed as interludes in the midst of the game's main action, places free from danger in which players can recuperate and restock before heading back out into more hostile lands.
Connected to the more centralized neutral zones are a variety of additional levels which the player must travel to in order to complete their objectives. These levels typically (but not always) require the player to engage in large amounts of combat, and it is within them that the game most resembles a traditional Doom-era first-person shooter. Enemies behave in rather straightforward fashion, usually waiting at a fixed point until the player passes by, which triggers them to attack. Quest objectives often do not specifically require the player to kill enemies within mission-critical areas, nonetheless it is not uncommon for the player to end up subduing the larger part of the enemy presence there over the course of a mission. There are some exceptions to this, the most notable being several maps in which the player has the option to infiltrate an Order-controlled area rather than simply resorting to violence. In these instances the player is able to remain incognito in the presence of foes that might otherwise attack. Triggering an alarm or acting suspiciously will still cue enemies to attack, and furthermore certain foes will always recognize the player as a threat, however this stealth system, if used properly, can allow players to successfully avoid combat in a number of situations.
As the game progresses, the player gradually gains access to larger segments of the game world, and in a similar fashion to earlier instances of more open first-person games, such as System Shock, there are very few restrictions placed upon the player when it comes to revisiting previous areas. Level progression is similar to Hexen, in which a central hub level branches out into a number of attached levels that the player can travel back and forth from at will. Unlike Hexen's hub system, however, which transports the player to a new hub after finishing the current one, Strife is composed of a single interconnected set of levels, and as a result toward the game's end the player will be able to travel to almost any prior point in the game if they so choose. Outside of the game's hub areas, though, there is very little necessity or incentive to revisit most environments, as the player's actions within the world are persistent throughout, meaning that enemies and items will not respawn upon returning to previous levels.
The Strife arsenal consists of eight weapons, including some well-worn staples of the first-person action game, such as an assault rifle, a rocket launcher, and a shotgun equivalent. The means of acquiring these weapons can vary. They may be given, found, purchased, or constructed, and the most powerful of them can only be completed after defeating five bosses. Several of these armaments have more than one firing mode or a second ammunition type, and in these cases the player can cycle to the alternate mode or ammo simply by pressing that weapon's selection button a second time. Weapon ammo can be found throughout most levels, but it is often wise to purchase additional ammunition for the weapons one expects to use when the opportunity to do so arises, especially in the case of rarer types of ammunition. The Ammo Satchel item is also worth investing in early on, as it double's the player's ammo capacity across all weapons.
Punch Dagger The token melee implement of Strife, the Punch Dagger is the player's only defense at the beginning of the game, and is unsurprisingly outclassed as soon as the player obtains a ranged weapon. Even against the game's weaker foes, the Punch Dagger is not a particularly efficacious device, and when tackling larger ones, it is tantamount to suicide. It does become somewhat more potent over time, however, as the player's stamina rating has a direct effect on its potential damage.
The Crossbow is a solid if unspectacular weapon that can be obtained very early on. Its two bolt types, electric and poison, are meant to be used against mechanical and biological targets respectively. While certainly a better option than the Punch Daggers, the default electric rounds suffer from poor damage output and a slow rate of fire. The rarer poison rounds are an instant kill against any Acolyte, but are unfortunately useless against the game's myriad of mechanized foes.
- Ammunition Types: Electric Bolts, Poison Bolts
Assault Gun Fireable in quick three-shot bursts or a continuous stream, the Assault Gun is a moderately powerful automatic rifle which can unleash a large number of rounds in fairly short order. Along with the Mini-Missile Launcher, it is considered one of the game's core weapons, being that it is reasonably effective against almost all types of opponents. Its rapid ammo consumption is its biggest drawback, making it somewhat of an inefficient way to deal with larger and more durable enemies.
The second of Strife's core weapons, the Mini-Missile Launcher is somewhat underpowered when compared to rocket launchers in other first-person shooters, however the relative abundance of its ammo and its usefulness against a wide variety of foes make it one of the more important weapons in the player's arsenal. In addition, the splash damage radius created by the mini-missiles is small enough that it can be used comfortably on foes in fairly close proximity to the player.
- Ammunition Type: Mini-Missiles
Capable of delivering two varieties of heavy ordinance, the double-barreled Grenade Launcher is a powerful tool that unloads two grenades with each shot. High explosive rounds create devastating concussive blasts, while phosphorous rounds create intense flames around their point of impact that are quite adept at killing clustered groups of enemies in a single volley. Whichever variety is being used, it is advisable to stand well outside of the targeted area when firing, and to be mindful of grenade trajectory as well.
- Ammunition Types: Explosive Grenades, Phosphorous Grenades
The Flamethrower is a short-range weapon that excels in handling individual foes, though it regrettably loses some of its punch when multiple hostiles are present. Even against larger foes (including some bosses), the Flamethrower deals enough sustained damage to prevent an enemy from being able to counterattack. Once additional enemies enter the equation, though, its ability to stun lock a single foe is not as attractive, as there are other weapons that are more conducive to crowd control.
- Ammunition Type: Energy Cells
Exemplifying the pinnacle of man-made weaponry in Strife, the Mauler is a heavy weapon with two firing methods. In primary mode, the Mauler functions as an energy-based shotgun that can tear apart most foes with a few hits, while its secondary firing mode expels a BFG-like green plasma ball that is nearly guaranteed to kill a target upon direct hit, though it also costs the player health to use it. Upon impact, the plasma ball will release a secondary shock wave that damages those near the blast, including the player if they are too close.
- Ammunition Type: Energy Cells, Hit Points
Representing advanced and poorly-understood alien technology, The Sigil (also known as The Sigil of The One God) is both a tool of destruction and an object of reverence for the cultlike Order. It is the key to defeating the force behind The Order and the plague, and as such The Order has split it into five pieces, with each being entrusted to an important person within their hierarchy. The device grows in strength with each fragment the player collects, and it is not until all five have been assembled that the doorway to the final encounter can be opened. Depending upon its level of completion, The Sigil consumes between four and twenty hit points per use.
- Ammunition Type: Hit Points
- One Piece: Causes lightning bolts to fall within a radius of the targeted area.
- Two Pieces: Casts a single lighting bolt from the user toward a target.
- Three Pieces: Projects a stream of ball lightning in a 180° arc in front of the player.
- Four Pieces: Propels a lighting bolt toward a target which has tracking capability.
- Five Pieces: Releases a ball of lightning that additional lightning bolts emanate from.
Strife uses a player inventory system similar in style to that of Raven's Heretic. Upon pickup, most usable items will go into the player's inventory rather than being consumed outright. The game will automatically activate certain health and armor items if the player's hit points drop below a certain threshold or their armor points have been reduced to zero, though aside from this it is up to the player to decide when best to use their accumulated items. Health packs, armor, and other beneficial items can often be found in the field, though the game also encourages the player to plan ahead for their next mission by purchasing items from various shops within its hub areas. Most support items that can be found in the world can also be acquired through vendors, and, if the player has enough money, it is often much more convenient to obtain rarer items this way than to search for them within the environment.
Health & Armor
Med Patch The default unit of healing within Strife is the Med Patch, which restores up to ten hit points to the player per use. The amount healed may never exceed the player's maximum hit point capacity, which is the sum of their initial hit point value (100) and their current stamina value (between zero and 100). Up to twenty can be held at one time.
Med Kit The upgraded version of the Med Patch restores a potential of twenty-five hit points upon use, up to but not in excess of the player's health cap. Up to fifteen can be stored in inventory for later use, and Med Kits are the preferred health item to be used (provided they are available) by the game's automatic health recovery system.
Field Surgery Kit As Strife's ultimate in health restoratives, the Field Surgery Kit automatically boosts the player to full health, regardless of their current hit points. As the player's health cap gradually increases over the course of the game, they become increasingly useful, though unlike Med Patches and Med Kits, Field Surgery Kits must always be used manually.
Environmental Suit Under normal circumstances, biohazardous materials (which are brought to the player's attention by way of intermittent green flashes) will gradually reduce hit points after thirty seconds of exposure. The Environmental Suit will prevent this type of damage from occurring, and additionally nullifies all damage from the Crusader's flamethrower attack.
Leather Armor Strife's standard unit of protection, Leather Armor grants 100 armor points while reducing all damage taken by a third. Leather Armor can be purchased rather inexpensively while in town, and up to five sets can be stacked in the player's inventory for use at a later time. It is used automatically upon reaching zero armor points if Metal Armor is unavailable.
Metal Armor The superior of Strife's two physical armor types, Metal Armor bestows 200 armor points and halves all damage received. It is somewhat more expensive to purchase, though it should be noted that it also last longer and offers greater protection. Up to three sets can be carried on top of whatever armor type the player might currently be wearing.
Shadow Armor A player can hold up to two sets of Shadow Armor at a given time, and may use one to gain partial invisibility for a fifty-second duration. After activating the first set, if the player is in possession of a second set, and activates it while the first is still in effect, they will become fully invisible and also immune to damage for a short period of time.
Currency Money is obtained in a number of ways throughout Strife, but completing missions is certainly the largest and most consistent source of income. Spending this currency is one of the player's primary goals between missions, and while certain items are universally useful, its best use is also heavily dependent on individual play style.
Com Unit Given to the player early on, the Com Unit is the main means of communication with The Front when not at one of their strongholds. Blackbird, the player's handler, frequently uses it to keep the wanderer updated with important mission-specific information, though she just as often utilizes it as a means to interject her own thoughts on a particular situation.
Ammo Satchel The Ammo Satchel functions exactly as the Doom Backpack does by permanently doubling the maximum ammo capacity of the player. This is one of the more common-sense early upgrade that the player can purchase, as it allows more ammo to be picked up while on missions, thus reducing the need to purchase ammo when outside of them.
Targeter Using the Targeter causes a reticle framed by two bars to appear when using any ranged weapon save for The Sigil. The distance of the two bars from the central targeting reticle is determined by the player's accuracy statistic, and is meant to convey an accurate sense of the weapon's field of fire when accounting for the possibly of errant shots.
Teleporter Beacon The Teleporter Beacon is a support item that, when placed, can spawn up to six friendly resistance fighters to its location. Naturally, these Front soldiers will do their best to attack any enemies nearby. While reinforcements do not trigger alarms, any creatures triggered by them will attack the player as well, which may force the player in turn to break stealth.
Map Reminiscent in effect (and appearance) to the Doom Computer Map power-up, the Map reveals the entirety of a specific level's layout to the player by way of their automap. Each instance of the Map power-up will only reveal the map layout for a single level, and unlike most items, it is automatically used once the player picks it up.
Scanner The Scanner pickup is unique in that it is the only inventory item which requires the possession of another item, namely the Map, before it can be used. Once activated, a wealth of additional information is displayed for the player via their automap, including the locations of enemies, items, and other entities, though this lasts for scarcely more than a minute.
Degnin Ore Found within the mines adjacent to the Order Commons, Degnin Ore possesses special properties that allow it to emit a powerful magnetic blast under the right circumstances. By placing it on the ground and shooting it with any weapon, it is possible to use it as an improvised land mine, and it will also disable force fields if detonated close enough to them.
Accuracy Booster The rare Accuracy Booster item does nothing in and of itself, however it can be turned in at a friendly weapon trainer in order to increase one's accuracy rating. Once done, this raises accuracy by ten points, improving overall skill with most ranged weapons. This improvement is most noticeable with rapid-fire weapons such as the Assault Gun.
Stamina Booster The Stamina Booster is quite similar vis-à-vis the Accuracy Booster, being essentially a voucher to be turned in in exchange for a service. The service in this instance is a ten point increase in stamina, which directly boosts the player's maximum hit points. Higher stamina values also cause the Punch Dagger to do far more damage than usual.
Opposition in Strife takes various forms, though no matter the size and shape, they are all affiliates of The Order and its agenda. One commonality between them is the use of cybernetic or robotic components, as The Order seems to view traditional human biology as imperfect. Many of The Order's agents are a hybrid of man and machine, while others are completely devoid of any identifiable human components. Having their basis in the worship of The One God, The Order has also taken to lending the names of many of its creations an overtly religious bent, with titles like Crusader and Acolyte likely intended to cement the righteousness of its cause in the minds of The Order's followers. In total, Strife includes eight standard foes that are encountered with varying degrees of frequency, and five boss-level opponents that are either entirely unique or seen only on rare occasions. Initiates within The Order tend to be the most identifiably human, whereas it is not uncommon for higher-ranking foes to incorporate mechanical or alien physiology to a much larger degree.
Turret Encountered frequently throughout the game, Turrets are placed in any area The Order wishes to protect from encroachment. They are not extremely durable or powerful, though they can still be somewhat vexing, as oftentimes they are easy to miss, especially when other enemies are attacking. Another problem when encountering them is positioning, as the fact that they are ceiling-mounted can make them difficult to target in many instances. As defensive constructs, if no general alert has been raised, Turrets will not attack the player, though once they have been activated, they will open fire whenever the player is within its line-of-sight.
Acolyte Acting as The Order's standard grunt, the Acolyte is a cybernetically "enhanced" human that follows its directives without question. They are seen in significant numbers in Strife from beginning to end, and several different varieties of Acolyte exist, being distinguished from one another primarily by slight variations in color. Regardless of appearance, all Acolytes behave similarly, and are equipped with an Assault Gun and a shield (though the latter does not appear to offer any real damage mitigation). As is evidenced by their susceptibility to poison bolts, Acolytes still rely to a significant degree upon normal biological functions in order to survive, which is uncommon among Order enemies.
Stalker The spiderlike Stalker (aka the Hatspider) is a melee enemy with the ability to cling to ceilings and drop down on top of its victim. While positioned above the player, they can at times be hard to target in much the same way that Turrets can, though thankfully it is under normal circumstances quite clear that there are Stalkers about due to the distinctive sound they make when walking. When on the ground, their relatively low health and lack of ranged options makes them fairly simple to deal with, though if they catch the player unawares by attacking from the back or sides, they can do a considerable amount of damage in a short span of time.
Sentinel Best thought of as levitating mobile Turrets, the spheroid Sentinels will go hostile upon sighting the player regardless of the current threat level for the area. Due to their aerial nature, they are able to pursue a foes in ways that most Order drones cannot. They are, however, possessed of a somewhat sluggish pace, and by themselves, they don't present much of a threat with their middling hit points and moderately damaging attack. In groups, they can present more of a challenge, and much like Turrets and Hatspiders, Sentinels are at their most troublesome when attacking from high positions which aren't naturally easy to target.
Reaver The mechanoid Reaver occupies the middle ground within Strife's enemy menagerie, with more durability and damage potential than lighter entrants, but less lethal weaponry and hit points than the game's true heavy hitters. The one area in which it truly excels is it speed. Reavers are perhaps the fastest enemy in the game, capable of firing upon the player from afar before closing the distance to attack within melee range. In fact, their affinity for close-quarters fights can lead to trouble for more careless players, as their death animation involves a rupture and explosion of their internal components, which can cause damage to anything nearby.
Templar A Templar is a human body encased within a large, mechanical, humanoid exoskeleton. They each come with a Mauler (used in it primary mode) and several hundred hit points, and for these two reasons they are to be taken seriously. Their main attack essentially behaves as a shotgun would, so keeping one's distance is one of the best means of mitigating damage when fighting them. Heavier weapons are usually preferred against them due to their durability and substantial pool of health. They possess an additional pair of claw arms for melee attacks when the player gets close to them, though ideally one should stay well outside of this range.
Crusader The deadly Crusader is a massive bipedal automaton that protects areas of crucial significance to The Order. Places in which they patrol are off limits to all but those who are trusted members of The Order, thus they will attack unknown personnel on sight even when unprovoked. Each of the Crusader's arms is affixed with a different weapon, which it alternates between depending on the circumstances. At a distance, it utilizes a triple-rocket launcher, while in close it possesses a potent flamethrower attack. Thankfully, the Crusader is a good wide target, so staying safely behind cover and attacking effectively while at range is not especially difficult.
Inquisitor The pinnacle of automated Order technology, the skyscraping Inquisitor is a walking army, a veritable ambulatory weapons platform capable of killing even a healthy player within seconds. It is equipped both with a Mauler and a Grenade Launcher, and the latter is, of the two, the one to be most feared. As if high explosives and advanced energy weaponry wasn't enough, the Inquisitor is also surprisingly mobile due to the inclusion of jump jets that allow it to scale walls or cross chasms that other foes might not be able to. Needless to say, using the best weaponry available in order to take it down quickly is highly recommended when encountering an Inquisitor.
The Programmer The individual supposedly responsible for coding the control program that keeps The Order's Acolytes in line, The Programmer is Strife's first boss enemy and also the first Sigil-bearer the player will face (his Sigil piece can in fact be seen around his neck). Compared to later bosses, The Programmer's attack is fairly easy to avoid, as it affects a fixed position on the ground rather than targeting the player. He is also notable for being the only non-Spectre boss in the game (aside from the final boss) without a secondary Spectre form. This is likely due to the fact that the player lacks any Sigil pieces at the time he is encountered, as they are requisite items when fighting Spectres.
The Bishop Being half human and half machine, The Bishop is The Order's primary military commander, and also a formidable opponent by himself. He bears the second of the game's Sigil pieces around his neck and hoists a rocket launcher over his right shoulder. The rockets he fires have heat-seeking capabilities, so smart use of cover is very important when tackling him. Contrary to what might be expected, he goes down faster than the previously-encountered Programmer, though upon death he releases a Spectre which had been inhabiting his body. Once the Spectre is defeated as well, the player gains their second Sigil Piece.
The Loremaster The Order's spiritual leader and the most exalted personage in their religion (save for The One God itself), The Loremaster is encountered close to the game's climax deep within an Order laboratory. He is able to levitate above the battlefield and damages the player primarily by grabbing them with a hooklike projectile and flinging them across the arena. While not the most difficult of foes to defeat, his inner sanctum is guarded by two Inquisitors, and furthermore he unleashes upon death the most powerful Spectre in the game, one that possesses the power of the completed symbol and has more hit points than any previous Spectre.
Spectre The Spectres are bizarre, amorphous, floating creatures that are encountered a total of five times throughout Strife. They are physical representations of the corruption that has infested The Order, and their apparent purpose within the world is to inhabit the corporeal forms of important individuals in order to bend them toward the will of The One God. Four out of the five Spectres appear after a specified character has been killed, indicating that that person had been possessed. Each of the five uses an attack that corresponds with one of the five phases of The Sigil, and due to their nature, only The Sigil is capable of defeating them. In many cases, the player gains a Sigil piece as a direct result of killing a Spectre.
The Entity The Entity (or The One God, as he is known by The Order) is an extraterrestrial being that is eventually revealed to be the driving force behind The Order's mad crusade. After The Loremaster's demise, it is unveiled that he protected the entrance to a downed spacecraft (presumably the comet mentioned at the beginning of the game). If the player has collected all pieces of The Sigil at this point, it is possible to enter this ship and confront The Entity within its own lair. After expressing displeasure at the unraveling of its plans, The Entity assaults the player in a boss battle that is similar to the previous Spectre fights. Only the completed Sigil is capable of damaging it.