Bitksel - STRAFE, run 'n gun gore galore

on 2018-01-07

Happy new year 2018 folks! I decided the first blog post for this year would be about STRAFE, which is an old-school styled FPS. Fast, fun and gorey, just how I like my FPS games.

First of all, STRAFE had a bit rough start. People were critiquing it for it's bugginess, map design and especially for it's randomization. It says 90's on the tin, however the procedural generation stuff kind of implies about 2010's, making it a bit of mixed bag. This is an opinion some people still hold, however after the Millenium Edition update, things have smoothed out. And that's the version of the game I got.

Let's go with the positives first: STRAFE really nails the fast paced run 'n gun stuff I love. I'm a fan of games like Serious Sam, Painkiller, Quake, Tribes, Unreal.. So on and so forth. So the gameplay and style of STRAFE scratches my ye olde FPS itch.

Visually STRAFE looks really fun and old-school. However there's a bit too much "boxes" going on. Older games still tried to give as much shape as possible to their visual style, even though boxes were the basic shape. For example, look at the slideshow below and pause to the image that has the weapon selection. See those things guns are in? They could be a bit more round (With this, I mean slanted edges, not actual smooth roundness) and the textures could be bit more blurry (This is due to me always having texture filtering on in games when I was younger). Add more slanted edges to things, not everything has to be a box. BUT, this is just my opinion and it's probably stupid anyway.

[gallery ids="346,347,349" type="slideshow"]

At the beginning of the game, you choose between three weapons: Shotgun, Machinegun and Railgun. They all function differently (obviously) and I'm sure everyone can find a fitting weapon for their playstyle. I'm more the in-your-face kind of type, so I mostly pick shotgun. It's just so damn satisfying to use, but so are all guns. One interesting thing about guns is that the main gun doesn't have ammo pool, but has clips instead. So if you have 6 ammo left and reload, you will lose all those 6 ammo. Reload wisely!

There are bunch of different kind of enemies in the game, with distinct looks and behaviours. There's goblin looking enemies that try to melee you, yellow hazmatsuit enemies that throw grenades at you, blue suited enemies that fire guns at you and so on. The first three levels have very similar enemies, however starting from level 4 the game adds more enemies to the mix, like big rock dudes and weird blood-ants. There's also different variations of the enemies, however the silhouette is always the same, which is important. You always recognize the enemys behaviour, but they take/give different amounts of damage.

[caption id="attachment_351" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]20180107231815_1 I actually have yet to finish the 4th map, I always die on this one.[/caption]

The maps are always randomised, but not completely: The maps are made out of modules that are big enough to be recognized as different parts of the map, so if you learn the module, you can use that knowledge in future even the whole map would be a bit different... If that makes sense. These modules are designed well and there's secrets to be found, so they're not boring and give you quite fun firefights.

To advance through maps, you have to find keycards a la Doom and Quake. They're found around the map, usually being held by some random dead body. I've also stumbled upon an eye-reader, that requires you to find a random head around the map and carry it in your hands to the eye-reader. It gives a little twist to the constant keycard hunting.

The movement in the game is really fast and there's no sprint key. You are always sprinting. If that's not enough, STRAFE has strafejumping and it's something I really like in FPS games. If you master strafejumping, you can jump around the maps really fast and finish them really quick.

[gallery ids="353,352,354" type="slideshow"]

Since the game is partially a roguelike, you can find weapons, scrap-to-useful-stuff-machines, gun upgraders and actual stores while playing. There are many different kind of weapons in the game, such as plasma guns, assault rifles, shotguns, railguns, rocket launchers, grenade launchers.. There's a lot and I doubt I have yet found all of them. Scrap-thingies convert scrap you collect from enemies to useful stuff, such as shield or ammo. Gun upgraders add a random boost to your gun, like more damage or different kind of alt-fire mechanism. I think they can stack too, so you can make your main weapon very versatile. The shops you can find sell you items you can buy with credits. You can find credits around the map or convert scrap to credits at the shop. The items can be very useful, so I always try to save up scrap to buy myself some nice item.

[gallery ids="358,357,356,355" type="slideshow"]

So yes, there's lots of things that aren't in older FPS games. Is it bad thing? Not in my opinion, but I understand why someone would feel that way, especially when expecting STRAFE is a 90's shooter. But it's not just a shooter, it's shooter and roguelike mix. Some like those, some don't, I personally like roguelikes to a degree.

And here's some negativity because I'm annoying like that:

Even though I enjoy the randomized maps, they make me wish for a bit more. I wish there would be a separate mode with maps that are always the same. Maybe somekind of seed system, where people can type a seed and always get similar map. When the maps are different every time, it takes longer time to learn the quirks of the game. That's not negative in itself, but as this game is marketed towards the old-school crowd, it stands out.

Next, I really like the random guns you can find around the map. Sometimes more than the default gun you get. But.. When you pick up a random gun, for example a disc-launcher, it's fun for those 10 shots only. Most of the random guns have barely any ammo, so the fun ends very quickly. If I could get ammo for those guns too, it would make the game more fun in my opinion. I want to collect a huge arsenal of guns and use them in different situations. Right now what happens is that when you use up all the ammo in the gun, it turns into a melee weapon and gets destroyed in the process.. So you have to collect it again. It's just a shame, really. I'd wager the game would be much more fun if you could keep the random guns and collect ammo for them.

[caption id="attachment_359" align="alignnone" width="1920"]20180107230511_1 Disc-launcher that is out of ammo turns into a melee weapon that breaks on contact.[/caption]

However, despite all these faults of randomization and roguelike-ish aspects, STRAFE is great fun and I like it a lot! It's probably not the 90's game everyone expected it to be, but it tried and became it's own thing. I still recommend it to anyone who likes fast-paced shooters, just don't go in expecting new Quake.

You can get STRAFE from Steam. Also their website is lovely.

Edit: Clarified and cleaned a bit the part where I talk about old-school graphics. My English skills have failed me, sorry about that.