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Strafe might be the Spelunky of first-person shooters

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In more ways than one

One look at Strafe and its influences are obvious. The first-person shooter looks like a lot of first-person shooters. Quake, Doom, and Half-Life are a few titles that developer Pixel Titans grew up revering. Game director Thom Glunt even admitted that he used to be into the modding scene for these games. Yet, despite all that, in some ways Strafe is more like Spelunky than anything else.

Initial impressions can be deceiving like that. Although it's unabashedly a fast murdering spree, Strafe is also admirably deep. There's very much a method to all the madness, and it's never the exact same. That's because Strafe is procedurally generated, always dealing a different hand.

That's where the Spelunky comparisons begin, but it's not where they end. An apt connection can be made through difficulty, as Glunt cheerfully told me after my second run quickly failed "Hey, at least you made it out of the first room this time!" Or, the fact that it's a roguelike, meaning that each run is self-contained and no progress is carried over (although, there is a shortcut system).

But, the thing that Glunt most likened to Spelunky -- and the guiding design philosophy for the entire game -- is that he wanted to give the players everything they need to beat the game right from the start. Whereas other roguelikes like The Binding of Isaac are about crafty stacking of skills, Strafe is more about tailoring a style. There probably won't be a surefire way to just crush whatever the game randomly presents, but there will be ways to make yourself more comfortable.

Through its 16-or-so levels, players will find themselves adapting their style to the tools they come across. The scrap that the various enemies drop allows for some sort of choice customization, as it's a currency that can be spent at the merchant. These store visits serve as one of Strafe's few moments of reprieve, a couple seconds' rest where nothing is trying to kill you.

That's rare because, at all other times, something is absolutely trying to kill you. Strafe revels in viscera, every dead enemy covering the walls in its blood and guts. It sticks around too, a constant reminder while backtracking of the battles that have already ensued. If that backtracking triggers one of the many monster closets, that blood will probably get covered with even more blood. There's gallons of the stuff.

But, the blood can serve a mighty useful purpose, too. There are acid-throwing baddies who coat the room in health-draining gloop. A good habit to get into is to kill those guys first and then normal enemies last. If you can accomplish that (easier said than done), the blood covers the acid, rendering it harmless.

That's one of the many little touches that makes Strafe smarter than it looks. There are a lot more, too. Glunt paused briefly before saying "This ain't some triple-A shit. We made this game and I'm excited to talk about it," right before spilling more of Strafe's secrets to me. He's certainly not wrong in his enthusiasm.

Years of first-person shooter experience will have many people immediately familiar with Strafe. They might even be able to quickly master it. Remember: They're well-enough-equipped from the beginning. But, I wouldn't bet that's the experience of most. I think most will see more of the Spelunky side of the game rather than the Quake side. It's just not in-you-face apparent because, you know, you're shooting monsters in the face the whole time.

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Brett Makedonski
Brett MakedonskiManaging Editor   gamer profile

While you laughing, we're passing, passing away. So y'all go rest y'all souls, 'Cause I know I'ma meet you up at the crossroads. Y'all know y'all forever got love from them Bone Thugs baby... ... more + disclosures


 


 


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    Filed under... #Devolver Digital #First-person shooter #GDC #Indie #Previews #roguelike #Shooters

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