The good news is that this balance is easily rectified, and judging from the patchnotes of a couple of updates that have already hit Pixel Titans are going to be tweaking this game in the weeks or months to come. Hopefully this time next month STRAFE will be a different beast entirely, with a more leniant approach to play. If made to nuture the speedy and sometimes reckless play of its forebears, this could be the Spelunky of the FPS genre, and I can’t imagine any higher praise than that.
STRAFE looks fantastic, its retro aesthetic bleeds cool (and a hell of a lot of blood, too) and is a stylized throwback to the days of gaming I probably enjoyed the most. Whilst STRAFE looks old school, it doesn’t let that get in the way of it doing some pretty cool things. The blood effects, where popped heads and limbs
spray pixels over the walls and floors until the entire room is swimming in claret, is a great touch that I never got sick of.
In fact, STRAFE is full of little touches like this: the menus are interactive and fun, the loading screens are seriously cool and the stat scrawls that bookend each failed run give plenty of humour along with the facts they’re doling out. The music is seriously awesome too, but even the best score starts to feel tired after you have to replay 1-1 over again for the hundredth time. There’s some slowdown at the end of levels, but its largely negligable considering all you’re doing is loading the next stage.
What I’m not a fan of is the randomly generated levels, however. I learned pretty late in STRAFE’s development cycle that it would be utilizing this rougelike staple, and I inwardly groaned. The great thing about DOOM and Quake are the awesomely designed levels full of purposefully placed secrets. STRAFE’s randomization always hurts the gameplay, and you quickly start to notice the puzzle-piece designs slotted together in boring ways after just a few runs. A handful of room types doesn’t work as an effective stand in for the countless smartly designed stages of shooters from the past, and the gimmick gets old really fast.
I’m not very good at “STRAFE“. Despite a long and succesful history with both genres STRAFE is marrying, I just can’t find a rhythm where I’m having fun whilst also making meaningful progress. Perhaps this is down to a foundational imbalance, as I believe, or perhaps I’m just that garbage at shooters now. Either way, it hurts that I can’t fully recommend STRAFE: It’s got a fantastic aesthetic and a lot going for it gameplay wise – it just doesn’t all come together in the way I wanted.
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