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Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl

Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl: I wish I may, I wish I might
Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl is a very ambitious game that suffers because of it. The ambition is plain to see in the complex and dynamic world the developers have created; the gameplay shortcomings will only reveal themselves gradually.

The game is set in the mutated and broken lands surrounding Chernobyl following a fictional second incident. Gameplay can be warped and broken as well: quests aren’t handed out by NPCs distracted by something in the unpredictable game world and completed quest objectives aren’t registered. The player will have frequent reason to revisit older savegames and replay vast chunks of quests.

For all the frustration, the game remains appealing with the main draw the atmosphere of its fantastic setting. It is strange, it is desolate, it can also be creepy and outright terrifying. There are few games that induce as many violent starts as this one does and such violent starts frequently prelude a violent end. Life in the shadow of Chernobyl is often short giving the player yet another reason to save often.

For all its deadliness, the irradiated land is not completely abandoned. The promise of wealth, knowledge and power draw the opportunistic, the fanatic and the desperate. The player is an amnesiac and is free to choose his own destiny in the Zone. Choose to side with a faction or walk alone. Choose to prosper or merely survive. Choose to find the truth behind the Zone or be content to merely live in it. Somewhere within the Zone’s centre is the key to unlocking your most ardent wish though the price to pay may be too much to bear. Somewhere within the Zone is the key to stopping it though the effort needed may be too much to endure.

Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl: C
Objectives can be met through a variety of ways though invariably success will depend heavily on one’s ability to use an assault rifle to snipe at a distant, partially hidden foe.

The game has multiple endings: some based on quests completed, some based on choices made and some, remarkably, based on player inventory. There’s plenty of incentive to return to the game but most players will be content to complete it once. The end-game is irritating and unpleasant and filled with the standard stupid tricks one expects from middling game designers.

The mid-game is when Stalker is at its best. The game world opens up and the choices are plenty. For the gamer who loves exploration and experimentation, Stalker is a remarkable sandbox, with nooks and crannies that reward the curious and the persistent.
Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl: C
Ultimately, Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl is a remarkable game world but an unremarkable game. The story is skimpy, the answers to the mysteries unsatisfactory. But there are memorable experiences to be had and for those reasons alone it is worth it.

Posted in Games.


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