Games You May Have Missed – S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

Stalker stands for, Scavengers, Trespassers, Adventurers, Loners, Killers, Explorers and Robbers. These are all attributes that will fit your character at one point or another in your experience in desolate Chernobyl. Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl ranks as one of my personal favorite gaming experiences on the PC in recent memory.  Being dropped into a strange and unknown world with little to no back story as to who you are and what you’re objective is usually formula for failure in most games.  What separated this game from other open-world games is the engrossing environment and universe that the game is set in.  The player is cast into the mysterious Zone, several years after the Russian nuclear power plant in Chernobyl exploded.  From the start the radiation has clearly affected the inhabitants of the surrounding zone causing different types of mutants to have occurred and the closer you get to the center of the zone mutation becomes more and more apparent.  You’re known as Marked One, who wakes up with no memory and a PDA that says Kill Strelok, it’s the air of mystery surrounding yourself, your mission and just learning about how the Zone has been affected by the radiation after all these years, that really got me sucked into this game.

Quests take the form of locating equipment, assassinating targets and trying to uncover the mystery about Strelok and while after playing for several hours, running errands does start to wear thin, the vast variety kept me engrossed never the less. While at times it may seem repetitive, there is an abundance of things to do besides the main quest like side quests, joining one of several clans that are in the area as well as exploring and hunting for artifacts or better equipment will keep you interested and invested in the world of SoC.

While I found the game incredibly enjoyable it does have its faults, faulty hit detection, and incredibly difficult right from the start, and once you complete the main quest the game ends with no chance of completing any missed side quests, a feature corrected Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion which let you continue playing after the main quest had been finished.  While this can make the game frustrating at times, finding upgraded amour, weapons and artifacts were one of the most appealing aspects and being made to travel the entire world by foot was somewhat enjoyable as I explored every inch looking for loot and un-discovered areas.  A large part of the game is the RPG like statistics of your character, everywhere from your resistance to certain elements and damage prevented to the amount of weight you can carry in your inventory.

This is where artifacts come into play. They take the form of crude looking objects that have been created through the radiation fallout and grant the user certain attributes to their overall stats.  Some give you more resistance to bullet damage; reduce bleeding from wounds, raise resistance to radiation, electricity, fire, etc.  This makes searching for loot an incredibly addicting element as I found myself constantly searching for better equipment which helped me complete several challenging encounters.  If you’re shot during a fire fight with either bandits, clans or the military forces that inhabit the area, there’s a large chance that you will begin to bleed, resulting in slow but overtime loss of health.  The only way to heal yourself instead of consuming food found in the world, is to use bandages which are not very uncommon to find though are sparse in some areas.  This makes having the right equipment essential to conquering certain fights as well as selecting the right weapon and the right attachments per scenario.  Should you go with a high powered long range rifle that ammo is scarce, or go with the sub-machine gun that deals low damage though an abundance of ammunition is available?  The variety of weapons is large, different types of ammunition and customization taking the form of attachments like grenade launchers and scopes are available but after a while you’ll find a weapon that you’ll favor above the rest and will stick with it.

Several years after the Stalker franchise debut with Shadow of Chernobyl, the game has spawned two sequels with the later being hailed as a worthy successor to the first game.  As with time, comes a drop in game prices as you should be able to find a copy of SoC for under $10 online or in-stores, especially if you wait for weekend deals from a digital distribution site as it has been as low as $2.50 on Steam.  The amount of replay value is immeasurable, with a large chance that you’ll miss at least half of the side missions and there are four or five different endings to the game that are based on discussions you make along your journey.  If you’re still unsure if this is a game for you, you’ll be able to tell in the first 30 minutes if this is a game for you or not.  This is not a great game but a memorable one that if you’re like me will keep you entertained for as long as you’re willing to traverse the waste lands of this fictional Chernobyl.

Music Credits: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl “Bulletproof”

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