S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky (pc)

I’ve recently scribed up a review of GSC Game World’s return to Chernobyl for Square Go.
You can read my weighty and mindful thoughts here.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky

4/5
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky

The original Stalker was a mind-blowing combination of an explorable open-world and an ongoing story about finding out who you were and discovering the mystery behind the man known as Strelok. A year later and they’ve brought us back to the Zone in a prologue to that epic tale, setting up the events that took place in the first game. The result is an expanded take on the world featuring many of the same locations and characters, but in vastly different circumstances.

This time round you play a mercenary called Scar, a hard embittered warrior who finds himself the only survivor of a strange and violent electrical storm. Sending him on a journey through the desolate wastes of the swamps and later the more familiar centre of the zone on an ever-northward progression toward the epicentre of the ravaging tempests that have made him strong but will eventually destroy him.

It’s a funny mixture of old and new, as the maps and graphics are mostly the same as before, albeit much prettier, however the game itself has been altered towards teamwork rather than survival.  The Zone is swamped with a series of factions, who jealously guard their territory and can either be befriended or slaughtered as you migrate towards your goal. The result is a mixed bag. While the factions are similar enough to let you make your own mind up, it’s very tempting to stick with the ones that leave the quickest route to the goal. First game veterans may also dislike the changes from the original; particularly the excess of roaming mutants and the fact enemies are now openly displayed on the map. Still it makes for a tactical side missing from the original as you take groups of other mercs out to capture strategic locations while you whittle the bads down till that gang are annihiliated.

Not that it’s a quick blast.  The sizeable chunk of Ukraine rendered (almost) realistically is huge and can take hours to traverse, while avoiding packs of mutant beasts and rival strongholds. Still having mates is nice, even if they do rip you off when you try to trade in second hand guns. You also have the added issue of only being able to carry a limited weight, so decisive choice of weapons is the order of the day.

While an incredible game, it’s not perfect and a lot of newcomers will be put off simply by the difficulty of the combat. Especially during the opening swamps, although crawling through long grasses like Jason Bourne with a double-barrel shotgun is ace. There have also been some early reports of game-breaking crashes, but since the recent updates this hasn’t been evident, so patch it up once it’s installed and you’re laughing. Frankly there’s enough brilliance on display here to make it worth revisiting Ukraine and if it’s you’re first time in the Zone, you have to play.

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