STALKER: Call of Pripyat, I Forgive You

June 10, 2010 | 11:25

Tags: #call-of-pripyat #clear-sky #game-design #stalker

Companies: #gsc-game-world

I've had a rocky relationship with STALKER. I loved the original, broken though it was. I even managed to tolerate Clear Sky, mainly by distracting myself with the chance to upgrade weapons and equipment - a feature which, cynically, should have been in the first game. In short, I loved both of the first two games, even though neither had the polish I had hoped for.

Call of Pripyat and I got off on the wrong foot though. Tantrums ensued. I especially didn't like that it started you off in the middle of nowhere, with no clear objective or gear - it made the already formidable difficulty curve even more of a problem. Also, I'd like to be told how to manage basic functions when I start a game - GSC still has to buy the book entitled "101 of game design", it seems.
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Strangely though, STALKER's difficulty is also it's biggest strength, because that is STALKER. There's no pussy-footing around - you get in, you deal with (read: avoid) the anomalies and you try to survive while the many mutants want to gnaw at your gizzards. No one tells you how to barter in real-life, or how to survive a radioactive wasteland - STALKER is no different. The patchwork fills in as you go, your skills growing alongside the plot. It's a survival simulator, in many ways.

Call of Pripyat is in some regards better than the other STALKER games, but it's also more broken - but that's OK. The physical code mirrors the zone in how terrible it is, which makes it all oddly acceptable. If you can learn to accept the world for what it is then Call of Pripyat can offer you a lot of fun - provided you have enough luck to survive, anyway.

STALKER: Call of Pripyat, I Forgive You OK STALKER Call of Pripyat, I forgive you.

I can't believe it's taken them three attempts to get the game right and everything kind-of-working: any other game would have been lambasted for the bugs, but GSC continually gets away with it. I know that the next STALKER game will probably be equally buggy and broken...but I still can't wait for it!

It's taken me several weeks on and off to complete Call of Pripyat, and I feel better for it in some ways, but it's still not replicated the intense experience way back in the sarcophagus of the original. It needs more focus and player direction in places - so you know where to go, or, at least, advice on who to talk to to learn more. A couple of times I was left with absolutely nothing to do and scoured the entirety of Pripyat before I realised I had to go back to Zaton.

Going back on yourself and revisiting old zones is great though, .ot only because you get to re-look at all the places you couldn't visit before without the heavy duty gear, but also because you can watch the AI go psychopathic on itself. Everything respawns within a bullets whistle of each other, for some reason, creating quite complex firefights. Again - technically a bug, but do I care? It's fun!

STALKER games continually balance frustration and "working" code with a desire to see it through and even replay them. It's a testament that a strong story and setting can override all else - sometimes even fundamental game design.
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