Chances are that you probably haven’t heard of stalker…So why the hell are you reading this…Oi, get your arse back here this instant! And this is most likely due to the fact that such a game tends to stick its head out of development, and then skulk around back alleys wearing a trench coat and being generally shady. Maybe this is one of the reasons why I am drawn to it, or maybe it’s the immense amount of pretentious satisfaction I get out of feeling like a niche gamer…back on track. For those of you who haven’t heard of stalker, to loosely describe it, a second Chernobyl blast erupted from the plant that evidently runs on pixie dust, showering the countryside with a variety of colourful accessories such as crippling radiation, horrid mutation and a surplus of acoustic guitars. But not all is as it seems as our lone adventurer Marked One ventured into the zone one day and uncovered a labyrinthine tapestry of mystery and deceit. But I’m not going to spoil the story subsequent to assuming the role of the audience surrogate and being thoroughly pissed off when I did. Suffice to say, S.TA.L.K.E.R (yes I did resort to making that a macro) Call of Pripyat comes out later this year, and I for one am excited. This got me wonder, “just what the hell do I find so damn appealing about these games?”.
This is a point I find genuinely baffling since I can wholly agree that these games frustrate the hell out of me whenever I play them, usually because of the punishing difficulty, but also because they are the type of games that always have the though in your mind of “Why didn’t they do ____”. I quite honestly felt satisfied upon starting Clear Sky because a lot of those wishes were address, but evidently they impose some kind of arbitrary quality cap over there at GSC Game World that caused the story in Clear Sky to be boring and substance-less, whilst the gameplay and level design underwent significant improvements… but I still had a couple of issues. If anybody actually reads these posts, then they will know that the thought of high quality exploration in a game makes me weak at the knees, and clear sky almost delivered. It had a fantastic ambience, amazing art direction, very natural feeling levels and a ambient lighting system that made you want to gaze in delight every time you stumbled across a breath taking vista, but the problem is it all felt a bit wasted since the game once again made use of small, fairly linear levels. I’m not saying that I am going to go around making unreasonable demands to the effect of a map from something like Fallout or Oblivion; I’m more than content with this kind of expanded linearity, I just want to see it a little more expanded. But back on topic since I kind of digressed off the cliff and into the sea, why do I find the games attractive? Well I guess you could say I found Shadow of Chernobyl attractive because of its engaging story, and truly frightening underground components which neither felt forced or arbitrary. I guess I liked the first game for its shear originality, something which a sequel can never quite live up to. So I guess the reason why I am in such a state of anticipation for Call of Pripyat is because I so sorely want to see a story as great, if not better than the first game with improvements upon the refined gameplay of the second one, and improvements on the RPG system. But for all its worth I might as well bundle up all my wishes into a cardboard box and blast them into the sun since I find it hard to envision the creative direction straying from their somewhat inconsistent formula, that and I doubt they have their magical scrying telescopes with them to look into the ineffable genius of my imagination.