52 - S.T.A.L.K.E.R. -- Call of Pripyat

I’m happy to announce that the next game I will be playing and talking about is the previously abandoned S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Call of Pripyat. After destroying Serevok and his friends in Baldur’s Gate, I ran some tests and found out that my modifications of CoP had pushed it way beyond my machine’s capabilities. The vanilla game, however, ran really smoothly and looks like it is good to go. It’s very lucky that Call of Pripyat is the most stable out of the box game in the entire S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. One little hiccup in the plan is that Dark Souls 2 also came out a few days ago so bear with me, please.

Pripyat Calling

In 1986 a catastrophicnuclear disaster befell the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant located in the Ukraine. During a routine test, water flow to the fuel rods of the power plant decreased and they began to overheat. This led to uncontrolled power increase and an eventual rupture in the casing of the reactor. An explosion followed spreading radiation throughout the area that is still devoid of human life following the emergency evacuation of the nearby town, Pripyat.

[The actual scene of the disaster.]

This is the real life tragedy that occurred in the area where S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Call of Pripyat occurs. The game, however, takes place in an alternate reality where attempts were made to repopulate the area. Research institutions were organized around the abandoned power plant, its core contained in a concrete sarcophagus to stop further radiation leaks. These experiments and the released radiation resulted in monstrous creatures, dangerous anomalies, and irradiated slag heaps. It also resulted in highly sought after objects, known as artifacts, which were formed by the chaos following the disaster. Collectors with endless money sought these artifacts for their unique properties and appearances. Enter the Stalkers.
Stalkers are the boots on the ground in the disaster area, now known as "The Zone". Fenced off from the modern Ukranian nation, the zone is a dangerous source of wealth for those who are willing to risk it. Stalkers with nothing to lose search the zone for these artifacts while battling bandits, mutated creatures, warring factions, and other dangers.

This is the world of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.  Pretty cool, huh?

[Chernobyl Power Plant in the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R.]

A Little History

First, a history of the game. In the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R., subtitled Shadows of Chernobyl, the player takes the role of an unnamed Stalker who is searching for another Stalker named Strelok. Strelok traveled to the center of the zone to seek the sarcophagus, known in local legend as the Wish Granter, which will grant one wish to those who find it. After searching through military facilities, abandoned labs, and turning off an experimental weapon known as the “brain scorcher” for its ability to fry the brains of anyone in the area turning them into zombies, the unnamed protagonist eventually discovers that he himself is Strelok and finds the Wish Granter which will grant his wish in a monkey’s paw type fashion if evoked. If the proper actions are taken, the player may also discover that a malevolent human powered type of AI, known as the C-Consciousness, is capturing and reprogramming any Stalkers who reach the wish granter. After fighting through zealous guards and destroying the C-Consciousness, the player finds himself outside the plant believing the zone to be destroyed…

[The introductory movie of the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R. to give you an idea of the tone.]

Now for Call of Pripyat. Call of Pripyat begins soon after the events of the original game. After Strelok deactivated the brain scorcher, hundreds of Stalkers rushed to the center of the zone to collect artifacts and seek the Wish Granter to fulfill their own wildest dreams. The deactivation also attracts the Ukranian military which wants to recon the area and eventually destroy the facility. As the result of some electromagnetic pulse, or something even more sinister, several helicopters are knocked out of commission and crash land throughout the zone. You take the role of a marine named Major Alexander Degtyarev who is dispatched to the zone, undercover as a Stalker, to discover the fate of these helicopters. And then we are off to the races.

My History with the Game

Even though I have not played the second game in the series, I still feel like I have a pretty rich history with S.T.A.L.K.E.R. I bought the original game on the day of its release and completed the game twice; once with the ‘incomplete’ ending and another time when I discovered I had missed a vital piece of evidence. What really struck me about the game was its bravery to not treat the player with kid gloves, the bleak and spooky atmosphere, and the untheatrical combat. From the very beginning of the game, the player is able to explore the entire map, aside from the brain scorcher which requires the completion of one small quest series to attain a protective apparatus which prevents zombification. Bleak and oppressive atmospheres always capture my imagination, as well. Strolling around the zone while avoiding roving packs of dogs, encountering two NPC groups fighting, and running into the same Stalker NPC several days later and several miles down the road is always interesting. But what I enjoy most about the game is its combat. A long way from the glorified and choreographed gunfights of Call of Duty and other similar games, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. couches these types of encounters in natural and brutally random areas. Aside from a few scripted sequences, there is no set up. You may be strolling down an abandoned highway only to hear several pops that sound like boards breaking finding yourself at the game over screen. It really drives home the brutality of the world and how quickly your fortune can change. I hope to capture this type of situation on video, if I can.

What’s next?

Assuming I can tear myself away from Dark Souls 2, another brutal, oppressive, and difficulty game, I hope to begin the journey of Major Alexander Degtyarev and introduce a little about the game and why it spoke to me at the time I played the original. Stay tuned, and happy gaming.

(I also welcome any Dark Souls discussion, it's a really good game.)

--Backlog Killer