dkirschner's S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (PC)
| [February 25, 2011 04:08:18 AM]
| I...am speechless. The end of this game is crap. Here's how the last week went down:|
I played Stalker for the first time. Mixed feelings. Read the entry.
I played Stalker for a second time. Totally engrossed. Figured a lot out. Tons of creepy mutant-shooting fun. Raved about environment. Read the entry.
Played a third time. Same as #2. No entry. Finished session in the middle of a story mission to find the Wish Granter.
Sat down tonight to settle in for a good long time of trekking through the Zone. Beat the game after 5 minutes. What a stupid stupid nonsensical ending. A)It didn't feel like I was at the end of anything. 2)It doesn't make any sense. I find the Wish Granter, this big monolith, and there is a cut-scene about this guy I'm supposed to kill finding the Wish Granter. He wishes to be rich. Coins rain from the sky, and then he is buried in a pile of falling debris. Game over. Roll credits.
Stupidest ending ever. What the hell. Did they run out of time to make the game? What just happened?
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| [February 20, 2011 10:54:47 AM]
| Okok, I'm going to rave more about the environment, the Zone. It's not just the way it looks and sounds. It's the way things happen around me. The Zone is NOT SAFE. The Zone is dynamic. Things happen whether I'm there to see them or not, and this is mostly due to the multiple factions in the game and their complex relationships. Example: I walk up to a military complex where some other Stalkers are (friendly). They yell at me to help because some Bandits (enemy faction) are attacking. I help repel the Bandits. Half the Stalkers die. I leave and come back 30 minutes later. Bandits have taken over, killed all the Stalkers, but are being attacked by Mutants (roaming packs of wild dogs in this case), and they're barely holding them off on a thin wooden bridge. I start shooting Bandits, who split their attention between me and the Mutants, and the Mutants just attack whoever is near. A small force of Stalkers comes running up, but a stray pack of Mutants intercepts them before they reach the bridge, and wipes them out. The Bandits hold the military complex for now. It's quite fascinating and pulls me into the world because something is going on that I can participate in as I'm passing through an area. These events aren't mandatory; I can run by if I wish. It's usually the wild packs of Mutants who will stop me because they're faster than me if I've sprinted all I can sprint. These respawning enemies made me have a terror flashback to Far Cry 2, where enemies would respawn all over the place every 5 minutes, except in Far Cry 2, their only purpose was to stand in your way and blow up your car and shoot you to death because you have to drive through where they spawned. All over the map. It was horrible. Stalker's respawning enemies (and allies) are much better for all the reasons above. |
The anomalies are a force to be reckoned with. They aren't just there to be avoided. They're obstacles and death traps for me and for NPCs. I think a reason that the Zone feels so brutal is that it's harsh for everything in it, not just the player. I've now seen a handful of friendlies and enemies be ripped apart by anomalies if they get too close, and I've sure been ripped apart my fair share of times. Anomalies are often near stashes, thick, so I've got to navigate very carefully to my prize. Radiation also tends to be heavy near stashes out in the world. Take some radiation and health loss for some random goodies, nice. Radiation is kind of like anomalies - walk into it and suffer. Fortunately, I can equip armor and artifacts to increase various resistances, but high radiation can still hurt bad, and effectively blocks me from certain areas until I get a better suit of armor.
The day/night cycle is really interesting. I've found daylight is much safer. I can see anomalies and enemies from farther away. I've found that traveling by night is very dangerous, especially if I'm carrying a lot and can't sprint far. There are more Mutants, and I can't see shit. My flashlight is good, but it's no car brights. It illuminates a little bit in front of me, but as a good double-edged sword, the light gives away my presence. It's also very hard to have longer-range firefights at night because I can't see very well. I haven't figured out if night affects the enemies' sight or not. I feel like they can shoot me just as well night or day, which is pretty damn well.
So, there is the Zone above ground, and then various labs, complexes, tunnels, shelters, etc. below ground. This is where Stalker shows how it can do enclosed spaces. This is where the game gets TENSE. So far, below ground is where the really freaky Mutants are. It's where I first saw one that can go like 90% invisible, with burning eyes. I literally jumped and yelled one time when one surprised me. One thing I like about Stalker is that enemies aren't just spawned in specific 'scare' locations, like in Doom 3 and others. Enemies are always present and wandering around or coming from somewhere that isn't right on top of me. So that invisible thing that scared me so bad, I'd been listening to it moving, and then it went quiet. I turned a corner and there it was! Holy crap did I jump. I fought two other kinds of monsters today too, poltergeists. One, I didn't even know it was a monster really until I looked up what to do at a part where I was stuck behind a burning door (which was the doing of the second type of poltergeist that I also didn't realize was an enemy). The first poltergeist threw things - boxes, barrels - at me and I never saw it, just ran on by like 'wtf is doing that?' The second, poltergeist spawned jets of flame that shot at me. I thought they were anomalies activating somehow, but turns out if I look, there's a red vapor form floating around igniting the flame jets. I went through like 100 bullets and finally killed it and got through the burning door. But those underneath areas are claustrophobic and dark. The flashlight is always on.
Let's talk about some things I didn't like so much yesterday that I like more now.
1. Guns and ammo. I have more better available guns. This is primarily because the enemies have more better guns, and I take them. The beginning guns are weak. The range is short, the damage low. Today I got a scope attachment, and another assault rifle and sniper rifle, both with scopes. Scopes are where it's at because they make it easier to pick off targets from afar. I've got a scope on an assault rifle, so sometimes it can take a decent amount of shots to kill something from far, but on the plus side, I can rip them up medium to near distance. I haven't been using the sniper rifle because the assault rifle works fine, and because ammo is much more abundant for the assault rifle. Sniper ammo thus far is precious. This leads to...
2. Inventory space. I actually sold my sniper rifle because it was worth a lot and taking up weight. I actually sold every gun and all ammo except that scoped assault rifle, and am now comfortably 5-10 Kgs below max weight, which means I can sprint for a long time. Sometimes ammo is hard to come by. On the last mission I did (before I sold off everything) I had four (4!) guns on me because I was so low on ammo. I had to use whatever I could get that had bullets. This was partly my fault as I was switching between two assault rifles that used two different types of bullets. To lose some weight, I discarded all of one type of bullet and one of the guns, but unfortunately I discarded the mismatch, and only later did I realize that I'd kept the gun that went with the ammo I discarded and the ammo that went with the gun I discarded, and I couldn't remember where I left them! This was fun though because I had to think and be extra careful. I happened to be on a story mission underground with fire anomalies and these hyper jumping Mutants that are pretty mean. Somehow I made do, and finally got lucky and found 60 bullets for my remaining gun. This was just in time too.
I am getting better at managing inventory space. Really it's about shedding my compulsion to hoard and sell everything. In Stalker, you only carry what you need! Anything else literally slows you down. And I can shed that compulsion because I have enough money from turning in quests and selling the little extra that I do carry, so I realize I really don't need to pick up everything. Things I do kind of hoard though are anti-radiation items, health kits, and ammo, precious, precious ammo. I've also learned to keep artifacts on hand because NPCs always give me quests to find them a specific artifact, and I can usually have it on me already and turn it right in. I can't go overboard with the artifacts though because they are relatively heavy (0.5kg each). With a 50kg max, just having 10 artifacts is 10% of my weight. The hardest things to learn to shed were expensive items like armor, but I just have to look at the numbers and say I have enough cash and need less weight, and then I discard if I'm not wearing. Running fast for long periods is more important than almost anything.
I learned hotkeys for heals and bandages, so I don't have to open my inventory in a firefight anymore. Lifesaver for real. I have not, however, learned how to use grenades, but then again, I rarely toss grenades in games.
3. Quests. I like and dislike the quests. Well, I think I disliked them more, and now I dislike them less, but I still don't really like them. I found out the quests are in fact repeatable. Not only do they not go away forever like I thought yesterday, if I don't complete them or abort them, but they actually recur, even if I've already done them. And it's not anything logical like 'Kill 10 boars' that can reproduce for more killing, but like 'Kill this person who is impersonating me.' How many times does someone impersonate you, man? And the quests are all spread out all over the map, and it can take a LONG time to run from one area to another due to pure distance and the occasional Bandit/Mutant attacks. So picking up, say, 5 quests from an NPC, that require me to go to 5 different areas, is a pain, and is not fun. It's like grinding. Time wasters, for sure, and the same thing with the stashes. Looking for all those things is a massive waste of time. Part of that is because the stash icons on the map don't go away unless you loot the entire stash. Then sometimes they stay even if you do loot the stash, which means I've got all these false stash icons cluttering my map. And then other times, there's just nothing in the stash! Or there's no stash there at all! I cannot say how many bugged/weird quests/stashes I've encountered. Two examples that were really frustrating:
1. A friendly Stalker group was going to infiltrate a Bandit compound, but there were snipers on three towers causing them problems. My job: Kill the snipers while the Stalkers destroy a wall and rush in. The first part was to kill sniper #1 and report back. I went to kill the sniper, killed him, came back, and the quest NPC was dead. What? Reload. Kill sniper, report back, quest NPC dead. Umm. The rest of the camp was fine. There were no enemies around, and there is no way a sniper could see them. Reload. Kill sniper. Report back. He's alive. Yes! Go with them to blow up the wall. Die. Reload. Kill sniper. Report back. NPC is *almost* dead on the ground, groaning and asking for a medkit. I laughed now, gave him a medkit, and saved the game. Inexplicable. Every time after I killed the sniper, the quest NPC told me to report back via my PDA, so I know he was alive after I killed the sniper, and died sometime as I ran back.
2. I had a quest to find a shotgun that a guy dropped. I went to where the shotgun was supposed to be on the map and by the description, a little shack. There were three lockers, one of which had a stash in it. No shotgun in the lockers, no shotgun in the stash (nothing in the stash actually), no shotgun on the floor, outside the shack, on top of the shack...No shotgun. Failed quest. How stupid.
This is one reason I say the quests are mostly just time wasters. What was really irritating is that one time I did go out and do all these random quests in all these different places, dealt with a buggy shotgun and stashes that weren't there but were there on the map, and all this other crap, and then start seeing 'quest failed,' 'quest failed,' 'quest failed,' because the 1 day timer ran out as I was making my way back to the quest hub. It'd be one thing if bugs didn't slow me down, if I missed the timers on my own, but I didn't. So from now on I'm just taking all the quests I can, and just doing the ones on the way to story missions, where I need to head anyway, and not going far out of my way to do quests. That's worked pretty well so far, and has served to both speed up the pace of the plot, and since plot quests are far more interesting, makes the game as a whole more interesting.
Some questions and random things. I still haven't figured out all the components of the UI. I've got the sound and light meters, I think, except the light meter sometimes just swings full and empty for no apparent reason. The sound one works though. Squatting and crawling make less sound and I can sort of sneak up on enemies if I do it well. There is a pair of red and blue arrows on the minimap, and I'm not sure what they're for. My best guess is north/south, but I haven't verified it. I think just using N and S or something would make more sense. There is also a counter that goes from 1 up to, I've seen, the low 20s. I'm not sure what this is counting. I thought it might be radiation, but it doesn't always count when there's radiation around. Then I thought it might count the number of enemies or NPCs near me, but that's not right because sometimes it just starts counting when I'm in the middle of nowhere. I'm really confused by it and wonder why there's no tooltip or was never a tutorial explaining all this. I did get a little tutorial tip (like 6 hours into the game!) saying that I can throw these metal things into space at night to detect anomalies in the darkness. Why so late? That could have been useful for the 6 hours I was struggling to see them at night. It triggered when I ran near the starting area one time. The tutorial system for this game is both good and bad. It's good that it doesn't hold your hand through everything, and lets me know it's going to be a somewhat punishing game, which I enjoy. But it can at least say what all the stuff on the UI is without it being handholding. Just say, "the counter on the minimap means _____." Fantastic. I also just figured out that the blue bar above my health is my armor. It can deteriorate and lose effectiveness. Weapons deteriorate too, but I'm not sure if they lose effectiveness because they've got no stats.
So, day 2 of Stalker is better than day 1. Even with its flaws, I'm enjoying it very much.
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| [February 19, 2011 07:55:20 PM]
| I'd read that Stalker has stunning environments. This is true. I didn't realize it until I'd become totally absorbed in my surroundings in the Zone. The trees are twisted and dead. The time of day changes, from cloudy daytime to starry nighttime. The sunlight filtering through the clouds makes the Zone hazy, as does the radiation. Vegetation is sparse. Old busted up buildings, industrial parks, military compounds, etc. dot the rolling hills. I heard snarling mutated dogs, the shrieking of some cat-thing that I haven't seen yet, the snorting of boars, and the persistent gun fire of bandits, other stalkers, and government soldiers, all belonging to one of a handful of factions in the Zone. |
I'm not sure what happened in the Zone, but perhaps something to do with a nuclear meltdown, some alternate version of Chernobyl. My character is an amnesiac and a stalker, someone who scavenges in the Zone for artifacts, and perhaps more than that. The other characters have it rough. The Zone is a very hostile place to live, so the NPCs have a lot of quests to hand me. Most of the optional ones are timed (1 day), and are marked on my map. NPCs will hand out 4+ quests at once, and when I return those, they have more.
Stalker is not a beginner-friendly game. It gives minimal information for how and what exactly to do. A couple quests, I have no idea how to complete because I don't remember what the NPC said. I can't go find a transcript of the conversation, and if I abandon it, I fail it forever. The NPCs do not hold your hand. They send you out into radiation, bandit territory, caves full of packs of wild mutant dogs. Half the NPCs also speak Russian. If I remember, this is a Russian game, translated, which is why some of the dialogue is odd. One questgiver was telling me about his 'homies.'
The guns are fairly realistic. Actually, a lot of the UI is realistic. There are a few guns so far (pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, SMG, silenced pistol), and I must assume there will be a lot more. Each type of gun has its own ammo so far. I have a ton of healing items, and I'd be stupid not to walk around with as many items that reduce my radiation level as I can. The more irradiated I am, the faster I lose health. Weapons fire sort of un-FPS-like. They don't feel real heavy or forceful, and they miss a lot. I need to get a lot more used to the feel of guns in Stalker.
The AI is nice! Enemies take cover, wait for you to pop out, and haven't been typical AI meat targets. I've been killed a lot because the game is kind of realistic in that way. If I get shot at close range with a shotgun, I'm out. I only put the difficulty at 2/4 too. They are kind of annoying so far because my guns are really inaccurate, especially at range. However, enemies can snipe me from half the map away with assault rifles. It's unfair. When I shoot at an enemy, there is no indication that I'm hitting him, so I never know if my pistol is doing any good until/if they drop dead. I assume I'll get better guns that are more accurate and can shoot farther (sniper rifle?!). Mutated dogs attack in packs too, which is cool. It seems the animals all have different behavior.
Another realistic point, and what I've come to see as a strategic point, is that I have limited bag space. I can carry 50kg of stuff, and the more I carry, the less I can sprint, the more tired I get. I thought about this after I played, because while I was playing, as usual, I wanted to take everything and sell it all, and was frustrated that I couldn't. However, there's only one full vendor thus far, and he's way at the beginning of the game, so I can't sell stuff. It's not good to be immobile in Stalker. You will die. So I've rethought having limited weight as being a neat design constraint on the player. Somehow in Stalker, it just makes sense.
Some quests in Stalker show up on the map, like so I can track them on the minimap. Others won't allow me to track them and it's kind of annoying, but I think it was done on purpose. There are all these hidden stashes lying around that are marked or not too, purple circles, that I can go find, and usually pick up some food and ammo.
Oh, and there are these things called anomalies all over the place. They're slightly visible distortions in the air just above the ground and there are different types. One is like wind, and it can appear like a mini tornado. Another is like an electric field and it crackles and pops. Another is like a gravity well. My character's PDA alerts me to these by beeping faster the closer I am. And these are literally all over the place. Walking into one is generally bad, as you will sometimes take some damage, and other times be ripped apart. I watched a mutant dog run into one (the tornado one I think) and it was lifted high into the air, spinning around and around, and then it just exploded into blood and guts. I saw a human NPC walk into another that just picked him up and threw him, killing him. I'm going to see if I can't use them as weapons against enemies because those two times were accidental.
The anomalies form 'artifacts,' which are like radiated masses of stuff I can equip on my belt that boost and hurt various stats. Right now I have equipped 5 that boost health by 200% or 400% (so I think 1400% total), and reduce my resistance to bullets by 10% each (so 50%). SO bullets...hurt. But I have a ton of HP, though I can't find a raw number anywhere.
Those are my first impressions. I don't quite know what to think of the game so far. It's got some cool things and some not so cool things. The atmosphere is definitely fantastic, but I think that works to either overshadow or to make up for other parts of the game that aren't that fun, like the discrepancy in weapon accuracy between me and the computer, or the redundancy (already, ugh) of a hundred little quests, having to run everywhere, or having my stamina bar run out in 5 seconds because I'm carrying a lot. I'm going to go have another session today and see how it goes.
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dkirschner's S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (PC)
Current Status: Finished playing
GameLog started on: Saturday 19 February, 2011
GameLog closed on: Friday 25 February, 2011