During the Xbox Games Showcase the long awaited return of the Stalker series was revealed. The franchise is receiving a sequel coming sometime next year. This marks the first time a Stalker game will be playable on a console and the first entry in the franchise since 2009’s Stalker:Call of Pripyat. The franchise is credited with creating an incredibly tense and unique atmosphere based around and inspired by Chernobyl’s real life ruins. The series blended horror and first-person role-playing systems in a survival game. While ambitious in its goals the Studio GSC Game World and the original Stalker games have been plagued by delays, buggy launches and a studio closure. With all those chips on the table here is what to expect from Stalker 2.
The Stalker franchise has always placed it’s atmosphere and lofty goals of world building ahead of polishing game mechanics. The sense of identity and unique threatening nature the Exclusion Zone created was ahead of its time. As a Stalker players awaken inside the zone not sure how they arrived, as the zone is known to hold valuable relics but also distorts the memories of visitors that spend too much time there. The Exclusion Zone feels like a breathing and evolving place with uncertainty behind every corner years before people began recognizing this as an achievable feat in games. The sense that this environment would continue without the Stalker and does not revolve around his actions is still a goal people strive for to this day. Factions compete to recover artifacts and control of the zone, Mutants and bandits hunt each other, and mysterious anomalies that disrupt gravity and add a sense of supernatural wonder to the proceedings.
From the beginning of the franchise’s history, Stalker has pushed genre boundaries by blending light RPG and survival systems with first-person horror. Even after eleven years, there is not another experience that has outdone this stew of perfectly matched ingredients. The maintenance of hunger, radiation, and injuries along with weapon and armor degradation gives every item in the world a distinct, physical sense of place. There are no experience points or level-ups. This emphasizes tactical decision making and weighing options with resources instead of killing everything in sight just to increase a level bar. The only tangible sense of progression offered to players are items and money.
These must be balanced to remain under the carry limit to continue traversing the large interconnected areas. At the beginning of the game, players can choose from several different factions to align their Stalker with, but this can be shifted during gameplay by completing objectives for rival factions. Depending on the morality of players’ actions, money spent, and reputation with each faction, the first Stalker game included seven endings. The Dynamic A.I. keeps every encounter engaging and thought provoking as gamers learn to adapt to the Exclusion Zone. For example, players may encounter a group of Stalker’s fighting a pack of wild dogs.
While assisting them may grant their loyalty, it will also consume precious resources. One might wait for the dogs to finish the Stalker’s off, then loot the bodies, revealing a map to more supplies, in turn leaving the area vulnerable to further bandit attacks. The way every encounter may evolve into something unexpected and result in unforeseen consequences keeps players on their toes and ingratiates them into the culture and mindset of a survivor.