S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Clear Sky

With Spore, Warhammer Online and now the new Stalker title, I’ve been playing more on the PC in the last month or so than in all of last year. I’m more inclined to do that now that I moved the PC to the living room. No more need for holing up alone in the bed room to play games.

I never played the original Stalker game. I gather this is a more refined take on pretty much the same game. It looks pretty good and runs well on my already aging PC.

Stalker reminds me of what I like about the PC as a games platform. It could never be released as a console title. It is far too unfriendly to the modern gamer, yet it pulls you in, offering deep riches to be plundered – if you’re ready to work for it.

Stalker is the kind of game I envisioned as a kid. It gives you a world and lets you loose, never offering to hold your hand. You’re free to go anywhere, but expect to be beaten with a stick every time you let your guard down. This unfair, open approach should annoy me to no end – usually I find the sandbox approach uninteresting – but the game’s gritty, stubborn take on entertainment really appeals to me.

Exploring the world is dangerous, but very rewarding. Because you’re working so hard, every small victory is a personal achievement. This sort of extreme risk for very small rewards kind of reminds me of playing Halo on Legendary difficulty level – it’s brutally hard, but feels great when you succeed. In a sense it’s a very typical PC first-person shooter with simulationist elements (weapon degration, radiation, NPCs), but this Eastern hardheadedness is refreshing. I’m playing Gears Of War on the Xbox 360 currently, and these two shooters couldn’t be further apart. Whereas Gears is serving me up with ready-made entertainment, Stalker challenges me to find my own entertainment from the challenges and punishment it’s throwing at me.

The one thing I’d like to see gone is quicksaves. Because the game world is so dangerous, I find I’m quicksaving every couple of minutes, and it always breaks the immersion. Some sort of smart check pointing should be the norm.






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