"Get out of here, Stalker!" S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Thread

So, with S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 making an appearance on Xbox’s Games Showcase…

I thought it’d be a great time to revisit the novel, film, and game series that has defined a lot of Eastern European apocalyptic fiction.

Roadside Picnic is where the franchise truly starts. A novel written by the Strugatsky brothers in 1971 that famously had a incredibly tough time breaking through Soviet censors with how ambiguous the plot was. I think with the ending, you can totally see the anti-capitalist message at the end, but that’s just me. I’m not a Soviet censor.

The book is incredibly different from the rest of the franchise. It takes place in Canada instead of Europe or Chernobyl… And the global politics around the zone are a lot more front and center. The main character, Red, has a zombie for a dad, a monkey for a daughter, and if you touch cobwebs in the zone you die from heart failure or something… I think the book is worth the read, despite the disconnect.

The next piece is the film by Andrei Tarkovsky:

This film is a lot to ask of people. It’s weird, long, moody, thoughtful, depressing, and confusing… A lot of Stalker’s tone and set pieces come from this film, however. It’s on Criterion Channel, and I’d definitely give it a shot if you have the patience. It’s one of my favorite films for visuals alone, but I would totally understand why anyone would dip on it.

Music is incredible though:

And finally, we get to the GAMES by GSC Gameworld:

I think this video encapsulates what the games were all about.

With my next post, I’ll get into the modding scene. There’s a LOT to get into, and I don’t wanna put too much into the first post.

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Damn no one can imagine how happy I would be if the second game would be set in Canada or at least not in Ukraine.

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There was always talk of the sequel taking place in Fukushima, Japan, but that would seem too recent to the actual event of that disaster for my tastes…

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In college I wrote a bunch of papers for a medieval lit class about how the underlying narrative structures of Arthurian legend mapped surprisingly cleanly onto the Stalker structure. I say Stalker structure because I believe that, at least by virtue of the Metro series’ existence, Stalker has gone beyond being a weird triptych of book, film, and game, and now become a narrative-thematic structure in its own right.

Truth is stranger than fiction, as they say. England’s worst nuclear disaster, the Windscale fire, took place in Cumbria, a region of England that some Arthurian scholars say is the real-life inspiration for the setting of the fisher king narrative.

The wish-granter/C-consciousness is a kind of grail, or quest object; indeed, the entire notion of a “zone” is a modernized “chapel perilous,” or thematic magic circle where the quest must take place due to a heightened sense of danger and heightened sense of reality.

I guess what I’m saying is, Bhopal Disaster Stalker game when?

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It feels like a lot of the modding scene recently has shaped Stalker into more of a immersive sim/RPG than a goal oriented game now. Less, ‘Get to the wish granter!’ and more, ‘Let’s grind.’ The main quest nowadays is just to LIVE. Get loot, do jobs, listen to guitar, be sad… I’m sure someone could do a fantastic read of modern stalker being about depression in a post-collapse capitalist hell hole.

One of the main two mods that have really encompassed this mentality is Call of Chernobyl:

And by greater extension, Anomaly:

Both mods have combined ALL of the Stalker zones from each game together into a MASSIVE open world that is segmented by checkpoints. Within these mods, you can make your character… He can be a bandit, freedom, Duty, Russian military, etc. OR, you can play in something called Azazel Mode, which basically works like Battlefield 2 on OG Xbox did. You are randomly placed in the shoes of some dude in the zone, and you live your best life until you’re killed. When you die, you take over either one of your guy’s squad mates, or some completely random NPC. Nothing enforces fragility like Azazel mode, I’ll tell you that… You lose track of how difficult STALKER can be when you aren’t save scumming.

It reminds me of those ‘Start Another Life’ mods in Fallout 4, only you know… In a much better game.

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I think this is a legitimate phenomenon surrounding the STALKER games, as well as fiction generally like this, like Metro. Specifically, I think there’s this sense of “Elsewhere” in these games when one plays them.

I couldn’t find it, but I remember seeing an article about the HBO Chernobyl series, and criticizing not the series itself, but the assumptions associated with it. Specifically, the ignorance many US Americans have of similar nuclear accidents in the US. The US has had no shortage of incidents, from partial meltdowns to uraniam spills. While I don’t know of any that have been as catastrophic as that of the Chernobyl meltdown, they did happen. And outside of the US, there’s no shortage either, as @Karla brought up.

I think the undertone often implicit here is that… “Well, nuclear stuff happens… Over There. Elsewhere.” And when nuclear dangers brought up in media about it’s usually somehow related to Russia. Even in something like Fallout, set in America, the nuclear disaster isn’t local, it’s an attack from, well, Russia. (Which is ironic, because the only time nuclear warheads have ever been used in combat, they were launched by the US.) I think this is a false, convenient narrative lingering on after the Cold War, continuing to mystify the USSR, but one that also furthers a notion of American Exceptionalism. “Certainly, we never did anything dangerous with nuclear materials.”

GSC Gameworld was and is a Ukrainian studio, so it makes plenty of sense to me that they would make games that invoke the history close to them and to set their game there. More power to them. But I think for myself and other players not from Ukraine or other locations in Eastern Europe, there needs to be some caution about some of the assumptions we make.

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I think China is the big bad in the Fallout games.

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I’m Ukrainian and am living in the west and I’m increasingly frustrated by the fact that only media that covers Desasters or serves as Desaster tourism gets any financial or critical traction here. I’m so frustrated that I can’t even express the facets of it beyond the previous sentence, I’ve been mulling since your response as to how to express it without being able to focus.

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Stalker is also available for free on youtube. Big Recommend on that one for sure.

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I love stalker but the modding scene has always scared me off, because for me the STALKER games are at a good difficulty level already and almost all the mods make the game harder. I would love to play one of the mods that combines all of the maps, but every time I try I get killed in every encounter and just give up. I do love the STALKER complete mods.

I was supposed to go to Chernobyl during my trip to Ukraine but there was some weird issue with the tour companies avoiding taxes or something and we weren’t able to schedule a tour while I was there. Still had a great time in Ukraine, ate so much salo.

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Call of Chernobyl doesn’t have the difficulty of Anomaly or Misery. If you were to try one, I’d recommend that.

Also, start in Cordon if you can.

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I wish these would get an English translation. Maybe when Stalker 2 drops?

I just bought Call of Chernobyl and was also really overwhelmed by the modding scene. Is it worth it to play through the full game vanilla first? I’ve seen some people say it isn’t even playable in that state and that overhaul mods are necessary, but I’d really like to stay as close to the original experience as possible, and then play with mods. Any advice?

Do you mean Shadow of Chernobyl?

Zone Reclamation Project is the mod you want. Just bug fixes and tweaks, and changes that differ from the intended experience are optional and off by default.

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Thanks! Will check out

Ah shoot I meant Pripyat of Shadows

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What time machine did you use to find that link?

I’m a big fan of Shadow of Chernobyl. Bought it pretty close to when it was released. At the time I’ll I needed to hear was “It’s kinda like Deus Ex” for a game to be a day one purchase.

I originally played S.T.A.L.K.E.R alot like an RPG. Completing every side quest, looting everything, retunring to the hubs, selling loot and stashing items I thought I might need. Last year I started a new playthrough and not having the patience for that style of play, treated it more as a survival game. Only looting things I needed, rarely returning to safety and mainlining the main story. Found doing that made it a much more enjoyable and less tedious experience. Its also a much shorter and game when you aren’t doing as much backtracking. This thread is making me want to go back and finish that playthrough!

Agree with the above post that Zone Reclamation Project is the only mod you need. Although Lost Alpha is definetly worth checking out once you have played through the vanilla game. It ads back a bunch of cut areas, its pretty wild to see the differnces.

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i just got hired to write open-world ai that’s structured after the stalker a-life system (mainly because i could name the stalker a-life system and how it worked) so wooboy gonna be revisiting this game series i’ve put thousands of hours into

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