It has an official release date (hopefully concrete), but not a huge amount is definatively known about S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky – the official prequel to the amazing STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl. I have not written about either of these games before, which is surprising given the amount of time I spent playing both single and multiplayer STALKER.
Shadow of Chernobyl was a masterpiece of visceral entertainment, made all the more authentic by it’s Ukrainian development team. Their efforts in representing the lost Soviet city of Prypet, which stands largely intact to this day, along with the areas surrounding the Chernobyl NPP like the Red Forrest are astonishing and deserving of praise. The only real drawback to the game was the overall lack of polish, particularly with the mission scripting which could be a bit hit and miss.
The lack of any online cheat protection and clearly designed multiplayer modes really disadvantaged the online experience. I have played many hours on some of the large maps enjoying the mixture between fast paced battles in Agropom as well as some of the other maps where slow methodical stalking was the best strategy. But in the end I stopped playing do to the imbalanced nature of the action.
It was with great excitement that read a number of months ago about the planned prequel that has been in development, practically since the release of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl. For those of you not keenly following the game release sites, the name of this prequel is Clear Sky and it is set in a time before the (fictional) second disaster at Chernobyl. What was it that a wise man once said? To have one containment breach is a tragedy, to have second seems like carelessness?
Rather than unravelling the master quest by searching for the identity of this mysterious Strelok character, instead, you play a free agent in “The Zone” tasked with assassinating Strelok. He really appears to be persona non grata doesn’t he? This is only a small part of the game with the player becoming inextricably embroiled in a multi faction conflict in the zone. What worries me a little is the number of factions rumoured to be in game : NINE! Bandits, Duty, Freedom, Clear Sky, Mercenaries, Internal Troops (Military), Scientists, and Lone Stalkers and the player can choose to align themselves with any of them (although presumably only one at a time). Whilst having multiple factions is a good thing, it promotes diversity and gives a potentially huge degree of replay-ability, with so many factions it is very difficult to make them sufficiently unique and appealing. Especially with the degree of overlap in their motivations and objectives as judged by Stalker Shadow of Chernobyl.
The X-ray engine has received an upgrade to version 1.5 which will include Direct X 10 support as well a variety of particle, textural and AI upgrades. I found a video a few days ago showing the weather system in action. It looks very impressive, from oil black nights to realistic weather effects and shadows. I am very much looking forward to this, and to exploring the expanded / tweaked zone, so what awaits you Stalker, in the zone that changed?
UPDATE: According to wikipedia, the E3 demo was leaked to a variety of torrent sites today. I can only hope this does not impact on the work being done getting the final build ready for the August release date.