S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is Coming... and it Could be the Death of the Series
Back in 2007, a game that had been in development hell for years was finally unleashed upon on the world. That was STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl – a post-apocalyptic title of sorts, but set in the Zone, or Zone of Exclusion. This is a real life location in Ukraine, and is situated around the old abandoned Nuclear Power Plant that suffered one of the most catastrophic incidents of the 20th Century, back in 1986.
Shadow of Chernobyl became a cult classic, and despite its raw feel and bugs galore, there was a lot of promise for the series. The atmosphere was dead on, in this survival horror type game that was labelled a diamond in the rough.
Then the following year some of us thought that STALKER: Clear Sky was the sequel to Shadow of Chernobyl. Some even called it STALKER 2. It was actually a prequel to the story of the first game. A shed load of bugs crippled it and made it near unplayable for some while they waited a few months for the patches to start coming out.
Then Call of Pripyat came out within the last year, at different times in various parts of the world, and this was a sequel to the events of both games. This game felt much more polished, didn’t need a lot of patches to play, and featured some of the best visuals in the series. But this still wasn’t STALKER 2 or even STALKER 3 as some magazines claimed.
Both Clear Sky and Call of Pripyat were standalone expansions or games.
The other day however, it was officially announced that STALKER 2 is in development, and will arrive in 2012. I know on twitter the other day I said it would be pretty cool, particularly if they put all the areas one can explore in to ONE game.
But here I’m about to tell you why another half of me thinks it will be the death of the series as we know it.
One reason is related to the above one I gave, where I said it would be great if all areas from the previous games were put into one. Okay, this could also be a downside, seeing as there wouldn’t be any expansions like with the prequel, SoC. There’s also something to be said about the areas becoming dull. We’ve pretty much seen them all before now, and I don’t know if even improved graphics and so on will make it any much more exciting to explore. Somewhere along the line they're going to have to have to either come up with some more fictional elements and places, or perhaps venture outside the Zone. Maybe if the game featured some sections of the game where you arrive from the outside world and into the zone, or leave the zone for some or other reason.
Another big reason why I feel that STALKER 2 will fail to live up the original, is because GSC is claiming to be using new technology which will have support for multiple consoles. That means that what they said years ago about STALKER getting an Xbox 360 port will come true. There was also talk about porting the original series on to consoles.
Up until now, the STALKER series has been a PC exclusive. I know from experience that games that were successful PC titles that get a console or multiplatform sequel will suffer. The gameplay is dumbed down, the controls are made more console-friendly, and in most cases the inventory options and anything that requires a mouse are thrown out.
Look at System Shock and System Shock 2. Those were PC exclusives, and some of the greatest games of the 90’s, with SS2 perhaps being one of the greatest FPS/RPG hybrids of all time.
Then look at the BioShock series. These games are part of what is called a “spiritual” successor to the System Shock games. Both games so far, with one in the making, were for PCs and consoles like the 360 and PS3. The inventory was thrown out, and even though there were some similarities between the two series, it just wasn’t a System Shock title. They weren’t bad games though, but not as good as SS2, in my opinion.
Then there was Thief. Thief: The Dark Project was a PC exclusive title back in 1998, and was said to be on par with Half-Life, although not as widely played. It became a cult classic. Then a couple of years later, after Thief Gold, there came Thief II: The Metal Age. This, for me, was the best game in the series. There were improvements not just graphically, but gameplay wise too. New weapons and potions, for instance. Everything that was “wrong” with TDP was taken into account when Looking Glass made this game. Better levels and more emphasis on actual thieving.
Then a few years passed and Ion Storm, the hit and miss crowd behind the awful Daikatana, came out with Thief: Deadly Shadows. This was a good example of what I’m talking about. A lot of the improvements and new additions in Thief II were not present in this title, and some of the series staples like the good old rope arrows, and the ability to swim, were not present either. And that was unforgiveable in most fans’ opinions. It was supposedly because of engine limitations. They used the Unreal Engine 2, and yet the now ancient Dark Engine was able to handle that sort of stuff over 5 years earlier. Not to mention it was just laughable in some areas such as animation and physics too.
But not all that came out of Ion Storm was bad. There was Deus Ex, which some say is the greatest PC game of all time. The sequel however, Deus Ex: Invisible War, also by Ion Storm, was a multiplatform title and although not that bad, it’s considered what fans call “Deus Ex Lite”.
Those are likely some of the best examples I can think of as regards how developers tend to do this sort of thing. Although it should be taken into account that different developers worked on Thief: Deadly Shadows. However, the same devs who worked on System Shock 2 and Deus Ex, Irrational Games (with LGS), and Ion Storm respectively, worked on the games that immediately came after as well.
And just on a side note: Thi4f and Deus Ex: Human Revolution are currently in development at another studio, Eidos Montreal. So far from what I’ve seen DX:HR is looking good.
So far every STALKER game in existence has been developed by GSC. It’s only if it were handed to another dev that it could end up being any worse than they’ve made it (see Clear Sky). Then again, sometimes an IP needs to be handed over to another dev for a fresh approach. Look how Core Design messed up the Tomb Raider franchise over the years. The last good one was TR II or III. When it was handed over to Crystal Dynamics, they belted out two or three good ones, which ended Lara Croft’s long-running losing streak.
I don’t hate STALKER. I’ve enjoyed all of them so far, but I’m thinking that with this sequel there will have to much more than just better graphics and some new locations, like we’ve seen with Call of Pripyat. Although that title did have some of the best gameplay in the series, and had more polish than the previous two.
I want to see STALKER 2 come out and be a great game. But like I said, I have my doubts. Game sequels usually have more chance of being as successful, if not more so, as the original than movies do.
For god’s sake, don’t ever make a movie based on the game. Oh, too late.
There was one that was made long before the games even came out. Thank goodness.
What would make STALKER 2 great
At one stage there was a list I made that had my ideas on what would be the perfect STALKER game. To my knowledge these have not yet been implemented in any of the series’ titles. Some of the ideas on the big list made it into Call of Pripyat. I’ll list those as well.
I’ve decided to put a few of the best ideas here:
What would make STALKER 2 great:
More isolation coupled with the occasional firefights.
More locations (including ones in both SoC and CS, as well as entirely new ones).
Foreigners (Americans, Germans, French, etc).
Female characters in the Zone.
Babies and children in the Zone, like unwanted orphans, abandoned kids, etc.
Working vehicles that you can use, like trucks, cars, bikes
Can buy, sell, repair and upgrade vehicles, and refuel them. Fuel would be rare in the Zone, and vehicles would be very expensive.
Can drive with other characters as passengers or be the passenger hitching a ride.
New character types like mechanics, translators.
Mechanics would work on vehicles, upgrade them, repair them, etc.
Translators would work for a fee, translating other people’s speech. Your character might only speak Russian or Ukrainian, and there would be foreigners in the Zone for instance.
Revolvers and other types of handguns.
Machine pistols or submachine guns that can fit in the sidearm slot, and be held with one arm with the locator, like Uzis, etc.
Option to make things like weight restrictions more or less or nonexistent depending on level of difficulty.
Weather conditions that realistically have an effect on the character, like rain and wind will make him cold, and sick. Player can warm himself up by starting a fire.
The ability to create stashes on the fly. If you’re weighted down and you can’t move, you can create a stash by taking a backpack, filling it with stuff, and throw it somewhere. It will show up on your PDA’s map and you can come back for it later. The contents might be stolen by bandits or other stalkers though.
Damage models like Soldier Of Fortune, which shows damage to characters.
More weapons, like AK47s, AKM, etc from Europe and eastern bloc, with weapons from overseas as well.
Ideas that made it in to Call of Pripyat:
New enemies, anomalies, mutants and bosses.
The ability to sell information to others rather than just buy it all the time.
Characters have a routine or life cycle and can do things the player can do.
The ability to sleep and pass time instead of having to wait around for certain time-sensitive missions, etc.
Open-ended gameplay or freeplay (you can still play after completing the main quest.
What do you think of the idea of STALKER 2?
© 2010 ANDR01D