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The Harsh Environments of Eastern Europe

By Aidan Kearney

Just last month 4A games and publisher Deep Silver released Metro Redux, a remastered 
combo package of Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light. These games were hailed for their unique environments, excellent visuals, and tense combat deep in the tunnels of the Moscow Metro. The decrepit apartment blocks and dens of mutants the player wanders through leaves you chilled but always wanting more.

But what other games take place in a similar environment? Besides the Fallout series, what can give the player a feeling of desolation and survival?

Look no further than S.T.A.L.K.E.R.series, developed by GSC Gameworld.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is an acronym for Scavenger, Trespasser, Adventurer, Loner, Killer, Explorer, and Robber. The game takes place in the Zone, located near the nuclear power plant Chernobyl in the European country of Ukraine. The Zone was created 20 years after the original Chernobyl meltdown by another radioactive anomaly which mutated much of the wildlife and spawned anomalous artifacts.

The eponymous Stalkers are attracted to the Zone by the artifacts, and attempt to return them to the outside world to be analyzed for profit.

The twist? The outside world is still perfectly normal. However, it is experiencing amazing scientific advances due to the stalkers and sanctioned military scientists retrieving the artifacts from inside the zone. The story is loosely based off of an art film in 1979 that shares the same name, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, which is in turn an adaptation of the novel Roadside Picnic written by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky

In the game, you are one of the many Stalkers, but you find yourself in the Zone with no memory of how you got there, or who you are, and your PDA only has one note on it: “Kill Strelok.” You, labeled as “The Marked One” have to find out who you are and who Strelok is, all while exploring the mysteries of this cruel Zone.

You are not alone though. Stalkers survive by helping each other, exchanging supplies and favors. Different factions will ask for your help as well, and it’s your choice to assist the hostile Bandits, the Free Stalkers, the militarized Duty Faction, or the lawless Freedom.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is an open world, explorative FPS with elements of horror and role-playing-games. There are quests, factions, and various stats that you can increase. Progression is primarily tracked through your gear. You start off in the Zone as a rookie, with nothing but a thin jacket and a hand-me-down pistol to your name. As you work your way through the Stalker food chain, you acquire better weapons and armor and make a name for yourself in the Zone, if you can survive.

If you enjoy modding, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R.community has developed various mods that enhance the game, add new content, and can make your experience in the Zone even more dangerous. The first game, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadows of Chernobyl, was released in 2007, is capable of running on an affordable laptop or computer. There are compatibility issues with newer operating systems, but solutions can be easily found thanks to the game’s community. Thanks to the game’s fantastic gunplay, uniquely gripping atmosphere, and lively modding community, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. remains relevant today and a fantastic entry in any gamer’s library.