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Sunday, April 14, 2024

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Legends of the Zone Trilogy

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The original S.T.A.L.K.E.R. trilogy (Shadow of Chernobyl, Clear Sky and Call of Pripyat) is renowned for its incredible atmosphere and punishing difficulty.  Originally released over fifteen years ago, for the PC, they follow the adventures of a series of Stalkers as they uncover the secrets of the exclusion zone around Chornobyl.  The games have now been adapted for consoles (Xbox and PlayStation) with S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Legends of the Zone.

In the storyline for these games, secret soviet experiments in the Chornobyl exclusion zone created a second explosion, which altered the environment in the zone.  Localised anomalies that defied the laws of physics appeared and mutant creatures roamed the area, but of particular interest were bizarre artifacts that offered their bearer unique abilities.

Shadow of Chernobyl, the original game, followed the ‘marked one’ as they attempted to uncover the secrets of the zone.  Clear Sky acted as a prequel to the first game, setting much of the storyline for the original.  Meanwhile, Call of Pripyat is a sequel to the original and explores the consequences of the events.

The S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Legends of the Zone trilogy is a direct adaptation of the original games.  The core difference is that they have been optimised for games controllers, rather than continuing to rely on only keyboard and mouse controls.  In this, they work very well.  The controls feel intuitive and the gear switching system – activated by holding down the left shoulder button on the control – is quick and simple.

Another difference is that the language has been changed to Ukrainian rather than the original Russian.  This most noticeable with the title of the original, which switched to the Ukrainian spelling of Choronobyl.  Other than this, the games effectively look and play the same.

The developers make a point of highlighting that these games should be viewed as cultural artifacts restored for modern games consoles, rather than as remakes.  It is acknowledged that some of the content and language may not be as politically acceptable now as it once was.

The setting is incredibly immersive and atmospheric, and wonderfully evokes the feeling of exploring a desolate wilderness.  Despite the games being over a decade old, they still look incredible.  It is only when the textures are looked at in detail do the games show their age.

The games are also punishingly difficult.  They have a realistic combat system, so charging in with only a semi-automatic pistol will result in a ‘game over’ screen.  This is a game that demands players take a cautious approach to combat.  In fact, the entire environment is hostile to the player; from roving bandits and heavily armed mercenaries, to mutant animals and bizarre anomalies.

There are multiple factions within the games that need to negotiated with.  It is up to the player to determine which faction they will align themselves with.  The player’s interactions with each faction will also influence how they operate within the game.

It should be noted that there is no autosave function and it is incumbent upon players to regularly save their progress – and with a game as difficult as these – it should very regular.  Also, game mechanics of restoring health after a few minutes out of combat was not a thing when these games were released.

Overall, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Legends of the Zone trilogy are a wonderful collection of games and would be ideal for anyone who enjoys playing open-world survival horror, or who just wants to explore the exclusion zone.

Peter Ray Allison
Peter Ray Allisonhttp://www.peterallison.net
Science Fiction: the final frontier. These are the articles of the freelance journalist Peter Ray Allison. His continuing mission: to explore strange new realms of fiction, to seek out new genres and new visions of the future, to boldly geek where no one has geeked before.

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S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Legends of the Zone is a wonderful collection of games and would be ideal for anyone who enjoys playing open-world survival horror, or who just wants to explore the exclusion zone.S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Legends of the Zone Trilogy