I found myself wandering a wasteland of wrecked tanker ships when a radiation storm blocked out the sun. In other words, I played S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat yesterday for the 22nd day of the Steam Backlog Bonanza. It’s one of those Eastern European shooters from 2010. I couldn’t find any record of when or how much I paid for it, which suggests I probably bought it soon after 2010 and it’s been sitting in my Steam backlog unplayed for nearly nine years.
But not anymore. I only played for about 30 minutes, because I rushing through it to meet my deadline. (It felt like I played a lot longer than that.) It’s a shooter, which I expected, but I didn’t expect it to be a surprisingly open world RPG kind of shooter. You wander around a huge wasteland fighting random wandering mobs, talking to NPCs in “hubs” where you can buy things and gather quests. It was a lot like playing an MMORPG, except single-player, and with an AK-47. It reminded me of Fallen Earth. In a way, it also reminded me of an early attempt at a game like The Division, without the other players.
(There is a Multiplayer mode but I didn’t look at it.)
The other thing about Eastern European shooters is they all tend to have the same visual aesthetic of concrete and rust and rain. The 2D graphics of the HUD looked like it had been lifted directly from Fallout 1. This one was outdoors, but there were a lot of rusted old metal tanker ship hulks lying around.
As this is the second game in a series, the story didn’t make a lot of sense to me. (I played the first one for a little while, but not enough to remember much about it.) It’s sort of an alternate history of the Chernobyl disaster, where it turns out there’s some kind of supernatural force at work, and/or a government conspiracy of the X-Files variety.
The game wasn’t very forgiving. I died a lot. I think I selected a higher-than-normal difficulty. [It turns out I selected the “veteran” difficulty, which was the middle selection out of five.]
The controls didn’t seem very smooth. It was hard to aim because there was a lot of recoil with the default weapons. I couldn’t really tell if I was hitting anyone.
I think there might have been some survival elements as well. You had to avoid radiation, and there was an eating mechanic.
Will I play more? Very unlikely. It might have been a fun game to play in 2010 when it was new, but again, there are much better ways to spend my time now. But I will give it credit for being more than just another shooter. The open-world RPG component made it much more interesting.
Stream Production Notes: I delayed the stream for a couple of hours and had to rush through this whole process because I couldn’t tear myself away from the second season of Mindhunter on Netflix. I would much rather write a blog post about that series than this game, as it was about a thousand times better as a way to spend one’s time than any game that I’m currently aware of.
My favorite part of playing this game turned out to be the part where I tried to read the quest text in a Russian accent. I am very bad at that and it made me laugh. That was way more fun for me than wandering around shooting people in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Though I did amuse myself a little bit by shooting people that I think I was supposed to talk to.
Previously on the Steam Backlog Bonanza: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified.