First things first, I went into this blind only knowing some were calling it a S.T.A.L.K.E.R by gameworld GSC clone. It is far from that. While elements are similar and the setting is the same the games are completely different.
Chernobylite was made by The Farm 51 who made Get Even released back in 2017. I played on PC and with mouse and keyboard. After I ran the benchmark I played on ultra settings with v-sync on and maintained a solid 60 fps. Aside from the loading screens where it would dip below 30. Since it’s a loading screen I’ll forgive it. You get to play as Igor, a former Chernobyl scientist searching for his missing wife. Along the way, you make friends and enemies in the inhospitable Chernobyl exclusion zone. All while trying to avoid the horrors of both humans and monsters alike.
What Does Chernobylite It Look Like?
Chernobylite is an absolutely beautiful game first and foremost. I have never been to the exclusion zone but have watched tons of urban exploration videos and documentaries about the incident. It feels like they dropped smack dab right into it from the very first mission you can do on your own.
There are some noticeable “problems” like characters clipping through doors. Or bodies clipping through stairs than going crazy when you interact with them. That happened maybe 3 times in my playthrough. When you are out in the zones exploring, sneaking, and gathering materials you feel the isolation. The unease and nature overtaking man’s ruins. I feel this game has done that delicate balance perfectly. The Farm 51 has stated they use 3D scans of the exclusion zone in addition to photos. There is detail crafted into every nook and cranny of the maps. There are even a few classic landmarks that are easily recognizable like Duga Radar.
The UI is clean and although the quick menu does look like a d-pad it didn’t take away from what was being conveyed. I did have some trouble with the menus. I often push the wrong buttons because they were mapped unnaturally on PC. That was an easy learning experience after a few hours though. The maps were clearly laid out, the environmental scanner was clear, and finding the materials was easy with the clear highlighting. There are even live-action clips used in various places. From loading screens to hallucinations you’ll often see Tatyana and glimpses of the past in them.
This is a fairly big game sitting right now at 30 GBS and that’s without any post-launch patches. There is a lot to do in this game in that 30 GBS. From having training missions of every skill you unlock to decently sized maps that you can explore from top to bottom. Most of the bigger buildings you see you can go in and it’s worth going into to find doors you can lock pick or clues for the heist. All will have different interiors, not just copy and paste from one building to another. Every building even a story mission was designed with more than one way to get in. So with some patience, you can get in without firing a bullet.
Sometimes you may run into something in those buildings. Beware the creepy dolls you may meet if you look hard enough. They seem to be skill point givers if you meet the one with glowing eyes. The glowing eyes seem to also be prophecies or warning givers. They are creepy but not as creepy as Angie from Resident Evil 8. At least these dolls don’t move. They are worth finding though, the Zones are worth diving into from the top to bottom.
An Eerie Silence with a Deep Voice
I played this the way I would most games like this. With the Russian voice acting and English subtitles. The subtitles were spelled correctly and scrolled in time with the voice acting. Making a mention of the subtitles may seem crazy but they were the only link I had to know what was going on. I believe in this circumstance that they were just as important as the map.
The Russian voice acting was solid. Igor was a believable desperate man just trying to find his missing wife. Tayana was a stand out with the sweet loving tones with a hint of something underneath. Something foreign and filled with malice. I found it hard to find a voice that didn’t fit the game.
There are also dialogue options. You can choose to be a complete ass and risk losing companions but get immense rewards. In turn, you can be nice and work for the good of the world and your companions. Yet, you may get fewer rewards but make things a little easier down the road. It’s not a Mass Effect paragon or renegade system but there is a Fallout-style mortality system. Very often you’ll see “this character will not like or they liked this.”
What is Chernobylite?
Well in game Chernobylite is a type of in-game cosmic, radiation-filled metal. It’s used to teleport, craft special armors and items to put in your base. Chernobylite the game is like a certain divine comedy we all know. Yes as you go through the trials and tribulations of fighting the NAR you can’t help but think of one Dante Alighieri. The divine comedy is even mentioned in-game.
It is also a horror FPS with strategy and RPG mechanics. On top of that, there is also base building and crew management. Also, there is building in the zones you go to. From work tables to environmental modifiers that stop radiation or wormholes there is a lot to do and see. The building isn’t aggressive and in your face like some survival games but it will make your experience easier in the late game if you do partake.
You also have companions or a team is better phrasing. They do missions you assign them to and help you with the heist. They do not join you on missions outside of the heist though. You also have to take care of the morale, health, and psyche of your team. If you refuse to listen, take care of or help with the needs they will leave you. Random events can happen every day. Some will happen depending on your actions in the world. While others can encounter randomly. You can have random patrols stumble upon you, companions die, and food and supplies go bad.
The world is there for you to carve out your own place into it. If you want to play as I did and be sneaky you can. Being a sneaky snake here pays off, it saves you ammo which is scarce. It also saves you from using your rations and anti-rad as well. However, if you want to go guns ablaze you can but the consequences can be severe. The monsters both human and Chernobylite, are running around and waiting for you.
The biggest reason to be sneaky at least at first is to avoid conflict with the NAR. The more you kill the more your psyche will decrease. At least until you unlock a skill from Oliver that will negate that. A low psyche will make you hallucinate and other factors you have to manage. Staying out of conflict keeps you not only out of the NARs radar but the Black Stalkers as well.
Chernobylite also has a heist. As you explore zones you gather clues to run simulations into memories. Once you have enough clues, team members, and investigations you get to run the heist. The heist is also the final mission so I’m not gonna spoil it for you.
How Does The World Treat You
Zones have random weather and it can affect the way you play. The rain will dampen footsteps or radiation storms with lighting that can strike you. Not only giving you regular damage but radiation damage too. Zones are filled with herbs, mushrooms, and other abandoned loot to pick up. It pays to explore the entire area while you have time. There is no time limit to explore. I found however the longer you stay the more likely that the weather that may have helped will turn against you. You can help out enemies in the world as well. It may turn to your benefit later on in the game in a variety of ways. Lower conflict areas, hidden caches, and much more. Sometimes it pays to play nice with the bad guys even if some of your companions may not like it.
You’ll reach a point where the game will kill you intentionally. Imagine my surprise when that happened. It allows you to go to an astral plane to change the decisions you already made. I’ll be honest I never changed a single one. If I didn’t like it I wouldn’t have picked it. It’s also heavily implied that doing that may have unseen consequences. Dying will also make you lose goods unless you have a special chamber in your base. You can use it to die but not lose your goods and craftables.
There is a detailed crafting system. While you get a couple of weapons, armors, and other craftable goodies you can customize almost everything on them. Think about the Metro Exodus crafting system and then refine that system. Here almost everything can be improved, triggers, barrels, sights, and more. The only thing you can’t upgrade yourself is your environmental scanner which is also your Geiger counter. The environmental scanner lets you send out a pulse to find materials. Almost like in Dragon Age: Inquisition but with a cooldown. A quick hint! Build a lockpick maker as soon as you can. Most merchants if there are any on the map won’t have them but there will be 1-2 locked doors. A nice thing is the doors will stay open once unlocked. The same can be said for the machines you build to lower radiation, wormholes, and Chernobylite. They will stay in the world once you build them and leave.
Chernobylite has no crosshairs or reticles; you have to use the in-game gun sights that can be customized to your liking. The gunplay actually felt like it had some kick and weight to it. Where you aim is where you’re gonna hit almost every single time. Funnily enough, the guns weren’t actually something I relied on a lot. I did play sneaky and tried to only use weapons against monsters. The monsters were faster and I personally couldn’t sneak up on them to stealth kill them. With a return of leaning, it made it easy to peek around corners and plan my way around the NAR usually with only 1 stealth kill. My goal for every mission was to use as few bullets as I could, get lots of craftables and avoid radiation storms.
While the side or radiant missions like food and supply recovery do have time limits the main missions don’t. The game lets you tackle them at your own pace. Yet, the longer you take the worse the world will get. Be it radiation storms, Chernobylite spreading and conflicts with the NAR. For me, it paid to push through the first few missions and start building a crew. Doing that allowed me to do more main missions while my crew gathered things for me. The crew can’t do the main missions but you can send them to scout the mission out. That will reduce the hostile forces or uncover something hidden when you go in.
You can even have lazy days on the base. Those days will allow you to recover your health, psyche, and past days. I will be honest, the base building was something I was not expecting here. Like I said at the start I went into this completely blind not knowing anything. You’ll need to build some machines to unlock others. You can build little crops, air filtration, companion comforts and all tons of other things you could want in the base.
The Small Cracks That Can Be Filling In
You will never see that character’s face in the game. This can be explained as you’re in the exclusion zone and you need a mask. I think it serves a bigger purpose of not having to animate the faces and lips etc. You’ll only see the faces in portraits with the dialogue. That doesn’t mean that the game is missing animation far from it but facial animations are not there.
Secondly, if you are not a fan of jumpscares you’ll be in for a few here. Right from the start, there are about 2 or 3 heart-stopping moments. The game is pretty good at not relying on jump scares too often unless your psyche is low. Then watch out.
Thirdly, It takes a while to get skill points. For me and the way I played I didn’t mind the somewhat slow exp grind but I know some will find it tedious. It can be a struggle to get those skill points to unlock skills. All while also not pissing off the companion whose skills you may need. I would say for my playstyle searching every cranny and going to the areas I know loot will be it took about 2-3 missions to get 1 skill point.
The final but probably most important issue I have is the saves. Say you are in the middle of a zone and hit save. It will save and you may leave thinking it saved right at that exact spot and moment. Oh no I found out it put me back at the last major checkpoint I did. Like sleeping or loading into a zone or important story moment. It’s frustrating when you do some base work, save and then it hasn’t saved where you wanted. It’s probably one of the biggest knocks I have against this game. However, it is an easy fix or at least it seems like it’s an easy fix.
A Strong Entry in The Chernobyl Game Universe
There is a free play mode which I’ll admit I didn’t dive into much. It seems like you can survive and just play how you want without a story. The story was just so compelling that I wanted to keep playing that in the time I had.
Where do the gameworlds S.T.A.L.K.E.R comparisons come from? Well, it’s set in the same area. It is a similar player management system like the psyche, health and armor. Like S.T.A.L.K.E.R games there is a sense of loneliness and dread throughout the entire experience. Even if there was a friendly merchant on the map I felt on edge most of the time until I got back to base. Yet, even then it wasn’t fully safe. Lastly, I would personally say the only comparison would be the monsters. The monsters you encounter aside from the human monsters are beings infected with Chernobylite. They are fast and can swarm you in a hurry. These are 2 very different games. While S.T.AL.K.E.R was a landmark game of its time, Chernobylite is a new way forward.
To end it I will say if you like S.T.A.L.K.E.R or the Metro series you will like this game. If you love survival horror RPGs like The Evil Within you’ll like this. If you love realistic shooters set in a beautiful game world you’re gonna like this. It does a lot that makes it different from those games I mentioned. I have never been to an exclusion zone but it feels like you were dropped right into that part of the world. The ever-present sense of dread, mystery and fear hook you into the game. There’s so much to do and see no matter how many times you go to the zones. While the saves were frustrating this was a fun game to fall into. The combat felt great, the crafting was fair and the maps were a perfect size. The base building was fun and unlocking skills was worth the grind. There was so much crammed that it was shocking on the first launch. Chernobylite is a good game with stellar visuals and a story filled with twists and turns. This is a game I can recommend to pick up and get lost in.
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