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|Developer(s)||GSC Game World|
Shadow of Chernobyl|
March 20, 2007
Call of Pripyat|
October 2, 2009
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a series of first-person shooter survival horror video games developed by Ukrainian video game developer GSC Game World for Microsoft Windows. Based very loosely on the Strugatsky Brothers' novel Roadside Picnic and its 1979 Andrei Tarkovsky's film adaptation Stalker, the games are set in the area surrounding the Chernobyl accident site, colloquially known as "The Zone", in an alternative reality where a second explosion occurs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant some time after the first and causes strange changes in the area around it.
The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games take place within "The Zone", an alternate history version of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. In the world of the games, experimental labs were made in the Exclusion Zone which allowed scientists to experiment with psychic abilities which arose following the disaster. Their experimentation resulted in a second disaster, causing physical and meteorological phenomena to manifest throughout the Zone, as well as the mutation of fauna and some humans. The Zone is littered with such "Anomalies": hazardous entities which seemingly defy physics, having various effects on any object entering them.
Anomalies also often produce items known as "Artifacts", objects with special physical properties such as anti-gravity, or absorbing radiation. People enter The Zone in hopes of finding such items for personal financial gain. These people are known as "Stalkers". While a great number of Stalkers work alone, various factions populate The Zone, each with their own philosophies and goals. For example, the Duty faction believe that The Zone is the greatest threat to humanity on the planet and are intent on destroying it by any means possible; by contrast, the Freedom faction believe The Zone should be accessible to all.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine maintain a cordon around The Zone, attempting to prevent any unauthorised personnel from entering. Additionally, Ukrainian Spetsnaz units conduct special operations within The Zone such as surgical strikes on Stalkers or to secure specific targets. Other hostile entities within The Zone include humans and other creatures mutated following the two disasters, many of them possessing aggressive psionic abilities.
The protagonists of each game have their own goals separate to those of the various factions, however they are presented opportunities to aid in the plans of others. Generally, the ultimate objective of each game involves reaching the centre of The Zone, a task complicated by the various threats and hazards present therein.
Shadow of Chernobyl (2007)
In the first game of the series, the player takes on the role of an amnesiac Stalker referred to as the "Marked One", who is tasked with killing another stalker named Strelok. During the course of the game, the protagonist uncovers clues to his past and true identity while helping other stalkers and fighting the mutated creatures that inhabit The Zone. Eventually, he reaches the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and confronts the C-Consciousness that explains that the Marked One is actually Strelok himself, a stalker who managed to reach their headquarters prior but brainwashed and turned into a sleeper agent, configured to kill himself by mistake.
Shadow of Chernobyl features multiple endings, all of which are dependent on multiple controllable factors, such as money earned during the game, or how much of the protagonist's memory was pieced together.
Clear Sky (2008)
Clear Sky, the second game released of the series, is a prequel to Shadow of Chernobyl. The player assumes the role of Scar, a veteran stalker. The lone survivor following a huge energy emission he was caught in while guiding a group of scientists through The Zone, he is rescued by and works with Clear Sky, a faction dedicated to researching and understanding the nature of The Zone.
When Scar encounters and survives a second energy emission, Clear Sky theorizes that the emissions are The Zone's way of reacting to human activity, and that with time they will become highly unstable and spiral out of control. Throughout the game, the player can choose to have Scar side with or against certain factions in the area to help achieve Clear Sky's goal. Ultimately, their plan to stabilize the energy emissions fails, and an enormous energy emission from the Chernobyl plant itself sets the scene for the events of Shadow of Chernobyl to unfold.
Call of Pripyat (2009)
The third game in the series, Call of Pripyat takes place shortly after the events of Shadow of Chernobyl. Having discovered the open path to the center of The Zone, the government decides to take control of it via "Operation Fairway", in which they plan to thoroughly investigate the territory before dispatching the main military force.
Despite these preparations, the military operation fails, with all five helicopters crashing. In order to determine the cause of the crashes, the Ukraine Security Service sends former Stalker Major Degtyarev into The Zone. This is the character that the player assumes control of.
After discovering that the crashes were caused by strong electrical currents, Degtyarev makes his way to an evacuation point located in Pripyat. Along the way, depending on the choices the player makes, he may meet a number of different characters that can become his allies. Eventually, after arriving in Pripyat, Degtyarev's party finds themselves surrounded by the military survivors, who take them to their base. Once there, they work together with the military commander of the helicopter group in surviving and escaping The Zone. Eventually, they are met by Strelok, the protagonist of the first game, who offers his full cooperation including the reasons why the operation failed in the first place.
He explains that the helicopters were taken down by moving electric anomalies. The government had investigated and determined these areas previously, however they were not aware that the locations of the anomalies change with every energy emission in The Zone, so by the time the military forces were sent in, the "safe" corridors utilized by the pilots were no longer so.
Degtyarev then helps to re-establish contact with headquarters and, together with Strelok, organize a desperate evacuation out of The Zone. There are multiple different endings available depending on the player's success; whether or not some of the characters survive the evacuation and how the lives of other stalkers Degtyarev met throughout the game turn out. In the ideal scenario, Degtyarev becomes head of the Security Service in The Zone, and Strelok gives all the materials he found in The Zone to the government, prompting the creation of the "Scientific Institute for the Research of the Chernobyl Anomalous Area", with Strelok taking up the position of chief scientific consultant.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 (2021)
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was announced in August 2010, with a release date scheduled for 2012. Sergiy Grygorovych, CEO of GSC Game World, specified that the video game featured a completely new multi-platform engine, written by GSC itself.
On 23 December 2011, GSC Game World announced they would be continuing development of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, despite an earlier announcement pointing to its cancellation. However, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was cancelled yet again by GSC Game World through a Twitter post on 25 April 2012.
Development of a new S.T.A.L.K.E.R.2. was announced on May 15, 2018 at 21:00 UTC with a post on the Cossacks 3 Facebook page . The post links to a site that displays the text "S.T.A.L.K.E.R.2 22.214.171.124", implying a planned release year of 2021.
The former S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 team opened a new studio, Vostok Games, and created a free-to-play MMOFPS, called Survarium, in the spirit of the earlier franchise, using ideas they created for the cancelled sequel.
In June 2014, West-Games, which falsely claimed to be composed of former S.T.A.L.K.E.R. developers, launched a Kickstarter campaign for a spiritual successor to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. called Areal. While it managed to reach its goal of $50k, multiple concerns were raised throughout the campaign about the project being a possible scam, and Kickstarter eventually suspended the campaign two days before its deadline, for undisclosed reasons.
The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series has received favorable reviews from popular gaming websites.
IGN gave Shadow of Chernobyl a rating of 8.2 out of 10, commending it for its audio and lasting appeal, but criticizing its story. GameSpot gave it a rating of 8.5 out of 10, praising the survival gameplay but once again criticizing the story. Metacritic gave a rating of 82 out of 100, commending the game’s visuals but criticizing it for technical glitches. GamesRadar gave it 4.5 stars, once again praising the setting and gameplay but criticizing the amount of time it took to be produced relative to the quality of the game.
By August, 2010, the franchise had sold over 4 million copies.
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