#855 S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky

Posted: 30th December 2020 by Jeroen in Games
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919th played so far

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: GSC Game World
Publisher: Deep Silver

The last time I played a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game, we played it after we had just watched the movie of the same name this series was based on. That’s a few years – and some more other downbeat Eastern European movies later (The Fireman’s Ball seems to operate in the same spirit at least, even if everything else is different). It’s the empty, tense feeling of the world that works, but at the same time the game was filled with stalkers, factions following their own path while you need to get up their yourself. There’s an atmosphere in the world that I wanted to feel more of and while the game wasn’t easy, it was manageable – you just needed to know what you’re doing.

That game had two sequels and Clear Sky is the first, even if it’s really a prequel to the original game. It’s also a game I wanted to look at for a long time and I’m excited I finally feel ready for it.

Our Thoughts

While the first game sets you up on your own, with stalkers working individually and only some vague support mechanisms in the form of shops and such, Clear Sky‘s central conceit is its faction system. You can take on missions for different factions and influence the balance of the game. You start working with the relatively benign-seeming Clear Sky, a group of scientists and researchers, and at first drive back a general group of bandits. You do this by helping them out on missions – helping them take down outposts, defend against incursions and so on. Since, as in the first game, everyone is working on their own, a lot of this tends to resolve without you. Even in the first area, where you help Clear Sky take it over, I got several different side quests to take on, that were completed before I could get to them.

It’s good that that’s the case though, as the game is tough even at a lower difficulty, and the aid of NPCs is incredibly useful. Having them help from the start is a big boost, and while you make an impact, there’s something quite amazing about being part in the world that resolves around you – you’re a single contributor rather than the big hero of the story. I’m sure later, as you get more powers and become stronger, you get to have more of an impact, but it adds to that feeling of a hostile, alien world that was so key to the first game.

The game is divided into several different areas, rather than the single one of the first game. I’m not sure whether they connect – there was a tunnel and loading screen between the first two main ‘levels’ – but it feels more disparate than before. It’s a nice way to create a structure and progression, but it feels limiting in the long term. I didn’t have time to get that much deeper – the game needs that much trial and error that it’s a bit too tiring – but again, there’s something here.

Final Thoughts

While I want to get back to S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, it’s going to be one of those games that I need to be in the mood for, where I know I feel ready for the challenge it brings and can balance it all – perhaps with some guidance to make sure I find all the helpful secrets and side quests that are out there.