Monday, November 16, 2009

The single step

Alone and ill equipped in a land of mutants and 'meat grinders'. What could possibly go wrong?

Welcome to this unfolding tragedy. Inspired by other play-blogs like Nondrick's non-Adventure and one analysing Far Cry 2 decision making that I can't find right now, I decided it might be a lark to do something similar with Stalker (or S.T.A.L.K.E.R.) : Shadow of Chernobyl. At least until the new game in the series, Call of Pripyat, comes out in English.

For the unfamiliar, it's a notoriously expansive and difficult first person shooter set in the Ukraine's deserted Zone of Exclusion that surrounds Chernobyl power station.

It's a science fiction story, however, with a premise inspired by Russian novel Roadside Picnic and the Tarkovsky film loosely adapted from the novel. Strange events have left the area populated with horrifying mutants and covered in gravitational anomalies that will crush anyone who wanders into them. But these conditions also leave behind precious artifacts made from new substances with remarkable properties. The people who illegally wander this new frontier looking for wealth and salvation are called stalkers for the way they must tread very carefully to get anywhere in one piece.

I propose to play the game at the hardest difficulty, without saving, and just see what happens. Not only that, I will be using the AMK mod, which activates sleep, hunger and blowouts (massive radioactive weather events) among other things, as well as a realistic weapons mod for that authentic survival experience.

There are no further gimmicks than that really. There's no particular moral directive; I don't have to be the nice guy or the bad guy. I just play as I "normally" do (more on that in a moment). I can save the game to avoid crashes and unemployment, but if I die in the game I have to start again from scratch.

I have no concrete hypothesis for what will happen. I've played the game enough to see that it's one of the few where survival planning can often be essential to moving around in the game, balancing the amount of bullets you might need on a journey with your possible need to run from something unpleasant for instance. Without saves it's obvious that the way I play will change. Exactly how I really can't say. That's something to document along the way, as well as all the bizarre events of life in the zone. Hopefully it will be entertaining though. Really, that's the idea. Join me if you will.

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