Online games news Tedious Retro Gamer, 31-03-2021
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We just gained some details of the upcoming Stalker 2 (or rather S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2) game, but it is scarce info to be honest. And that makes me fear it will be a failure on premiere. Here is why...
Original Stalker games were something that left no one indifferent - most of the people that wandered into the Zone as GSC Game World made it, were left with great memories of tense atmosphere, eerie feeling with each step and very good mixture of horror, survival and FPS. After Call of Pripyat in 2009 GSC Game World took a hiatus from series and concentrated on other projects, so Stalker 2 was pretty much abandoned.
In 2020 surprising news hit the media that GSC Game World does actually work on Stalker 2, but also that it will premiere in 2021. The surprising bit was that, comparing to infamous Cyberpunk 2077, developers kept that fact a secret. I mean you just cannot prepare a AAA game in just one year, which suggests that they were working on it for some time. Although I am one of the people that absolutely loved every bit of Stalker games... No, I am lying, Clear Sky was rather poor, but Call of Pripyat and Shadow of Chernobyl are titles that I revisit from time to time. And even though I love those games, it makes me wonder if Stalker 2 can get even close to their level.
While most of the original Stalker fans are eager to jump into another title of the series, nostalgia will put their expectations high and that might lead to disappointment. If you wait for something 12 years it would have to be amazing to made up for the time you lost already.
Many people remember Stalker games and their atmosphere, but since 2009 there were many titles inspired by them or with similar motifs. Metro series was sort-off spin-off made by developers involved in original Stalker, although the gameplay is completely different and story is very linear, they made three games that carried the atmosphere of original. Games like Fallout 3, Fallout 4 or Far Cry 2 gave the similar feeling of being alone in the dangerous environment. Even survival games, like The Forest, Scum, GTFO or The Mist made mixture of survival and horror with good atmosphere. Not to mention Chernobylite that used similar premise, although did not make much difference on the market.
Original Stalker games are so fondly remembered because of their unique approach to some themes, the elements that were involved and because all of it was so fresh and not seen before. Now, 12 years later, it will be very, very hard to come up with anything original, that players have not seen before.
Times change and we change with them - old rule that still perfectly defines the ways our world works. Stalker 2 can either stick to hardcore fans and be exactly like original titles or adapt to modern trends. In first scenario it would be hard for them to find new users among younger gamers, in second they could lose all of their identity by introducing modern elements, like skill trees, loot boxes or character builds. Of course there is also third option, when developers try to appeal to everyone and end up with game that no one really cares about.
Another trap that Stalker 2 can walk into is the multiplayer corner - either you can have great single player game or great multiplayer game, but so far no one managed to have both. Original games concentrated on single player, if GSC Game World will abandon that bit in favour of multiplayer approach it will disappoint a lot of players, lack of good multiplayer option will disappoint others.
Just after a total collapse of Cyberpunk 2077 gamers might be cautious about putting their money into new titles making decision on nostalgia only. You can see quite few recent premieres that lead AAA games into lukewarm reactions - either they were too middle-of-the-road or quickly lost most of their playerbase in favour of other titles.
And this is the last bit that makes me worry about Stalker 2 - we have no idea what the concept is. So far we know that there will be several endings, weapons, factions - nothing that would make this game stick out among competition. Recent leak of information that there will be a lot of weapons and you can choose your teeth just creates flashbacks from Cyberpunk 2077 hype that turned out to be just empty words. Or rather fancy words to cover the emptiness of the game itself.
Although I hope I am wrong about this, I do not see Stalker 2 as the game that we were waiting for 12 years. Comparing again to infamous Cyberpunk 2077 or Anthem, lack of clear concept could be a warning sign that Stalker 2 will be just another empty shell based on nostalgia, rather than a title we will remember for years to come.
Emma Fielding - actress, radio and games voice-over artist
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