Stalker’s Sky Darkens

By Alec Meer on August 31st, 2008 at 11:39 am.

Bad news for Stalker: Clear Sky – it’s been recalled from stores. Well, only briefly – apparently the initial shipments didn’t contain CD keys, cleverly. So it’s been delayed a few days while some poor sod presumably prints out a load of stickers, meaning its September 5th release date in the US ain’t gonna happen.

Shacknews reports this may delay the Steam release too, though apparently the European release is unaffected. Amusingly, Shack readers are reporting spotting the game in stores nevertheless – and even if those copies don’t have CD keys, I’m pretty sure the single player works without ‘em. You need the key only for multiplayer, as I recall.

Oh – and you should now be able to get hold of Jim’s review in PC Gamer, and my review in PC Format (both the UK versions). Won’t spoil the scores, but, well, [sad face]. Kieron’s also been playing it, so we’ll be talking more about Clear Sky here soon, rest assured.

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91 Comments »

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  1. Alex says:

    Shit happens.

  2. Andrew Doull says:

    Damnit. Looking forward to this…

    [Edit: Goes off and reads reviews on Metacritic]

    Well I’m still optimistic about this. Is the [sad face] an indication of the scores, or the fact you can’t discuss due to the usual embargoes.

  3. James T says:

    Very harsh buzz for this from Russian bilinguists on GSC, I’m hoping it’s just down to bugs — those, at least can be fixed.

  4. Heliocentric says:

    stalker was always broken, too broken now? They’ll still get cash from me. Stalker effected me too much for me not to try and tough out any bad design choices. There will always be mods :)

  5. Little Green Man says:

    James T: No, it’s the game that’s the problem, not the bugs. I’m just hoping modders rip out all the shittiness and polish it up a bit.

    I’ll just wait.

  6. Alec Meer says:

    I believe we’re free to discuss the game now, but for reasons of common courtesy we don’t want to scoop mags that paid us to review it for ‘em. We’ll talk more in a week or two.

    It is worth waiting for Metacritic to host a broader spread of reviews though.

  7. Heliocentric says:

    just a short run down please. What did they screw up worst?

  8. Tony says:

    Little Green Man: Well, seeing what they’ve done to the original, one can only hope. It’ll be a while, though. Alas.

    I’ll probably still pick it up when I get a machine capable of running STALKER without three hour level load times.

  9. Dreamhacker says:

    James T: They’re Ukrainian, not Russian.

    Part of me wonders if this would have happened if they were an American company…

  10. Nakkila says:

    Sad face!? It cannot be!

  11. Real Horrorshow says:

    The Russian outrage looks to me like just a handful of disgruntled trolls, the same rabble-rousers you get on forums on every anticipated release.

  12. Little Green Man says:

    Tony: Three hours… Ouch.

    Yeah the mods on Stalker: SOC changed it loads and made it a much better game for it. My personal faves were the trader and name mods, Basix, and Faiakes (before it became too bloated.)

    Oh and a lot of the Stalker hardcore are Russian.

  13. Drongo69 says:

    I heard that a lot of the “cut” stuff that was re-enabled by mods like Oblivion Lost has been completely removed from the code, leaving nothing to re-enable. I also heard that some of the big STALKER mod teams have said they won’t be working on Clear Sky. I hope these rumours turn out to be wrong.

    Oh, the blowouts are scripted too.

  14. Flubb says:

    Isn’t that pic from the Chronicles of Riddick? :) (Crematoria)

  15. Orange says:

    Luckily I caught sight of Jim’s review score last week and cancelled my pre-order, will be interesting to see where it seems to have gone wrong and if it’s fixable at all.

    Shame as I had high hopes for this.

  16. Ben Hazell says:

    Dammit, PC Gamer review sitting 200 miles away.
    I’ll be interested in the discussion, and reading the review properly. Looking over the various forum descriptions of Jims review is confusing, some of the criticisms highlight changes I wanted to see.
    I fear this is going to be one where the score at the end overshadows the actual review.

    In the end I’ll buy it, because I need to know, and if it’s poor I’ll wait for the inevtiable community mod.
    Stalker: Clear Sky: Fallout Lost ?

  17. Martin Kingsley says:

    Yawn. STALKER was eternally broken. Surprised I shall not be if Clear Sky turns out to be equally mangled.

  18. Feet says:

    I have read Jim’s review in PCG, and it’s not full of praise or a score that will adorn the front of the box.

  19. Mogs says:

    [sad face]? It can’t be! I felt it…it was awesome!

    Grrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. Rook says:

    Edge gave Clear Sky a 7/10 which is pretty good for them. And I recall The Witcher getting a fairly bad review from PCG.

  21. Mogs says:

    Edge LOL. I mean, STALKER’s good & all, but it’s no Halo – the game that revolutionised gaming by inventing first-person with its Interactive Innovation.

  22. Candid_Man says:

    @Mogs

    You cheeky sod you!

  23. Tom says:

    What a shame. I was really looking forward to diving in to a polished Stalker. How did they mess it up so badly…?!
    Stalker’s strengths have been discussed and discussed. Massive mods have been released that do nothing but point towards and emphasize these strengths…. how did it go wrong? Did the devs have their heads in the sand or something?!

  24. KindredPhantom says:

    It can’t be as bad as the PC Gamer review says?
    Surely not.

  25. Muzman says:

    It sounds like balance problems and bugs to my optimistic, filtering ear. Which is exactly what the original had in its first release. Sort the number of dudes wandering around/respawning and kill a lot of bugs and it’ll probably be ok.
    Wait a couple of patches; play good game; be happy; find somewhat poor software release practice ameliorated (if still bad).

  26. Petethegoat says:

    @Candid_Man
    I believe Mogs was mocking Edge.

    I still have high hopes for this, I enjoyed the first one, (after patching) so i’ll probably still get this.

  27. Mogs says:

    Check out it’s metacritic page. http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/stalkerclearsky?q=stalker%20clear%20sky

    88, 88, 70 so far + 9.1 from readers. Not amazing, but certainly not cause for despair. I remain cautiously optimistic.

  28. Real Horrorshow says:

    I caved and downloaded the Russian version (before you try to lynch me, I don’t speak Russian, it’s not a lost sale) and I have to say it’s perfectly fine, and IMO fucking awesome. I was sucked in for a few hours even though I had no idea what was going on. I also didn’t experience any bugs whatsoever.

    I will DEFINITELY be buying Clear Sky.

  29. Muzman says:

    Are you a combat fan Horrorshow? I expect that’s the nub of how its recieved. Apparently Clear Sky has a lot more human on human combat than Stalker and the solitude suffers.
    It could turn out well though. I keep bumping into COD4.5 hunting types who liked the look of the original’s sci-fi/real military asthetic but wished it was more combat heavy.
    C.S.s changes could be right up their street (I’ll certainly miss lonely wandering and animal hunting though).

  30. Zeh says:

    I’m also optimistic. The negative points on reviews, and the recent Russian-unplayability-gate, seem to indicate the game has its own share of bugs (similar to how SoC shipped) but it’s playable and once they’re corrected or otherwise hacked by the community at large, the game will be at least as good as the previous title.

    It’s funny that usually when the gameplay is just meh, any bug tend to get on me and make me really hate the game. That’s my experience with the UT3 demo for example – after my 3rd crash, I just uninstalled the game. With the original Stalker, though, any bugs I ran into were easily forgiven by how awesome the entire game was (I was also lucky I rarely ever got any showstopping bug I guess).

    Finally, there’s a bunch of videos of real gameplay on Youtube posted by Russians and it looks really, truly awesome. The overpopulation of the zone seems to be real, but even with that and [sad faces] and all, I’m buying this over Steam on release day.

  31. Alec Meer says:

    Yeah, the inevitable split opinion over Clear Sky will likely be one of action vs environment.

    (Also, you probably won’t notice the terrible humour when playing the Russian version. I wish I’d played the Russian version instead).

  32. born2expire says:

    Im still buying this over Steam the day they release it, and it better be the 6th. There is really no good reason the Steam release should be delayed, I know Deep Silver will whine that they are not first to market, but the CD-Key issue is their problem not GSCs or Valves, why should they suffer because Deep Silver screwed up.

    I’m a little bummed on Jim’s review (at least what I’ve heard about it) because Jim was one of the few journalist who really liked Stalker, but on the flip side the original wasn’t all that well recieved either. So heres hoping.

  33. Real Horrorshow says:

    First let me start by saying that I’m a Shadow of Chernobyl fanboy.

    That said, the whole mercenary, Duty/Freedom, human fighting and the atmosphere of the Zone outdoors definitely appealed to me more than mutant dogs and bloodsuckers. That’s not to say I hated the “scary” parts, but it definitely took second place.

    I’m sure there’s scary underground parts with scary monsters and stuff in Clear Sky if that’s the type of atmosphere you were expecting, but from what I’ve played they got the part I like down perfectly.

    The fact that there are allies and enemies moving with/against you, to and from objectives, attacking and defending, etc. makes the Zone feel much, much more alive. I didn’t like how in SoC, every time you went to Garbage, there’s the same squad of bandits spawning in the same area, attacking the train station over, and over again for no real reason.

    I prefer Clear Sky’s living Zone to the randomness of SoC with meaningless skirmishes and random loners just wandering around doing nothing.

    I have to repeat that I’ve only played a few hours, but I also have to repeat that I’m REALLY excited for the game, it seems to have improved over SoC in every way I wanted it to.

    @ Alec: I have to say as a STALKER expert, so far it has both action and environment.

    Oh and one side note, if there’s one thing at all GSC do well, it’s level design. NO ONE makes such natural looking architecture and stuff in games. You go to that church in the marsh we’ve all seen in 100 videos and it looks like a real place, not a place in a video game. They don’t seem to rely in pre-fabs and copy and pasting the same buildings over and over. In both SoC and CS, it looks like every plank of wood every rod of iron has been placed meticulously to make every area truly unique. They definitely don’t have a generic “metal stairs” model in their SDK that they reuse 1000 times like some other developers.

  34. Alex says:

    The same thing happened with every copy of The Witcher sent to Canada (and on top of that, the bilingual manual was so fat that it broke the plastic bits holding it in place).

  35. Cooper says:

    PC Zone UK score, anything to do with a front cover exclusive..?

    (Actually, I could say the same for the PC Gamer release – spore got a very high score for a review that, though praised it, spent most of it nit picking at the game…)

    Anyway, I was going to order for release, but will await the development of mods now. I’m glad it Jim’s reviewed it, as he’s writing on Stalker, especially he exploration / environment side of things is parallel to what I get most out of SoC. From early on, I had worried that Clear Sky was going too much for the action, combat and most game-like side of ALife, not the dark, survivalist, pessimistic aspects of SoC which I enjoyed…

  36. Arlekino_ua says:

    i’ve been playing Clear Sky for a week now. damn bugs! don’t listen to anyone, the game is great, and the freeplay is much more fun

  37. subedii says:

    Yeah I read the EDGE review and it seemed really positive.

    Yes most people dismiss a 7/10 rating, but from EDGE that’s usually equivalent to at least an 8 in most other mags. What brings the game down mainly is the bugs, but that was expected. From the sound of it it’s more solid than the original game, and most remaining bugs and annoyances will likely be fixed out quickly by the fanbase like they did with the first game.

    The enhanced free roaming world with dynamically shifting power struggles between the various factions is one that DEFINITELY has me intrigued.

  38. Charlie says:

    PcZone review seemed ok. It was 87 or something and the last one they gave 83, from reading the article he thought it was a little better than the first.

    I’m really fucking sick of Edge! How can they rate Halo and GTA4 so highly? They are good games, but thats it! Stalker is genuinely different and original. Edge are the same as everyone else but claim to be different. Pretentious, arrogant pricks. Rant over.

  39. Optimaximal says:

    PcZone review seemed ok. It was 87 or something and the last one they gave 83, from reading the article he thought it was a little better than the first.

    Yeah, but it was reviewed by that jobsworth, Hogarty… Still, at least it wasn’t reviewed by Log – just think of all the knob jokes we’ve avoided!

    The enhanced free roaming world with dynamically shifting power struggles between the various factions is one that DEFINITELY has me intrigued.

    But when has it ever properly worked outside of Planetside? It’s always a false mechanic totally reliant on the player who can turn the tide of a turf war in seconds and the concept hasn’t really advanced much since GTA2.

  40. subedii says:

    I like EDGE, they do a lot of well written articles on the games industry, and I agree with their scores more often than not. The design of the cover and on the pages is very professional and clean (as opposed to the sugar-crash inducing multiple layered images and rainbow vomited colouring you see in most other games mags). They don’t dissolve into pure hyperbole and optimism with every preview either like a lot of mags do.

    No need to cry over them giving the lauded “10” to games like Halo 3 and GTA4. In the end, all reviews are subjective, if you don’t agree, congratulations, you’re not a robot. I don’t agree with their scores all the time either, the Witcher for example. I thought they were pretty harsh on Mass Effect too.

    I can still agree with them in some of the principles (like the fact that Halo 3 has really revolutionised the console shooter space with its community features). In the end, just take the reviews as an opinion, because that’s all they are. I don’t think they ever really tried to say it wasn’t their subjective view.

  41. Kieron Gillen says:

    Opti: Leave log alone. He’s lovely!

    KG

  42. Real Horrorshow says:

    @ subedii and everyone else who was wondering:

    I can confirm the faction wars system is as promised and functioning perfectly. It’s even better than I expected, which was like one area to fight over per map, but it’s more like 6 or 7. To finally push a faction off an area they even have a home base which seems to spawn reinforcements to go take what’s been lost in the area. I imagine once a faction has been totally pushed off an area (in the case of the beginning area, the Bandits) they eventually re enter the area and try to gain a foothold at their old base or something. Haven’t got that far yet.

    But yeah, its great.

  43. Alec Meer says:

    That first Swamp area isn’t terribly reflective of the later game. I’ll be interested to hear folks’ thoughts once they’re a ways in.

  44. Cargo Cult says:

    My games machine will be stuck in a shipping container for a month or so, starting on Thursday – so with a bit of luck, when I unpack it in Americaland I’ll have a suitably patched and improved version of Clear Sky waiting for me…

  45. malkav11 says:

    My feeling on this is as follows – if Clear Sky turns out not to capture the things that grabbed me about the original Stalker, I can always go back and play that some more. It’s much more replayable than most shooters.

    And I don’t need to find out anytime soon, because I have yet to *finish* Shadow of Chernobyl.

  46. Mori says:

    After checking out the actual russian GSC forums, with help from my friend google, and a couple of other fansites, it seems that the problem is the bugs. The feedback on there is pretty positive. A lot of people like the game a lot, it’s just only the ones who can’t run the game at all due to bugs are the only ones angry enough to post in the english forum.

    There was a poll about which they preferred out of clear sky and stalker, and it was 70% in favour of clear sky. They’re releasing another patch on the day of world wide release, so hopefully we’ll get better first impressions than the poor russians did.

    The first (russian) patch changed more than just bugfixes, it had some balance changes, which I assume are related to the frequency of the random faction war missions, and the low spawn rates for mutants. Hopefully the second will do the same as well. It also seems like most of the problems are with DX10 and our friend Vista.

    I read the PCGamer review, and most of the complaints seemed to be with regard to the difficulty of combat (grenades) and the fact that the PDA gives you a lot of information. Oh, and a weed smoking trader. I’ve been playing the original STALKER with the oblivion lost mod, which gives the NPCs the ability to throw grenades (from miles away, with perfect accuracy) and it doesn’t even show them on the HUD like Clear Sky does. Oblivion lost makes combat harder too, so the defensive grenades have an instant kill radius of about 20 feet. It doesn’t make the game unplayable, you just have to be observant.

    edit: forgot to mention, the story is meant to be a bit crap, but I’m not bothered as I just want to piss around with the factions and upgrade systems

  47. Requiem says:

    How long was the first game in production and how many difficulties did that have on release? Given how fast CS has been produced and the changes they are implementing if anyone really expected a trouble free game on release then I know of a few nice used bridges down westminster way up for sale.

    Can anyone say if the arms change to match your armour now? That really bugged me in the SoC.

    @Real Horrorshow they do have a ruined farmhouse/barn they repeat though. It’s used at least a couple of times in the army warehouse area and I spotted it in a CS video.

  48. Mori says:

    I think the arms do change to fit your outfit, I saw one video where he had the clear sky faction colours on his arms, and in other screenshots he’s had different arms. I don’t know if it’s just a texture change or a model change too.

  49. Real Horrorshow says:

    I can confirm the sleeve thing. Small and ultimately insignificant change, but still awesome nonetheless.

    The reload animations are much improved as well. The animations in SoC were the quality you’d expect from a mod.

  50. PJ says:

    requiem – from what i noticed playing Clear Sky – some of the clothes actually do change

    and imo – game is very good – 8/10 is a fair note. its perfect to ease on fallout 3 wait.