Eurogamer: Stalker: Clear Sky Review

By Kieron Gillen on September 2nd, 2008 at 9:43 am.

This is going to be the new The Witcher, innit?

After Jim and Alec’s reviews have found their way into the world, Eurogamer eject my take on Clear Sky onto the Internet. In it I say things like:

“It’s a graphically improved prequel that integrates a mass of things that were promised for Stalker with assorted game tweaks that – on paper – sound as if they’d improve the immersion of the game considerably. In practice, it mainly shows that there are no good or bad ideas: only good and bad executions.”

And other stuff which is a bit more flowery. As per usual, eh? More here.

EDIT: Jim’s review here.

, .

101 Comments »

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  1. Meat Circus says:

    I hate games with unnecessary difficulty levels.

    Unless somebody releases a “big girl’s blouse” mod, this is off my purchase list forever. Sad.

  2. Turin Turambar says:

    What if you choose the first difficulty level (there are 4, doesnt it?)

    It will be enough to balance the fact that Clear Sky is harder than the first Stalker?

  3. Meat Circus says:

    It’s not so much the hardness that bothers, but how gratuitous it all sounds, in an attempt to please the l33t.

  4. PJ says:

    dear Kieron Gillen

    you get a new stalker suit during first few missions for Clear Sky faction. thats like after 30 mins of gameplay.

    and you get HEAPS of money by doing missions for other faction later on. thus getting funds for both – new suits, and guns.

    Game IS hard. like every other addon i have encountered in my life. its kinda normal for addons (its not a sequel since its generally based on exactly the same “tecmology” SoC was based on) to be more challenging than original titles. its because they are aimed at people who are well familiar with gameplay mechanics.

    I have this weird feeling, that someone just couldnt get thru it, and released his hate (that can, but not have to be related to his low FPS skills) on the game itself.

  5. phil says:

    I think he was ‘releasing his hate’ on the broken or ill conceived gameplay mechanics.

    Personally I prefer to release mine on people attempting to hand me crappy free newspapers, they’re like London’s hate steam valves.

  6. Mr. President says:

    Is it possible to stash all your gear and loot somewhere safe, right before the game tries to take it all away?
    That’s what I would always do in Pathologic. (those were simpler times…)

  7. Alec Meer says:

    This:

    I have this weird feeling, that someone just couldnt get thru it, and released his hate (that can, but not have to be related to his low FPS skills) on the game itself.

    is the same as saying “this professional games reviewer doesn’t know how to play games.”

  8. Kieron Gillen says:

    Phil: Man! You meanie.

    KG

  9. PJ says:

    not picking up your quests rewards is not a broken gameplay mechanic imo :)

  10. Jim Rossignol says:

    Well, it is Kieron we’re talking about.

  11. The Sombrero Kid says:

    stalker is a difficult game though and i don’t mean hard when i say difficult i mean it makes it difficult to enjoy

  12. Colthor says:

    Bleh, the “steal all your stuff” cliché is one of my least-favourite things in games. Compulsive hoarder that I am.

    Anyway, the reviews are sounding depressingly consistent. Ho hum.

  13. TreeFrog says:

    Having read all three RPSer reviews I’m surprised how highly the game scored. It sounds almost unplayable due to the design decisions this time, rather than the bugs. I was hoping that CS would be fun without having to wait six months for a mod overhaul.

  14. The Sombrero Kid says:

    yeah i kinda thought with clear sky GSC were going to “sell out” and make the game enjoyable and compelling instead of an experiment in how long you can torture yourself for, congrats to everyone who managed to torture themselves till the end and beyond.

  15. Jim Rossignol says:

    Clear Sky would be great if it were harder in a “ooh look at the AI surprising me” way, but it’s harder in an “oh I’m dead, reload” way.

  16. PJ says:

    threefrog – i read two of them and tbh they feel like they have been written in the same room :D

    tho i must say that both alec and kieron did point out some of important issues of CS.

  17. Kieron Gillen says:

    PJ: Actually, I did go back. God knows why I didn’t get a reward, unless I talked to the wrong chap – did it change chaps? I remember being a bit disappointed that I didn’t receive any loot for finishing that mission off.

    But still – I’d have had that suit for several hours, before it unavoidably got stolen from me, and I would have traipsed on in leathers until the next okay-ish free suit just before the Scientists.

    EDIT: Actually, thinking about it, that’s actually a cute example of why GSC’s design-skills can go a bit awry. They know a character *should* have this armour at that point, but didn’t think about them *not* having that armour. Since they know the object should be available, most designers would have an affordable suit of armour of a similar-ish level a few levels on in case the person /did/ miss it. END-EDIT

    Actually, that reminds me of another bugbear I didn’t mention – the game’s inconsistency on deciding whether you get a reward for helping or not. As in, you’ll get some “Help out” missions which seem to be solely for faction standing, but you don’t know before it starts. Not actually getting a reward after expending resources caused me to – you guessed it – reload a few times. Fuck ‘em if they’re not going to pay.

    TreeFrog: You have to remember it’s still based on top of Stalker. I tried to put enough examples in to remind you of the neat stuff in the mother game, but can certainly see why you think it sounds worse than the marks. It’s infuriating, but it’s still a novel and interesting game.

    KG

  18. PJ says:

    kieron – its the always the merchant in faction’s hideout that pays and gives you uber loots. but i had a simmilar problem with Duty merchant later on, so it seems its just another example of fine eastern europoean craftsmanship

  19. Heliocentric says:

    zing! PJ Called you noob. I never finished the warcraft 3 expansion after breezing through the base game. Got to one mission where you were just under too much pressure from the waves of attackers. But in an fps failure states (times you can no longer win) are more rare than in rts. When i read most of these reviews i hear great game horribly broken. Mods:-)

  20. PJ says:

    the SMILEY emote that i placed when i wrote about skills was there to imply a JOKH

  21. Kieron Gillen says:

    PJ: Ah, good to know it wasn’t just me being rubbish. In that case, anyway.

    KG

  22. PJ says:

    kieron – CS IS bit annoying sometimes (i dont know which build u played, my most recent one was free of the “merchant bug”, that i encountered in earlier builds) and there are some bugs that make you tap F9 button (loading times are a crime btw), but still – overall atmosphere is amazing, storyline is much clearer and this time you actually have a clue about whats going around, new lighting system is one of best up to date (those godrays look friggin amazing at sunrise or sunset, and its DX9 not DX10 based, which is good news for XP users), and new upgrade system is well implemented.

    I did notice some AI improvements too – enemies were hiding behind covers more efficiently, strafing and trying to encircle me. Whole shooting element felt way more tactical then it felt in SoC. problem was when designers wanted to cheat and threw wave after wave, trying to take one of the outposts – that felt not right and i agree with you and Alec completly.

  23. Okami says:

    Did you read the comments under the computer & video games review? Somebody noticed that the three most critical reviews of Clear Sky were all WRITTEN BY YOU and that you RUN RPS TOGETHER!!!111!!

    Obviously you are planning to take over the world by talking to each other about the games you play. I demand, that you no longer talk to each other, otherwise your reviews are biased and can no longer be trusted!

    Is there anything you can say in defence to that?

  24. Real Horrorshow says:

    The vibe I get from these underwhelming reviews is that people are generally put off that it’s not exactly the same as SoC in tone, atmosphere, gameplay, and scariness.

    It seems to me the differences in Clear Sky are the beginning of an overall story-arc GSC are trying to set up (Clear Sky and Shadow of Chernobyl)

    In CS the Zone is new, not completely raped by radiation, not turned most of the greedy mercs into zombies. I play CS and I see a bunch of people trying to invade the zone and make profit from what it offers, ignorant of it’s evils, and in SoC I see a Zone with people in it barely clinging onto what they have as it slowly destroys them.

    Perhaps the chronological sequel to SoC will be much much darker than SoC, the man-made hell setting in deeper and deeper. This is why I’m not devestated by the scariness being toned down.

    If CS was exactly the same gameplay, missions, feel as SoC with half the areas being new, I honestly think I’d be more put off than I am with the CS we have now.

    I don’t know, CS like it is just feels logical to me considering the timeframe. It’d be like a WW2 movie told from a German perspective, but with Germany already bombed to hell and everyone starving back in 1940, even though that’s when they were still going strong and prospering from their war. It wasn’t there yet. The zone’s not there yet.

    OK my keyboard is smoking now, I’ll stop. :D

    Oh and to be perfectly honest, it is a little strange to me that the three most negative reviews were written by three members of RPS all three read almost exactly the same. My guess? CONSPIRACY!

  25. MisterBritish says:

    Oh well, until now I was holding out hope that it was actually still OK. If even Jim found it wanting that’s quite disappointing.

    Did you find anything to enjoy? Would you have stopped playing if you weren’t reviewing it?

  26. Jim Rossignol says:

    GSC’s world building skills remain undiminished. Clear Sky is very beautiful indeed.

    It’s impossible not to compare the games, but even if you put that aside (especially if you put that aside) Clear Sky isn’t an entertaining shooter.

    I suspect the more interesting comparison will actually be with Far Cry 2 later this year.

    The faction war game design is bad, and that damages the entire experience. The same is true of the “improved” combat and the artefact dredging. The first few hours of Clear Sky were fine, but it goes downhill fast and has few “oh wow” moments to rescue it.

  27. Alec Meer says:

    I quite liked the artefact hunting, however. Made getting one a real event.

  28. Alec Meer says:

    Horrorshow – equally, it might be said to be odd that the other reviews don’t mention the game’s more glaring problems.

    (Wrote this before your edit, obv).

  29. PJ says:

    I agree with Alec on artifact hunting – it feels liek it should be – in strugackis book being a stalker was all about hunting artifacts and dying while trying. and when you find better detector its waaay easier to locate them.

    as for reviews – thing is that while pointing out what went wrong you kinda forgot about whats still cool. 7 per 10 comes as a surpise after 2 or 3 pages of hard bashing :) and the game is perfectly playable

  30. Real Horrorshow says:

    @ Alec: Edited because I came across much more serious about it than I actually am. Still…CONSPIRACY!

    I do agree with PJ though: You all gave it around 7/10 yet the reviews read like an outright bad game that’s 4/10 or something, with a sentence at the end like “However it’s still kinda stalkery, 7/10.” There’s a lot of venom in the reviews for a game that’s one point worse than the apparently vastly superior SoC.

  31. Meat Circus says:

    @Real Horroshow:

    I was wondering about the full length mink coats and Swarovski-crystal-bedecked leggings they’ve been prancing around in recently.

    SPARKLY FURRY PRANCING = AN EXTRA 3/10

  32. Muzman says:

    KG’s review sounded more sad about a few (big, endemic even) stumbling blocks to enjoyment, JR’s sounded annoyed by almost everything. Didn’t seem all that collusive to me, really.

    People always cry ‘Mods!’ in this situation which I think is kinda sad, but also ignores the difference the patches made to the first game. Enemy density, respawn rates, AI behaviour, equipment prices and availability were all changed quite significantly from the release version.
    It’s obviously hard to say, not being privy to the game’s inner workings, but does it seem like some significant tweaking would make the world of difference here or does its problems seem more fundamental?

  33. Alex says:

    ..is the same as saying “this professional games reviewer doesn’t know how to play games.”

    You make it sound as if that´s just impossible. I´m not saying it´s the case here, but surely it’s possible for a professional games reviewer to be just plain bad at a game? Strange thing is you seem to be the one making it into a generalisation, there.

  34. Real Horrorshow says:

    @ Muzman

    Well, in defense of mods, it is one of the biggest things that sets our platform apart from consoles. To deny their importance is to partly deny the superiority of PC gaming.

    While I don’t think a game should be given higher marks that the reviewer thinks it deserves at the time of review because “mods will fix it,” I don’t think it’s wrong at all for people across the net to point out that mods will improve CS immensely. When CS shares SoC’s file system, it’s practically a fact.

  35. Muzman says:

    Oh it’s not that mods are bad or not a selling point. But saying ‘oh, never mind, mods’ll fix it’ is quite depreciative to my mind. I think GSC should make a good game and I think they can, and I don’t mean that in a ‘consumer rights’ way at all. Where people say ‘mods!’ I think we should say ‘patches!’ at least at first. That’s all it is. Mods are inevitable at this point, as you say.

  36. Jim Rossignol says:

    You make it sound as if that´s just impossible.

    I think he’s suggesting that it’s insulting in this case.

  37. darthpugwash says:

    Say it ain’t so! STALKER was one of my favourite games last year (I loved Jim’s writings about it here, especially bad to see he didn’t like it so much), so it’s pretty disappointing to hear that this appears to be a step down from the first game.

    The ‘take all your stuff’ mechanic is always annoying, too.

  38. paint says:

    Is there multi? Is it good? Not really the point, I know, but maybe they did something cool with it this time.

  39. Elmo says:

    Joke – RPS will prolly lose 80% of it`s users because of Clear Sky /joke
    The only problem i see from CS getting some bad/meh reviews (as i don`t buy games based on review score) is that this will somewhat sink the sales of the game on the long run. I don`t really care if it`s better than SoC or not, i`ll still buy it, but internet elitists won`t. That makes me sad. And all 3 RPS guys are pretty respected reviewers.

  40. ascagnel says:

    paint brings up a good point. The factional warfare system is begging to replace PlanetSide, and getting a good number of players into a server on different factions would be quite good, I think.

    Still, its quite a disappointment to hear how poorly the faction warfare is executed.

    Off-topic: If anyone’s read Cormac McCarthy’s excellent The Road, does the first hour or so of Shadow of Chernobyl remind you of that book? I read The Road after I played Shadow of Chernobyl, and the entire time I was picturing it in my mind’s eye in the washed-out colors of the X-Ray engine.

  41. Noc says:

    Paint, it occurs to me that including multiplayer in this game is making WoW singleplayer. I haven’t played the game, but everything I’ve read about it paints it as a survival game with a focus on the world and exploration, as opposed to a Planetside-like warfare shooter.

  42. Elmo says:

    Noc: What if the game would let you survive with your friends in a persistent game world ? Maybe have shards hosted by the user like in NwN. Maybe trade loot and artifacts. Maybe have each friend as a member of a different faction. Maybe have real players act as bandits that steal your shit and attack your base. Wouldn`t that be awesome ?

  43. The Sombrero Kid says:

    i always thought stalker was the poor mans mmo, i.e. one without an internet connection

  44. cullnean says:

    @elmo “And all 3 RPS guys are pretty respected reviewers.”

    which one is the lie then? it would appear to be a conspiracy about them being 4!

    (Above taken out of context)

  45. darthpugwash says:

    @Elmo: I will still buy Clear Sky at some point, though my expectations of it will be somewhat lower than they would have been otherwise.

  46. Someone says:

    Considering that I only bought the first Stalker because of the impassioned write ups on this site I think I am going to pass on Clear Skies if you gentlemen didn’t like it.

    It’s a shame too, since Clear Skies really could have been a home run. All GSC needed to do was address some issues from the first game and polish the hell out of it and it would have been something exceptional. Well, actually, the first one was exceptional in its own way, but CS could have been something more.

    All of this is moot, however. Jim only made a passing reference to system requirements, but from his one aside I gather my 5 year old machine, which can barely run Stalker acceptably, is not going to be able to handle CS. So even if the game was great I would be holding off until I bought a new PC to play it. As it stands, maybe I will check it out a year or so from now when it on sale for $20 or less on Steam.

  47. simonkaye says:

    John Walker isn’t a myth. He’s Europe’s Premier Adventure Games Reviewer. And don’t you forget it.

  48. cullnean says:

    post changed to reflect the fact, so which one be the myth?

  49. MeestaNob! says:

    So, is this still a worthwhile purchase at $60 rather than $90? (or I dunno, £25-30 rather than the presumably full whack £40 of your money).

    Is it shit, or just not omg awesome like we’d hoped?

  50. Optimaximal says:

    So, is this still a worthwhile purchase at $60 rather than $90? (or I dunno, £25-30 rather than the presumably full whack £40 of your money).

    It was available for £17.99 off the bat… Dunno about your silly dollarfrancs.