Stalker: The Mods, Return To Clear Sky

By Jim Rossignol on April 27th, 2009 at 4:51 pm.


The past week of my gaming time has been dominated by Stalker mods: downloading, testing, crashing, deleting, reinstalling, and even a few hours of playing. For Shadow Of Chernobyl there’s pretty much a one-stop shop for changes, which is the extraordinary Oblivion Lost mod. It’s a comprehensive, colossal piece of compilation modding, much of it done by the author, and the rest factored in from across the community. It isn’t to everyone’s taste, especially since the list of changes is immense, but it includes drivable vehicles, sleep, alcoholism, and reworked NPC behaviour. (And that means grenades, annoyingly.) Oblivion Lost is, given the difficulty of combining and over-writing various Stalker mods, a worthwhile download – but it also completes Shadow Of Chernobyl on a profound level. This is modding at its finest. The problem for me, however, was that the Stalker I wanted to return to wasn’t an augmented Shadow of Chernobyl, but a fixed Clear Sky, which I hadn’t played since the pre-release review version. Could it be time to go back?

The first thing to remember is that Clear Sky has been heavily patched since release. The Steam version, which I’ve been playing, is at the latest 1.5.08 version, in which most of the game-breaking bugs are fixed (although reported some minor crash bugs remain), and much of the AI tweaked. The opening NPC battles are now much more solid, with waves of Clear Sky consistently heading out into the wilderness to capture points across the swamps. Kick off a fight in any of the capture points and you can be sure backup will be on its way. You can easily track friendly NPCs via the map, too, so you can coincide your attacks with theirs. The NPCs even seem to use cover properly, which I don’t recollect from my original playthrough.

The other thing you’ll notice if you’re running the game in DX10 is that it is astonishingly, ludicrously beautiful. To make the most of this is perhaps worth consulting this tweak guide, from which I pulled a few tips. I gained a massive amount of performance while running DX10 by dropping a widescreen resolution size (down to 1440×900), and reducing the Grass Detail Density. By default Clear Sky seems to draw more vegetation than you’ll actually care about, therefore reducing your framerate. The other thing I removed from the “Advanced” options in game was the Depth Of Field option, which looks fantastic, but is badly implemented – you lose distance focus when reloading, so the gun comes into focus, meaning you either have a headache or feel like you need glasses after about five minutes of play. A shame, because it’s a great effect. I’d also reduce sun quality, and bump up Sun Rays to max. There’s a stack of other details in there, but those seemed to make the biggest difference. (Reducing sun quality improves performance without changing much visually, while bumping up the Sun Rays makes dawn and sunset look incredible.) Anyway, I played through the game with a few tweaks, no mods, and found it markedly improved. I then started to install mods.

Mods are added in via adding a Gamedata folder, and editing a line of text in a file in the root folder, fsgame.ltx This all works in Steam without any problem. All mods come with a readme to tell you how to do this, and it’s pretty straight forward. The first mod I tried was, of course, the Russian dialogue mod. (This needs recopying over some of the mods I’m going to mention later on.) This replaces the standard NPC voices with the Russian dialogue. It doesn’t remove the annoying “crazy” characters, as all the mission-relevant dialogue remains in English, which is a bit of a shame if you ask me, I’d like a version where all English dialogue could be replaced, leaving just subtitles and mission text in English. Anyway: this is a solid fix to the atmosphere-breaking bad-English that splutters from most of the random NPCs. {UPDATE: Full Russian dialogue mod here.]

The second mod I tried, Faction commander, was entertaining because it allowed me to spawn friendly squads on top of enemy encampments, but ultimately it broke the AI, stopped me from capturing areas, and didn’t feel complete. I can’t recommend it, and I had to delete my Gamedata folder and start again.

The next was another no-cigar moment, which was the Maps Mod. This increases map detail and adds names to all locations. Somehow it also removes the stamina-bar from your HUD. Weird, and annoying.

Then I found a couple of mods that were really pretty good for how I wanted to play the game. The first was a simple graphical overhaul, which tweaked the lighting and introduced a load of new textures. There’s one glitch I found, which was a missing shell texture on the hunting rifle – it just appears black. The other mod was this trader mod, which opens up all items for every trader character. Certainly a bonus when you just want to get yourself a particular setup. I could probably have left it there – with some graphical buffing, the trader mod, and the Russian voices. But there’s another option: the CS Enhanced pack by “Remco”.

This compilation of Russian mods is about as close to Oblivion Lost for Clear Sky as we’re currently going to get. It includes a mass of new features, including lots of fairly unnecessary changes like new item graphics in the inventory. Perhaps most interesting is the introduction of a sleeping back, to allow you to have a kip, and the inclusion of a mercenary mod, which allows you to hire soldiers from friendly camps. That’s a little under-done, however, as you’re given no idea how much you’re expected to pay to have some Stalkers follow you. A little more interface here and there, and this mod could really hit all the notes that Clear Sky missed. Other changes are numerous: traders have been reworked so they sell everything relevant to their faction, NPCs have a wider range of weapons equipped, there are new weapons, ambient noises, and textures. And you can also create your own stashes by dropping a backpack full of loot.

Anyway, I installed the CS Enhanced pack from scratch, and over-wrote it with the Russian dialogue and texture packs. This, I think, could be the best Clear Sky is currently going to get. I’m currently ten hours into my new game, and enjoying the game much more than I did when the vanilla version arrived last year. No show-stopping bugs, plenty of thrilling NPC-interaction, and a game that looks wonderful where-ever I turn. Niggles remain: the lack of true tactical or strategic game within the faction warfare, the lack of SHOC’s horror sequences, the terrible base characters (particularly at the Freedom Base), the grenade spam (which mods seem not to disable), and the grindy anomaly hunting. But it’s better than it was. It seems like this is, for the Zone-hungry like wannabe me, a reasonable time to return. Anyway, I’d better get back to it – more reports from the Zone when I have them, and please share your own Stalker mod recommendations below.

Update: Mod manager, full Russian dialogue and anti grenade spam mod.

, , , , .

105 Comments »

Sponsored links by Taboola
  1. Turin Turambar says:

    There is a little mod that fixed the % of the AI using grenades, so the 100% accurate grenade spam was less annoying.

  2. born2expire says:

    Call me crazy, but I prefer vanilla STALKER to any of the mods.

  3. Jim Rossignol says:

    Turin: This one? I’ll have a test and see if it’s compatible with the CS Enhanced.

  4. duel90 says:

    Ive been playing about with stalker mods too theres a really nifty mod manager (heres a link) that alows you to install, tun off turn on mods to your hearts delight

  5. Eli Just says:

    I loved Shadow of Chernobyl (even though it became balls hard in the NPP and I can’t beat it) but I never got far into CS. I should try this out.

  6. duel90 says:

    also i think theres a mod that allows all out faction warfare which i am very interested in but i never got it to work without crashing 2mins into a game. anyone manage to make such a mod work?

  7. Ubernutz says:

    I was playing Clearski a month or two ago, but it was constantly crashing and I got a bit annoyed. When I say I got annoyed, I mean I was annoyed with myself that I was willing to restart my computer and replay the half hour I’d lost, just because I love the game so much.

  8. Dominic White says:

    Jim: Aaargh, why the hell does every STALKER mod do something stupid to balance out the good changes? Yes, the super-accurate grenade spam was annoying, so they fix that.. and at the same time, make the guns super-accurate, so that firefights end much quicker anyway, because neither you nor the enemy can feisably miss.

    Dramatic firefights and laser-pointer-accurate high powered weapons are mutually exclusive properties.

  9. Neut says:

    Jim: Here, full russian (ukranian?) dialogue, for everything. Playing through Clear Sky with this atm and it makes the game 238.9% better. Fact.

    Also here’s the sleeping bag, just on its own.

  10. ImperialCreed says:

    Excellent, been waiting for this post since you mentioned it on the podcast. Thanks for doing this so I didn’t have to Jim.

  11. Burglar says:

    Jim, I don’t get how you can’t prefer the artifact hunting in CS to SHOC. You’ve read the book, seen the film, surely getting artifacts in CS is a lot closer to these than the first games attempt?

  12. Jim Rossignol says:

    Burglar: Yes, it is. But in practice I found it a bit of a grind when they were the best way to make money.

    Neut: Woohoo! I’ll update the post with this.

  13. army of none says:

    Nevermind!

  14. charlie says:

    I like the way you lose focus on the distance when you reload.

    It’s because your character is focusing on reloading so you lose focus on what you were aiming at, I thought it was a nice touch.

  15. skalpadda says:

    So, for someone like me who liked the original a lot but didn’t buy Clear Sky because of the not-so-good reception it received (here on RPS and elsewhere), would you say it’s now worth having a look at?

  16. duel90 says:

    @charlie yeah i like that too, but i wish they made it a smoother transition though, it seems like it just switches the blur on and off :(

  17. George says:

    This is great except when I click the graphical overhaul mod link I get a message saying ‘www.strategyinformer.com could not be found. Please check the name and try again.’ anybody know another mirror?

  18. Jim Rossignol says:

    Skalpadda, I’d say it’s worth a look if you mod the up to date version with full Russian dialogue and perhaps the grenade spam mod. Then add other mods to taste.

    We’ve got no good fix for faction war yet, which is still a big issue.

  19. Dominic White says:

    Aah, the grenade-spam reduction mod seems to have a fairly obvious file structure. You can just remove the weapon alteration files, and you should be left with just the grenade fixes.

    Does nobody remember just how monotonous the final levels of the original STALKER were? Pop up, headshot with perfectly accurate super-rifle, pop down, repeat. There were none of the wild, panicked gunfights from the earlier levels, where sides could actually trade shots for more than a second without scoring a kill.

  20. Jim Rossignol says:

    If anyone can fix or post a link to a pure grenade-spam fix, that would be ace.

  21. Alec Meer says:

    It’s not grenade spam, Jim – it’s just us being rubbish at playing games. That’s what the angry men angrily told us, remember?

  22. Dominic White says:

    To make the Accuracy + Grenade thing for Grenades only, it’s really simple, as far as I can see (reinstalling the game so I can test it for myself). The mod has two folders in Gamedata\Configs – Weapons and Gameplay. The Weapons files seem to be the accuracy tweaks. The Gameplay files seem to be tweaks to the AI of enemies in the areas to make them throw fewer nades.

    Just chuck out the Weapons directory and you should be good.

  23. skalpadda says:

    Sounds good, I guess I’ll get right on it and add it to this pile of other games I haven’t yet finished :)

    How is the game for loading up with your favourite assault rifle and a backpack full of bullets and going off on your own to explore the world?

    I used to love going on little expeditions now and then once I’d gotten past the Brain Scorcher bit and had a decent amount of weapons and ammo stashed away. Almost all the writing about the game has focused on bugs, annoying grenades and lack of scariness with not much said about how fun or not the actual world is to run about in, which is what put me off the most.

  24. bhlaab says:

    This mod manager is convenient, too bad 90% of what I’ve put in there have been things like “Freedom mechanic infinite loop fix” and “Nightvision upgrade fix”

  25. bhlaab says:

    I know there’s a mod for SHOC that cuts down on the enemy’s ability to see you at night, but I can’t find one on filefront for clear sky. I know there has to be one somewhere, if someone finds it please post it here.

  26. Guhndahb says:

    Does Clear Sky have the stalkers sitting around campfires, singing in Russian and playing guitar and harmonica like in SOC? I have to admit I loved that and would frequently just hang out with them and listen. It added to my immersion significantly.

    I always wondered if the Russian singing was in all localizations. I had the International version and not the US version (it came with my MB).

  27. suibhne says:

    I’m playing it for the first time, pretty heavily modded. Take a look at the Sky Reclamation Project, which fixes some little problems (like the bugged Cordon flash drive that GSC still hasn’t fixed, and the fact that iron sights are off-center on many weapons): http://www.gsc-game.com/index.php?t=community&s=forums&s_game_type=xr2&thm_page=1&thm_id=19535&sec_id=21

    Having been warned off the game (temporarily) by all of your reviews/impressions last fall, my impression now is that the game provides a good STALKER fix and offers some nice improvements over SoC, but lacks the same atmosphere. And faction wars are still horribly, horribly broken. Overall: fun, definitely worth getting for cheap on Steam (I think I paid $15), and promising in terms of future directions for the game…but neither as ground-breaking nor ultimately as immersive as the first STALKER.

  28. Muzman says:

    Would it be bad of me to mention I didn’t have much trouble with the grenade throwing in CS? Maybe it’s toned down after the patch. (It must be tough having to play games right away when they come out. Sure it doesn’t speak highly of developer habits, but some games I just get an inkling that it’s gonna need patching so I might as well wait a bit and it doesn’t really bother me)

    I also find the (human) AI in CS quite excellent. They can still see in the dark a little too well, but I have snuck right up and ambushed guys at dusk a few times as well as lost them in the reeds and things. Much better than the original. I wish you could mod it into SoC as I like the wandering around better (also it’s prettier in a lot of ways. CS has all the whiz bang stuff and the dawns can’t be touched but SoC has a longer draw distance on detailed textures and things, making for a slower game but more impressive vistas)

  29. tom says:

    What’s your pooters spec Jim?

  30. Jim Rossignol says:

    2Ghz Dual Core, Geforce 8800 GTS, 3Gb RAM

  31. Petethegoat says:

    Jim, you forgot the periods! Why does no one remember that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. does actually stand for something.

    (According to wikipedia) It stands for Scavenger, Trespasser, Adventurer, Loner, Killer, Explorer, Robber. Honestly.

    I bought Clear Sky on release, and played it pretty bug free (unpatched) until I got to the place where you have to aid a stalker (Lanky?) near Agroprom. It was part of the main quest, but it was broken.
    Several months later, I patched it, and it seemed to be fixed. Then I played it right to the end, but in the hospital I realized I had no medkits or bandages, and just two loaves of bread and a sausage. I was bleeding at the time. :(

    I managed to make it right to the end, but then bled to death). Good times never the less.

  32. SirKicksalot says:

    Jim, are you going to write something about the next Stalker game too? It was officially revealed in Russia and Ukraine, it’s called Call of Pripyat.

    I have no idea how suibhne managed to paste that link, I thought the GSC forum doesn’t support direct linking. Anyway, there’s a thread in the Shadow of Chernobyl general subforum that covers everything we know so far about the new game, with pics’n’stuff.

    It sounds much better than SoC and CS.

    As a side note, yesterday was 23 years since the explosion…

  33. Petethegoat says:

    Another Call of… game? Dear God. I hadn’t heard about it though, thanks for the heads up.

  34. SirKicksalot says:

    Well it sounds a lot better in Russian:)

  35. sockpuppetclock says:

    I absolutely love Oblivion Lost (or maybe I just love S.T.A.L.K.E.R.), I really wish they get it all right in Call of Pripyat.

  36. Nick says:

    I don’t think he forgot them, I think most people just can’t be fucked putting the dots in. Rightfully so.

  37. Petethegoat says:

    Maybe so. I tend to just use a macro for it though. Huzzah for my G15, and it’s many useless keys. Nice keyboard otherwise.

    /offtopic

  38. Jim Rossignol says:

    I was waiting for some art or something to turn up before posting about Call of. It should be officially announced at a couple of weeks anyway.

  39. tom says:

    You gotta love GSC (thems the devs?), they just keep trying and trying.
    I think it’s amazing that their games sell at all after two bug ridden releases.
    There must be more to come that only the publishers have seen for them to keep backing GSC… i guess. They must see something in it.
    If GSC could just get it right the first time I recon they’d hit it big time. The Stalker world is so ridiculously atmospheric it’s impossible not to like it at first.
    It’s only after an hours play that it starts to piss you off.
    Gonna check out some of these mods.

  40. Jim Rossignol says:

    Stalker sold a load of copies, and GSC did very well out of it. And I’m not surprised that they keep making them, or that a smaller publisher like Deep Silver was interested in the sequel.

    I think GSC fill a very specific demand in the games market, for an open-ended FPS with a little bit more going on. People want to play these games, and you can see how upset they get when games they expect to have this kind of approach actually do not. (Far Cry 2?)

    I’ll write a load more about this soon, but I think that GSC, despite the flaws in their process, made a crucial move with Stalker, one that I hope other companies can learn from.

  41. Ziv says:

    what graphic card are you using? I’m wondering how much compromise will be needed w/ my 4870..
    edit: nevermind, was going to post it 3hrs ago when jim hasn’t posted yet his specs….

  42. stormbringer951 says:

    Oblivion Lost is ripped off from several mods, particularly the other big mods AMK (a russian mod which came up with the part of OL which is “done by the author” read: ripped wholesale from AMK by Kanyahlos and ObLost) and Priboi Story (he stole parts of their mod during beta). The rest is credited from the community.

    Better SoC mods are Priboi Story (http://priboi-story.extra.hu/engine/) and AMK (http://amk-team.info/). Also, there’s a community work mod that uses ObLost as a base (http://www.moddb.com/mods/super-mod-pack) which also includes Arsenal (a mod with hundreds of guns).
    Apart from that bit on ObLost, nice article ;)

    -Storm

  43. Neut says:

    Im running it on a 512 meg 4870 and it is perfectly smooth at 1600s x 1050 (cant remember exact number) with everything maxed out in shiny Dx10, and it looks stunning. The god rays caused a bit of a dip but setting them to low fixed that without any noticeable drop in quality.

  44. Paul Moloney says:

    “(And that means grenades, annoyingly)”

    I don’t see the problem with NPCs throwing grenades in Stalker: Oblivion Lost, and I have a low tolerance of insta-death (I hate BF2 servers with aircraft, for example). Most of the time, you see the grenade coming, even out of the corner of your eye. And even the fact that they pause in shooting gives you a hint that something is up.

    Good article, as I’m almost finished Stalker and was thinking of picking up Clear Sky, though I may be Stalkered out by the time I do (and I’m hooked on Left 4 Dead again, though I do find that the Versus servers are full of arseholes).

    P.

  45. SirKicksalot says:

    stormbringer951 – Call of Pripyat has a similar premise to Priboi Story

    Now I’m replaying SoC using Stalker Complete 2009, which looks absolutely amazing, sometimes better than Clear Sky.
    It was a shock when I discovered that now at the horizon you see photos of landscapes from the Zone.
    You can even see Chernobyl 2 (the Brainscorcher, edited to look like in the game) from a high point in Cordon. It adds SO MUCH to the atmosphere!

    I think many people don’t realise what an accurate copy of what you see in former communist countries Stalker is. For me, it feels like an adventure I live right here at home, I’m completely immersed. I’d happily buy a Stalker game every year!

  46. Rei Onryou says:

    @Jim: I haven’t played SoC yet. Is it better to play it through without mods the first time, or just go ahead and get Oblivion Lost?

  47. tom says:

    RE:Stalker Complete 2009 – holy pants, look at those screenshots!
    This mod looks fairly complete… would you add anything Jim?
    Keep meaning to finally play Stalker all the way through but the annoying thing is every time i’ve tried (using various mods) the mods that vastly improve the game in some way, have also caused problems to point where I couldn’t be assed to continue… again.
    Haven’t touched it in a year now. That’s got to be long enough surely.
    And you’re completely right, stalker is unique in a brilliant way.

  48. SirKicksalot says:

    @ Rei Onryou – Oblivion Lost is like a different game, it’s good for a second playthrough.

    Use Stalker Complete 2009, aside from updated graphics it only adds a sleeping bag (lovely, I used to spend the night in a base in the vanilla version because I was too scared to go outside), it tweaks a bit the superhuman enemy resistence to bullets and the enemies now use grenades.

    There’s only one problem with the sleeping bag: you can die of hunger. Easily solvable though – eat something before and don’t choose the 9 hours sleep option.

  49. Cooper says:

    Thanks a lot for this, Jim.

    I’ve been hesitant to get CS, depsite my love of SoC, given the issues that had come out in yours and other reviews. Heck, I’m still playing SoC through with Oblivion Lost and so am scratching the Stalker itch fine.

    I had promised myself I’d get CS once I could see some worthwhile mods out there. Whilst I’ve been keeping half an eye out, it’s difficult to tell without being able to try them. So, again, thanks for this – seems like there are some worthwhile ones, so I’ll try out your recommendations.

  50. Moonracer says:

    I rather enjoyed Clear Sky when it cam out. At least the first half of it or so. For being an open world FPS the end section was so linear I felt like I was playing Half-Life 2. I wasn’t so into that bit.

    I’ve been meaning to reload STALKER and try playing through with the latest Oblivion lost mod though. It looks like a bunch of new features have been added.