Although Survarium shares some DNA with the magnificent, terrifying ecosystem of S.T.A.L.K.E.R., the Lost Alpha standalone mod is the closest thing to a new game in the series we're probably going to see for a good while. What began as an attempt to restore content cut from the original release of Shadow of Chernobyl has become a total overhaul of the game, with sections redesigned and reintegrated, and changes to elements other than maps. It's been in development for five years and is now available, slightly earlier than originally planned. There are download links (including an official torrent) over at Moddb and you won't need to have the original game installed to play. I want to spend my day in the Zone.
The team announced the release a couple of days ago:
We started to develop Lost Alpha in the summer of 2008. The project first started out as a modification to add back the cut levels which all Stalker fans knew of. After a while, it became more than just a modification, it became our dream game, how we saw S.T.A.L.K.E.R. We hope to give you the same feeling when you first played S.T.A.L.K.E.R. A new chapter with familiar elements without which S.T.A.L.K.E.R. would not be the game we all grew to love. Lost Alpha was a labour of love. We are passionate about it and we hope you all will enjoy it as much as we enjoyed creating it!
While the bulk of the work is done, updates are likely:
So what now? It was a hard decision to release the game in such a quick, and unplanned way.
I have to say, I'm very proud to our active team members, because we created something which is beyond our imagination. It looks awesome, it plays just fine, but somehow its still not perfect. However this is subjective to what we call perfect. We learned that if we only polish one part of the game, the rest will never fit. It was hard for us to find the golden way, because this is our first big project, but overall I would say we did a good job. On top of that, we will try to update the game whenever we can to make it even better than it is now.
I love S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and in a strange way I think it played a big part in weaning me off first-person shooters. I don't think any game other than Thief: The Dark Project and Ultima Underworld has influenced my thinking about the kind of world-building and immersion possible from that most immediately immersive of perspectives.
As I'm spending my time in another hell entirely, my dream of revisiting the Zone is on hold. We're sending Craig in to take a look though and he'll return with thoughts and fears later this week.