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"Stalker Soup", Narodnaya Solyanka

So I've finally got around to installing the Shadow Of Chernobyl "mega-mod", Narodnaya Solyanka. It's a tangled compilation of Russian-language add-ons, put together by a Russian team, which has been roughly translated into English by enthusiastic bi-lingual Stalker-fans. The translation is interesting. Overall, though, Narodnaya Solyanka provides us with a vast amount additional content, including new maps, maps pulled in from the other games, and a daunting radioactive salad of minor Stalker mods. It hugely expands the size of the zone, and reportedly adds another several hundred hours of missing-driven content. It is also a bizarre and off-putting experience, as my initial dabblings have discovered. "It all gets better after the cave," is the mantra that appears across various Stalker forums. And they're right. Because the cave is a horrible mess. What lies beyond, however, is intriguing...

Here's the translated feature list of the mod:

- 30+ Locations: Cordon, Swamp, Garbage, Dark Valley, Forgotten Wood, Not Reconnoitered Territory, SRI Agroprom, Bar, Wild Territory, Yantar, Military Warehouses, Radar, Pripyat, CHAES1, CHAES2, Sarcophagus, ATP, Red Forest, Limansk, Hospital, Old Village, Generators, Underground Research Agroprom, Lab x18, X16, X10, Varlab, Cave, Labyrinth, Merv, Zaton.
- 14+ Mutants: jerboa, rat, leech, marsh bloodsucker, a chimera, elktrohimera, controller, kink, poltergeist, fire poltergeist, byurer.
- 13 Factions: Loners, Military, Mercenaries, Bandits, Environmentalists, Duty, Last Day, Freedom, representatives of the "O"-consciousness, Monolith, Clear Sky, Hunters, Avengers + dealers and repairers (even rumors of the presence in the Zone of women).
- Huge number of weapons, from fists and knives to heavy machine guns and grenade launchers.
- Great variety of armor, with the possibility of upgrading.
- 5 types of detectors. 15+ anomalies. 4 mobile teleport devices. 45+ artifacts.
- Huge number of quests (200 to 300 hours of content). Unique quest caches.

You'll notice that some of those are new areas, some of them are from Clear Sky, and one is even, possibly, from Call Of Pripyat. I haven't got far enough (or read enough forum threads) to confirm the state of them in the mod, but I think I want to find that out for myself. The advocates for this mod are so rabid, that I have had to forgive the shambolic aspects it has so far displayed when compared to the focus of things such as the Complete series.

(It also has dodgy Russian ballads installed over the menus and other things I didn't need to find out about for myself.)

Anyway, you'll find instructions on how to download Narodnaya Solyanka here. They are fairly comprehensive, and the download is broken into eight bits, so it's a bit laborious to download. Hopefully it'll be worth it. I've also uploaded my savegame from just after "the cave" just here. Basically the cave is a horrible, confusing dungeon scene that the modders have crammed in at the start of the game. It's squalid and stupid and frustrating, and should probably be skipped. It almost stopped me playing the mod entirely. But, thanks to me, you probably don't have to play it. Assuming the savegame works ok.

So yes! My plan is to play it a bit over the coming weeks and then do a big write-up. By poking you lot to do the same maybe we'll have a useful discussion at the end of it. Maybe not. Either way, it's a lot more Stalker, which can't be a bad thing.

Let's coming back to this in a couple of weeks, eh?

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Jim Rossignol