On Friday my tinned copy of Stalker arrived and over the weekend I had the chance to put in a few hours on it. First impressions were hugely positive. It is rather like Flashpoint crossed with Morrowind. The unique setting is really spooky and interesting and the graphics are full of character and seem really plausible.
However inevitably the problems of such a complex and overdue game quickly became apparent. The main character is amnesiac, just like all RPGs. There don’t seem to be many bugs in the FPS side of things but the log and the quest system are screwed with missions becoming impossible as the mission giver disappears (Nimble in the suit quest) or the mission system fails to assess the completion criteria correctly (dog tail quest, mill cache). This seriously breaks atmosphere and the only answer seems to be a series of game saves.
I’ve decided to start again now but during my restart I found another gameplay issue that has dogged games like this. During a big firefight I accidentally shot one of my fighting companions in the back. As a result the character goes hostile and starts shooting at my character. So I have to kill him, which makes everyone else in the group hostile to me. Which means I have to kill all of them too.
Naturally there has to be some way for the AI to realise that you’re shooting them up but the situation is unreal and a complete mood breaker. A friendly fire incident turns into a brutal massacre of your own faction, its illogical and really only leads to the loading of a saved game. Eternally stoic allies who accept all manner of player inflicted abuse may be naff but at least they keep the game flowing.