The STALKER series has always been a popular choice for PC gamers looking for strong non-linear shooter that features horror elements, but the franchise hasn't aged particularly well. This has left many hoping for a more modern STALKER experience that offers quality graphics, refined gameplay systems, and a more detailed and rich open world. STALKER 2 is the answer to those desires — and this time around, STALKER is coming to Xbox, too. Here's everything you need to know about the upcoming title.
STALKER 2's development and reveal
STALKER 2 was initially revealed back in 2018 on GSC Game World's Twitter account. Since then, the developer has been working hard on the game, developing it in Unreal Engine and using photogammetry for environments and motion capture for animations, according to a Q&A.
What is STALKER 2's story and setting?
STALKER 2 is set in a fictional version of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in which the power plant mysteriously exploded again in 2006, causing strange supernatural events that defy all scientific reasoning and spawning horrifying mutated beasts that began to roam. According to a trailer's video description, the protagonist is named Skif.
As a result of the second explosion, special items called artifacts were created. These artifacts provide special effects to the people who hold them, such as protection from radiation or increased natural healing. Due to how valuable these artifacts are, many have made a living sneaking into the Zone to collect them to sell to the outside world. Some have formed factions within the Zone as well, such as Duty, which is a group comprised primarily of ex-Ukranian military soldiers who want to protect the world from the dangers of the Zone. All of the people who operate within the Zone's borders are known as Stalkers.
In the aforementioned Q&A, GSC Game World stated that the game will feature an "epic, non-linear story" that will be driven by player choice in both the short and long-term. This is on-brand for the STALKER series, as the three previous games — Shadow of Chernobyl, Clear Sky, and Call of Pripyat — all had stories that were influenced heavily by player choice. GSC Game World also stated that you won't need to have played those games to enjoy or understand the story of STALKER 2.
What can we expect from STALKER 2 gameplay?
The STALKER series is characterized by its horror-shooter gameplay blend. In the original STALKER games, encounters were designed to feel intense and nerve-wracking. Whether you were fighting scary supernatural mutants or squads of heavily-armed mercs, you always felt like you could die at any moment due to how dagerous the Zone was. Therefore, properly using cover and maintaining your guns and armor were critical to success.
There were also some light survival elements, such as hunger and radiation levels that you had to keep in check with food and drugs. In terms of structure, the games were non-linear, as the world consisted of smaller maps connected together to form an open world.
Based on what we know of STALKER 2, it will follow in the previous games' footsteps and deliver a similar type of experience. GSC Game World describes the game as "a unique blend of FPS, immersive sim and horror with a really thick atmosphere" and states that it will offer "one of the biggest open worlds to date." Additionally, the game has also been described to have "fast-paced change of scenery, ominous landscapes and the ever-present feeling of an inevitable danger accompanied by a barely-distinguishable guitar soundtrack." GSC Game World also confirmed that, in addition to everything seen before in the older games, new locations, mutants, artifacts, and anomalies (supernatural environmental hazards like electrical fields) would all be coming to the game as well. There are plenty of new weapons, outfits, and factions available for players to interact with and use as well, according to a recent developer diary. GSC Game World is also committing to making STALKER 2 as mod-friendly as possible, which will please the PC gaming community.
The trailer shown for STALKER 2 at the Xbox Series X July event is said to be indicative of how the game will look at launch. GSC Game World confirmed that the trailer was built in-engine and uses models from the game in its Q&A, and also stated that it "demonstrates the same level of graphics and atmosphere we are aiming to achieve on release." We also know that TALKER 2 will support ray tracing. Hilariously, the game will even include a "custom teeth tool" under the hood that ensures every NPC in the world will have a unique set of teeth.
STALKER 2: Release date, pricing, and platforms
Currently, the release date for STALKER 2 is unknown. The original reveal for the game listed 2021, but in its Q&A GSC Game World said that it's not ready to reveal the specific release date just yet. Therefore, it's likely the game will release sometime in 2021.
When it comes to price, nothing is currently known. However, considering that the scope of STALKER 2 seems very triple-A, I think it's likely that the game will be priced in the $40-60 range.
Finally, STALKER 2 is coming to both PC and Xbox Series X as a console launch exclusive. This marks the first time that STALKER has come to a console, which is no doubt exciting for Xbox fans. In addition, STALKER 2 will be available through Xbox Game Pass.
What do you think of STALKER 2? Are you excited to see what GSC Game World has in store for fans? Let me know in the comments. Also, make sure to check out the previous STALKER games on PC if you haven't already!
Updated 3/26/2021: This article has been updated with new information from the ID@Xbox March showcase.
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