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STALKER: The Pig Hunting and Cooking Simulator
What a huge missed opportunity...
If you clicked to see the most recent reviews instead of the most helpful, hoping that they will be different, don’t worry: they are still valid in 2017. Basically there was just a couple of patches fixing some bugs, but still the mod is totally incomplete.
That means you cannot have fun with it? Oh, you can. I had a good deal, and played quite a bit of it. I liked the huge maps with sprawling undergrounds, the more variable quests, the new mutants. The mod it perfectly playable, if you remember to save all the time and to follow the plot very linearly. But, at the end, you will probably be defeated by the flaws, like me.
To begin with, one thing must be clear: this is not a "lost alpha". This is a remake with many cut content and as much original ideas from the developers. That is not bad, it is basically what mods are. But, given that they took these liberties, there was no reason to ignore the community improvements to SoC or in most recent games of the series. And most of the developer's choices were good examples of bad design.
* The "belt" system: it could generate some strategic decisions, yes. But the trade/item moving system don't work property for this, and when you try to equip bullets from your pool of 62 in the backpack, it equips 2. You have to click again to remove the two, and click one more time to finally equip 30. Great during a firefight. Annoying all the time.
* Vehicles are an interesting addition, and in fact indispensable with such huge maps. Don’t try to ignore cars, you will not be able to play without them. But it is easy to see why they were cut, being handled incredible bad by the engine. Save every time you are going to drive, under the risk of being stuck forever or catapulted to oblivion by a small obstacle. Or by a blind dog. Or just making a turn. Also, very bad decision to give an undrivable car as the “first experience”, and to force the player to use it. That almost made me quit for the first time.
* The plot is fan-fic level, but that's normal for a mod. What is not normal is the ridiculous amount of backtracking. The third time I had to cross three maps just to say "hi" to a character and go back exactly to where I was before to follow the plot, I quit the mod for good. What a waste of time.
* The gameplay is deliberately more linear than SoC. They thought some things were cool, and want you to do it at any cost. You cannot just run to escape, you have to get the terrible car I've mentioned before. You have to get the rocket launcher to take down the helicopters, you cannot just shoot them down with your gun as you have made with every heli so far. This is not the spirit of Stalker.
* Cutscenes... Oh, my god, why? Why so many cutscenes? All the time, breaking the mood, destroying pace, adding nothing at all. At least if they were, you know, SKIPPABLE. Well, just take your phone and check your Facebook or Whatsapp while they play. Because watching boobs and puppy gifs to dissipate all that tension of the underground labs is what we want, right?
* Heavy and unremovable quest items that stay forever in your inventory. Heavy and unremovable SIDE QUEST items that stay forever in your inventory. Even if you do not ever took the quest. Yeah.
* Why try to reinvent the wheel and build an upgrade system from scratch, completely broken and simplistic? Why just not get the system from CoP? Remember, THIS IS NOT A LOST ALPHA!
* The game optimization is truly atrocious. Yes, the maps are much larger, but the amount of A-life is basically the same. Graphics are improved, but not differently from what other mods have done. My laptop easily runs Call of Chernobyl with full settings and all the graphic upgrades available. In Lost Alpha, I have to turn down many settings, and still have severe FR drops often. All this with the short grass drawing distance of the original, that looks especially bad when you move faster on a car.
There are so many things that were long addressed and improved by the community in the ZRP patch and other mods, and just ignored here... History tells that the developer's idea was to get official support from GSC and turn this in a paid addon. Then, due to the infamous leaking, that was not possible anymore. Maybe this explains why they basically abandoned the mod afterwards. But, if they took so many years to have this very rough version (and three more years now from the announcement of a "developer's cut"), I doubt they would ever have been able to make a complete functional mod, and much less a selling product. They should just have forgotten this idea and work as the community works in mods. We have less-hyped, community-based mods that are much better than this. Which is a pity, because the potential is clear. It could have been the definitive mod for SoC.
This massive effort will make S.T.A.L.K.E.R. be playable forever. The core idea, of just having a huge open world with all maps available from the three games and cut content, is already enough to provide countless hours of gaming. Sure, this open world should be filled, and the community is providing plenty of content, in the shape of addons to change game mechanics to whatever you like, and others that provide "things to do" during your aimless roaming through the zone. The addition of the story mode in the last version already provides a good reason to explore the maps without need for addons, even if this small story itself is kind of crude and not exactly fits the canon of the previous games.
Due to the large scope of the mod, the constant release of patches and high amount of addons, it is natural that you will find a lot of bugs and strange things. Don't the bothered by this and just remove problematic addons or look for some that tweak the game to suit better your play style. The mod is still in full development and hopefully soon we will have a stable core mod and more complex addons could arise (e.g. telling new stories or having more complex missions added to the open play).
As it is now, the mod is already a great achievement, and it will just improve with time.
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