S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Way of the Wolf
The Bandit Controversy
Hello one and all. I've taken a little break from my studies to write this article and get this 'off my chest' and into the public domain, in search of opinions and ideas.
I want Way of the Wolf to challenge perceptions and provide a new experience, so what follows is one way we could do that.
Get ready for a pretty long read - you might want to take this in stages, and have a cup of tea at the ready.
Please do let us know what you think.
The bandit faction in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has always confused me a little.
In Shadow of Chernobyl they are, after you leave the Cordon and Garbage for the first time, little more than an annoying pain in the ass for the rest of the game.
In Clear Sky, they are a faction of their own, but still little more than a collective pain in the ass.
In Call of Pripyat, they are a largely neutral group of pseudo-pain-in-the-asses.
I have a feeling that GSC were a little confused on what they actually wanted the bandits to be.
SoC is a perfect example of how they're basically a way to artificially lengthen the game. Chuck some bandits with terrible weaponry at the player every now and again and you'll probably add a fairly considerable length of time to the game. The thing is, it's not fun. That feeling you get walking up the Cordon only to have to fight a couple of poorly-equipped bandit groups who are in the way of your next objective isn't one of enjoyment, but frustration. They aren't a challenge, they're just a nuisance.
Let's examine some features of the bandit faction and take a look at why the system is fundamentally flawed:
1: They're a faction.
Why? Surely a group of criminals and thieves isn't going to come together for 'the collective good' and identify themselves as a unified front? Everyone in the Zone is, at their heart, out for themselves. Labeling yourself as a bandit doesn't seem like a good idea to me - not when almost everyone else in the Zone hates you.
2: They are distinctive.
This one is probably my greatest annoyance with the bandits. Do criminals in real-life go around wearing semi-ridiculous clothing that blatantly tells everyone that sees them who they are? Nope, so why do the bandits do it? Clad eternally in trench-coats and tracksuits, it's like they WANT to be targeted.
The reason for GSC doing this is purely for 'gameplay reasons'. Basically, they think (because it's often true) that people need a bright red crosshair painted on the chest of enemies.
3: They're poorly equipped.
The only way I can think of this one is that GSC never intended for the bandits to be anything but early-game enemies. Bandits with high end weaponry would obviously be bad at the start of SoC for instance, but by the time you've got yourself a fair weapon, they become nothing but a diversion that poses no real threat to you.
So - I've explained why I feel the bandit faction is flawed. Next I'm going to explain how I feel bandits should work in STALKER.
In my eyes, bandits are just like any other Stalker. Let's remember the STALKER acronym.
The last one is the important one here - bandits (or Robbers) are just like any other Stalker in the Zone.
The separation of Loner and Bandit, I feel, is not entirely correct.
Can you honestly tell me you've never, in a time of great need, killed a fellow, innocent Stalker just because you needed his supplies?
Have you ever taken the hidden supplies of others?
We're all bandits in some ways, you see. Necessity drives us all, and in the Zone, it's every man for himself.
So here's my view. Bandits aren't a collection of evil bastards with a penchant for trenchcoats with voices straight out of 1950's Chicago. They're often normal men driven to extremes, bullies that prey on the weak to survive, or opportunistic and desperate souls that spy an easy target.
Here's what we could do:
Make bandits normal Stalkers:
Forget the way bandits have worked in STALKER previously. Completely start afresh. They'll wear the same clothing as everyone else, use the same weaponry as everyone else. At first glance, they won't appear any different than a typical Loner.
Make bandits randomly hostile:
Maybe he's running low on supplies, maybe you look like an easy target, or maybe he wants the artifact glowing on your belt. Whatever it is, this guy's started shooting at you, and you're going to have to shoot back if you want to survive.
Doing these things addresses a couple of issues I see that currently exist:
1: Lack of a full-game enemy that's fun to fight.
Because these new bandits would be just like any Loner, they'd be able to sensibly use any weapon in the game. This gets rid of the whole 'bandits in trackies wielding sawn-offs' situation. Difficulty in fighting them is maintained, and the lack of knowing just who might start shooting at you gives an extra layer of tension to proceedings.
2: Adding to the gameplay experience.
You see a group of Stalkers fighting, but because everyone wears the same types of clothing now, the guy wearing a trenchcoat isn't necessarily a bandit... What do you do?
A pair of Stalkers approach you - are they just passing by, or do they want to kill you and take your loot? You won't know unless you ask.
What do you think? Are we on to a winner here, or do you prefer the old system? Are GSC right to dumb down the system, or are you guys eager to have an additional challenge in the Zone?
Let us know your opinions in the comments, and feel free to suggest ideas! We want to hear your view!
Until next time, Stalkers1
WotW Team Lead