Before we begin, please understand that Dark Signal is designed to be played with Warfare and Storymode on at the same time. Even in the base profile, the zone has been balanced and designed around having these two modes enabled. I will elaborate shortly.
In addition, this guide is a WIP. We will slowly develop it out with feedback from the community, as well as post a FAQ.
If you are unfamiliar with Anomaly in general, I recommend looking up a gameplay guide for the game, familiarizing yourself with its basic concepts, and then coming back here.
Here are the basics of the Dark Signal experience, brought to you by some of the best mods and addons ever made for stalker, with tweaks and additions by us:
The zone really does not revolve around you anymore. It will live, die, and evolve over time. Factions will spread their influence, or lose territory. If they are in a true war state with another faction, they could potentially be wiped out (but will always come back later.)
Mutants will hunt and expand their packs, and more dangerous packs will come out at night. (This may seem familiar to those who have played with Dynamic Mutants - the concept is similar, but has been built from the ground up, here.) Packs of mutants and stalker squads can be of varying size, and go about their lives in a manner that can lead to all sorts of dynamic scenarios.
Courtesy of tweaked settings, the mutant spawn system and Warfare Alife Overhaul, the zone truly is alive. My recommendations for a new game:
Play as a loner or ecologist if you prefer a solo adventure, and would like to watch the zone evolve and territory change hands as a bystander. Perhaps you come back to the bar one day, only to find Freedom has taken it over, with their own traders, and guards?
You can still play a solo, exploratory playthrough with other factions, however you will have the opportunity to spread your faction's influence and take territory. To do so, open your PDA map, right click on an area that you have cleared. If warfare considers this place to be a territory, resource, or base, you will be able to call a faction squad to take it over, as long as your faction holds an area or resource within one level's distance. This is a great way to make dangerous areas safer, or gain goodwill with your faction quickly.
Anomalies spread throughout the world quickly, and artefacts are far more common. You are encouraged to take out your detector and explore!
1. Stashes are more likely to have better loot, however they will be locked in boxes most of the time. You can buy a set of lockpicks from the mechanic, and top up your lockpicks by dragging loose lockpicks looted/bought over on to your set.
To lock pickpick a container, drag your lockpicking set on to it. Assuming you have enough picks, an appropriate amount will be consumed and you will be granted some random loot, which could be quite rare or powerful! It very much depends on the types of boxes you find and the amount of picks needed to open them.
The rest of this guide only really applies to the Gameplay Overhaul Profile.
2. Weapon and armor repair system: Can't be bothered with repair regardless? That's okay! Technicians will repair your weapons and armor, fully, same as before. The self-repair system is just more intuitive now for those who want to use it. More below.
Thanks to the systems provided by Weapon Parts Overhaul and Outfit Parts and Repair overhaul, repairs have been tweaked, adjusted and made more intuitive.
Weapons can be field stripped through the right click menu. Compare the condition of parts on weapons you find, scavenge parts that seem useful and compatible and use them on others! Most parts, if not badly damaged, can simply be repaired by removing them from the weapon and giving them a once over with a ramrod or multitool. Once done, place the relevant part back in the weapon, top up the weapon's "cleanliness" with some gun oil and you are golden! Busted weapons may start jamming - these can be cleared by double tapping the F key by default. Weapon repair kits come with part replacements for whatever weapon you're using. If you have a relevant kit, you can right click the weapon and click "replace parts". Cleaning kits on the other hand can, through the same context menu, be used to clean parts which are only slightly worn.
Outfits are more streamlined than before, but now have more depth. Your armor is not going to break as easily as it used to - in addition, reparing them in the field is much easier as there is no condition limit for sewing kits and other repair items.
The depth comes in with the parts - retardants, fabrics and ballistics. The more damaged the parts, the lower the "max possible condition" of the outfit. If your retardants get destroyed by anomalies, or fabrics shredded by mutants, only the protection provided for THOSE attributes will be affected. Sewing kits can be used to bring them back up to snuff - however for heavy armor, repair kits will be needed to repair ballistics. This allows you to take more risks, and not be so worried about your armor being damaged, as some glue and sewing supplies will keep you going for a while.
3. Food and drink - You will need to keep a constant supply of food and water now. Your stalker's body needs care - be sure to eat and drink intuitively and pack supplies! You will no longer make it through a deep raid into the zone with just a protein bar. Bleeding, sprinting around, taking a beating and generally just operating like a super soldier will make you hungrier and thirstier faster. Perhaps eating some heavily irradiated boar and cigarettes in the morning is just what you need for an energy boost. On that note -
Cooking is now more accessible. Radiation damage is still pretty high, however early game you will need all the food you can get. You can buy placeable campfires at traders. Use these out in the field to start a fire, and then use any cooking kit near the fire to cook without fuel if need be. Imported food is more expensive and not super filling - but you'll have less rads to deal with.
4. Radiation. In Dark Signal radiation is a more prevalent threat than before. There are rad fields all over the world, dynamically moving, and no matter how good your protection, radiation will always penetrate your armor slightly. You will need to keep an eye on your rad level, and keep it low using water or medicine. The threshold at which radiation damages your health has also been lowered, and the damage it deals increased. Radiation is now no longer a non threat after you find a gasmask.
In addition, a new weather event, called Toxic Rain, can occur. Stalkers will take cover when toxic rain occurs, and you are advised to take protection with you. Depending on the strength of the rain, you will suffer varying levels of chemical and radiation damage. A good gasmask should get you through light toxic rain just fine, though.
5. Traders will not always have all their gear in stock. If they do not have a weapon you're looking for, try come back another day. You will not find traders with every weapon and armor under the sun in their inventory anymore.
6. Exoskeletons require power to keep going. You will need to really be a rich man to maintain one! A good exo power supply can even enhance your abilities, when combined with a good suit.
7. Crafting. There are no more requirements to unlock recipes. As long as you have tools and ingredients, you can craft right from the start. Workbenches do not need to be rented to be used. If you have a set of tools in your inventory, you can right click them to start crafting.
Once your good will with a faction reaches a certain point, you can buy placeable items such as a workbench and a radio to build your own hideout in your very own little spot in the zone.
Powered by the latest work in ballistics related addons, Dark Signal employs a new combat system where the type of ammo you use in any given situation has never given you more food for thought.
Almost all ammo types have been rebalanced so far. All old and damaged ammo types have been removed in favor of more niche, power ammos that are useful in all kinds of situations. Want a 7.62x25 round coated in anomalous acid to melt through armor? You got it! How about Dragon's Breath Shotgun shells to wade through hordes of mutants? Sure! Or perhaps you're a simple stalker, and prefer a good old sniper rifle with some Headhunter bullets, specifically designed for piercing armor on headshots? One shot one kill baby!
These ammo types have been added and integrated into the world seamlessly, and are all craftable using a more streamlined, easy to understand system. Gundpowder, casings and relevant bulllets for different types can be retrieved through disassembling ammo you dont use. Have a shooter in .45ACP but only got tons of 9x18 in your stash? Well, how about disassembling them and converting them to a respectable amount of .45 rounds? You can do that!
In addition, through these balance changes, you will find combat more intuitive and less restrictive. You arent forced in any way to carry different ammos with you - but they will make dealing with certain situations (read: military stalkers, mercenaries, monolith, rare mutants) a lot easier.
You can now also (by default: middle mouse button) execute a quick melee attack using the butt of your rifle or handle of your pistol. Useful in a corner, or for breaking boxes!
Many artefacts, now have perks associated with them instead of straightforward effects. These can be used in combat for great effect and often come with trade offs. Read the description for every artefact you find - they might be worth stashing and saving for difficult encounters, or even to help you hunt for more artefacts in dangerous anomaly fields!
General Gameplay Changes to be aware of
- Poltergeists are now actually dangerous. You will need to pack a decent supply of psy-block to take on these ethereal mutants.
- Psy phantoms create an area of effect explosion when they die which can seriously damage your psy health.
- With the right materials, you can craft remote detonators for explosives. Useful for setting traps!
- NPC looting is more aggressive. Be sure to not try and take from a body that is currently being looted! You will be asked to kindly shove off.
- The miracle machine and brain scorcher will mess with your flashlight. It's best to bring some good nightvision for these areas, or even some glowsticks.
- Traders will sell basic tools after a certain goodwill level.
- Armor mod kits can be found to convert your suit into a similar suit from the same family. Use a sunrise modkit to convert your regular Sunrise Suit into a Autumn Stalker Suit, for example.
- You can buy placeable campfires from all traders for when out in the wild. All cooking kits can use a fire as fuel.
- Bounty squads are more common and more dangerous.
- Binoculars are really useful for scouting as they detect enemy positions, much like the original games.
Thanks for reading! I will be sure to update this guide further as time goes on.