S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Anomaly

Anomaly presents itself as a sequel, set some years after GSC Game World’s original trilogy, and combines and expands the environments from all three of those original games. The Zone — the haunted, irradiated and mutant-infested land around Chernobyl — is bigger and more detailed than ever. Strelok, the player character from the first game, is apparently back too, and following rumours of his return leads into several large story quest arcs, in-between dozens of scripted side-quests and procedurally generated jobs. While story objectives are mostly just ‘go here, talk to this person, recover this item’, it’s an interesting enough reason to explore deep into hostile territory.

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This is pretty hard and a very different animal to the original games and the various mods.

You start with a little character creator screen where you choose your initial loadout for a points costs like in some of the mods. You can choose your name, faction and display picture and then spend your points on the small selection of gear it offers you. I went for survival-minded stuff like meds and food, keeping to my knife and Makarov for defence. You also get to choose various difficulty options and additions like Ironman mode, etc and a starting place (though it only offered me two in Cordon).

Everything is lethal. Everything. All of the effects are more dangerous and have more pronounced side effects like black outs, blurred vision, bleeding, hunger/thirst and have visual effects that really make combat a lot harder. There are plenty of medicines to be able to combat this stuff but they are really expensive and only sold in camps.

Combat is harder but actually more fun. Weapons and ammo are less common and what you do find tend to be worn/damaged or low quality, anything of decent quality costing the defecit of a small country from traders. With that also comes jaming and the sorts of effects you’d imagine having with ammo marked ‘OLD’ or ‘DAMAGED’. Had my gun jam or blank fire a handful of times in fire fights leading to death or severe wounding. All this is made up for though by how dangerous the weapons now are - I hit a guy three times with a 7.62 hunting carbine from a roof at about 200m, the first shot staggering him, the second dropping him to his knees and the third putting him down. Most of the other variants I’ve played would have seen you pumping most of a mag in to him to kill him.

The AI are more clever now as well as their weapons being more deadly. Popping that guy made his friend in a nearby clutch of buildings come to investigate the shots and then hunt me through some buildings. He was taking cover, using fire and maneuver and he pressed his attack any chance he got. Only really made it out of the fight when a bunch of Fleshes charged him and I put a bunch Makarov rounds in his back.

Looting is a bit of a nightmare because there are just so damned many things for the various different systems and crafting options you really don’t know what half of it does. Almost every complex action like breaking down equipment (also new) for parts needs a tool and there are now vendors specifically selling tools for all manner of modding, repairing and crafting. Want to cook some food? That’ll be utensiles, cooking tools, fuel and the food plese. Want to break down a damaged vest? That’ll be a multitool. Need to repair something? You need the tools and spare materials.

The play area is massive. Areas from each of the official games, some recovered previously cut areas that have turned up in some mods and from the looks of things some areas that never made it out of the original game’s planning stages. That includes the stuff that goes in them as well like the variety of mutants and monsters, anomalies, environmental hazards and factions.

It seems very much like you could just play this as a survival game and ignore the quests since you need to explore and gather a lot of stuff to keep you on your feet especially if you end up injured or sick. I had to take a detour from the first mission to get anti-rad stuff because I got moderate rad poisoning and kept blacking out. That sounds more annoying than it is, with the zone being so atmospheric and interesting to explore, it really isn’t a bad thing that you have to scour areas.

And that is the big one for me: I feel tense playing this. A few of the other variants I’ve played have had a good atmosphere but it gets busted as soon as you realise you can counter pretty much everything in the environment and become an uber soldier in no time. In Anomaly you are made of wet paper and the environment is a wood chipper. I stepped around an electric anomaly in a bit of a hurry from some fleshes only to step through a bush I couldn’t see through and get slung across the map and killed by a different anomaly.

Another time while looting a pair of bandits I’d managed to finish off in short order I was attacked by a pack of dogs who nearly had me. I killed them, healed up a bit and then got the shit bitten out of me by a mutant rat I wasted half a mag trying to hit.

I must have died a dozen times in the hour or so I’ve played. So far it hasn’t been annyong though because you learn from each death and find out something new about the environment, which you can use to your advantage as you learn.

Very good.

Edit: Do not mess with the military. I had to kill one that was getting in the way of a mission and they sent out someone to find him. When he found me instead he called in reinforcements who surrounded me while suppressing me and then naded me each time I managed to hold my own in the repeated attempts to beat them from my quick save.

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Oh I didn’t realise its a open beta, I will pick it up to try it out. Not sure if I like the more “hardcore” approach. I REALLY enjoyed the original balance, good mixture of challenge and survival.

I have so much to play, and with everything going on I’m not sure how much time I have. I might pick it up for Italy, a good solo game would come in handy for the beginning.

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