At least yearly I travel to the back of beyond, but in 2009 a costly adventure seems wasteful. Furthermore, a less than smooth month in Uzbekistan moved Russia to the bottom of my visit-someday list. However, thanks to a GoGamer special, I’m visiting the Ukraine for the price of two days airport parking. To be more precise, I’m exploring the area around Prypiat in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. It’s true, radiation and mutants are some of the local hazards, but they are almost canceled out by the avoidance of jet lag and Motezuma’s Revenge.
How does a former adventure gamer stay alive in a first person shooter? Following Army policy: Don’t ask, Don’t tell. Moreover, as a tourist rather than a mercenary, I feel free to take further liberties. Travel adjustments were easy once I discovered the modding community. Collect too many souvenirs to fit in your suitcase? No problem, unlimited weight lets you bring everything home. Weary of local cuisine or failed to pack clothes for nasty weather? Not to worry, mods can tweak, power-up & spawn both armor and weapons to suit your needs. As if this weren’t enough, a mod manager will handle conflicts and merges while loading your designed to order destination.
Despite few obvious similarities, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.‘s strong sense of place reminds me of Oblivion. While I loved the world exploration in Cyrodiil, my central complaint was that everything seemed too squeaky clean and orderly. Not so “The Zone,” where everyday tasks are struggles, seeing the sun is reason to celebrate. In spite of the hardships, huddled around a bonfire with my Russian speaking comrades although my comprehension is limited to nyet and spasiba, I think I’m going to enjoy my stay here.