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Clear Sky First Impressions
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Helmut
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October 9, 2009 - 11:36 am
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At 1:00 AM I unwrapped my package and installed the DVD. Good old DVD's (no Steam!!!). I was gaming in < 15 minutes and I see there's been a nice graphical update from the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R. My ancient rig can play at 30 fps at medium detail at 1680x1050. I scurried through the introduction in too much of a rush to talk to everyone and went off on my first mission to save a guard in a tower. I bagged something. At the moment the narrative at the beginning seems very plausible and interesting. I fear I may suffer some crippling abdominal pains today in the execution of my normal workday duties and be forced to repose in the beds of radiation  in search of relief. [Image Can Not Be Found]

My Dark Souls single player sensibilities are protected by a +10 GfWL Firewall of Ineptitude

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Toger
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October 9, 2009 - 12:04 pm
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I'd pay money to see their faces when you use the "radiation poisoning" excuse.

Powered by PMS ™

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Helmut
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October 9, 2009 - 1:06 pm
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Not radiation poisoning Toger, radiation healing [Image Can Not Be Found] Wait 'till they get a load of that.

My Dark Souls single player sensibilities are protected by a +10 GfWL Firewall of Ineptitude

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Steerpike
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October 11, 2009 - 12:05 pm
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Be strong, Helmut. That radiation is serious business.

Some advice: get yourself a hunting rifle, it'll be your main artillery for a good portion of the early game.

Also, after a few hours in the Swamps you will have the opportunity to move forward into the Cordon, where you will immediately encounter one of the most obnoxious and annoying insta-death traps ever committed to code. Just... be patient. There is a way through. Toggle crouch and cut hard left, creeping forward low until you get to the knocked-down tree, then RUN FOR IT. About fifty attempts later you'll get through. Don't lose faith.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Helmut
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October 13, 2009 - 3:19 pm
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You have that right Steerpike. Thanks for the heads up. What's really pissy about that little encounter is that there's no heads up that you don't have to go towards the military base to progress. You crawl down the hill to the arbitrary sharp corner in the wire fence and take a sharp left backwards to Cordon.In one of my failed attempts I had taken 2 soldiers down and could have used their superior weapons, but was grenaded. In my last playthrough of S-1, I took out the soldiers at the first bridge checkpoint and had a great deal easier time with their AK's early on.

I'm finding the PDA map harder to follow this time, but having the caches disappear when you loot them is a great help. I find it weird to see the original game terrain duplicated so so exactly.

My Dark Souls single player sensibilities are protected by a +10 GfWL Firewall of Ineptitude

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Steerpike
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October 13, 2009 - 4:23 pm
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By the way, there's a mod that improves the accuracy of the game's weapons so they're vaguely realistic. I will attempt to track it down for you.

It took me a while to get the hang of the new, busier PDA map, but it's invaluable once you're deep into the open world section of the game, when your participation in the faction wars leads to an ever-changing control landscape. The biggest problem I had was actually with the grenade-o-meter: I could never figure out whether the little arrow pointed in the direction of the grenade, or whether the icon itself did. I got blown up many, many times.

More advice: whenever you enter or leave a region, expect a blowout, particularly in the Garbage. It is quite possible to get stuck in a situation where you cannot reach cover before the emission occurs, so it's wise to carry a few energy drinks for long-term sprints.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Helmut
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October 13, 2009 - 5:25 pm
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Yes, I've seen the grenade indicator too. Pointless, really, given the size of the blast radius. You can hardly get far enough away to avoid the blast in the time you have. It may as well be a iconic suggestion that now might be a handy time to use the quick load key, especially since that key doesn't work once you've died. 

What's up with the blowouts? I havent' seen one yet. You need cover, or need to be inside, or need a a bomb shelter? I found the very first anomalies very difficult to see and avoid (do they drift this time round? ) but haven't really come across any lately.

I do like the weapon upgrade mini-game. I think it will be good later on with better weapons, and I think trying to find blueprints and plans for upgrading equipment that have been lost in the ruins plausible and interesting as side quests. 

My Dark Souls single player sensibilities are protected by a +10 GfWL Firewall of Ineptitude

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Steerpike
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October 13, 2009 - 6:27 pm
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You have seen a blowout - your very first mission upon leaving Clear Sky's camp, when you helped that fellow against the wild boars. Believe me, you will know when a blowout is about to occur. It's a thunderstorm from hell. In general you need solid shelter: a building, a tunnel, a... well, a building or a tunnel. They will kill you instantly if you are not sheltered. Usually you have 1-3 minutes, real time, from the first warnings to the moment the actual blowout hits.

Anomalies don't move, but they are nearly invisible in Clear Sky, so you have to get used to tossing bolts around, and listening to the beep of your detector. Artifacts are invisible, and it is well worth the investment to purchase a high-quality artifact detector, because unlike Shadow, artifacts are worth a frickin' fortune in this game. Interesting trivia: the original plan for STALKER, as seen in the 1935 build, was for completely invisible anomalies and artifacts. The developers decided it would be annoying, and they were probably right.

Weapon upgrades are fun and a huge portion of the open world game, because your weapons - being repair-able - become very close friends. Some of the effects are unclear in English due to lack of explanation ("Flatness," for example, reduces the parabolic trajectory a bullet travels over long distances), but doing upgrades is hugely fun.

God dammit, Helmut, now I want to play Clear Sky again, but I have this Demon's Souls problem...

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Helmut
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October 14, 2009 - 4:29 am
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1) What's the deal with the anomaly detector? It makes the same sound as in the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R., but it's now enhanced. I see a picture of a flip up phone type dealy in the manual, but nothing like that in the game. Is this later, or one of those features that never made it into the game? The options page for controls has a key bound for 'detector' but this does not do anything in game. And there's no way to go directly to the binocs without using the scroll wheel

2) I haven't found any of the blueprints I was supposed to find, at least I don't think I have. Are these exceptionally hard to find? Really out of the way?

3) This quest churn seems overdone this time round. There's a steady cacaphony of 'help us, we're knee deep in monsters.' quests that have a life span of 1/2 the time it takes to get to them. I trust I can just ignore these if I want. ? I thought my ability to more or less change the map permanently was one of the cool things of the first game. This version seems to have continual chaos.

4) I haven't noticed the trading being unduly unfair or tight. I'm poor like I'd expect, and most of the things I need I loot much like the first one. Maybe later on this is more noticeable. 

Good fun. Nice to have to plan an approach to a camp to use cover instead of just walking in.

My Dark Souls single player sensibilities are protected by a +10 GfWL Firewall of Ineptitude

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Steerpike
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October 14, 2009 - 8:46 am
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1) Lebedev should have given you a basic (read: crappy) Detector when you went out to help the dude on the tower before your first blowout. Use detectors to locate artifacts within anomalies. Artifacts are invisible in Clear Sky, and some anomalies are damn close. Artifact hunting is one of the fastest ways to get rich and one of the easiest ways to die, as anomalies are much more deadly this time around. You can only bring out your detector when you have a pistol or bolts (or nothing) in the other hand - behold:

[Image Can Not Be Found]

That's a top of the line detector, which you should endeavor to purchase asap.

2) Blueprints are hard to find; usually in stashes. I tended to use nighttime hours to locate stashes and daytime hours to accomplish tangible goals. Over time you'll come upon plenty, but one of the many breaks in the game is that GSC forgot to include some of the blueprints you're tasked with finding.

3) Quest churn dies down a little bit later on, depending on which faction you're a member of. Clear Sky and the Stalkers are almost always under attack by someone, hence the "help us" messages. Freedom and Duty tend to only attack each other, and they're separated by the Garbage, so they don't fight much unless you join one. The Bandits, which are extremely hard to find or join, are usually attacking rather than defending, and Monolith sort of does its own thing. You can certainly ignore help request radios, unless you're in the neighborhood or it's on your way. The only reason to do them is that when you help, they'll usually reward you back at faction headquarters.

4) Trade plays a slightly larger role in Clear Sky, as some weapons don't become available as loot until you've bought them or found them in special stashes. This is particularly true of advanced sniper rifles, which are a godsend later on. In general, though, I use most of my cash for repairs and upgrades, and loot for ammo and medkits, much like you.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Helmut
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October 21, 2009 - 10:48 am
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Well that's a crappy trick! I had just spent a bunch of money to trick out my guns too. Fortunately I had wiped out a camp of bandits nearby and had yet to loot them so I could at least replace a portion of what I lost. I can see why this game gets a bad rap. I wouldn't say combat is 'unfair', more like 'closer to authentic', but it is a lot harder than is usual these days. The aforementioned bandits are able to throw a grenade 2x further than me, and with almost 'Tiger Woodsian' accuracy to the pin being able to nestle one behind a concrete barrier from 100 yards out with sand bunkers and a creek in play on both sides of the green.

There are no carcasses on the ground. There's no sharp wind whistling along the ground stirring the dry snaggled tundra grasses and low trees. There's none of the mystery moss hanging from the equipment in the Dark Valley. The environment itself seems less hostile than in the first game although maybe, this being a prequel, these things have yet to develop.

My Dark Souls single player sensibilities are protected by a +10 GfWL Firewall of Ineptitude

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Steerpike
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October 21, 2009 - 11:05 am
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Yeah, I probably should have warned you about that. The good news is you can get everything back - they're lurking near those big concrete blocks kind of across from the vehicle dump. Look in the box, everything will be there.

Atmosphere isn't nearly as strong in Clear Sky. One of the big complaints I had is how bright and sunny the place is. I mean, I'm sure there are sunny days in the Exclusion Zone, but the game should be gloomier. I suspect this was done in part because this is the "early" Zone, before it started aggressively defending itself. It does get more atmospheric closer to the end, when you visit the Military Warehouses and the town of Lumansk.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Helmut
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October 21, 2009 - 11:30 am
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Thanks for not spilling the beans. A good Stalker needs to discover his own heads under the blanket, erm, you know what I mean.

My Dark Souls single player sensibilities are protected by a +10 GfWL Firewall of Ineptitude

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Helmut
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October 23, 2009 - 10:25 am
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Starting over

My Dark Souls single player sensibilities are protected by a +10 GfWL Firewall of Ineptitude

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Steerpike
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October 23, 2009 - 12:30 pm
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What happened?? Did you get caught in a blowout?

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Helmut
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October 23, 2009 - 1:44 pm
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I was trembling with almost teen-aged anticipation as I struggled with my hands to get the plastic off the package and get the thingy installed. I was careless and despite knowing GSC's history, I didn't check for updates. I thought I was safe. Sadly, savegames are not forwards compatible. Still, I missed a bunch of stuff early on that I'd like to go revisit anyway. I still don't get this anomaly detector.

My Dark Souls single player sensibilities are protected by a +10 GfWL Firewall of Ineptitude

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Helmut
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October 23, 2009 - 3:31 pm
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So I see the stamina meter is back. Thanks. I went through the tutorial again, and still don't get this artifact biz. I'm standing as near as possible to the anomoly, the detector is beeping like crazy, any closer and I will get damage, yet I still can't pick anything up. ?

My Dark Souls single player sensibilities are protected by a +10 GfWL Firewall of Ineptitude

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Steerpike
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October 24, 2009 - 12:08 pm
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That early artifact detector is basically a death sentence, Helmut. It beeps in proximity to artifacts, but doesn't tell you where you are in relation to them. In order to actually find an artifact you have to practically walk right into it - then it appears on the ground and floats there like an artifact from Shadow - and as you say, if you try that with most anomalies you'll get hurt or killed. You might be right next to the artifact, but the anomaly might be between you and it. Your current detector can't tell you where an artifact is, only that one is nearby.

The next available artifact detector gives you direction and proximity, while the third shows you flat out where the artifact is. Even so, artifact hunting is incredibly dangerous and requires patience, quicksaves, and lots of bolt-throwing. The tradeoff is that artifacts can be worth tens of thousands of Rubles, and selling a few will solve your money problems for a long, long time.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Helmut
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October 26, 2009 - 4:27 am
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Grrrr. 1.5.10 is monstrously harder to get through the military to the Cordon. There must have been a bug in the machine gun code in 1.5.1 because if you stayed crouched at all times, the machine gun nest would aim below your feet. Now it is ridiculous. I had to hide behind the tree to get down the boulders. Then shoot out the crates from under the fallen tree trunk so you can run over and actually get underneath it (Put away gun so you can run faster) Remember to run by starting to walk, THEN pressing Shift (Pressing shift + walk wont do). I had my mouse buttons bound to quick medikit and quick bandage and I popped those like candied asparaminabufen. Then there's the radiation area, then the anomaly field, then the the mutant beasts. Finally out... ENOUGH!

It's playing differently all throughout so far.

My Dark Souls single player sensibilities are protected by a +10 GfWL Firewall of Ineptitude

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Steerpike
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October 26, 2009 - 10:25 am
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I would have thought that boxed versions would, by now, have been patched to 1.5 already. It's been like a year, for crying out loud. The good news is that you have a clear picture of what's going on and you can breeze through already-completed stuff and move on to decide how (if at all) you choose to involve yourself in the Faction War. The back-and-forth of it, watching small strike squads from either side hurrying through no-man's land toward their objectives, is all pretty cool. Once it begins to get dull, the game essentially tells you it's time to move on, so it's a very well-implemented system all around.

I'd pbe playing Clear Sky with you, Helmut, but I have this... relationship with Demon's Souls, and it doesn't let me leave the room or visit another device to "protect my honor." I also have to wear a burqa, and damn but these things make you warm.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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