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Clear Sky First Impressions
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Helmut
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October 26, 2009 - 10:49 am
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The retail version was 1.5.1, and all patches 1.5.1->1.5.4 (or 3 maybe) (you know, where they actually finished the game) required restarts. None of patches 1.5.4->1.5.10 require restarts.

Yah, we poured that 'forge of destiny' stuff on pretty thick and now the whole world is watching. You've described a little bit how Demon's Souls is hard, with lack of saving, is that all of it? I have liked games hard enough to require rehearsal, but the nature of the mechanics have to be right. As soon as I start dying because the AI is using unfair information or if there's something fishy with the controls then I don't have much patience.

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 - 12:46 pm
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That's the amazing thing about Demon's Souls. When you die - and you will, often - it's never because the game cheated, or misused its AI routines, or anything like that. When you fail in Demon's Souls it's because YOU FAILED, so every step beyond the point of that failure is a personal accomplishment that can't be seen in other games. This game punishes you for being cocky, or to overly cautious, or rushing in where fools fear, etc etc. And though you'll have a place memorized and be dreaming about it before you get it right, you will, eventually, do so... and that will make you feel awesome.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Helmut
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October 26, 2009 - 3:47 pm
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But what sorts of things do you have to be good at to win? Is it a swordfighting affair? Timing related combat? Overwhelming numbers requiring choreographed combat responses? Trick discovery like Painkiller? It's hard to make a hard game that offers a skill ramp that you can overcome.

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 27, 2009 - 10:42 am
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I'd compare it to Mount & Blade, honestly. The melee combat (there's also ranged and magic) is exactly three buttons and essentially no combos, but you'll never truly master it; also, as in M&B, improving your attributes is always a balance. There'll always be a skill you want more of, even hundreds of hours into the game. And since it gets costlier and costlier to increase those attributes, and since they're purchased with the same currency used for equipment, repairs, and supplies, the art of improvement is challenging.

Here's the thing: the game never, ever, EVER cheats. You defeat enemies by observing their behavior and discerning the ideal way to counter them. And death is the result of your mistake, you can't blame the game.

If I have a complaint, it's that the drudgery of repeating the same sections again and again is not endlessly enjoyable. Of course, after the first mission you can visit any of the other worlds if you like, and the repetition is fun for a lot longer than you might think, but I'm ready to move on from where I am, believe me.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Helmut
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October 29, 2009 - 10:57 am
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I can't believe the differences between the original version and the patched version. I'm not sure what their intentions were in regards to changes in gameplay in the patches, but IMO they definitely brought on some of the criticism themselves.

In the original game, there were far fewer bandit groups. At the junction between Cordon and the Garbage, there was no one at all. In the patched version, there's an unwinnable fight against a huge bandit group that brings in reinforcements. The alternative is to offer up all your rubles. The original also had military coming and attacking one of the early outposts where you had to find a shipment for Siderovich (sp?) (the first trader in Cordon). (Why the well equiped miltary would lose to a ragtag group equiped  in blue jean jackets and sneakers is an unanswered question) They were dropping Vintar sniper rifles and military medkits and all sorts of phatness that made the game quite easy early on. All this is gone.

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 29, 2009 - 11:58 am
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The hordes of bandits also took away from the lonely feel of the Zone. What frustrates me the most about the changes in Clear Sky (patched and unpatched) was how much they changed the combat AI system. What had been tactically ingenius enemy AI in Shadow became a all-about-numbers and grenade spam approach in Clear Sky.

This huge bandit group - are they under the broken railroad bridge, or at the checkpoint with the LAV on the north end of the Cordon? I know you said junction-between-Cordon-and-Garbage, but for some reason the railway bridge has entrenched itself in my mind as the entrace to the Garbage, even though it's not.

Is there a way to enter the Garbage through the Swamps? I think there's a link to Agroprom and/or Yantar there, so you could cut around, but that's a hell of a walk.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Helmut
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October 29, 2009 - 2:04 pm
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There is a new PDA function that shows the main points from one area to another. No more wandering around for days looking for the entrance to the Dark Valley. There is an alternate path to the Garbage from Cordon to the garbage through a valley I don't think was present in the first one.

They are at the north end of Cordon where you access the jump point in the building. In the original I was very close to the Dark Valley jump point before I ran into bandits that wanted money and I wiped them all out. The bandits weren't much of a force and I was able to move around without much trouble. Now, I had to give up money, but at least the bandits are ambivalent towards me (rather than antagonistic) so moving through some other areas should be easier.I'll just have to be sure not to carry cash from one area to another.

I like the way someone goes out for backup now. I have watched this several times, and it's no accident. I encounter a group of four bandits say, and get two of them. (I can tell by that counter on the HUD) Suddenly 1 or both of the remainder disappear and several minutes later (usually in the middle of looting) four bandits will reappear and resume patrol. On the one hand, this is kinda cool AI, on the other hand, this just leads to a map that never changes. I thought the map gradually becoming a more friendly place was a great feature of the first one.

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 29, 2009 - 2:58 pm
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Join a faction. You'll see the map change big time then.

The reinforcements thing is a great addition, especially when the Faction War ramps up. You get into a fight, you can be reasonably confident that help is on the way - though from what distance can be iffy. Watching the strike teams crisscross the map is really cool.

The addition of multiple entry/egress points also helps the game, especially early on when you can cut right back to the Stalker camp from behind the vehicle dump in the Garbage. The 1935 build of the original STALKER has no zones, no zone transitions, no load times. And it's a much, much bigger game world. I'm still waiting for some enterprising modder to fix the myriad bugs and translate the thing into English.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Helmut
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November 4, 2009 - 4:48 pm
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Finally making some new progress. Version 1.5.1 had no quest to get your stuff back! Although, overall, I'm not in quite as good shape now as before. The Vintar sniper rifles were a great bonus drop early on and those are not present at all. On my way to Yantar after my first trip down under.

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

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Steerpike
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November 4, 2009 - 5:49 pm
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The Vintar is a great rifle, I carried a heavily uograded one all the way to the end of the game, though my primary weapon was the massive KERBLAM sniper rifle. Vintar's burst mode made it perfect for close encounters.

Watch out in Yantar, Helmut. That place is dangerous!

And remember that the best part of the game is the open world stuff, with the faction wars in the Garbage/Agroprom/Yantar region. Once you head to Red Forest, you won't likely be returning to the earlier areas, so have some fun.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Helmut
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November 4, 2009 - 6:32 pm
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In the first one, if you pissed off Duty before getting through the bar area, you were hooped when trying to return. One trip out to the Agroprom, I think, I winged a Duty dude on the way back in to town by accident. Then all the guys started sniping me from the town barricades.

Is there anything unwanted about joining a group?

Do you mean that once I head to Yantar, I'm in the endgame pipe? That's short!

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

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Steerpike
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November 5, 2009 - 1:41 pm
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No, Yantar's still part of the open world. Red Forest is the turning point, though theoretically you could go back all the way up until you reach the power plant, but there's no real reason to. Well, I did once, to buy bullets. The game does a very good job of making you sense when it's "time" to quit the open world and head north. The way Clear Sky is long is by hanging out in the open world and doing faction stuff. Once you enter Red Forest, assuming you explore and do some of the side quests up there, you've got maybe 2-4 hours of game left.

Dangers of joining a group: if you join Duty or Freedom, all members of the other are immediate enemies who will shoot on sight. You lose access to the opposing trader, engineer, and base. If you're already a member of a faction (the Stalkers or the Bandits), you will lose everything you had with them in terms of standing, but those groups can't really help you at this point so it doesn't matter.

While you're neutral (or a Stalker), both bases are available, and both factions have a couple of interesting sidequests they'll give to neutrals. When/if you choose to join, there are more quests to do, plus the Faction War begins in earnest. You get the chance to help your faction destroy the other, which is very hard (but possible), because both factions are very tenacious, launching counterattacks a few times even after you've taken their main base.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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geggis
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November 11, 2009 - 3:08 pm
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Hmm, I loved SoC but having bought Clear Sky and then hearing that it suffered with launch bugs and other strange design choices I never opened it. I remember modding the crap out of SoC to make nights darker, torchs dimmer, the AI a little more forgiving in the dark and loads of other minor changes and remembered how much of a pain in the arse it was so I've been apprehensive about starting a vanilla patched version since. Also the atmosphere which made SoC so strangely addictive and beautiful isn't quite there with Clear Sky.

By the sounds of it a lot has changed since the first version but I'd still be inclined to get modding. Perhaps I'll give it a go soon. What are your feelings so far Helmut?

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Steerpike
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November 11, 2009 - 3:12 pm
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Hey Geggis -

Someone at this site wrote an outrageously brilliant review of Clear Sky that you might enjoy: https://tap-repeatedly.com/?p=449

The mod community for Clear Sky isn't quite as robust as that in SoC, but there are many good tweaks and mods out there. If you do take the plunge, I hope you enjoy it. I'm very cognizant of Clear Sky's faults, but at the same time did find myself really enjoying the game in spite of them.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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geggis
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November 11, 2009 - 3:29 pm
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Ahh thanks for that Steerpike, forgot to look in there!

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Helmut
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November 12, 2009 - 11:51 am
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I'd pretty much agree with the central thesis of Steerpike's review: that this game should have been an improvement but is, in reality, a lateral step and is all the more disappointing for it. I didn't encounter any of the graphical slowdown issues or launching bugs even in the  unpatched version but I'm probably running at pretty modest settings in DX9 in XP.

I'd guess that they spent their development time in the ultimately unnecessary upgrade to DX10, fixing the PDA, and implementing the big squad combat system, and didn't get very far in new ideas. By new ideas I mean creating new physical spaces with new story to fill in the background and the reasons why. The faction war is a new idea but it's entirely peripheral to the central reason for being in the zone. Encountering the same landscape again in Clear Sky at first is somehow cool, but quickly tiring. 

I had gone North to Yantar to progress the plot, but suffered from economic woes and had to retreat. (I left a squad on a hillside right in the middle of zombieland, I hope they're still ok). I then joined Duty to get a taste of the faction war and because I had read the faction war was ultimately futile,  I wanted to be on the side that was nearest to Yantar so I wouldn't lose access to the corridor. This was a bit of a mistake, as the war time action is now in the opposite direction to home+plot, and if I was to carry the battle to Freedom, it feels like I'm always heading off in the wrong direction.

In this game just the smallest things muck up what it seems the dev's were trying to do. Having to scramble as fast as possible to barely reach a blowout shelter (which is oddly empty) only to emerge to find faction mates boozing it up around a completely exposed fire pit with a guitar when I'm the one who's supposed to be super immune is just sloppy. Dutifully following orders to capture a far flung strategic 'target' at great personal risk and cost only to find it so far off that said reinforcements can't survive the journey on the ever-changing map meaning I'm now given the orders to both hold the outpost and recapture previously held spots is absurd.  I abandoned my post and while heading back to the Agroprom I cleared out the bandit held rail yard in the middle of the map. (An action I may modestly compare (in these Remembrance Day times) to being dropping from a yellow dinghy on Juno Beach and clearing the whole of Normandy). I awaited the triumphal march around the grounds on the shoulders of comrades for having captured a location of strategic importance  but when the friendlies marched around the rail yards (probably to reclaim my abandoned crates of fish surrounding a soggy firepit) I abandoned the whole notion of the faction war.

There are lots of things to complain about from the accuracy of the enemies to the goofy economic models and weak side quests. These S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games always feel like they should be played twice. I guess that's a compliment to the way the game entices commitment without full knowledge of the future. My second play through in this case would be to join Duty, grow porcine and indolent from the loot dropped on the compound doorsteps by wave after wave of the lost generation (without risking a hair) until I could afford to buy enough of the bandages necessary to staunch the endless bleeding, then charge directly for the endgame. The price was right at $9.99, but at this stage if you haven't played this one too much, I might actually skip it entirely and hope for better things in Pripyat.

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

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Steerpike
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November 12, 2009 - 2:14 pm
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I can't disagree with a word Helmut says, which really irritates me because I love disagreeing with Helmut. But his assessment is right on.

The good news is that Call of Pripyat is getting really great press in Germany and the various ex-Soviet states, where it's already out. Some have even gone so far as to say things like "GSC has finally gotten it right with this one."

So I'm excited.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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geggis
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November 12, 2009 - 2:47 pm
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Shit. That does sound positive. [Image Can Not Be Found]

Your review of Clear Sky was very insightful Steerpike and thanks for the info Helmut. Now I've got to stew on both and decide whether to venture into the zone again.

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Toger
Somewhere, out there...
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November 12, 2009 - 4:47 pm
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We're all about enabling others, here.

Powered by PMS ™

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geggis
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November 13, 2009 - 6:11 am
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Toger said:

We're all about enabling others, here.


Ooo, kinky. [Image Can Not Be Found]

(I've just realised I've used that smiley twice in the last two posts...)

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