When the Chernobylite Kickstarter went up, I was immediately curious. Much of my childhood has been spent in the wastelands of S.T.A.L.K.E.R and Fallout. And the game seemed to nail the atmosphere and aesthetics you look for in a game that many have since hailed as the spiritual successor to S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
Chernobylite is set in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, in an alternate outcome to the Chernobyl disaster, where a mysterious material called chernobylite allows manipulation of time and space. You play as Igor, a nuclear physicist who is looking for his long lost wife.
There are branching dialogues present, that affect the narrative in minor ways, but the developers have promised multiple endings based on your choices in the final game.
Overall the story as it stands is intriguing to say the least and haunting. As you roam the abandoned streets and corridors of Pripyat, Tatyana’s voice often recounts the life that you previously had. There’s also the Hawking Bridges that cleverly hide loading screens while also giving off bits of lore and background.
There are so many unexplained and bizarre things going on that I am really interested to see the outcome of these events. Not to mention, there’s a heist coming.
Although Chernobylite is still in early access, most of the base gameplay systems are in place. At its core, Chernobylite plays out like any other first-person shooter. You can navigate the world using stealth or shoot first talk later approach. There are also survival elements, and you have to scavenge for supplies, while also managing your radiation.
Chernobylite isn’t an open-world game and the transition from one area to another is done using a map where you can take on and assign missions to your fellow survivors. These areas are averagely sized and offer a good degree of freedom for the player to explore and scavenge for supplies that are scattered throughout the world.
You are not alone in the zone, and you will be able to recruit additional stalkers who can help you out by carrying out missions and bringing in supplies. Keep in mind, however, you will have to provide rations for everyone otherwise they might fall sick.
To survive the harsh conditions of the zone, you have to build and craft various items and gear as well as build up your base. But even building your base isn’t a straight forward affair as you have to keep in mind the comfort level, which can cause your fellow stalkers morales to drop.
Every day you can take on missions in the morning and afternoon, and then spend your evening in the shelter, talking with your companions and leveling up skills to help you survive better. Like I already said, you and your companions have basic needs that must be met if you don’t want them to get incapacitated.
Combat is mostly well done, and your average enemy ranges from the military to out of the world dimension-hopping nightmare creatures. There’s not a lot of variety in the enemies but they are well designed. AI, on the other hand, is a hit and miss, sometimes they act competent enough but at other times they completely derp out. I also have issues with Igor being able to tap out everyone in stealth mode so easily. Being able to just choke trained and armored men in seconds seems a bit odd and stealth game-breaking easy. Fortunately, the developers are aware of the difficult issues and have already issued a patch that addresses these concerns to some extent.
If there’s one word for the graphics in Chernobylite its gorgeous. The environments are beautifully detailed and accurately modeled.
What’s even more impressive is that the team has created a 3D scanned faithful representation of the real-world locations of Chernobyl which made me stop and look around, soaking in the atmosphere of the eerily abandoned locations that teemed with life decades ago.
Something I would like to point out, however, is that performance is a real issue. On my primary system – Ryzen 5 2600x, 16 GB RAM and 1070 I was able to run the game on high with the framerate averaging around 40 to the 60 FPS with heavy micro stuttering in some areas. On a slightly older card though, a GTX 970 the FPS absolutely tanked even on medium and low.
But since this is an early access title, and optimization has already been acknowledged and promised by the developers, this can be overlooked if you have a fairly good system and cannot wait to try out the game.
Although the game features both Russian and English voices, the English voices did not fit the tone nor the narrative so I switched to Russian, and was thoroughly impressed. I have to admit my understanding of Russian is non-existent but the voice actors have done a terrific job at portraying natural-sounding conversations. The exchanges between the characters played out how you would expect a normal conversation to happen, and not overexaggerated non-native voice acting pretending to be Russian.
There are tremendously well-done sound effects that really drive in the whole creepy atmosphere. Walking down abandoned houses, hearing the laughter of a child behind you, only to look back and seeing nothing does a better job and creating atmospheric horror than jumpscares ever can.
Unfortunately, just like its visuals, the audio in Chernobylite also happens to have some issues. I frequently found missing dialogue audio, missing effects, and low audio. Even though there has been a patch that claims to fix these issues has been released, I still suffered from audio trouble.
Despite some issues, Chernobylite is a really well-done game that does justice to both Kickstarter and Early Access. With its fantastic visuals and atmosphere, solid gameplay base and intriguing storyline, it’s definitely a must-have. The developers might certainly have their work cut out for them when it comes to optimizing the game, ironing out issues and improving the gameplay but with a strong start like this and their commitment to listening to the community, I have no issues recommending this to anyone looking to scratch their post-apocalyptic itch.