Anti-Valentine reviews PC games and writes about the video game industry.
Lost Alpha Developer's Cut
The original release of Lost Alpha in 2014 after the leaked beta was shaky. It was for the most part a buggy, unfinished mess of a game. Fast forward 3 years and some though, and the developer’s cut version of the game looks and plays quite a bit better. A lot of this is mainly down to mods, several of which are bundled with the officially supported Extended Pack, which adds new weapon models based off off STCoP and new NPC models as well as a whole host of others, most of which I can’t even remember.
The things that I found cringeworthy in the original LA are rectified in LA DC + EP. I can have Russian dialogue instead of English voice acting with dodgy accents, and you can now opt to have full body awareness too, so you’re not just a disembodied camera with arms. Vehicle handling and fuel efficiency has been fixed. And the game looks even prettier now than it did back then, with more realistic looking water. It’s still the best looking zone I’ve played in, and it might just be one of the best mods overall for the game, and the fact that it’s standalone just adds even more to its legitimate claim as one of the best stalker games around.
Some have criticised its story as straying too far afield from the original, and this may encourage others to rather try out other mods, some of which are also standalone, like Oblivion Lost Remake, which make use of the old build maps. I think if some mods were made to add some new side quests and even ones that are familiar from other Stalker mods, it might do some good instead of just embarking on the main storyline. Side quests tend to be quite few and repetitive at that.
Lost Alpha also has several graphics-related issues, some of which may be linked to shaders, and even though there are some easy yet temporary fixes, it would be great to get these bugs sorted out in future updates.
Old Good Stalker Evolution
This is yet another mod turned standalone game as of version 0.6.9.3. It is often regarded as merely a bugfixing mod, but it also adds a whole slew of features to the original game too, may of which can be tweaked from the included configuration launcher menu. So you can adjust the game to suit your play style.
It’s not the prettiest mod out there. It only really has some new character models. Besides that it’s kind of vanilla in the way it looks, although there have been a few changes in the 2.10 revised patch. It tends to focus more on gameplay, adding in some new quests. Not all of them are particularly well written, but they can lead to some interesting discoveries, like finding the cherubashaka – which is essentially a talking doll that has been left in an anomaly and can help you in specific quests in the zone.
Some regard such things as being rather silly, but other than that, it’s quite a polished stalker experience, though it still has a few bugs and crashes here and there. It’s still regarded as being one of the more stable mods available. It’s just a shame that the developers don’t plan on releasing new patches for it, although there is the Russian version 2.11 patch, or even the long awaited 2.12 patch that was talked about by one of the developers on the OGSE forum. One wonders if it’ll ever see the light of day though what with the team moving on to make OGSR.
SGM Lost Soul
This is one of the better mods for Call of Pripyat. It’s built upon the original SGM 2.2, which was criticised for its weak and inaccurate weapons, and overall average looks. Lost Soul includes Atmosfear 3, Absolute Nature 3, and has new an improved weapon animations and models.
The combat is supposedly a lot harder. My experience with it though is that it can be quite inconsistent. At some points, the game’s difficulty can be quite tough. At other points, the AI seems kind of stupid. I don’t know if this has anything to do with the AI patch that was released in 2017 as part of the repack edition of Lost Soul, but the mod was originally supposed to be a lot harder than that. At times this is still the case though. We’re talking one shot kills with a pistol – on the player, even with armour. This might seem a little cheap to some, which has had some avoid this mod entirely or stick with another version of SGM, of which there are several.
It’s a pretty good looking mod – I just wish that the NPC models were batter. They mostly just consist of pallete swaps, with different coloured outfits, but they still look blocky like in the original games. I still think it’s one of the better mods for CoP, because it adds maps from Clear Sky, like Cordon and Swamps/Marshes as well as others. In my opinion, most CoP mods can get rather boring, because they only really feature the same areas like Zaton and Jupiter.
This is one of the best looking mods I’ve seen for Shadow of Chernobyl. Besides the somewhat shaky launch, which has been rectified with patches, this mod is suprisingly well optimised. It runs well even on maximum graphical settings, which is unusual at least for me and my rig which, admittedly, certainly isn’t the best in the world. A lot of attention to detail has been applied, especially to structures and roads, and such, although the overall look and feel does look very good indeed. It uses Absolute Nature and Atmosfear.
The mod also has a collection of better looking NPC models, and new weapons by phorumer, the latter of which are included in the very impressive upcoming Shadow Of Chernobyl Redux mod. Some weapon models are from OWR 3.
Another thing that Amnesia does is it adds in new sounds as well as new music, both of which seem to fit the game nicely. Many of the ambient tracks are borrowed from various artists who have contributed to Cryo Chamber. This is something overlooked by most mods, which focus mainly on either looks or gameplay. This is mostly looks and sounds. The gameplay and storyline is pretty much the standard SoC experience. This might be a bit of a let down to some that want more out of their game, as there are no driveable vehicles like you would have in something like OGSE.
For a new mod out in 2017, it’s quite impressive. It’s just a shame that the developer doesn’t plan on releasing any new content or updates for it. It could have gone on to be even better. Clearly there are still issues with the game like CTD errors and things that affect gameplay like empty found stashes which does take away from the overall enjoyment and leaves a bitter taste in one's mouth -- that this is, and perhaps will remain an unfinished product.
This is quite an old mod. That much is telling in that it requires players to downgrade to SoC v 1.0004. But there seems to be a somewhat renewed appreciation for it, particularly among stalker fans who are looking for a good story mod.
There even exists a merge mod, which adds a whole slew of new weapons from various mods like AMK, Autumn Aurora and others to the game.
It’s not very good looking, especially the surrounds in the game, but it does have some new maps and character models, along with completely new quests and storyline, and once you get further in to the mod you’ll realise that new gameplay mechanics are present as well. Like the mod’s name would suggest, your main task as a photographer is to take pictures in order to document the zone.
The one criticism I have of this mod is that it can be kind of confusing and hard to know where to go and what to do. This mod doesn’t really spoon feed you much, but luckily there is a whole guide out there available with the english translation, also included with the merge mod version.
Another thing that I take issue with is the use of sound. The insertion of random sound effects that certain intervals just feels jarring. It isn't blended in nicely into the background ambience like one is used to with most Stalker game and mods. And the voice acting seems to consist of either badly voiced original audio, or poor quality samples taken from SoC.
Call of Chernobyl
If a more freeplay stalker experience is what you’re after, you’d still be hard pressed to beat CoC. There are plenty of addons for it, so you can customise the look, sound and gameplay to your heart’s content. The upcoming version 1.5 boasts even more content, weapons, and you still have a total of 32 maps from every stalker release (SoC, CS, and CoP) to play around in.
It doesn’t however, cater much to those looking for a good story. It’s very much a sandbox experience, which does tend to bore some people looking for more depth to their game. Some have described it as being nothing more than a faction wars type mod, basically like Clear Sky, but on a much larger scale and built in the CoP engine.
This is a quite promising new mod for Stalker: SoC. It looks pretty, it uses HD NPC models that were originally made for CoC, and it features a restored old storyline, but not the old build maps. It also has new weapons and and some impressive new particle effects, so that means lovely looking explosions and muzzle flash during combat.
In some ways it looks and sounds quite similar to Amnesia, and this should come as much of a surprise, as both have features from Autumn Aurora. It uses the same UI, has the same soundtrack, and it might be argued that if Amnesia were to be played with the dry nature addon, they would even look similar. Some argue that it is even as difficult as Amnesia, which is to say, moderate.
But Radiophobia differs in terms of gameplay and the weapon models are different from Amnesia too. Some have labelled it as looking and playing a bit like Misery, except it’s more forgiving. So if you want a Misery-esque experience but want it set in SoC and CS maps, and don’t want to play Call of Misery or Last Day, both of which are mods for Call of Chernobyl, which would otherwise cater to this desire apart from the absence of much in the way of story, then you might give Radiophobia a chance. It has the look and maybe even the feel without a lot of the suffering.
It might also be up your alley if you want an old storyline focused mod, without old build style gameplay that you would encounter in Lost Alpha and especially Oblivion Lost Remake.