Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
I imagine people have heard of the most tragic and biggest Nuclear disaster to ever happen on earth. Back in 1986, Chernobyl created a chain of events, all due to a safety test gone wrong. That lead to the explosion of power plant No.4 and destroyed and altered the lives of thousands of people living and/or working nearby. This game takes you deep into the heart of Chernobyl, but not everyone who survived the event remained human. Join me as I explain how a man named Igor struggles to survive in this radiation filled environment of war, sickness, mutation and time.
Chernobylite is set in the Chernobyl Exclusive Zone in Ukraine, forcing you to use what little resources you have to survive this radioactive wasteland to find your beloved. It is currently available on the PC, but is scheduled to release on Xbox One and PS4 in September and to other consoles later this year.
You play as our protagonist, professor Igor Khymynuk, who is searching for his missing wife Tatyana. They were once residents of Chernobyl, working as scientists, before the plant explosion. During the events of the blast, a mysterious ore known as Chernobylite created a strange chain reaction that not only caused radioactive pollution, but opened strange wormholes throughout the area. Igor believes that his wife was sucked into one of these warps and is trapped in limbo. With his hired team of professionals he braves the unstable, deadly environment in hopes that he can find her again. However, he will have to face rogue individuals, soldiers and other unknown, distorted and deformed, creatures that stalk the land if he wishes to succeed.
In this game it’s all about survival and there are multiple factors that you’ll have to familiarize yourself with as the game progresses. To me, this game reminds of how ‘The Last of Us’ plays in a way. You’ll wonder area that are either deserted or unstable, trying to scrounge up food, resources, ammunition, clues or even people. Together, you’ll have to build a small populace in order to achieve trust and power if Igor is going to continue his search for his wife in this dangerous environment.
At the start of the game your teammates hand over a device called an Environmental Analyzer. This gadget helps you locate resources when you’re out in the field. It can locate specific items like Herbs, Food, Oil or other valuable materials by shifting it to a singular setting if you’re looking to gather that one item you need to stock up on, or you can set it to track all item classes at once by selecting the ‘Other’ option. I find that this is the setting I use the most since I tend to collect anything that’s nearby around me. Not only can it locate resources, but it can detect the rise of any radiation nearby. Any human or creature near you will set off the scanner, giving you a nice heads up that something is nearby, but it won’t really point you in which direction it’s coming from. It will also pick up on a cluster of Chernobylite Ore, high radiation fumes and poisonous bodies of water. So make sure to always keep on eye on your scanner. If you find you’re walking into a high level radiation field you can craft a gas mask to help lessen the effects it has on your body, but it will require you to also have filters on hand, since it drains it quickly.
In order to craft anything you’ll need materials, which you can collect by scavenging the areas you visit throughout the game. Some are easy to spot and will light up once you’re staring straight at it or standing near it, others you’ll need to use your scanner tool to help locate specific ingredients or items. Not all items are easy to get to. Sometimes you might have to trigger certain events or fight (or sneak by) enemies that tend to be blocking a room full of goodies, which usually result in either a large collection of material or even rare items.
In this game you have to make everything from scratch in order to make it or break it in Chernobyl. Good news for us since Igor is quite the tinker bug. First up. you’ll require a crafting bench in order to work on anything. Once that’s built you’ll have everything at your disposal to craft. Health, boosters, weapons, furniture, ammunition, armor, and many other useful items. Igor can also craft off camp, but his crafting is minimized to just the basics: healing kits, ammo and mechanisms that can help distract your enemy if you wish to make a quick getaway.
The game decides to give you a place to relax, refresh and reorganize after every mission. This is a nice breath of fresh air when you’re running low on health, psyche and supplies. It’s also yours to do absolutely anything you want with. It’s home. And with that Igor is allowed to express his creative kink and feng-shui in his living environment however he (You) wants. Again, resources are required to build anything in your base, so gather as much as you can with each mission you embark on. You’ll be able to open your building menu anytime you’re inside the camp, where you can select between different categories of crafting. You can build furniture, crafting stations, gardens and other useful necessities. Please note that as you build things you’ll also have to watch how much power each thing may absorb or how much pollution they may cause in the air quality. This will prompt you to build multiple Generators and Air Purifiers to counter-balance each other. But it can be a bit of a vicious circle, with each bulky generator and purifier you make the lower your comfort goes down. Nobody wants to hear low noisy machines. They do provide a chart in the building menu to help keep you up to speed on what each item you build will affect which area in your base. Power, Air Quality and Comfort are always your top priorities.
However, Igor isn’t the only one you have to keep happy in the base. The other base members will need to feel ‘At Home’ and are looking to you to provide them with all their comforting needs. If you neglect to keep your base ‘Healthy’ you may wake up and find that some of your followers have left you. The base will also have a separate room for Igor to relax in. You can investigate the clues he’s found during his travels, that are kept well organized on a bulletin board in his bedroom. You can rest at his bed and jump to the next day. (Note: The game will give you a warning if people in the base are unhappy, giving you a chance to either ignore it and suffer the consequences of loss or spend some extra quality time and get to know and help the others when they need it). There is also another bulletin board that is connected to the main story of the game called ‘The Heist’. This board will only activate once you have a significant amount of clues and the proper team members required to help you.
Missions are provided to you on a daily basis at the start of each new day. They are accessible at the viewing point in your base and range between normal supply runs to digging up information and tracking down targets. Each mission will have on icon displayed in the corner to indicate the type you’ll be dealing with: food drop off, ammunition run, ration pick-up and so on and so forth. Others, with a bit more seriousness to them, will have a color marker. Indicating that they are points of interest that may help you uncover details about Tatyana(Wifey), locating traitors or snitches and/or recruiting helpful allies.
These tasks can be divided among you and your camp-mates. While you’re taking on more dangerous missions, maybe send a few of the newbies you picked up earlier to scout the areas for resources and food. You can also observe the condition of each Zone area when the missions menu appears. They will be highlighted in different colors depending on their difficulty and/or how high the radiation has spiked in the area. Green means good, yellow for caution and red for dangerous. If you find you need to enter an area with a high danger rating, don’t panic. You can lessen the effect of the pollution in the area by crafting an anti-radioactive distributor. This will help clear the high hazardous effect it has in the Zone, but be warned. If you build this out in the open, both monsters or soldiers will attempt to demolish it. It’s best to build it away from prying eyes.
When you’ve selected which mission you wish to focus on you’ll use your handy-dandy wormhole making machine to teleport you to the area. This machine is always with you so at any given time you feel like you have to return to base, just pull it out and activate it. Once it’s activated you won’t be able to return so make sure you got what you came for.
Once you step foot in and begin the mission you’ll notice a type of tracking ledger at the top of your screen. This will pin point your main objective as well as other points of interest on the map. Be careful though because they may be guarded by NAR soldiers or strong creatures. Some areas will even be locked off, but if you’ve crafted some lock-picks ahead of time you’ll have no problems getting in.
Once you find that your mission was a success, return to camp, and you’ll have access to the reward table. Here you’ll see how you and your camp-mates fair throughout your travels. Most of the time everyone comes back alive and full of new goodies, but if you’re not careful and send someone who’s not mentally or physically ready, they’ll come back empty handed or injured. Possibly even kidnapped or killed. That’s why at the end of each mission it’s up to you to feed your teammates. The more people in your camp the more mouths you’ll have to feed, which in turn means more food ration runs. So make sure to balance out how much food everyone will intake. If you’re high in supply and you can feed every at once, great! However, if you’re running low on stock you’ll have to sacrifice either your well-being over others or vice versa. Not being able to feed individuals will drop your camps morale, so make sure to keep on top of things.
The combat in this game has elements of stealth and precision. You can choose to fight more on the offensive or defensive side. For my approach, I chose to stay hidden and out of sight in order to preserve supplies and ammo. If I ever found myself stuck in a corner with enemies then everything I’ve saved up until then will come in handy. Having extra stuff in your pockets can also be useful when you come across traders. They may have things that catch your eyes. However if you’re the type to run in, guns-a-blazin’ then I suggest you upgrade your weapon and armor to the best of their ability. When you’re low on ammunition after notifying the entire squadron of your presence, you’re gonna be thankful you made that heavy-duty armor plate and gas mask before you left home (Base camp).
The game does a good job at using the environment to your characters advantage. Hiding behind a bush will lower your chances of being seen or even help give you cover from being chased. However, once you’ve been discovered by the enemies you’ll enter a phase where a timer will appear on your screen, showing the amount of time you have before back-up arrives, or how much time you have left before the enemy will give-up chasing you. Your actions will change the outcome of the timer. If you’re trying to stealth your way around enemies, you’re screen will provide you with a warning when someone or something is looking in your direction. For human bad guys your indicator will glow yellow. The more intense the color of the indicator, the more visible to them you appear. Stepping out of their line of site will make the indicator disappear. Same goes for the Shadow monsters, however their indicator will be colored red.
Sound is also a dangerous factor that can get you in trouble. Opening doors, walking through water, falling from high places or just straight up running will cause sound to travel a great distance in this game, and will notify the enemies of your presence. I tend to walk and crouch throughout most of my missions. But if you’re lucky sometimes the weather will be on your side: rainy days are your friends and you should make sure to pay attention when they visit. This weather condition is a BIG help in keeping the noises you make to a minimum. Stealth-ops seal of approval over here.
You can customize your equipment, which is only available to you in your base and, with the right amount of resources, you can power-up your weapon with better stats. Each time you decide to upgrade your equipment your weapons current stats will be showing. When you hover over the section you wish to improve you’ll be able to see the different stats and effects that the new part will provide before customizing it. Will you optimize for more firepower over the loss of reload speed, or go for quick and accurate shots at the cost of power? The choice is yours. The game also provides you with a dodge feature, but I found that I never really use it since it has never saved me once from a combat situation.
Guess what? You have skill points you can spend in this game, and the best way to round them up is by exploring or crafting. For every item you build you’re given some points. These points can also be found when finding clues, saving individuals or even picking up materials. You’ll have a points bar that sits on-screen for you to observe. Once you build up enough points you can spend them training with Olivier (Your hired help). These training sessions will help increase your stealth performance, take down enemies, and even steel your psyche when having to unleash a killing blow.
You won’t be able to find your lovely wife on your own, and that’s why you must head out into dangerous territory and recruit others to aid you. It won’t be a simple task as each person you have a possibility to recruit come with an added mission. If you can help them on their mission, then in return they will offer their help and join you back at the base. Sometimes it may require you to go on several mission before you gain their trust.
I won’t lie, I didn’t think this game would live up to my standards in what I find ‘Fun’ in most games I play. However, I was pleasantly blown away by how detailed and crisp the environment look in this game. Each mission zone looks to be captured in a overgrowth of plantation, thanks to the area being almost Nigh-inhabitable due to the pollution and radiation, but it’s breathtaking to see how picturesque each zone is. Even though abandoned areas tend to bring in a creepy and unsettling atmosphere to them, it can also show you the beauty of what nature can do to a once thriving human-run Eco-system. There where times I would stop and just take in the surreal imagery the game would present to me. Then I would scurry to the nearest bush to hide from incoming monsters and soldiers that patrol the land.
To conclude, Chernobylite is a game that ended up surprising me. It kept me engaged with how much stuff there was to do and the people I needed to handle, manage, and care for. It gives you control over every decision you make. You may come across tough situations where you might end up losing trust in certain team members by helping a wounded soldier, but even helping a bloodied soldier who works for the enemy may end up helping you sometime down the road.
The game’s not overly scary where you have to keep a light on in your room, but the handful of jump scares and creepy enemy designs will make your heart race from time-to-time. If you’re looking for something that’ll keep you engaged and engrossed in the story and game-play, then this game is for you. I’m giving Chernobylite a 8.5 out of 10 for being an absolute delight to experience.Score: 8.5 / 10