S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a series of first-person shooter survival horror video games developed in Kiev by Ukrainian video game developer GSC Game World for Microsoft Windows. The games are set in the area surrounding the Chernobyl disaster site, colloquially known as the Zone, in an alternative reality where a second explosion occurs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant some time after the first and causes strange changes in the area around it.
Based loosely on the novel Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky and film of the same name, Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games take place within the Zone, an alternate history version of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. In the world of the games, experimental labs were made in the Exclusion Zone which allowed scientists to experiment with psychic abilities which arose following the disaster. Their experimentation resulted in a second disaster, causing physical and meteorological phenomena to manifest throughout the Zone, as well as the mutation of fauna and some humans. The Zone is littered with such anomalies: hazardous entities which seemingly defy physics, having various effects on any object entering them.
Anomalies also often produce items known as artifacts, objects with special physical properties such as anti-gravity, or absorbing radiation. People known as stalkers enter the Zone in hopes of finding such items for personal financial gain. While a great number of stalkers work alone, various factions populate the Zone, each with their own philosophies and goals. For example, the Duty faction believe that the Zone is the greatest threat to humanity on the planet and are intent on destroying it by any means possible; by contrast, the Freedom faction believe the Zone should be accessible to all.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine maintain a cordon around the Zone, attempting to prevent any unauthorised personnel from entering. Additionally, Ukrainian Spetsnaz units routinely conduct special operations within the Zone such as surgical strikes on stalkers or to secure specific targets. Other hostile entities within the Zone include humans and other creatures mutated following the two disasters, many of them possessing aggressive psionic abilities.
The protagonists of each game have their own goals separate to those of the various factions, however they are presented opportunities to aid in the plans of others. Generally, the ultimate objective of each game involves reaching the centre of the Zone, a task complicated by the various threats and hazards present therein.
2.1. Plot Shadow of Chernobyl 2007
In the first game of the series, the player takes on the role of an amnesiac stalker referred to as the "Marked One", who is tasked with killing another stalker named Strelok. During the course of the game, the protagonist uncovers clues to his past and true identity while helping other stalkers and fighting the mutated creatures that inhabit the Zone. Shadow of Chernobyl features multiple endings, all of which are dependent on multiple controllable factors, such as money earned during the game, or how much of the protagonists memory was pieced together.
2.2. Plot Clear Sky 2008
Clear Sky, the second game released of the series, is a prequel to Shadow of Chernobyl. The player assumes the role of Scar, a veteran mercenary. The lone survivor following a huge energy emission he was caught in while guiding a group of scientists through the Zone, he is rescued by and works with Clear Sky, a faction dedicated to researching and understanding the nature of the Zone. Throughout the game, the player can choose to have Scar side with or against certain factions in the area to help achieve Clear Skys goal.
2.3. Plot Call of Pripyat 2009
The third game in the series, Call of Pripyat takes place shortly after the events of Shadow of Chernobyl. Having discovered the open path to the center of the Zone, the government decides to take control of it via "Operation Fairway", in which they plan to thoroughly investigate the territory before dispatching the main military force. Despite these preparations, the military operation fails, with all helicopters crashing. In order to determine the cause of the crashes, the Security Service of Ukraine sends former stalker Major Alexander Degtyarev into the Zone.
3. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was announced in August 2010, with an initial release date scheduled for 2012. Sergiy Grygorovych, CEO of GSC Game World, specified that the video game featured a completely new multi-platform engine, written by GSC itself. On 23 December 2011, GSC Game World announced they would be continuing development of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, despite an earlier announcement pointing to its cancellation. However, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was cancelled yet again by GSC Game World through a Twitter post on 25 April 2012.
Development of a new S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was announced on 15 May 2018 with a post on the Cossacks 3 Facebook page. The post links to a site that displays the text "S.T.A.L.K.E.R.2 126.96.36.199", implying a planned release year of 2021 powered by the Unreal Engine 4. In May 2018, Sergey Galyonkin, the creator of Steam Spy, tweeted that GSC Game World would create a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, using Unreal Engine 4. Shortly the GSC website mentioned that the company was working on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, and a teaser website appeared mentioning the release date of 2021. It was suggested that the game was still in the design phase, and was announced just before E3 2018 so it could find a publisher.
4. Related games
Metro, another series of Ukrainian first-person shooter games based on Russian post-apocalyptic science fiction literature, was created by some ex-members of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. development team who have left to form 4A Games in 2006 before the release of Shadow of Chernobyl.
The former S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 team opened a new studio, Vostok Games, in 2012. In 2015, they released a free-to-play massively multiplayer online first-person shooter game titled Survarium in the spirit of the franchise, using ideas they created for the cancelled sequel. Their new project is a battle royale game set in Chernobyl, titled Fear the Wolves.
In 2014, West-Games, which claimed to be composed of former S.T.A.L.K.E.R. core developers according to both GSC Game World and Vostok Games, falsely launched a Kickstarter campaign for a spiritual successor to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. called first Areal and then STALKER Apocalypse. While it managed to reach its goal of $50.000, multiple concerns were raised throughout the campaign about the project being a possible scam, and Kickstarter eventually suspended the campaign two days before its deadline, for undisclosed reasons.
In 2019, Alexey Sityanov, former game designer and story writer of Shadow of Chernobyl, Survarium and Sketch Tales, teamed up with The Farm 51 for a story construction for their Kickstarter project, Chernobylite. The game was fairly as same as most S.T.A.L.K.E.R. type of games, and the theme are mainly about S.T.A.L.K.E.R., but came in different approach of environment, which is based on the real exclusion zone of Chernobyl environment by using photogrammetry measurements. A new character of a S.T.A.L.K.E.R introduced in the game as antagonist, dubbed as Black Stalker. Chernobylite released the first early access version of the game in late 16 October 2019 on Steam.