Wait, really? Has it happened? Crap, I think it has: I’ve reached the point where I’m thinking more about other games than I am about this one. Damn. It’s not uncommon for me to become more interested in something else before I finish a particular game. My playing time is pretty limited these days, and once I feel like I’ve ‘gotten’ a game, it’s hard for me to keep playing it if there are newer, sexier, more interesting games available.
But I really want to finish this one. I want to put a bow on it and feel closure with my Stalker experience. But…when will closure come? It’s not like a book, where you can see you only have a hundred pages left. Games are pretty damn opaque, cues-wise. I’ve made it to Pripyat, the third (final?) area of the game, but have no way of knowing how much more game there is. My Steam game page says I’ve played for 16 hours (holy cow!), and that’s a bit less than the total time I’ve heard others report, so I should be wrapping it up soon. I think I’ll focus on critical path missions, and ignore side content.
After the jump, my issues are back
There’s a perfunctory-ness that comes with trying to wrap things up. I get less enjoyment out of the game systems, and have less patience for trying things over if I die. And I have less patience for the things that make this game what it is. There’s a fair amount of non-combat time in Stalker: Call of Pripyat. Lots of travelling, lots of nosing through ruins, lots of discovering artifacts, and a bit of bookkeeping: tasks like repairing and upgrading armor and weapons, selecting weapons for your loadout, and choosing which items to store in your personal stash and which ones to bring along. And now that I’m losing interest and imaginative engagement with the game, my patience for these non-combat, not-terribly-immersive tasks has dropped precipitously. Now they’re chores, when before they were essential (and welcome) moments of downtime between the ever-hectic and tense combat and scary exploration sections.
So maybe that’s a good indicator of flagging interest in a given game; when basic gameplay elements change from being engaging (or at least not onerous) to being chores. I hear people citing “chore-like” activities as being the downsides of various games like Oblivion and Far Cry 2. Too much driving, too much inventory management, too much travel. But in a game like Stalker, those elements are essential to the gameplay. They contribute to the overall sense of the world, the necessities within it, and the kind of pace and flavor the designers are trying to create. So I’d argue that many of these “chore-like” activities in games aren’t downsides. They’re part of the essential design, and contribute to the overall flow of the experience. And getting fed up with those things means one is getting fed up with the game, period.
Anyway, things have really started to move along now that I’m in Pripyat. There seem to be nearly no side missions, and a quick peek at GameFAQs shows me there’s not many story missions, either. And the last hour or so has borne that out, with story missions coming and going in quick succession. I think the game is nearly over, and I’m glad of it. It’s been a great place to explore, but my time in the Zone is over. It hasn’t overstayed its welcome, and that’s a rare thing these days.
Click here for the previous Stalker entry.
DoomMunky is also Mick, a theater and voiceover actor in the Bay Area. He bikes everywhere and recently became a pretty damn good pie maker.