Stalker: Call of Pripyat: the tension of nothing happening

, | Game diaries

Stalker Call of Pripyat is a gorgeous game. All the graphical elements are top-notch, but of particular note is the art direction, which evokes an incredibly bleak environment and still manages to be mysterious and beautiful at the same time. Sure, the grass sort of appears around you as you walk, and some of the objects in the world are a little chunky, but overall the game is totally gorgeous. Most importantly, it does a fantastic job of placing you in the blasted, worn out world of the Zone, making it feel lived in and picked over and rusted and real. It’s a gorgeous game.

After the jump, something may or may not happen

I poke my head into the crumbling remains of the Jupiter Plant, a huge building of indeterminate purpose. I’m looking for a way around the tall fences that surround the southwestern side, cutting off access to the one outbuilding I’ve yet to explore. A man back at Yanov Station can upgrade my weapons, but he needs fine tools to do the work. So I’m scouring this plant on a tip from another Stalker. He said the buildings around Jupiter may contain tools, but so far I’ve been completely stymied in my search.

The wind is blowing low and strong across the deserted buildings, and a heavy gray sky lowers over me, warning of rain. The sun disappeared hours ago, and I haven’t seen another human for a while. I’m lonely, and I’ve been out for too long. I also haven’t had to shoot anything in quite a while, and the tension is building. I’m expecting something to jump out and grab me at any minute. Isn’t that a rule in pacing? Lulls of inactivity lead to high-action sequences, made all the more intense by the calm of the moment before? This game is subverting the ‘rules’ in its core design: much of the wide world is simply there for me to explore; it’s not necessarily a location for a combat encounter or a story beat. It’s just…there.

And now I’m exploring and nothing is happening. But it’s still incredibly active, the moment of exploring this ruin. It’s totally engaging, and very, very tense. I’m fully engaged with it. The world is overwhelmingly immersive and beautifully rendered; I love being in the ruins, trudging along under the low gray sky, hunting awful creatures and twisted men across the desolate and devastated land. I’m finding myself imaginatively engaged in a way I haven’t been in ages, totally immersed in the world it’s presenting.

And this whole time, I’ve been looking forward to changing it.

Up next: it’s not gorgeous enough
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.