Stumbling through the thick brush, tripping over a log I glanced back and saw the bullets wiz past me. My breath was heavy as I struggled to keep a few steps ahead of them. Sliding behind some barrels, my mind frantically trying to figure out my next move.
Three bullets left, blood pouring from a gunshot wound, and at least three of them still chasing after me.
“God damnit, I could have avoided all of this,” I thought as I sat there, waiting, looking at the towering trees and leaves of the forrest wave through the sky.
Chernobylite by Polish developer The Farm 51 is a promising new sci-fi survival horror game housed in Chernobyl in the shattered and distant aftermath of the nuclear accident there in the 1980’s. One of the first things mentioned by one of the developers working on the game was the influence of titles like Stranger Things on its sci-fi influences.
While I didn’t get a super in-depth look at the more sci-fi aspects of the game, what I did see was intriguing in how it sought to tie the more outlandish and ethereal elements of Chernobylite story and left me very curious about the directions they could potentially take that story thread.
The biggest star of my demo though was the minute to minute gameplay and world of Chernobylite. As well as the varied and lost souls inhabiting it. Pain, remembrances of what once was, and in the case of the protagonist you play as, Igor, a desperate and determined effort to find your lost girlfriend Tatiana all filled up the world of Chernobylite and constantly kept me wanting to know and see more.
Igor’s quest to find Tatiana in particular, provided the biggest spark of excitement from the team. It had them bubbling over with excitement on the promise of that story. One of Farm 51’s co-founders went as far as to say that Igor and Tatiana’s story was the aspect of the game that he was most passionate about and that he thought was the games strongest feature.
I enjoyed the teases of what I saw with that, especially at the end of my demo where I was shown the bedroom of Igor, which functioned as both a place to rest and end the days events and also featured on the bedroom wall a giant board of the various clues and pieces of the puzzle of where Tatiana’s journey had taken her. Seeing the scope and size of everything and how much Chernobylite seems poised to become an investigative story set in a sci-fi nuclear landscape immediately sparked my interest and got my mind running with the different possible avenues for where that could take me.
Chernobylite also features a pretty robust base and squad system. From slowly clearing out and then sprucing up the compound where you and the de facto family that’s come together is housed. Managing to gather supplies, food, and medicine for everyone, sending actual members of your squad out on various missions to search for things or complete their objectives the game features what seems to be one of the most robust and thoughtful squad and base systems I’ve seen in a little bit. To say nothing of the fact that the people you are sending out are under the constant threat of perma-death. The added stakes and nature of this instantly add a certain level of fear and extra weight to each choice and mission selection. Do you go out on a highly risky dangerous mission but potentially reap the rewards of it, do you send one of the members of your group out on a high chance of success mission with little reward? The pros/cons, and decisions to be made all seem poised to add real weight to each choice that has to be made, particularly as time goes on, relationships are formed, connections and trust are built, and the stakes ratchet ever higher.
The comparison I formed in my mind was the multiplayer base system of the Last of Us fully built out into the actual main game itself.
Yet, the lasting memory and image of this game is still those furtive glances behind my shoulder. The dark and twisty dives into dilapidated and sunken former bases, caves, and relics of the former pre accident world. The lights shining through the trees, and the constant knock in the back of my head that every step into the world is the start of a timer before something snaps and bullets let loose, blood is spilled, and chaos explodes from seemingly nowhere.
Chernobylite still has its issues and problems, it is a very ambitious and epic appearing game and it is very easy to see a scenario where this game gets dwarfed and swallowed whole by those same ambitions and collapses under the weight. While enjoyable and pleasant enough to look at, it is hardly groundbreaking in either it’s graphical power or art style, both of which are reminiscent of most PS3 shooters. There is also the underlying fear that this game might well be just that, a very well made and impressive PS3 game released a decade too late. But the promise, ambitions, and ideas of Chernobylite, to say nothing of it’s spectacular and clever location and twist on it has stoked many ideas of what a Chernobylite where Farm 51 is able to pull off everything looks like. The entacing and exciting prospect of what this tiny Polish studio was got up its sleeves is just too good to pass up right now.