Well firstly I must apologise. To say this review is over due is an understatement. I have had quite a few big life adjustments which has kept me side tracked. Once that all settled down though, I sank the time into Chernobylite that it deserved, which begs the question “is it worth it?”… yes! It was an Early Access title on Steam and got its full release at the end of July. By now I’d say we all know about the Chernobyl disaster and the many lingering effects that are still around to this day, and it has the potential for many game adaptions along with different genre options. In this case it opts for a first person shooter perspective with RPG elements and base building, and it does also involve character management. That said, it’s all very controllable and easy to do, with the RPG elements bringing nothing too complex, which is a good thing when mixing genres.
The moment you enter the world of Chernobylite you can tell a lot of attention has been paid to the environment and it’s a very close match to the real thing – like the empty buildings with furniture left in them along with children’s toys. The Farm 51 visited Chernobyl to get true reflections of the environment and they spent days at the exclusion zone understanding the look and feel of the abandoned city. The story is all about you, Igor, finding your partner who vanished 30 years ago, and on paper it sounds like many tales we have heard before. However, the game has other elements that come into play. Without getting into spoiler territory, there are spy aspects with the KGB, alternative realities at play, with the only constant being Igor as he searches for his partner, Tatyana. You will meet other characters on your way as you need to build up a base and a plan to carry out a heist to unveil the answers you’re looking for. A decent part of the game is managing them as you choose to learn new skills off them, or send them on missions to bring back resources. They may not always be successful mind as their gear will need managing, as will yours. This is where the RPG elements come into play more, but your decisions will impact the outcomes. Sometimes you might be asked to do something and may opt for a different path which the NPC may not agree with you on. Focussing on managing their inventory and keeping them fed is key as the healthier and better equipped they are brings with it a higher chance of success.
As Chernobylite is a survival game as well it needs to make the surviving parts manageable. In comes the PDA, the device that you’ll use often as it allows you to scan for resources and tell you how much radiation is around. If you’re needing herbs for example, then you can specifically scan for them, and it’s the same with electronic parts. Without doubt it’s the simplest yet best tool the game has. Offensive tools are also present as during your missions you will face enemies that have been impacted by the environment and more traditional enemy soldiers known as the N.A.R. If you want an all out gun fight you can, or it’s possible to opt for stealth. Either way, both are fun and neither are too challenging to pull off. The solders are easy to pick off even when they have decent armour. I usually suck at stealth play, though due to the games environmental design it makes it easy as there is always something nearby to hide behind. The soldiers are also handy for looting and it’s always worth picking them off for extra resources. Speaking of resources, you’re going to need somewhere to put all this and craft better gear. Chernobylite caters for that too as between missions you go back to your base and build it up. Friends will need beds so you better build them. Want to upgrade that armour or pistol? Then build the tools to do so. Every resource you collect goes towards this. It’s a necessary and fun part to play around with between missions. The building element also carries on within the missions itself as you can build items that will alter the environment if it has become too radiated, or if you need to craft a fire to make healing items as well as other objects.
The titular substance Chernobylite doesn’t just create a fancy name for the game, it facilitates a big part in how you play because it allows you to open worm holes. This is how you end every mission and return to base, and it also has the power to let you reverse a decision. Did you kill a NPC you later regret? Well go back and change it. You do have to die to do this, but because it’s a mechanic the game actively encourages, going gung-ho doesn’t feel like it has too much of detrimental effect. The transition between the missions and going back to your home base is jarring though, sometimes too much so. When you set out on your mission and it’s finished, you portal yourself back to base. It just feels odd as when exploring the the map for the missions it feels like they wanted to go open world and changed their mind. The outside environments are all beautifully crafted so in this case it’s a shame it didn’t stay open throughout. Despite the world being beautifully realised, it does have a slight sour point… it’s a bit dull by the end. Whilst it does try and vary the look, by the half way point I felt it was all very similar and I’d seen most of what there is on offer. Regarding the games gunplay, it’s certainly functional. In fact unlike most shooters I play I mostly used the pistol as it seemed good at stock level and more so once upgraded. The assault rifle is a standard affair, but what did disappoint was the shotgun – it feels like it barely does anything. This doesn’t impact the game of course in enough of a negative way, yet a shotgun should go with a bang.
One big element of praise for Chernobylite has to go to the voice work for each of the characters. I didn’t play it with English audio as I opted for subtitles with the Russian audio, and even though I don’t speak Russian it certainly sounded like they had it spot on. It’s also felt more fitting to play it with the original language given it is Chernobyl after all! There are also subtle aural notes throughout and some areas give off a spooky vibe, though it doesn’t lean into this that often, which is a shame as I think they could of had a lot of fun with this should they have wished to. With a decent runtime and multiple endings depending on the decisions made, there’s a decent depth to it as well. Whilst the game certainly seems to be inspired by Stalker, it does more than enough to stand out in its own right. That might be a good enough for some already, but as someone who didn’t ever really manage to get into Stalker, I can certainly recommend Chernobylite.
A Steam review code for Chernobylite was provided by All In! Games PR team, and the game is available now on Steam for around £24. A last gen PlayStation and Xbox version is in the works for release later this year, and a next gen version coming soon.