Survival is difficult enough as it is, but doing so within the heavily irradiated grounds of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone? That’s a whole different kettle of fish, and you don’t even have a kettle in Chernobylite. Or, indeed, any fish. And you’re also able to open wormholes and travel through time in order to change the past and undo decisions you’ve made, which kinda helps with the whole “surviving” thing.
What of the core game? It’s rather spectacular to look at, in a “desolate remains of the fallen Soviet empire” sort of way. The graphics are rather gorgeous and the whole thing runs as smooth as butter; we never noticed any performance problems or frame drops in our hours within the Exclusion Zone — the usually-omnipresent and slightly offensive complaint of “Eurojank” is very much subverted.
Building up your base, recruiting new comrades to your cause, and sending them out on expeditions to get more resources is all good stuff. The combat, sadly, is somewhat poor: guns feel lightweight and ineffective, inaccurate. There’s just too much fiddling involved and enemies can use this time to get up in your grill.
Thankfully, intended to be played as a stealth game, but it’s a difficult one: enemies have long, more realistic lines of sight. This makes any execution you manage to achieve all the more satisfying.
There’s an enormous amount to like here. It’s all very well designed and the central systems are all flexible and functional. And its story is bolstered by some terrific voice acting in English. The scavenging is relatively effortless, but can occasionally feel a little cookie-cutter in its “scan the area, real fungus, go get fungus” style.
Despite this occasional lapse, Chernobylite manages to stand out with a brace of compelling mechanics, elements of horror, and some deft storytelling. Don’t ignore this one.