Review – Chernobylite
What happens when you take a survival game, horror title, first-person shooter, and combine it with a heist plot? You get Chernobylite, a mixture of a bunch of different genres that actually do manage to work together. First released in Early Access back in 2019 with a strong reception throughout most of its initial period, Chernobylite has finally been released into Version 1.0, so let’s take a look if it was worth the wait.
The game is set thirty years after the devastating Chernobyl incident. Pripyat is now occupied by a private military force known as the NAR, right when the mysterious element known as Chernobylite is discovered. You play as Igor, an physicist who has previously worked at the Chernobyl Power Plant, and an expert on the Chernobylite resource. He returns to Pripyat after finding evidence that his wife Tatyana, who went missing under mysterious circumstances, is still alive and being held at the reactor.
What ensues is an engaging and compelling story with plenty of twists and turns, going from more personal stories to espionage, and even delving into the supernatural, as Igor finds out the truth about Tatyana, the Chernobyl incident and the element Chernobylite; complete with its own dimension Igor can travel through. It does fall on the cheesy side at times, with some over-the-top voice acting and plot twists that were just a bit too predictable, but I really enjoyed the story regardless of these setbacks.
Whilst it’s a very story-driven game, just like Farm 51’s previous effort Get Even, the gameplay experience has been massively improved, which is good news, as Chernobylite is also significantly bigger in scope. The gunplay has been vastly tweaked, for instance. You can lean out of cover using the E and Q keys, allowing you to safety line up a headshot. Firefights are usually really short, thanks to the low amount time required to kill but this keeps every single encounter exciting. Outside of a couple of NAR soldier variations, you get a couple of Chernobylite-infected enemies known as Shadows and a completely underwhelming final boss fight. This makes Chernobylite feel a little bit samey, especially towards the end of its twenty hour campaign.
Shooting your way out of the problems is usually discouraged. Any enemy you kill will degrade Igor’s psyche, causing an annoying screen effect to appear and not much else. Thankfully, there are recipes you can craft which completely negate it. To be honest, much of the gameplay is actually designed to emphasise stealth, with basic line of sight and sound mechanics. It’s functional, but it doesn’t have enough depth to keep it engaging, especially later in the game, when the discouraged method, combat, becomes a much better option. The poor AI doesn’t help either, forgetting about you in a mere minute after losing sight, and not calling in backup making the penalty of getting caught fairly minimal. The best sections in Chernobylite are the more scripted moments where they throw more interesting scenarios at you.
Chernobylite takes places on smaller confined maps that you will be exploring on a daily basis. At the beginning of a new day at the base, you will send yourself and your allies to different areas around Pripyat to gather supplies and complete missions. These are split into main story missions and option supply sidequests. As such, you will be going through the same zones over and over again, but random events, weather and enemy positions can change your approach. Eventually, you will meet the Black Stalker, who becomes a much more persistent threat if you don’t craft certain items to counteract the growing spread of Chernobylite Storms and radiation.
The choices you make can will impact the world around you, as well as the story. Not many games make me ponder my choices as much as Chernobylite did, requiring you to balance your personal opinions with the relationship of your crew members. Often times, your team’s motivations are at odds with each other, so you will have to make some difficult choices to stay on everyone’s good side. There are also some really neat mechanics surrounding player choice that I won’t spoil here. It was also nice to see the game acknowledging my choices but I would have liked to have seen a bit more to the ending.
Back at your base, you will need to manage your comrades’ morale and overall health. Sending them out on missions can get them hurt, so it’s up to you to provide them with the necessary supplies to heal them. If you don’t, they will become increasingly unhappy with you, and you can potential lose them for the heist. There’s also the matter of crafting beds for your allies, as well as general comfort and radiation protection. You can also craft a variety of workshops to craft weapons, attachments and other resources you can use in the field. Unfortunately it’s not the deepest base building system, where the positioning of your base items doesn’t really matter.
Visually Chernobylite looks wonderful. With a stunning recreation of the Pripyat Exclusion Zone which the developers went into for photographs and 3D scans of the environment. The results are apparent with a atmospheric environment and plenty of details. It’s not perfect though with some rough textures and underwhelming effects during the big moments. Another neat element is the sound design, namely in the fact that you can play the entire game with Russian voice acting, which is easily the best way to experience this story.
Chernobylite is a wonderfully unique game with multiple gameplay elements that make it stand out rather than being dumped as just another post-apocalyptic survival game. It blends elements of survival, base building, choice-driven storytelling and a slight (and very welcoming) touch of horror for good measure. Even though it does have issues, namely when it comes to its repetitive gameplay loop and an uneven focus on stealth, I would highly recommend giving Chernobylite a shot. Na Zdorovie!
A great recreation of Pripyat that is let down by some rough textures.
Exploring the world of Chernobylite and uncovering its mysteries is fun, but it gets repetitive after a while. Its emphasis on stealth doesn’t always pay off.
All round, a pretty good sound design, just be sure to play in Russian for the best (and drunker) experience.
Fun Factor: 7.5
Chernobylite occasionally stumbles with a lack of variety and a repetitive gameplay loop, but it makes up for these setbacks with some strong storytelling and world building.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Chernobylite is available now on PC.
Reviewed on PC with an RTX 2060, Ryzen 5 3600X & 16GB RAM. Game installed on SSD
A copy of Chernobylite was provided by the publisher.