The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Series Guide

The Stalker Series Guide:  An intro to the series, gameplay tips, and mod suggestions


I'm sure that I'm not the only one that blew this game off with Shadow of Chernobyl sounding tacky and a little stupid. If we cared to dive in a little, we would have found that Chernobyl was just an excuse to use an even crazier idea. The Stalker series is more based off an old Tarkovsky film “Stalker” in which scouts named stalkers lead people in and out of an military restricted area where strange anomalies exist known as the Zone. Now add monsters, bandits, radioactive blowouts, Russian folk singing, and AK's galore and it sums up the game setting pretty well. While this just sounds like a bunch of fucking garbled ideas pulled from a hat, what made this game stand out was how the gameplay and setting worked hand in hand to create one of the most immersive experiences in first person shooters to this day.


NPCs take a load off. Here it is generally considered safe if you need to check your gear or heal up.

Through the different games, you are put in the shoes of a stalker in the middle of the very strange and dangerous Zone. While the plot is obviously different between the games, your missions end up navigating through the Zone in an open world structure. The Zone can be a scary place filled with all sorts of mutants and monsters, bandits, military patrols. Anomalies scattered around the area will do anything from shock you, suck you in to crush you, or send you up 30 feet in the air only to explode. The abandoned buildings and warped structures become challenges as well as you press towards your objectives or search for hidden caches. It all makes the idea of setting out at night a very serious choice. You are not alone in this world. Fellow stalkers and various factions also inhabit the Zone providing you safe havens and even escorts to different destinations. Sometimes they can even form protection around a campfire while a stalkers strums a Russian folk song from a guitar. Thanks to the A-Life engine, we can see these different things all work dynamically, and at times, very chaotically. It is not uncommon to watch a firefight break out between stalkers and bandits or watch a giant mutant boar drag a body behind a treeline.

Bloodsuckers in the dark are dangerous, but not even close to the scariest in the game.

This FPS also has it's own sets of rules should the player wisely follow. Don't expect to lug a ton of weapons and ammo like Doom. Everything has weight to include ammo and healing items and encumbrance affects movement speed. You don't want to be the guy running away from a pack of twenty dogs when your weapon jams only slow down to a crawl because of all the bandit AK's you tried to hoard. The bullet drop factors in firefights and makes firing from the hip worthless. Using your ironsights and cover is essential to staying healthy. If you go for cover, just keep in mind that thin metal and wood are not going to save your ass. You still need to manage your rest and food through it all. Did you think the Zone would be a roadside picnic?

Still interested now? Okay. Here we go.



Where to Start

It is usually recommended to go in release order from Shadow of Chernobyl, then Clear Sky, and then Call of Pripyat. Clear Sky is considered the weakest due to being less about survival and more action, but is fine in its own way. It is also important to get the games patched through your first run since the entire series has been notoriously buggy. It's also best to hold off on running mods your first go through the game. Get a feel for the vanilla game so you can see and appreciate the tweaks in the more popular mods.


Tips for Optimal Stalkin'

-Your first time out is going to be rough

This is what Stalker fans dub the “hobo phase” and is especially true when you play Shadow of Chernobyl. You start with a shitty pistol, a knife, a little bit of ammo, and some healing items. Your armor is nothing more than a bit a clothing and just about every NPC has better equipment than you. Then, the first mission you get involves taking down a bandit base. If you storm the buildings like an asshole, you will get killed really quick and have to restart the game since you probably didn't save. Make sure you save often, utilize cover, and loot any better equipment you can find. Stick with it until you reach the 100 Rad Bar where you should have solid gear and access to high end weapons.

-Carry light and only the essentials.

Everything has weight from the weapons you carry, the health items you use, and the ammo you need. This affects your stamina and your ability to run. Try not to hoard, but if you do, make sure you trade with random NPCs to stock up of health items and cash.

-Stalker means scout

You can equip binoculars for a reason. Don't rush into an open area blindly without doing some recon first. Anamolies are everywhere and many are invisible. You can equip bolts to throw to detect them and set them off.

You see the sky turn red and the sirens going off, you better get your ass inside a strong building fucking quickly.

-Weapons degrade and sometimes jam

The more use you get out of your weapons, the more likely they are to become less reliable. Jamming and misfires are dangerous in the games. Usually reloading takes care of it, but is very risky in the middle of a firefight. In Clear Sky and Call of Pripyat, make sure that you regularly repair your weapons and gears. It's tougher to deal with in Shadow of Chernobyl with the best option is to just replace a broken weapon since technicians and repair kits are out unless you are running mods.

-Going out at night is hard mode

Don't do it unless you get nightvision. You start with a small flashlight that works well indoors, but not so great roaming the Zone. It may be best for you to rest up until morning for important missions outdoors.

-Play on master difficulty for the best experience

In some sort of weird ass-backwards way, the higher difficulty means the more accurate your weapons are. This works for enemies. Firefights become deadlier, but almost fair. It becomes essential to use cover and lean in engagements to stay healthy. Overall, the Zone becomes tougher but a lot more fun and immersive.


Mod Choices

If you still want more out of Stalker, there are tons of mods that do everything from change the HUD to complete gameplay overhauls. Be warned that most of the mods for Shadow of Chernobyl require you to downgrade your version to 1.004 which can be a huge headache. Here are some of the most popular.


Avoid if you can. While the game touts several bug fixes, it also increases the accuracy of weapons, making it a much easier game. If you can't get the patched game to work, use this as a last resort.

Misery 1.2-

This mod creates a much tougher experience aimed at creating a sense of realism. With a wealth of changes like graphics, difficulty, touched up audio, and bugfixes, this mod stands as a huge overhaul. Just avoid version 2.0 since many of those tweaks are nonsensical.

Zone of Alienation-

This is pure Stalker chaos and considered tougher than almost all other mods. Used as a variation of AMK which is considered the best Stalker mod made, ZoA has increased difficulty, as well as numerous gameplay changes like having to load ammo into magazines, an enhanced weather system, and tweaks to survival.

The Lost Alpha-

This is a complete stand-alone version of Shadow of Chernobyl. It has enough gameplay changes to be refreshing to lost looking for another romp in the zone. What was disappointing to most was the lack of A-life, but hey, it's still pretty good on it's own. Pick up if you are interested in huge map changes or want to experience the Zone for free.

Autumn Aurora 2-

This mainly graphical mod changes the colors and textures to create a more autumn feel. The weather system is absolutely beautiful and it is very impressive to see the shaping clouds create an even more oppressive environment.

You can pick up the following mods and many others at the links below-

Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl Part 1 Part 2

Stalker: Clear Sky Part 1

Stalker: Call of Pripyot Part 1 Part 2


Editors Note-  A special thank you to the guys at /vg/ for putting together their  excellent guides, the modding community for keeping the game alive, and fellow stalkers keeping the community strong.