SoC - LURK 1.1 Mod Review
- LURK - a mod for Shadow Of Chernobyl that was promised to be created in a way to keep the original fantastic atmosphere and gameplay, but also add the maximum amount of new features without ruining that great atmosphere. Yet at the same time, LURK is known in the STALKER community as the "casual-trap" or a mod for hardcore STALKER fans. It is told to be the MISERY of Shadow Of Chernobyl. The most difficult mod I've played through right now on SoC was Zone Of Alienation, which was also one of the best mods for SoC. Let's see, how LURK competes against ZoA. As usual, I am playing it on Master difficuly, crosshair off and LURK version 1.1 - the newest one. You can download it from here: http://www.moddb.com/mods/lurk/downloads
- And so I started LURK, installation was easy - just drop the gamedata folder to STALKER folder and launch the game. The menu is nice and the menu music is calm and even somewhat atmospheric. Without any other annoyances, you spawn right in front of Sidorovich, ready to take on the car park mission. The first thing I noticed, were the new textures, great graphics and something that might be LURKs middle name - bloom. Oh dear how much bloom there is, but I myself didn't really mind the bloom. Actually, in my opinion, the bloom only adds to the Zones gloomy and dark atmosphere, especially when it rains ingame. Bloom might be nice, but I have mixed opinions about the new textures. I am not sure if it's me, but the face textures were rather ugly and the item textures in the inventory were even uglier and even pixelated. Other textures were great! Especially the nature textures. Graphically, I can say that the game had been made much more prettier like usual, but this time, I just loved to stare at the beautiful skies. LURK likes to show off the beautiful skies, but be sure not to stare the skies at night, because there is nothing to see at night, since the nights have been made COMPLETELY dark. You won't see nothing without the help of nightvision. Flashlight isn't much of a help, too, it helps only if you want to scare yourself, but if you get LURK, don't be a rookie and buy a bed to see the daylight again (yes, if you want to sleep, you need to talk to traders to buy beds), it is a great experience to advance at night.
- The next thing I noticed was the lack of HUD elements on the screen, since there were almost none. Only a microscopical compass, weapon stats and bullet count. I was a bit confused at first, since there was so much room on my screen with almost no HUD, but you'll get used to it pretty easily. With the HUD gone, you have to almost completely rely on your Zone knowledge to advance, which is easier for STALKER veterans but almost impossible for people new to STALKER.
- Now is a great moment to talk about something that the LURK team showed off on the mod's Moddb page - the new modified A.I. The team promised to give STALKER: SoC stealth AI, make NPCs cooperate much more and overall enhance the A.I. You'll notice the change very early in the game, right when you try to meet with Wolf's soldiers helping you rescue Nimble. Keyword: TRY to meet with the soldiers. The thing is, I couldn't even talk to the helpers since the mod adds long-sight to NPC's and they'll notice enemies from very far away, meaning they'll be too busy aiming at enemies. That is really strange, since even I couldn't see any enemies that my allies were magically trying to shoot. Were my allies using wallhacks? The long seeing NPC's can really ruin the atmosphere at times. For example, in Red Forest, all the loners were all aiming at the Monoliths at X10 ON THE OTHER SIDE OF A WALL. There are also times where some enemies can shoot through stone and kill you, my question is, how? About the teamwork of NPC-s, to be honest, I discovered no cases where NPC-s co-operated with each other. The only thing I did notice, is that if you sneaked through Red Forest without going on the road and accidentally shooting, then the Monolith soldiers start coming one by one to the site where I did the shot. Kind of funny, how they were all aiming at me at a few feet away and not shooting, but shooting me with an AK 47 from a few hundred meters away. The A.I wasn't great.
- Little talk about the technical side of the mod - general stability. No bigger complaints about the stability, since the game only crashed once, which isn't a bad thing, because mods can always make the games unstable at times. There were also some minor ammo loot issues, like soldiers having a .357 Magnum weapon, but the entire inventory is filled with .44 bullets. That happened about 10 times, so it wasn't a coincidence. I do have a bigger complaint about the psi-damage or more specifically how the game should gradually remove the damage. In LURK, the psi-damage didn't go away. You would consume as many consumables, sleep countless number of times or wait as long as possible, but the psi-damage wouldn't go away. This would become a great problem at Red Forest. Turns out that it is a game-breaking bug that the mod gave. If anyone gets the mod and wants to avoid problems at Red Forest, this thread has a post that helps you out http://www.moddb.com/mods/lurk/forum/thread/psi-damage-effects. Loadtimes were normal - not slow, but not very fast either.
- Everything comes down to one thing - general gameplay. Right off the bat, I'll say that LURK is not for casuals and it is definitely a mod to play through on maybe on a third or fourth playthrough. There are many gameplay elements that can make the gameplay for a newer STALKER player more frustrating such as little HUD elements, backpack limit of 35 KG, which requires a lot of thinking on how to manage with such little limit, extremely dark nights, that might require knowing the area and of course the way you heal and consume items. Instead of having the medkits insta-healing you, the health bar goes up slowly much like in Call Of Pripyat and when consuming items, it requires two-hands, meaning that you can't use weapons for a short amount of time after consuming something. I loved those tiny elements, that provided a huge challenge. One thing was annoying though - the way how the mod let you know that you are getting tired from running. The edges of the screen started getting darker when you start to get tired. The part I didn't like is that I didn't know, what that improvised? You don't squint your eyes in reality when you get tired. Another thing that I noticed, was that players could now do some stealth action and having your flashlight off actually helps you not get noticed. I discovered that at night when having nightvision on and moving slowly at the Wild Territory, all the mutants and enemies would just run past you. Either it's stealth or the bad A.I.
- The mod offers a great balanced economy, but it might give you a huge advantage by selling suits. (I shouldn't have said that). I also liked and disliked that artifacts are unusable now, only sold for profit and you now won't get any loot from wooden boxes, but loot from white metal boxes are much more common. I liked that, since who the hell hides goods in a weak and sturdy wooden box? The mod also overhauled almost all weapons and improved some animations, by making them smoother and much nicer! Last, but not least is how the mod induces atmosphere. I have to say, the mod did a great job on the atmosphere with the dynamic A-life and the graphics. I loved how NPC-s dragged dead bodies out of their area into a pile. Even pseudodogs dragged dead mutants away! Sadly after Red Forest, the atmosphere slowly starts to fade away, because you are too busy making plans on managing the inventory and dealing with the wallhacking A.I.
- In conclusion, I am not sure which mod was more difficult - Zone Of Alienation or LURK. I believe that both of those mods are on the same difficulty level and both are also very enjoyable mods. All those little new features and modifications in LURK, really did what the team promised to have - the original magnificent atmosphere and storyline with new enhancing features.
- 9.2 / 10 - LURK makes the way to the center of the Zone more thrilling, tougher, meaner, and blurrier.
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