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SoC - "Secret Trails 2" mod review

TheREVIEWER Apr 28th, 2013 2,032 Never
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  1. After a few months of playing STALKER, closing it in exhaustion, picking up another games and then playing STALKER again, I have finally played through "Secret Trails 2" and now am ready to give it a verdict.
  2.  "Secret Trails 2" is a Russian fan-made prequel mod for STALKER: Shadow Of Chernobyl. In this mod, you play Strelok, who came to visit the Zone with his brother. Strelok wakes up in Dead City without his brother and no idea what had happened to them. An old man saves him and from then on a long journey to find his brother begins. The mod adds a brand new plot, new and old characters, mutants, areas, weapons and introduces a new transition system. In order to get shortcuts to older areas or to visit new areas, you have to earn the transitions via quest-givers aka you have got to find "secret trails".
  3.  What makes up a great prequel plot, are connections and references to the sequel and giving new information about the story and setting whilst also staying true to the older game. "Secret Trails 2" executed the new plot just perfectly, letting you help Duty take over the Bar area, help Sidorovich get his bunker in Cordon and meeting Ghost, Fang and Doctor for the first time. The story kept me on the edge of my seat at all times and that's a big plus.
  4.  The graphics in "Secret Trails 2" were superb and crisp. The Zone was vivid and colorful and the skies were beautiful, although the weather transitions could have been done more properly. Some newer skins and models looked clunky, too, but nothing serious that could ruin the immersion. The new maps are also properly built to really look like the Zone!
  5.  The audio department of the mod was quite interesting. In some missions of the game, soundtracks were introduced. Sometimes they were a bit annoying, but usually the songs would fit the situation perfectly, like you would go zombie hunting with the Resident Evil theme playing on the background or killing some Mercenaries at the CNPP with Russian rock playing. Some new characters were also voice-acted in Russian.
  6.  If we are speaking of gameplay, the developers of the mod put a LOT of effort into gameplay and you can really see it when you play. For starters, the amount of connections between all the quests and all the scattered objectives is pretty mind-blowing. All the details were really well thought out, the dialogues (mostly) made sense, most of the missions were pretty exciting and the objectives were (mostly) diverse. This mod is also really difficult and not meant for beginner stalkers. You should have at least 5 playthroughs behind you before you begin this, because you will begin a journey that puts all stalker skills to the test. There was also the length of the mod which proved, that the developers had worked on the mod perhaps too much. It took me about 150 hours to play this mod through. 150 hours. This is a big problem for the quicker-paced stalkers. To play this mod, you really need to take a time off and take some time to concentrate, but the thing is, the mod won't let you. This mod has been developed so precise and linear, that there is no other option than to follow the game guide, thus also ruining the immersion. You might think that side-quests aren't required for the main plot nor the order of completing the side-quests isn't important, but it really is. The main storyline is really fragile to break. It doesn't help to calm your mind whilst playing the mod, that very many quest items you need to find are randomly spawned in some sort of wide area. It has taken me 1-2 hours to find some items and trust me - that is extremely frustrating.  Other than those major problems, the missions, as mentioned before, are mostly interesting and require thinking to solve. Although, during some parts of the game, you had to run errands from one area to another about 4-5 times - also really frustrating and annoying.
  7.  The mod also introduced new factions like the Wanderers, new artifacts, new mutants and new features. I loved that all guns have safety shifts now and how you can now see the actual rad levels you have when you have a dosimeter on your belt. The mod uses AMK as its base and the developers took great advantage of it, making you transmutate artifacts for quests and having your AMK transmissions go corrupt near the ending.
  8.  Speaking of the stability of the mod, I would go as far and call "Secret Trails 2" "pretty stable". The mod did crash about 10 times and seeing the mod lasted for 150 hours, 10 times is a very good result. The loadtimes were blazing fast and no game-breaking bugs were found throughout the game.
  9.  Overall, this mod is difficult and meant for advanced stalkers. This mod trains every aspect of a true stalker - knife skills, APC disabling, stamina, mutant hunting, artifact hunting, sneaking, long-range battles, short-range battles, grenade skills, STALKER "parkour" skills and survival. As a prequel, this mod is pretty fine, but as a hardcore mod, this mod is really great with only the tedious missions causing the long length of the mod and the frustrating item searching missions dumbing the mod down.
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  11. Graphics - 8.7 / 10
  12. Audio - 8.8 / 10
  13. Gameplay - 7.5 / 10
  14. Stability - 7.8 / 10
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  16. Overall - 8.6 / 10 - A hardcore fan-made prequel that should put every stalker to a serious very lengthy test.
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  18. The mod can be downloaded from http://depositfiles.com/files/hgx553cbt
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