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This Russian retro-futurist survival game looks like STALKER and Tarkov's alien baby

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Pioner was first announced as in-development way back in 2017, though there were few details beyond some gun models and environments. Now the game, being worked on by GFA Games, has its first proper trailer and a tentative release window of late-2021/early-2022.

The genre is something of a mishmash of MMORPG and survival games and, going by some of the systems, Pioner's big influences are Escape from Tarkov and a pinch of STALKER. The setting seems especially inflected by the classic sci-fi novel Roadside Picnic: a Soviet island isolated by some sort of man-made anomaly, into which you and other players forage in search of treasures, information, and survivors.

GFA's blurb for the game mentions raids, allies, monsters, a home base that has to be protected from marauders, and most interestingly the ability to change and adapt your character's body. The trailer doesn't give much indication of what these kind of modifications may be, though it's clear that melee combat is obviously intended to play as big a role as guns. There's a crafting system, of course, and a big emphasis on customising weapons and keeping them in good repair. While players can explore solo, certain locations and enemies will require multiple players to work-together, and then there's the PvP element on top of that.

The game has a Russian website which throws up some real gems in google translate. "Perhaps the world has already died, and the surviving people are swarming on its remnants like maggots in a wound." Yeah! "The old rules don't work. The new rule is only one: the one who is better armed is right."

I for one cannot wait to launch the Soviet Union app on my retro-futuristic smartwatch.

Upcoming sci-fi MMOG Pioner.

(Image credit: GFA Games)

The developers also hosted a Q&A on the Russian website VK which contains some nuggets of information. GFA confirmed there will be several locations in the game, and that Pioner's world has a dynamic weather and time of day system which can be influenced by anomalies: "for example, in a second, from clear weather, it can become pouring rain, violent wind and hail."

The second half of Pioner's trailer is where the interesting stuff lies: more of a glimpse at this odd, slightly alien landscape, and the more science-fiction elements of the world. The lovingly-crafted retro Soviet aesthetic is also something special, with elements like the OS of your 'smartwatch' giving this a real sense of character. Heck, I even think the sinister Russian voiceover adds something. Pioner will be having a beta test before its full release, at which point we'll hopefully be able to report back from the zone ourselves, comrades.

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."