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Everything we know about your return to The Zone in Stalker 2

(Image credit: GSC Gameworld)

After a number of false starts, Stalker 2 is officially on the way! The long-awaited follow-up to the dearly beloved (yet deeply flawed) Stalker trilogy will return players to The Zone, a heavily contaminated and extremely dangerous area surrounding the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

The first-person survival shooter series is known for its bleak atmosphere, terrifying monsters and mutants, and extremely unforgiving combat, and fans (including myself) have been waiting for a decade for the sequel that was originally announced in 2010.

Here's everything we know about Stalker 2.

(Image credit: GSC Gameworld)

What is Stalker 2's release date?

We don't know Stalker 2's release date yet—back in 2018, GSC Game World hinted it would be out in 2021, but we don't know if that's still the plan. The official site currently states "We are not ready to disclose the release date just yet."

We can probably assume it won't be out in 2020, but we don't know when Stalker 2 is coming out. 2021? 2022? Later? It's all guesswork, at this point.

Will Stalker 2 be on PC?

Yes! The Stalker series has always been on PC, but Stalker 2 is also a "console launch exclusive" on Xbox. That's a confusing phrase, but it doesn't mean PC players will have to wait. It just means PlayStation owners will be out of luck. Stalker 2's official site states the PC version will launch simultaneously with the Xbox version.

Here's the first Stalker 2 trailer

It's a teaser that "demonstrates the level of graphics and atmosphere we are aiming to achieve on release," according to GSC Game World. Which sounds like it's not actually taken from the game itself, which is being developed in the Unreal Engine.

But it definitely captures the mood or the original games (bleak af), and shows off several anomalies, the corrupted areas where the laws of physics have been dangerously twisted and valuable artifacts can be found. You can also catch a glimpse of Stalker's scary mutated dogs running in a pack at one point. 

And, of course, several Stalkers sitting around a fire while someone plays the guitar. Never change, Stalker.

There's a true open world this time

The maps of the earlier Stalker games were big—but they weren't entirely open worlds. While sizable, they were broken up into chunks and you were funneled through a few specific access points to travel between them.

Stalker 2 will officially be a seamless open world game. "For the first time in the series, the Zone will be yours to explore as a post-apocalyptic open-world—one of the biggest ones to date," says GSC Game World.

(Image credit: GSC Gameworld)

A-Life has been upgraded

There's a lot of simulation happening in Stalker games—members of the various human factions wander the Zone, same as you, and there are all sorts of mutants and creatures out there creeping around, too. 

These different entities clash and interact, even when you're not around to see it. In the previous games, a system called A-Life simulated the world and its inhabitants, and now A-Life 2.0 will do that in Stalker 2.

What is Stalker 2 about?

Not much about the story has been revealed, but the scenario sounds the same as the previous games.

"Bounty hunters delve deep into the Zone, driven by its treasures and mysteries. Some of them are running from their past, others are blinded by money, and some are obsessed with finding the truth behind all the mysteries."

The story will be non-linear, and GSC says "Your choices will influence both short-term consequences and global outcomes."

(Image credit: GSC Gameworld)

Do I have to play the other Stalker games before I play Stalker 2?

Yes, you do. That's not official, that's just my personal directive to you because two of the Stalker games (Shadow of Chernobyl and Call of Pripyat) are excellent.

If you want a second opinion, GSC Game World has its own answer to that question: Yes, you do.

"Stalker 2 is a standalone project that can be enjoyed on its own," it says on GSC's site. "At the same time, we recommend to complete the previous games for the maximum level of immersion."

So, yes. You do. You'd better get started.

Will Stalker 2 support modding?

The original Stalker series is kept fresh by a passionate and dedicated modding community. And GSC plans to support modders with Stalker 2 as well. "We're fully committed to make modding as simple as possible on day one."

Hey, what does STALKER stand for again?

Yep, the game is actually S.T.A.L.K.E.R., which is much peskier to type than Stalker. And the letters (supposedly, because the story is a bit complicated) stand for Scavengers, Trespassers, Adventurers, Loners, Killers, Explorers, and Robbers.

Which one will you be? Probably all of the above.

Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring stories in RPGs so he can make up his own.