Aired earlier this year, Chernobyl is a wildly popular TV dramatisation of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in Pripyat, Ukraine. The disaster has served as inspiration for countless documentaries, films and videogames: the S.T.A.L.K.E.R series comes immediately to mind, and more recently Chernobylite (which hits Early Access this month) is a survival game set in the exclusion zone.
The popularity of the TV series has definitely resonated with game studios: there are three games with the name ‘Chernobyl’ in their title already released in 2019, and two more forthcoming. That’s not even including Chernobylite, nor is it including stuff like Fear The Wolves (an FPS set in the exclusion zone), or this Bus Driver Simulator 2019 DLC, which adds a bus used to evacuate people from the exclusion zone.
Whatever the case, releasing a game with ‘Chernobyl’ in its title seems like a fairly canny business move in 2019. Chernobyl: Road of Death is a top-down shooter with roguelike elements. It’s set in the exclusion zone, and the premise is pretty straightforward: you’re part of a special team tasked with preventing another disaster. In addition to mutants, you’ll face off against foreign military trying to steal “secret documents” from the zone. Oh, and of course, radiation. That’s where the game’s survival elements come in.
Chernobyl: Road of Death released on Friday. A mere two days later, Chernobyl: The Untold Story released. This one has fared better on Steam - it’s got 178 ‘Mostly Positive’ reviews at the time of writing, which is a pretty good effort for a studio called Mehsoft. The premise sounds a lot more interesting, too: it’s a gallery shooter with isometric exploration, but the narrative seems to wend closer to psychological drama rather than the rote mutant-horror a lot of these games trade in.
Perhaps neither Chernobyl: Road of Death or Chernobyl: The Untold Story appeal to you. Perhaps instead, you’d like to try Escape from Chernobyl? This is an escape room game with all the trappings that entails: static screens laden with points of interest and leavened with puzzle-solving. You’ll need to move through the exclusion zone towards a secret laboratory deep beneath the power plant. Which sounds dangerous. Thankfully, this is an escape room game, so you can take your sweet time.
The Chernobyl game train will not stop: both Chernobyl Liquidators Simulator and Chernobyl: History of Nuclear Disaster are both “coming soon” to Steam. As the name implies, the former is all about helping survivors and containing radiation in the exclusion zone. It actually looks like it could be great: the Steam page promises there will be no scraps with mutants and monsters, and that it’s a “realistic take on the disaster”. Of all the 2019 Chernobyl games on Steam, this is definitely the most interesting.
As for Chernobyl: History of Nuclear Disaster, it too includes sequences experienced from the liquidators’ perspectives. The graphics look a bit rough around the edge, to say the least, but it’s still too early to judge. One thing is absolutely certain, though: if you’re after a game - any game - with Chernobyl in its title, Steam definitely has you sorted. Or perhaps you're after an Area 51 themed game? There are 51 and counting of those.