Reviewed by Amanda “MandalaaXO” Van Parys
According to their website, Chernobylite is a science fiction RPG survival open-world game developed by The Farm 51 and published by All in! Games. You play as a physicist who used to work in the Chernobyl Power Plant, as he enters the mysterious and dangerous contamination zone of Chernobyl.
With that being said, Chernobylite is actually a wonky eurojank survival horror game that really grows on you. Despite its steep learning curve—especially for someone without much experience in the genre—once you accept that Chernobylite is confusing as hell, you can get down to the basics and really let the tone, atmosphere, and eeriness guide you on a journey through the destruction and forests of Chernobyl.
Right off the bat, the controls were super heavy, I had to go into the menus and max the sensitivity so I didn’t feel like I was moving through molasses. I also quickly found out (after I immediately died upon my first encounter with ghosts) that you cannot shoot without aiming, which, might I add, is extremely frustrating if you just want to get in a quick shot and also be able to move around quickly when you’re surrounded. Silent takedowns are also nearly useless as multiple enemies are rarely far enough from each other to be unnoticed and even if they are, the enemies are so close that they discover the body within a mere minute or so anyway.
The quick controls are messy. When you select the item you want from your quick controls, nothing tells you what it is or how much it will help/heal you and you have to go into your inventory to see what they are—but you will also not find out how much they will heal you. Along the same line as healing, I was confused about when the border went black and glowing green, you’d think it’s radiation poisoning, but no, it’s your “psyche” which goes down the more people you kill (to replenish, by the way, you need to drink alcohol).
The building system is intense and doesn’t hold your hand (nor does any part of this game, to be honest). It doesn’t let you know, for example, what is more important than other things to build. You can easily waste resources building something you really don’t need yet.
What I really need to touch upon is the decision-making in this game. For example, there’s a scene where Olivier says “do you see the smoke from the Duga radar? It’s your friend Mikhail”… I DESTROYED THE RADAR, WHY IS IT THERE? Are they telling me that the game can’t remember one of my first choices and accommodate them? Further, the radar is always there when you look out the window to your base. It’s unnecessarily confusing.
If most of your choices don’t matter, then what’s the point of having choices at all?
I also found out—after encountering Chernobyl Ghosts in the wild for the first time—that when you die, you get an opportunity to change the choices you’ve made by spending chernobylite. I tried to change 1 decision just to see what would happen; when I got back to base, I had to redo a couple of conversations through the radio, which made me think I’d have to redo the mission as well; however, I went back to my previous save and didn’t make changes, but still had to go through the 2 different NPC conversations on the radio. And I honestly have no idea what to make of that and I cannot speak to how much of a difference changing decisions will make.
However, the best part of this game is going out and exploring. It’s fun to go out and do missions as well, but the actual scavenging and finding clues is the most fun you’ll have in this game. If you like exploratory games that include finding creepy stuff, you will like this. Frankly, the only reason I kept playing this game as long as I did was because I really enjoyed exploring and I appreciated that you can stick around after missions and scavenge. I do like a good scavenge.
The game starts off with a lightning storm in the forest where you get a magical lightning gun (and a good jump scare). When I got to the entrance to the city, I was attacked by a group of lightning ghosts and had to shoot them with the magic rifle, however, I could barely turn and only managed to kill one before I promptly died because I couldn’t shoot without aiming which I didn’t find out until later and it made me feel like I was really bad at games. Then you wake up in a completely different place, no rifle, and no idea what’s going on.
But what I do know is you are Professor Igor Khymynyuk (Kim-en-yook), and your wife has been missing for 30 years. She disappeared RIGHT before the Chernobyl disaster. There seems to be rips in space and time, you can still hear and sometimes see her. You’re trying to find out what happened to her, and hopefully find her by discovering clues along the way. To find these clues, you need to build a base and recruit NPCs to help you on ever-increasing quests for supplies and people who “know things”.
Sometimes you destroy things that you know your wife hated (as I mentioned, I decided to destroy the Duga radar installation simply because she hated the project); sometimes you go against what your ghost wife wants to keep the resources you would lose—it seems like she wants you to lose everything, to be honest. But what does it actually mean when you choose one over the other?? *Shrug*
It really felt like I was dropped into a game that was already ongoing, into a story that is in the middle of being told. It’s disconcerting and off-putting. I feel like I know what the objective is, but how they are presenting it to me is confusing. But apparently, Eastern European-based survival horror is actually a genre and I just jumped into the deep end.
Despite the subject matter, there are some genuinely funny parts. You meet a trade NPC called Vagabond who says he has Trump, Putin, and Gates in speed dial, Igor says “What about Jobs?” and Vagabond says “Yeah, him too!” He also name drops Warren Buffet at another point. Then there’s a mission with a teammate to wipe out a database—you do this by finding a laptop and going to heartisalonelyhunter.ru and downloading the document called: smelly_panties_of_doom.
If you like scavenging and coming across creepy things, then you’ll like this game. From the creepy laughing of dead children, to dolls having a tea party or gathered in front of a TV screen, to an RAD soldier crying and calling your name only to turn around with a block of Chernobylite sticking out of his head, to Chernobyl ghosts wandering in buildings and houses, there isn’t a lack of creepy scary things out there to shock you. And they look really good too, considering what it is. Don’t expect state of the art graphics and everything will look just fine.
And who decided dolls are creepy anyway? Don’t worry, they won’t attack you or anything—just like dolls in real life. Graphically things look nice & run well on the Series consoles though the actual next-gen version was not available until launch day for this review which is why so much of it focuses on the game itself which I had not played before. Gameplay felt smoother though still not without its’ issues after the upgrade was finally made available. Thankfully this is a free upgrade for any owners of the Xbox One version of the game which is always nice to see. Performance and quality modes are on offer for Series X players with performance helping to make the gameplay feel a bit more responsive.
I feel like I made a mistake setting the voice acting to English. I ended up changing it to Russian with English subs, then changed it back to English again because I couldn’t listen to one language and read another at the same time. Igor had strange voice acting and a British accent. It was immediately not the type of voice I expected from the character, he sounded too young, keeping in mind that he is probably approaching 60 or if he was 30 around the time of the Chernobyl disaster and his wife has been missing for 30 years as they mentioned. Speaking of that, is it realistic that a 60-year-old man is doing what we’re doing in this game? And with the smooth eyes he has for his avatar?
On the other end, all the side characters have the better voice acting; perhaps it’s because they don’t have as much to read? Why can’t we get a great voice actor for the main character?
As a person who loves their ASMR-like sounds, I appreciated the crunch of your boots, breathing inside the gas mask, the slugging of alcohol, the squelching of a knife stabbing your enemies—you know, all the beautiful sounds the world has to offer.
There isn’t much variation between the creepers, I only came across 2 different forms of the Chernobyl Ghosts, but when I did, they sounded extra creepy. In fact, the first time I came across the bigger of the boys, the sound of them unnerved me so much that I was scared to move more than a couple feet at a time while crouched until I figured out what the sound was.
It might seem that I have a lot to complain about (and I do), but perhaps these are all issues that are minor to people who are familiar with the genre. So, this might actually be from the perspective of someone who isn’t completely new to the genre, but is completely new to eurojank—take it with a grain of salt depending on your level of experience with the genre.
At the end of each mission/day, it’s hard to tell how much food everyone needs, there isn’t a bar or gauge to let you know. I also ran into the issue where I couldn’t access my crafting tables and machines … half the game is crafting and building your base. If you can’t do that at the end of the day when you get supplies, what’s the point??
The first couple days, I didn’t realize you could send each of your team members to a mission at the same time. You can send team members to Igor’s missions, but instead of them finishing the missions, they will scavenge and reduce the number of enemies. So make sure you send all of them out.
And some other minor issues depending on your tolerance for annoyance: During an early mission, I was able to walk directly to the target and but soon as I collected the items, I was surrounded by NAR soldiers (this never happened again so I assume it was a bug). The game crashed on Day 3, but at the beginning of the day, so that was thoughtful. There was 1 conversation with someone and the subtitle clearly said “stupid” but the character said the R-word.
This game makes you feel like you’re going a little crazy. I was constantly questioning my sanity and also my intelligence: “Why can’t I access my building table?”; “Why am I suddenly being ambushed by 5 soldiers when there was no one around?”; “Why can’t I use my medkits right now?”; and finally, “AM I DOING SOMETHING WRONG?” And the answer to that is probably yes, but the most important part is that I tried. Despite, everything, I find that I still do want to play—and that, according to my partner, is the beauty of eurojank.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||PlayStation 4&5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, Windows PC|
|Release Date||April 21st, 2022 for Xbox Series X|S’ Native Version|
|Developed by||The Farm 51|
|Published by||All In! Games|
|Rated||M for Mature|