Since it’s announcement and re-reveal, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 has looked exactly like the kind of atmospheric, intense, ambitious sequel that fans of the series have hoped for so long it will be. Sure enough, given how long S.T.A.L.K.E.R. fans have been waiting for a sequel, one would hope that it lives up to those expectations. We recently got the chance to send across several of our questions about the game to its developers at GSC Game World to learn more about the shooter and what to expect from it, and learned quite a bit in the process. You can read our conversation with GSC Game World PR manager Zakhar Bocharov below.
"It’s impossible not to feel pressure with a new entry in a beloved franchise. I guess every team — us included — aims for the higher level with the sequel. That’s the only way to grow."
It’s been a long road for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 from its initial announcement over a decade ago, with delays and even a cancellation. How does it feel to finally be working on the game and being one step closer to getting it done?
Yes, it has been a long run. But, frankly speaking, it’s pretty much about the same thing — making the best possible game with time and resources you have.
Has the vision for the game changed much from how it started out all those years ago? I would assume the better tech available to you as developers would mean that it’s better in a way that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is being made now instead of years ago.
The development restarted from scratch. Current S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 has no relations with the previous cancelled one.
Given the high regard the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is held in by so many, do you feel any pressure to follow up on it with a sequel that’s at least on the same level, if not even better?
Yes, it’s impossible not to feel pressure with a new entry in a beloved franchise. I guess every team — us included — aims for the higher level with the sequel. That’s the only way to grow.
With S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, we’re basically doing our best, day by day.
With S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 promising a branching story, how radically can players expect their actions to affect the narrative and how it plays out?
Without saying too much for now, let’s put it this way: it’s impossible to see everything in one run. The player will need several playthroughs to see all the story content.
"Without saying too much for now, let’s put it this way: it’s impossible to see everything in one run. The player will need several playthroughs to see all the story content."
What can you tell us about S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2’s immersive sim elements? Will players be presented with a range of options in how to tackle any given situation?
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 (and the series as a whole as well) is about being small and almost helpless in the utterly stressful and dangerous conditions, fighting with death every second, knowing that if you die, the Zone wouldn’t even notice it, and nothing will change.
Immersive sim elements in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 are about making you feel like that person.
Atmosphere and horror are clearly a big emphasis in this game, which is something that series fans will undoubtedly be glad about. Both of those can be very subjective things though, so how do you as developers ensure that you’re hitting the mark in those areas on a consistent level?
With three games in the series, we think we have a strong vision of what players like and expect.
Also, the core team is located in Kyiv, Ukraine, and we visit the Exclusion Zone every couple of months — for the purpose of both work (photogrammetry) and inspiration.
So we can say it’s a mix of existing experience and translating the cultural code. The whole thing is so powerful yet so subtle it’s really hard to describe in words. You can be sure it’s different for pretty much everyone. But probably it is the “atmosphere” people are talking about.
You’re promising a massive open world with S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2– just what should players expect in this area where things such as size, design, and variety are concerned? Do you think it becomes harder to maintain a consistent level of horror and atmosphere when a game is set in a large open world environment?
Yes, maintaining the interest of the player is a challenge for every open-world game.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is mostly about the new story, and we can’t tell it without the open world. The player needs to feel the scale and the outcomes of his decisions. It is a long way so it can land an impact. A big journey with its own pace and outcomes.
Also, it’s about seeing the Zone in her renewed beauty. The seamless open world is a thing the series always aimed for. Hopefully, the players will enjoy both the story and the world we’re crafting. They are highly special for us.
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 be?
It’s a very long game even if you decide to follow only the main quest. Hundreds of hours can be spent if you want to do more exploration and side quests.
"It’s about seeing the Zone in her renewed beauty. The seamless open world is a thing the series always aimed for. Hopefully, the players will enjoy both the story and the world we’re crafting."
It might be a bit too early to ask about this, but do you have any post-launch plans in place for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 in terms of expansions or DLC?
As a company, we do have plans for the future, but let us ship our baby first. GSC is not just about S.T.A.L.K.E.R., by the way.
Clearly, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is a very ambitious game. Given that, how has the Xbox Series S factored into development? Have the console’s lower specs presented any challenges?
No problems so far with an important clarification that the development and optimization are obviously still undergoing.
We’re seeing a lot of major new releases choosing to launch as cross-gen titles, yet S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is going to be exclusively on PC and the new Xbox consoles. Was that because you didn’t want to be limited by the older consoles’ hardware?
Exactly. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is a next-gen game, and it’s impossible to run it on Xbox One or PS4.
Do you have any plans to eventually bring the game to PS5 as well? Why did you decide to launch as an Xbox console exclusive?
No plans for now. We negotiated the possibilities with Microsoft and saw several good opportunities for the brand — including Game Pass.
That’s said, we’re concentrating on the Xbox Series X/S version.
"S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is a next-gen game, and it’s impossible to run it on Xbox One or PS4."
The Xbox Series S features lesser hardware compared to Xbox Series and Microsoft is pushing it as a 1440p/60fps console. Do you think it will hold up for the graphically intensive next-gen games?
The future will tell. Also, it really depends on the project. We can only talk about ourselves. The hardware is capable of next-gen games, that’s for sure.
What resolution and frame rate is the game targeting on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S? Furthermore, will the game have multiple graphical modes?
It’s 4K for Xbox Series X and HDR for both Series X and Series S with further updates down the road.