Chernobylite: A Barren Wasteland in More Ways Than One – PC Review

It hasn’t taken the survival genre long to take over Steam, and if you have played a game of this genre before, you know exactly what it entails. This can get quite repetitive, especially if it’s exploring, crafting, and fighting on repeat. Fortunately, Chernobylite has cemented itself as a unique experience, carving its own path in the genre.

Set in a modern-day Chernobyl — years after the nuclear disaster — you play as Igor, who is trying to uncover the reasoning behind his wife’s disappearance. Igor is being drawn back into the zone as his wife haunts him in his dreams. Throughout the story, you’re never too far away from her as she enjoys tormenting you with flashbacks and creepy voiceovers. Along the way, you’ll meet several strange Stalkers with who you will have to build relationships to locate your wife. All the while, you are being hunted by the Black Stalker, who can jump through wormholes at will, and a shady global entity called the NDA. To make matters worse, there are even monsters trying to kill you every step of the way.

Chernobylite Tatyana (The Farm 51)
Chernobylite Tatyana (The Farm 51)

Although this might not sound appealing, the story is Chernobylite‘s pride and joy. The story is built on a conspiracy that literally transcends time and it’s hard not to be drawn in. There are so many twists and turns, and you will never know which characters you can trust. The narrative kept me on my toes until the very end, ultimately becoming the driving force in finishing the game. It’s evident that a lot of planning went into the story, luckily, it was all worth it.

“No matter where you are or what you are doing, Chernobylite provides you with a gorgeous backdrop.”

Following the prologue, the game reveals its true colours. Chernobylite is a certified heist game where you must build a team and allocate them to different missions every day. Simultaneously, you will have to manage a base, building machinery to advance your technology. You will have to build beds, provide food, and even equip your comrades with weapons and armour. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as killing someone and taking their gun. The NDA has put a stop to stealing guns, and guns require enemy fingerprints to work.

Every mission you embark on is set in the vast wasteland of Chernobyl, filled with radiation and things that want to kill you. Every mission will put you in an open area where you will have to navigate to the objective. Fortunately, there are plenty of question marks scattered on the map for you to explore in each of these areas. On top of this, you will have to collect resources, such as chemicals and herbs, to expand your base. There is no shortage of things to do in Chernobylite, and that isn’t even mentioning the vivid recreation of Chernobyl.

Chernobylite — In-game Screenshot
Chernobylite — In-game Screenshot

The world, itself, is stunning. No matter where you are or what you are doing, the game provides you with a gorgeous backdrop. This plays into the fact that the developers physically went to the Exclusion Zone to create an accurate depiction of the game. Despite its artistic prowess, I always felt like I was being followed or watched everywhere I went in the game, and I could never catch a break. To me, this is exactly how Chernobyl would feel in the modern-day.

“For a game about one of the biggest disasters in history, Chernobylite lacks variety.”

After a successful (or unsuccessful) day, you will have to give out rations to your team and hopefully spend some of your skill points. Each character provides 5 skills that will help Igor on his journey. These range from extra damage on your guns to more inventory space. Fortunately, almost every skill feels useful, and I constantly struggled with where I would spend my skill points.

Chernobylite — In-game Screenshot
Chernobylite — In-game Screenshot

This is the core loop of Chernobylite. Go out into Chernobyl to complete a mission while you scavage for items and clues to find out more about your missing wife. You then head back to your base and craft or upgrade items before going to sleep and doing it all over again the next day. If this doesn’t sound appealing to you, then you might not enjoy the game, as it doesn’t deviate much from this. You’re essentially building up to a big event, and I even started to feel the repetition as the days went on.

“Fortunately, while the game’s gameplay becomes tedious towards the end, the characters are somewhat likable.”

For a game about one of the biggest disasters in history, Chernobylite lacks variety. If you complete a side mission, it will usually result in you reaching a crate and opening it up. While the contents inside the crate are different, the premise remains the same. There are also only 5 usable weapons throughout the game, with two of those being energy-based. However, most of the time, you will be using the standard revolver, shotgun, and an Ak-47. I also never seemed to run out of ammo on my revolver and constantly had over 100 available bullets. Furthermore, there are two types of main enemies; the NAR and the shadow. Sadly, these didn’t really change. Even when you take on the “Heavy Armored Soldier” in the late game, you’re better off just running past them due to the number of bullets it takes to kill them.

Chernobylite Key Art (The Farm 51)
Chernobylite Key Art (The Farm 51)

Fortunately, while the game’s gameplay becomes tedious towards the end, the characters are somewhat likable. This also makes it harder when you constantly have to make decisions and choose sides. The idea of the game is to stay in everyone’s good books, but sometimes it’s not that easy. I found this a really interesting feature as it even made me make decisions that I didn’t want to make, just so I can keep a certain character from disliking me.

There is also no way to remap the buttons in the game either, so you’re stuck with using a mouse to advance.

This plays into the fact that when you die, you can change your past decisions. If you didn’t like a choice you made or if you just wanted to see what would happen if you picked the other option, then you can. The whole game is based on wormholes, so changing one decision may have ripple effects for other decisions you have made.

Chernobylite Screenshot
Chernobylite Glitch — Screenshot

Chernobylite is coming to consoles on September 7. If you want to play with a controller, this is where you should do it. I ran into a few errors in the game using a controller. This was mostly down to general button mapping. When you find enough clues in Chernobylite, you can run a simulation to recreate the events that happened. Unfortunately, there is no button to do that on a controller. The button for SELECT states that it is “circle (O)” while it also says it’s the button for EXIT. At the same time, X is the button to choose RUN SIMULATION. However, this doesn’t work either. There is also no way to remap the buttons in the game either, so you’re stuck with using a mouse to advance.

Chernobylite is a good game, and absolutely perfect for those who enjoy the concept of Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone. The game is available now on Steam for AU$43.95 and it will also be coming to PS4 and Xbox One from September 7th.

*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC, code was provided by the publisher.

Chernobylite Key Art
Chernobylite Review
Summary
Chernobylite tells a touching tale, accompanied by the barren wasteland of a modern-day Chernobyl. The world is represented beautifully, and the decisions you make feel detrimental to your playthrough. Unfortunately, the basic gameplay loop does get repetitive, and if you are playing with a controller, you're going to have a bad time.
Pros
Captivating Story
Stunning World
Thoughtful Decisions
Cons
Controller Mapping
Repetitive Gameplay Loop
Lack of Variety
7.5