STALKER 2 allegedly alive, well, living with Bethesda

Has Mr Strelok gone to Maryland?

When news of STALKER 2’s cancellation emerged earlier this year a number of fans hoped the game might get picked up by a big western developer with Bethesda being the most popular choice. No hard evidence had emerged to confirm this but fans desperate for one last foray into The Zone clung to any hopes they could. In the meantime the original STALKER 2 development team broke away from GSC Game Worlds to form their own company, Vostok Games, and have been hard at work on an online multiplayer spiritual successor called Survarium.

Now according to Ukrainian blogger Sergey Galyonkin a “very reliable source” confirms the rights to a new STALKER game for PC and consoles have been snapped up by Maryland’s foremost developer of ambitious, buggy CRPGs. Galyonkin, incidentally, is the chap who broke the news about STALKER 2’s cancellation and the closure of GSC Game Worlds to a disbelieving, disheartened fanbase. In this case he stresses only the rights to a new STALKER game have been purchased, with the rights to various spin-offs and other media staying firmly in the hands of former GSC owner Sergei Grigorovich. Galyonkin’s source is unclear whether a new STALKER game would be developed in-house by Bethesda or handed to Obsidian but 100% certain it won’t be made in the Ukraine.

Assuming it would even get made at all. Bethesda are already sitting on two post-apocalyptic first-person shooter IPs with Fallout and Rage filling their respective niches of stat-heavy RPG and straight-up shooter. We all know Rage didn’t perform brilliantly but Bethesda insist they still have faith in it to become a big franchise so it’s doubtful STALKER has been brought in to supplant it. STALKER’s eclectic mix of open-world exploration and stat-free shooty goodness could give it its own niche between those two franchises, drinking vodka straight from the bottle and swearing at everyone in Russian, but that’s an awfully small space to fit into to. The most likely and above all fucking tragic theory is Bethesda have snapped up the game rights to STALKER to stop anyone else doing so and ensure their monopoly over most things post-apocalyptic.

Then there’s the idea of a non-Ukrainian team developing a STALKER game. A huge part of what makes the STALKER series so memorable is its atmosphere, characterised by the brutalist architecture of the former Soviet union and steeped in the mythology surrounding the Chernobyl Zone of Alienation. A western developer trying to emulate that feels as incongruous as an East European developer trying to emulate Fallout’s satire of 1950s Americana. That cultural background and perspective is part of what gives East European games their unique personality every bit as distinctive as American, British or Japanese games. I’m not advocating some sort of boring cultural segregation where devs can only make games about where they live. I’m just saying there’s a chance some of the really interesting stuff could be lost passing through a different cultural filter.

Rock, Paper Shotgun along with Eurogamer and other sites have approached Bethesda for comment but all Bethesda are saying so far is “We don’t comment on rumour or speculation”. Meanwhile the official STALKER Facebook page says “Sergiy has not sold the IP rights to anyone” without specifying if that includes rights to develop a game based on it. After all, Square-Enix bought the rights to make several games featuring Disney characters (and plots that only make any sense if you have brain damage) but nobody would argue Disney don’t still own their original Disney IP, Mouse and all.

If I did have to trust a western developer to recreate the authentic STALKER experience then I reckon Obsidian would come closest to doing it justice, especially since they’d probably have to use Bethesda’s buggy-as-all-hell tech to do it.

Matt

About Matt

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com and the sarcastic writer, editor, director, presenter and tea boy of Pixel Burn.