Chernobylite review: Squadding up in a nuclear wasteland

by MaddOx
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I’ve explored and survived zombie-infested cities. I’ve taken on the alien scum and lived to tell the tale. I’ve even escaped the jungles of Green Hell, avoiding almost certain death (because everything in that game can kill you). But one place I had yet to fight my way through is the nuclear wastelands of Chernobyl. That was until I was lucky enough to get myself a code for The Farm 51’s survival horror, Chernobylite.

Chernobylite is a strange game, that at the start, confused the living hell out of me. I wasn’t sure where I was, then again I’m not a local to Chernobyl, I wasn’t sure what I was doing, and I for bloody sure didn’t have a clue what the hell was going on. But slowly, between glimpses of reality, flashbacks to your past, and jumping through portals in time like this was some Rick and Morty shit, the story is set.

You play a scientist who was present during the time when the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl erupted and caused a catastrophic event. However, it wasn’t quite like the history books tell us, or how we’ve been made to believe it happened on TV. What was actually going on was the mining and testing of a substance called, you guessed it, Chernobylite. A substance that if used correctly, could allow people to jump between different points in time.

And after the radiation levels settle down, it is you who decides to head back in order to go back in time and rescue your former love. But as with any love story or journey through a desolate wasteland, Chernobylite’s story is not a simple path that can be taken.

Chernobylite screenshot

Surprisingly, you’re not the only presence in this forsaken place, and with two hired guns you took along to accompany you, you make your way through the power plant you once worked at. And it’s soon evident that you might not be the only one who is looking for Chernobylite and the powers that it holds.

To carry out your plan, you must gather more members for your team, and resources to stockpile ammo and prepare your weapons and traps. All this is done from your base command, a warehouse you find abandoned with an open view over the area you plan to explore. It looks fantastic, and it’s a nice enough set-up as you have a notice board with steps to your plan on it and members of the team. But you’ll have to find them first by venturing out into Chernobyl.

You do this as missions, where you will go out to gather supplies. Whether it be for medical use, ammunition or materials to bolster your camp and build traps. What’s particularly good though, is as you select missions in Chernobylite, you can send members of your team to other areas to gather extra resources, saving you time from doing everything yourself. And with each mission, you’re shown a percentage chance that they will come back alive, so you have to determine if it’s worth the risk or not to send them out.

Once in the missions, you’ll be able to gather materials, find a stash, and a kind gent who is happy to buy and sell you whatever you need. There is always one no matter where you go isn’t there? Anyway, it’s easy enough to go around to find things and to highlight where soldiers are, as you have a particular scanner that emits a frequency to find the items you desire. The problem for me came when some items, like better weapons, were locked behind closed doors and other areas I couldn’t reach.

Chernobylite scanner

Now, at no point during the tutorial was I given any inkling that I would need to craft bits like lockpicks, or even how to go about crafting them if I did. And you’re pretty much left to work this out by yourself. Which was rather frustrating, to say the least. I got there in the end, but it still couldn’t be introduced into the game a little better than it was, like how they introduce making medical items and ammunition.

Once I completed my mission, minus the items I couldn’t get, I decided to kit out my base. I mean, if I’m going to stay there, I want it to be nice right? But besides workbenches that you use to craft more items, kitting your base does nothing in Chernobylite but wastes resources that could be better spent. Making a bed doesn’t help you rest better. Decorating the place doesn’t fill your team with morale or give you stat boosts. So it really almost is a pointless mechanic of the game.

But getting over those small glitches, I did quite enjoy playing the game. But because you have so many missions you can do to gather resources, I felt like the story almost gets lost at times. And you’re just playing scavenger in the wild of Chernobyl. It’d be great, even if it’s just small bits here and there, that tied each of the missions to the main storyline, or even branches off of it, that help build a bigger picture. Don’; get me wrong, there are times where you can find key intel, but it just seems like it could’ve been integrated more smoothly.

Combat in Chernobylite is pretty good though, you can either run in and kill people, although quite often you want to play it more stealthy because raising alarms just causes trouble and risks the main goal. You have a wide range of weapons that you can use, and it’s quite fun to sit back and just pick soldiers off as they patrol their areas. Then you can get up close and stealth takedown them too. But it can take a little longer to do that, so be wary of other soldiers patrolling nearby or they may be alerted.

Chernobylite approaching an abandoned building with gun

In terms of graphics, Chernobylite looks great. You can see from the artwork and the screenshot above, just how amazing the world looks, and how detailed the game is. It really does a great job of capturing that nuclear wasteland vibe and creates some amazing atmospheres as you explore the world around you, often at times just sat in silence as an abandoned place would have you feel. I do kind of wish I got to see more though because I enjoyed exploring it that much. Even the way it introduces the more sci-fi elements into the game with the whole idea of travelling through time, all ties together quite well.

Chernobylite overall thoughts?

Chernobylite is a great concept that hasn’t quite been executed to perception. I did enjoy playing through the game, and there are things like on the design side, that work really well. But there are also a few niggly pieces that could be improved upon, like tying the story into missions better, possibly explaining more about the crafting system, and giving players more of a reason to kit out their base. Overall, it’s a nice entry into the survival genre, that does things a little differently with that tactical edge to it. Chernobylite is far from perfect, but it’s a good effort nonetheless.

Chernobylite was developed and co-published by The Farm 51. It was initially released on 16 October 2019 and is available on all current platforms. Check out more of our game reviews by clicking HERE.

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