If anyone had told me a few weeks ago that both Rage 2 and STALKER 2 were a real thing I might have tried calling them on their bluff, but as things go, the news was no bluff. With Bethesda taking the helm of Rage 2 it would be no surprise to see the game release later this year. As for STALKER 2, well, when someone says a game won’t be coming out until 2021 it can tend to get pushed to the back of the brain. Knowing both titles are in the works is exciting none the less and gives pause to taking a look back at post-apocalyptica in games and our fascination in spending time in the husk of a burnt-out world that might look familiar or completely alien-based on the events that have transpired.
The most jarring comparison of the two titles is their distinct difference in setting. When Rage released in 2011 it more closely resembled Fallout 3 trying to go for a grimmer tone while still maintaining certain proclivities in mayhem matching Borderlands. STALKER on the other hand is known for being one of the most hardcore simulations of living in nuclear fallout, presenting a gripping sense of realism that few games have matched; no one forgets that first gun fight. Rage told a story of the earth befalling the event of an asteroid wiping out humanity. STALKER focused on real-world events of an easily-imagined future brought to life in game. Looking at two sides of the coin even further, both titles take heavy inspiration from film with Rage dipping into Mad Max territory and STALKER being pulled directly from Tarkovsky’s Stalker (why aren’t you watching this right now?)
With the unfortunate leak a few weeks back from Walmart Canada, Bethesda ended up playing a hand early that wasn’t even seen to begin with. Like I said at the beginning, if someone had told me Rage 2 was in the works, it would have been hard to believe, but Bethesda is a league of their own. Over the course of a few years Bethesda has become the developer for taking on titles others might shy away from and nurturing them into something exceptional, look at both Doom and Wolfenstein, seeing vast success immediately. When Rage released, what looked to be a promising post-apocalypse RPG ended up being a hot mess, turning most players away, with those who stuck around being rewarded with one of the worst endings in a video game. Rage 2 is laying it all on the table though in the most bombastic Andrew W.K. way possible. Rage 2 is loud, colorful, full of guns, monsters and mayhem. It seems to be pulling even more so from the most recent Mad Max; at least aesthetically.
Without knowing any details as to what Rage 2 will be, it’s hard to say what the game is trying to sell with its trailer. Trying to piece together any since of story is near impossible because of how boisterously rambunctious both the teaser trailer and announcement trailer are. Even though it looks to be pulling from titles like the most recent Mad Max, that was a film telling an extremely-defined story that had things to say about class, sex and more. Rage 2 is in the realm of games, though, which means telling distinctly different stories that must keep players occupied for double digit if not triple digit hours especially with an open-world RPG which also gives way to the message getting lost sooner rather than later. If anything, Rage 2 doesn’t look to be saying much in the way of world or social change.
Fitting into a more rigid structure, STALKER has a foundation to be built off of, meaning STALKER 2 will most likely stick to the themes and narrative that STALKER presented. STALKER is by no means a pleasant game, taking the possibility of an apocalyptic setting seriously and can be felt with every decision that is made through out the game. The worst part of it all? The entire time you are asking yourself, ‘Am I making the right decision? Will this lead to the true treasure I’ve been seeking? Am I doing what is best?’ For anyone who hasn’t played or seen STALKER, the entire premise is to find a “Wish Granter” where ones’ desires might become reality. Unfortunately STALKER reminds the player to be careful what they wish for, revealing that what we most desire might turn out to be horrifying.
What can be gleaned from both titles is the conclusion of a question. Both Rage 2 and STALKER 2 fit into the category of asking “what do we become when there is nothing left?” It’s a broad question at the moment, but with little to go on, it’s all there is. Rage 2 is in good hands with Bethesda at the helm and Avalanche Studios developing (they worked on the Mad Max game). Here’s hoping whatever story they tell is as interesting as the trailers look. It’s hard not saying those pinks and yellows aren’t eye catching, but beyond that it doesn’t do much. If anything Rage 2 just looks like colorful shooting which games have plenty of. All that can be said about STALKER 2 is to point in the general direction of STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl and wish curious players the best of luck. It really is worth it, even if it can be a bit broken.
While it might feel like the ship has sailed that was post-apocalyptic RPG shooters, it’s nice seeing some familiar yet new titles on deck. Of course, STALKER 2 is a long way off and even receiving the news was a shock, but Rage 2 is going all in and will be tearing into people’s game libraries soon. It would have been better as a surprise, but so the industry goes as chaotic as the wastelands of Rage and STALKER or any game where shelter is scarce and an ally would as soon kill you as help you.