There’s a lot of mixed reviews on Steam for the free-to-play sZone-Online, an MMO S.T.A.L.K.E.R. clone from developer Cybertime Games.
Why are the reviews mixed? Because despite the game having a lot of the engrossing gameplay elements from S.T.A.L.K.E.R., such as challenging gameplay, artifact discover, scary mutants and a bleak atmosphere, the game also suffers from poor performance optimization, poor character animations and lots of laggy gameplay.
sZone-Online is literally just a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. clone with a new name – the plot, the concept and the themes are all quite similar. However, it lacks the polish and finesse of GSC Game World’s original… according to most user reviews on Steam. You can get an idea of what the game plays like with the trailer below.
If it looks like an intriguing game based on the video above, you aren’t alone in thinking that. A lot of gamers reluctantly stepped into the game’s fictional quarantine zone depicted in a post-apocalyptic Ukraine with a bit of hope and apprehension. Their hopes were partially fulfilled but their apprehension was justified.
Steam user Courier encouraged people to at least try the game, despite noting that there were more cons than pros…
“I recommend this game, even there are more cons than pros. Just play it for yourself, it’s free.”
I Am Toast had a similar view of the situation — the game was free so why not play it? In his review he stated…
“It’s an okay game, not much story but good for first time shooters. most of the game made no sense but if you try to get into it like me then you’ll find it fun. It’s a fallout kind of shooter with decent graphics for a free to play. I would get it because why not”
Poots liked the way the game functioned as a community-oriented social experiment, especially with how many players refrained from killing on sight, writing…
“From what I have seen, No [killing on sight]. Players love working together in this game and the community is great. The game has a lot of negative aspects to killing others, such as being labeled a name such as “Murderer” And this will cause players to avoid you and not trade with you. There are many reasons why people do not kill on [sight].
“Do I Recommend This? For 1$, Yes. For 10$? Not at this state. This is a F2P game after all. The game is very unpolished but well worth a dollar, especially for S.T.A.L.K.E.R fans.”
Damuel opens his review talking about being greeted with bugs and was forgiving of that, but was frustrated with the sluggish gameplay and FOV, along with what he describes as “awkward feeling gun combat”, writing…
“I’ve played f2p CS knock offs that felt more natural. No iron sights, gun accuracy is random, and for some reason you have a loading bar pop up for every interaction. Want to switch guns? Here’s a loading bar even though you already have the other gun out.
“I started pelting homeless npcs with rocks, until another player came by and we had a rock fight. Which was interrupted by some random dude clipping through the ground with only his neck and head visible. I then wandered for a bit, found some NPC guards who walked like they ♥♥♥♥ themselves all the way down to the legs. I then decided I had had enough.”
The clipping issues and getting stuck was a common complaint amongst players, but most user reviews were willing to overlook the clipping. What they couldn’t get past was the lack of proper localization. JustAceorHawker wrote…
“Worst post-apocaliptic online game i ever played. Bad Graphics (Yes i know original stalker have same graphics). I think there’s no europe servers only usa or russia. No dubbing (In few stalkers idk if in all, there was dubbing)”
Erikisapro mentioned the same thing – about the game not being properly localized – simply stating…
“Not a fan of the reading and mixed languages, not to mention the bad graphics.”
The developers are attempting to rectify the translation issues by turning it into an in-game event, as detailed in a recent announcement made in a Steam post.
Atillite didn’t detail the frustrations, just made the frustrations known after putting nearly 60 hours into the game, writing…
“I keep wanting it to be good, but damnit, it’s just really, really bad. So much potential and so much disappointment.”
Sgt. Knutsak wasn’t keen on refraining his opinion from being made known and made public, taking the opportunity to explain in great detail the problems with PvP, the lack of proper weapon balance and, worst of all, all the lag…
“There is lag. Lots of it. More lag when certain players are close to you. Still more when they shoot at you. You get two or three of these particular un-named enemies shooting at you and it stacks, what a great buff. Some enemies even make me lag when it is me shooting at them, turning my screen to a slideshow, while being riddled by laser guided bullets.
“Yeah I think it is almost over for me. I really wanted it to work, but it has almost reached the point of continued playtime equaling insanity. Good Luck fellow Stalkers.”
He wrote that review being just shy of 400 hours on record.
AionNV was even more engrossed than Sgt. Knutsak, logging nearly 1,500 game hours. According to AionNV, the problem is that the developers don’t listen to feedback and that the game has broken PvP…
“Very slow moving game, but nice graphics. Once you get out of the first map it’s more interesting.
“Unfortunately the developers are not responsive and have a tendency to ban people from the discussion forums and the game for pointing out the serious issues they refuse to address”
[…] “Read through the complaints and look at the hours people have put into this game. Any other serious game developer really cares about the people who are playing the game the most, they actually value their input. sZone does not.”
The game has 4,701 reviews logged at the moment, 2,637 of them are negative.
Those who are saying positive things about the game are praising it for its challenging gameplay while a great deal of many others are joke or meme-filled reviews giving the title a thumbs up.
Gamers like Reno are still optimistic about sZone-Online’s potential, writing…
“Now when you start the game you will probably be put off by the mid 2000 style graphics or the unexplaining UI/controls but if you can see past the early game difficulties, this will become a game almost any mmo/survival game enthusiast will enjoy and about those mid 2000 style graphics i mentioned, this game is going to go to the Unreal 4 Engine eventually, it has already been announced, the game is released but still has alot of plans for the future.”
Grandsteel shared Reno’s enthusiasm for the game, commenting that all the killing really made him enjoy the title…
“I spent the 30 minutes killing harmless rats, sicks puppies and goblins(???). After killing the puppies, I cut off their heads and sold them to a homeless man so he could make ash trays out of them. This is the most emotional challenging game that I have every played, I am looking forward to (hopefully) killing crippled old men, cancer patients and grieving widows.
“This is potentially the greatest game I have ever played in my life.”
Cybertime System’s sZone-Online is currently free to download right now from over on the Steam store.