Updated: 3 days ago
Surviving your first 24 hrs in the standalone Anomaly mod for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat is often the most difficult part – at least until the late game large scale assault on the Brain Scorcher. This veteran Stalker is here to show you rookies how to survive and thrive in the Zone.
My first piece of advice is that if you have not already played the retail S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games - Shadow of Chernobyl, Clear Sky and Call of Pripyat - then do so before starting Anomaly. Anomaly serves as a fan-made semi-sequel that is set after the events of Call of Pripyat, and it builds upon the gameplay mechanics developed in those games. If you go into Anomaly without playing the retail games first you may struggle to work out what is going on, and may well become overwhelmed by its near-vertical learning curve - perhaps even with this guide.
However, if you are impatient, then I recommend at least watching the video below as it will give you the basics of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R universe.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Lore: The Zone
Video by Hugbox
The Agony of Choice
One of the best aspects of Anomaly is its plethora of game modes and a vast array of configurable gameplay options. Secondly, there are a LOT of optional addons for Anomaly, and that number seemingly grows daily. Some of these are minor tweaks, but some of them are major overhauls that can alter the game significantly. Since the possible combinations of game modes, gameplay options and addons are near limitless, it’s possible many players’ individual ‘builds’ and playthroughs will be unique. This makes creating a guide that covers all of them virtually impossible.
Therefore, this guide will assume a ‘vanilla’ build, but it will attempt to highlight when using certain addons may require a different approach. It will also assume you are playing the Story mode, that your starting faction will be ‘Loner’, and that your starting location will be the ‘Rookie Village’.
PS – Although this guide is for Anomaly, some of it may also be relevant to the other standalone S.T.A.L.K.E.R. mods that share some of its ‘DNA’, such as A.R.E.A., Road To The North, Dead Air, Escape From Pripyat etc. let me know in the comments or message me if you would like to see specific guides for these too. With that out of the way, let’s begin.
Threat Guide: A Million Ways to Die in the East
There are many ways to become ‘Lost to the Zone’ (i.e. dead) in Anomaly due to the sheer number of threats present in the game world. To go through every single threat individually would require a guide all its own. (Again, let me know in the comments or message me if this is something you would like to see too). So, for now, I have broken the threats down into categories.
The Zone is populated by many human NPCs, or ‘Zoners’. Some are friendly, some neutral and some are hostile. Hostile NPCs will often shoot at you, your companions, and any other NPCs they don’t like the look of on sight. Pay attention to the faction relations tab on your PDA - shown below - as this will show who is your friend, and who is your foe. Note that NPCs from rival factions will often start shooting at each other if they happen to run into one another, so try to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.
If you kill an NPC from a formally neutral or friendly faction the faction as a whole may turn hostile, so be mindful of who you shoot at, and what assassination missions you accept. For your first day in the Zone, your main enemies will be Bandits and the Military - although the Military can be rendered neutral(ish) - in the Cordon map only - if you use the ‘Combat Ignore Military Fix’ addon.
NB this is recommended and lore-friendly as the local trader supposedly bribes the military in that map to look the other way. Just don’t get too close to them or they will open fire regardless.
NB – If using the ‘Dynamic Faction Relations’ option (Settings - The Zone - General) then factions can change allegiances on a whim, meaning former friends will become your enemies until they change their minds again.
The level of threat posed by an NPC is largely dependent on what weapons they are carrying, what armour they are wearing, how many buddies they have nearby and the particulars of the landscape - such as what cover and concealment are available, who has an elevational advantage, how far away they are etc. The Bandits you will be facing on your first day, such as the one in the image above, will generally have low tier weapons and armour. This will make them easier to fight, but also limits the value of the weapons, ammo and suits you can loot from them.
Be aware that some bandit outfits, such as the one shown in the image above, look very similar to some of the Loner's outfits. This can make positively identifying them at a distance a challenge, especially if you lack binoculars or a scoped weapon. They, on the other hand, will have no trouble telling if you are friend or foe, so they will start shooting on sight. Note that Bandits sound different from Loaners and have terrible noise discipline, so you may be able to identify them by ear. You may also be able to ID them by the company they keep. If the other NPCs in their group are wearing more distinctly bandit attire, then you can safely assume they are all Bandits.
Vehicles do not play a large role in Anomaly, and you are unlikely to encounter any on your first day in the Zone. With one exception - the Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship that patrols around the map overhead if the ‘Helicopter Patrols’ option has been enabled. (Settings - The Zone - General.)
It generally won’t attack you unless you attack it or the military grunts on the ground. Since you lack the weapons to take it down (such as an RPG) I highly recommend not antagonising it as it is lethal and relentless.
The zone’s ill-tempered and always hungry fauna. They come in all manner of shapes and sizes. The ones you are most likely to encounter during your first day include mutated dogs, wolves, pigs, rodents, and wild boars. Most of them can run faster than you, but they tend to be rubbish climbers.
If you must face hungry mutants then jumping up on top of an abandoned car or structure is often your best bet as they will have greater difficulty reaching you there. Better yet - climb a ladder, since most mutants can’t climb vertical ladders. Shotguns loaded with buckshot tend to be your best defence against mutants.
NB - mutants tend to become more exotic and dangerous the further north you travel. Some advanced mutants possess ranged attacks, telekinesis and one - the aptly named ‘Controller’ - can cause harm by its mere proximity. With the Arszi’s Controller OverhaulI addon, they can also mind-control other mutants and even NPCs - including your companions. Thankfully, you are unlikely to encounter such terrors down in the Cordon.
NPCs that have sadly fallen under the influence of the Brain Scorcher or the various other ‘Psi’ effects in the Zone are said to have become ‘zombified’. They are generally a minor threat as they are slow and do not use cover, however, they will shoot at you and pretty much anyone else on sight. (Yes – S.T.A.L.K.E.R.S.’s zombies have guns!)
Shots to the body will put them down, but be aware of them writhing around, as this means they will get back up, forcing you to have to put them down again. They may repeat this cycle several times in a row, which can deplete your ammo reserves. If they are writhing on the ground shoot or stab them until they stop. The quickest and most ammo efficient way to dispatch them is a head shot from a scoped rifle at long range, which will usually kill them outright in one hit.
You may also encounter more ‘traditional’ Zombies. These are supposedly zombified Stalkers that have mentally devolved even further due to prolonged exposure to psi energies. These do not use guns and so present far less of a threat. Note they have a habit of playing dead when shot in the body. If you down a Zombie be sure to stab and smash away at it with a melee weapon or shoot it in the head to make sure it stays down for good.
The quickest and most ammo efficient way to dispatch them is a load of 12 gauge buckshot to the head from point-blank range. This will usually kill them outright in one hit. For some reason, headshots from pistols and rifles are far less effective.
Anomalies are localised areas of warped physics created by the Zone. Some are static, some are mobile. Some cluster together to form anomaly fields, whereas some will be found in ones and twos. They come in various categories, such as thermal, electrical, chemical, gravitational and psi. Some are easy to spot whereas some are almost invisible. What unites them is that nearly all of them are deadly should you blunder into one.
Many anomalies go through looped animations, often with a very brief pause between loops, during which they become completely invisible, yet remain just as deadly. It is easy to run into Anomalies, especially during their invisible pause, and this is just one of the reasons why sprinting around the map isn’t recommended.
Anomalies can be revealed and activated by throwing bolts at them. Some enter a very brief dormancy period after being activated, which can be used to get past them. Note this lasts about a second at most so it is extremely risky.
Mutants and Zombies will trigger anomalies if they enter them. You can use this to your advantage by luring mutants into them. This can save both your hide and your bullets.
NB - Spatial anomalies can only be used for transport when using the Spatial Anomalies addon.
Anomaly introduces the pulse anomaly. These resemble the discharges from psi-storms. They can start overhead in seemingly random locations. If you hear something odd try looking up, and if you should see one forming close by, sprint away ASAP!
NB – if you are using the ‘Dynamic Anomalies’ option (Settings - The Zone - General) then additional anomalies will spawn in, and the locations of these will change after each emission. Therefore, do not assume that anomaly free areas will remain anomaly free after an emission has passed. On the plus side, some areas infested with anomalies may become relatively anomaly free after the next emission. As you play the game and become more familiar with the maps you will learn which anomalies are dynamic, and which are permanent fixtures.
The Zone’s ever-present invisible killer. In vanilla Anomaly, it is contained within distinct patches. Entering these will cause you to start soaking up rads which will start to sap your health (HP) until you can clear the rads from your body.
You will need a Geiger counter to know when you are in radioactive areas and to determine the intensity of your exposure. If you currently lack adequate protection from radiation then you can assume you are soaking up rads any time you hear the Geiger counter ticking. You should retreat from the field ASAP and rid yourself of those rads before they significantly reduce your HP.
To remove said radiation from your body you can - in descending order of effectiveness; consult a medic, take anti-radiation pills, drink vodka*, drink other liquids, or smoke a cigarette*. Taking radioprotectant medicine before entering the radioactive area can reduce the amount you receive and is highly recommended - prevention is better than cure.
* This is a reference to the allegedly popular folklore belief that drinking vodka and smoking cigarettes can protect against radiation. PSA - They Don’t!
Once you DO have adequate radiation protection the ticking of the Geiger counter can be a little deceptive. This is because the radiation in the environment may not reflect the amount of radiation your body is soaking up. To check this, equip your Geiger counter and set it to Dosimeter mode (explained later). This will show how many rads are getting through your protection and are building up in your body. Armed with this knowledge you can act accordingly.
NB – if you are using Arszi's Dynamic Radiation Zones and Radiation Overhaul addon be sure to read its description thoroughly, as it diverges from vanilla Anomaly’s implementation of radiation significantly.
Blowouts and Psi Storms
These are the most dangerous events in the Zone. If you are caught out in either of these it's game over. As soon as you realise one is starting - the ‘connection lost’ alert is a good indicator - head for suitable cover immediately. Your PDA will show what structures provide shelter. If you are far from a shelter then this is one of the few cases where sprinting is recommended; granted, you *might* run into an anomaly on your way and become injured or die, but if you are caught out in the open when the blowout or psi-storm hits you will *definitely* die.