Keith's Crappy Videogame Blog


Inhabited Island-Prisoner of Power (PC, 2005/7, Russia): Second-Rate Apocalypse Proves Mildly Satisfying
January 26, 2011, 3:26 am
Filed under: Inhabited Island - Prisoner of Power (PC, 2005/7, Russia)

I never planned on becoming a connoisseur of half-baked sci-fi videogame dreck from eastern Europe, but we all have our burdens to bear. That and I love spending time tromping around in an apocalypse, even if it is a second-rate one on the planet Saraksh.

When I finally acquired and installed “Inhabited Island: Prisoner of Power,” I couldn’t play it; it was in Russian-only. Of course, I had been in this position before. After spending significantly more time translating all the dialogue subtitles and menu items in the previous Russian-only game “Neuro” (PC, 2006) than actually playing it (see the appropriate blog post for the full, embarrassing disclosure), I swore I’d never do that again. Don’t get me wrong; it was totally worth it. I absolutely loved that game, its look, the narrative, the world it created. And I especially liked the idea that I was playing a game that, unless I had dumped a week and half into translating, I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise understand it.  But translating a game, massaging the prose to normalize it, and then having to fiddle with the text files while trying to make the program work properly without crashing (let alone the fact that I don’t speak, read, or write a nick of Russian and had to trust Google translator with every Cyrillic character and punctuation mark)—well, it’s the kind of activity that could be seen as…Avoidance behavior? A colossal time-waster? Obsessive-compulsive? Just too nerdy for words?

Well, surprise! Like most of my resolutions, my vow lasted precisely ten minutes—which is when I began dumping yet another 20 hours into translating this Akella Games blockbuster (ahem). [Trivia time: The game was also released in French-localization under the title “Inhabited Island: La Genese des Stalkers”—the use of that last word is a questionable attempt to sucker fans of “Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl” (2007) into buying this illustrious product. Also worth noting, there are several other, more popular games using similar monikers and source material (some by the same developer and publisher)—for example, the strategy game “Galactic Assault: Prisoner of Power” (2007) and the adventure game “Inhabited Island: The Earthling” (2006). The game I am discussing here, however, is probably the least known of the bunch and is a first-person shooter.]

The game’s development apparently coincided with a 2008/2009 big budget film based on a 1971 novel written by the famous Russian sci-fi/social commentary duo, the Strugatsky brothers. Due to the sheer amount of material that was filmed (this is Russian storytelling after all), the movie was actually released as two separate full-length flicks. (As far as I can tell, they have never been officially released with translated subtitles.) So, in essence, the “Inhabited Island: Prisoner of Power” PC shooter game is a Russian version of a movie tie-in game. And we all know that movie tie-in games are notoriously horrendous (though I rather liked playing “Terminator: Salvation” regardless of its brevity). So why in the hell would I even bother spending upwards of 20 hours translating some crappy movie tie-in game that, in fact, the one living Strutgatsky brother has publicly disowned? (This is hearsay, but it rings true—reviews of the films were so-so at best, and this spinoff game was clearly buried under the floorboards rather quickly.) Was it all worth it?

Yes and no. Like so many of these games, the story behind it—a story that is not really present in the game at all, as usual—is the most interesting thing about it. To save myself a bit of time writing this post, I’ll paste an actual slice of text I translated for one of the loading screens early on in the game that summarizes the narrative and setting well enough: The 1971 novel “The Inhabited Island” by the Strutgatsky brothers chronicles the adventures of Max Kammerer, an amateur space explorer. Young and inexperienced, Max crashes on an uncharted planet he later learns is called Saraksh. At first, Max does not take his situation seriously. He imagines himself a kind of Robinson Crusoe stranded on an island inhabited by primitive but friendly natives. But reality is much more grim. His ship is mistaken as a weapon and it is destroyed. Maxim is eventually imprisoned in a work camp and is forced to travel the landscape deactivating dangerous automatic defenses, remnants of a long nuclear war. The population is governed by an oligarchy, the Unknown Fathers, through military repression and mind control. Cities are polluted and wrecked, and people live a life of privation and misery. Coming from a planet whose society is free from war and crime, Max is confused by what he sees around him. So, he vows to help a loosely organized underground movement, led by fellow work camp prisoner and once-respected psychologist Zeph, free its people from the control of the perpetually warring rulers.

So, onto the game itself: I can say I don’t think I’ve ever really played a game like this before, in some respects; yet in other ways, there’s nothing new here (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Early on, the gameplay has a singular focus—and most of the time that focus (I mean literally where you focus the crosshairs of your multi-function gun [an all-in-one rifle/grenade thrower/ rocket launcher/ incinerator] is squarely ON THE GROUND. Yeah, sightseeing and stargazing on this world has to be done carefully if you want to stay alive. Often, your primary function is to slowly make your way through the irradiated countryside and pixel-hunt among poorly drawn tufts of tri-colored alien grass for mines (both stationary and mobile) and shoot them from a safe distance before activating them with your big foot, while also sidestepping pools of irradiated water and green noxious gas produced by pretty yellow flowers. Sound like fun? Well, it is kind of fun. (I know—what a rousing endorsement!) In later missions, the scenarios become more complex, requiring a slightly more strategic approach. But the core gameplay doesn’t change throughout the game—once you learn the basics, you’ve experienced all this game has to offer. Repetitive—really repetitive. This of course has the added effect of eventually making you feel like you really know what you are doing by being able to traverse the maps expertly. All of this ultimately leads to a hasty and uninspired ending that only barely manages to wrap things up. Eh.

Here’s how it plays out in realtime: An early mission has you escorting a mute, expressionless geologist across the rural landscape so she can take some irradiated soil samples. Your job is to clear a path for her, deactivating any automatic turrets and detonating mines (of course, usually by stepping on them). While she hunkers down, you shoot at mines (some of which flip up in the air and blow up in your face or trundle menacingly along the ground toward you). When you are tired of being mine-fodder, you run up to a flame-spewing automatic turret and deactivate it (with a semi-satisfying explosion you have to run away from), then shoot at some of the bizarre, mask-wearing irradiated freaks that live in the wrecked countryside (all of whom sound strangely like squealing pigs when they die—kind of creepy). Then, after you step on a few more mines, the nameless geologist lady gets up and walks 20 paces and hunkers down again—rinse and repeat. Alternatively, a mission near the end of the game takes you into a decrepit (but still booby-trapped) underground missile defense complex (full of the requisite rusting computers, falling ceiling tiles, and mask-wearing freaks around every other corner) to hunt for a mechanism to deactivate all the above ground defenses (saving yourself a lot of mine-stepping in the long run). The dark, dusty, cramped quarters are much creepier, and the attacks require faster thinking. It is in these later missions that the actual storyline involving your comrades picks up, and your missions begin to have a larger goal of putting the various puzzle pieces together to help the oppressed inmates escape the work camp (and, potentially, overthrow the overlords). In between each mission, you return to the work camp where a few other inmates shuffle about (including your nemesis Porcupine, a foil who is never really developed properly), sell any items you have found during the mission away from the camp, upgrade your equipment, and of course go to bed—always to rest up for the next fetch quest. It’s completely linear, of course.

In the long run, some of these missions play out in a semi-interesting way. Considering that all these defenses have been left on “automatic,” you can enter an area to find an entirely unmanned war being waged amongst the various machines—mortars will fall that trigger the mines, which begin roaming across the ground in some cases, which set the turrets spinning away, which pummel the automatic tanks that begin hunting down the attacking turrets. I don’t know if this was a deliberate design choice, but it is kind of unique in that accidental-feeling way. And, of course, it all means immediate death if you wander into the middle of it. The point in many of these maps is to find the one right path through it all—with safe retreats somewhere along the way. Although it is quite blatantly trial and error gameplay (read: irritating), some of the pacing works well. For example, in an effort to dodge turret fire (and as the mortars whistle their way in), you quickly turn a corner only to find yourself standing 10 feet away from one of those damn mask-wearing geeks who shoots you right good. Death #32; here we go again. Most of the time though, the living enemies are braindead. They may effectively bum-rush you here and there, but they classically stand around in open view and allow themselves to be shot (squealing the entire time). The automatic defenses you come into contact with pose a much more lethal hazard.

Speaking of the environments, the maps try hard to suggest some kind of draw distance with a vast, multicolored sky that zips by overhead (the Strugatsky brothers’ novel apparently spends a considerable amount of time discussing the strange look of the sky due to the composition of the atmosphere), the dark mountains in the background, and a few “vista moments” that take you from cramped corridors into rolling brown fields that stretch to the horizon. But when it comes down to it, the biggest areas you play in are only really medium-sized. Atmospherically (the misleading marketing of the French release of the game previously mentioned notwithstanding), the world you traverse is clearly Chernobyl-inspired. A strange sounding wind blows across the abandoned post-war landscape (well, abandoned other than the mask-wearing, pig squealing, irradiated aliens lurking about), and every corner is littered with some rusty, peeling, cracked, industrial whatzit…massive husks of concrete buildings, toppled radio towers, big vents and pipes protruding from the ground, dilapidated work-camp housing with grass growing on the roof and weeds coming up through the floorboards, a defunct nuclear tower, bent chain link fencing, rusty metal bunkers, decaying iron gridwork…all of it poking through overgrown grass. My run-of-the-mill rig could play the game with graphics settings on maximum, and it didn’t look too shabby for an eastern European game from 2005 (or maybe 2007—the marketing materials say 2007, but the in-game credits claim 2005, so take your pick). However, a caveat is in order: If my Stalker-like description makes you want to rush out and attempt to find this title and play it, make sure to pull your expectations back—way back. Rather than the grandeur of a wrecked Capital Wasteland a la Falllout 3 or The Zone from that better-known Ukrainian game, what you get here is more like a series of wrecked rural power stations and nuclear plants hemmed in by barbed wire fence, with an unpopulated countryside that stretches beyond your reach on the other side of concrete barriers. Having framed it thusly, let me also say that it totally works. The allure of the apocalypse is there, no question; many of the depressing environments are haunting and evoke a disabused, forgotten technologically advanced civilization that killed itself off. Ultimately, it is one of those games that if you willingly relinquish yourself to it (and it seriously does improve as it progresses, which is so often the case with these titles—my advice is to try and ignore your first impressions for the first two chapters of gameplay, as well as the bits that take place in the prison camp in between missions), you’ll find yourself immersed enough to want to finish it. Maybe.

Postscript: Other than the time I spent translating the dialogue and GUI (English translation patches that are available at 3D Shooter Legends—Google it), there were some other “enhancements” I undertook to make the game a wee bit more playable. Some tweaks were small, like changing the color of the reticle to neon green so I could see it on screen (the default brown disappeared entirely amidst the rusty environs). But other changes were more significant: In what I consider a super-annoying design boo-boo, everywhere you go, there are bright orange leaves (as well as a thick dust) generated from nowhere, all of it blowing in your face constantly. It obscures absolutely everything, which I guess was the intent—to make the oncoming dangers harder to detect. But to me, all it managed to do was get in the way of me enjoying the wrecked landscape, such as it is. It took me a while to find the offending graphics file, but I did, and in the trash it went, and the game still ran fine. All this is just to say, in some respects, the title has some serious rough edges that need you’ll need to either endure or alter (if you are adventurous and have enough free time). Definitely another title for the “glad I pursued this and stuck with it” file.

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19 Comments so far
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Great review of “Inhabited Island: Prisoner of Power”. Now I know I must play this game! Where did you find a copy? I have been collecting FPS games since 1993, and currently own several hundred boxed FPS games. Only within the last year have I discovered the rich and unique world of the lesser-known imports. I prefer boxed versions for my collection, but I’m not averse to buying from a digital retailer, if it means I can play it! Thank you!

Comment by Mark L

Wow! That’s some collection–you’ve got me beat by 100 titles easily! I’m right there with you regarding “old-fashioned” boxes on the shelf. Here’s a bit of info about the game: The title in Russian is Обитаемый остров: Чужой среди чужих. It was also released in a French version titled “Prisoner of Power: La Genèse des Stalkers.” If you are in the west, the problem with obtaining an actual shelf copy is that it was never released in the west, and even if you could find a retailer to sell it to you, software often cannot be shipped to other countries. Personally, when I’m faced with this dilemma, I find somewhere to get it–first by retail download and then if that fails, by other “murkier” means. So you can try to have it shipped to you depending on where you are. For example, you can find this on French sites, like Amazon.fr (see link)

http://www.amazon.fr/dp/B0018BPBG8/ref=asc_df_B0018BPBG82684475/?tag=jeuxvideo_fichesjeux-21&creative=22950&creativeASIN=B0018BPBG8&linkCode=asn

The problem with this particular title, I found anyway, is that it wasn’t very popular (being a lowbrow film-tie-in game), and so getting my hands on it was tricky. No place I knew of, like Direct2Drive or Gamer’s Gate, had it listed for pay download. I actually have a Russian rapidshare link to it, provided to me by someone else, that I can send to you directly if you choose (not sure if it is still active though). Let me know. (So that I could have an actual box on the shelf, I make my own art. I could send you that file too if you choose–both box art and also disc art.) If you do get it and want the English translation materials I threw together for it (in case you don’t read Russian or French), you should visit the site 3d Shooter Legends (Google it if you are not familiar with it). The translation materials are listed under the Inhabited Island category you’ll find there. But if you do not know the site, you should know ahead of time that you will be surfing it for a few days because of how much content is there for shooter fans. It’s an absolutely wonderful site listing at least 400 shoooters, broken down by year (starting around 1991 or so?), showing you exactly how many games you’ve never heard of, many of which are non-western games. There are some download links to some games, some demos, and other files. It’s just an absolutely incredible resource. Some titles I discovered there include the nice sci-fi Russian-only FPS “Neuro” [2006] (see the review here–I translated this too and materials are available there), “The Hunt” [2007] (another very cool FPS in a future Moscow where murder is government sanctioned–I’ve not played it yet, but I have translated it, and it will appear on the blog eventually–translation materials available there), and the generally cruddy-looking Moscow-based zombie shooter “Evil Resistance: Morning of the Dead” (the native title being something like “Moscow and The Dead”). I am right now playing and translating the Ukrainian “Collapse: Devastated World,” [2008], which is a visually stunning game that has impressed me greatly (though it is a third-person shooter/hack-n-slash, not FPS). It will be on the blog here when I’m done with it. Anyway, let me know about the share link to Inhabited Island if you go that route (again not sure if it is still working). GOOD HUNTING!

Comment by wkduffy

After I posted, I did go to 3D Shooter Legends, where I THINK I found the game. It’s listed as a demo, but I’ve never heard of a 4.2 gig demo before. I guess I’ll find out soon, because I stayed up late last night downloading all 44 parts. I also grabbed the English translation there. I’ll be letting you know once I get more time to try it (I’m on lunch break now).

You are correct. I can see me spending a lot of time at 3D shooter Legends. You are also correct that GamersGate does not have the game. I get a lot of my imports there.

Three new ones popped up there recently: “MIA: Mission In Asia”, “They’re Alive!”, and “Chernobyl: Terrorist Attack”. The first two were quite good, but basic. The third has good settings, but wasted its potential a bit by artificially constraining you to a narrow invisible path.

You can be sure I’ll be checking out the titles you listed! They sound fascinating. GamersGate has Neuro, and I’ve downloaded it, but haven’t tried it yet.

I’m also getting into “Xenus 2”, and just starting on “The Precursors” (I got the English versions of both through BeamDog, who also host the sound fix files to get the Russian voices back in both). There is simply a TON of great stuff I’ve been missing out on!

Thanks for your quick reply. I’ll be letting you know how it goes.

Comment by Mark L

Thanks for the titles to check out. I’ll look them up on Gamersgate. Speaking of that, you’ll have to show me where “Neuro” [2006] is on Gamersgate. I’ve never been able to find it anywhere–it’s a real “invisible” title. I know they sell “Neuro Hunter” [2005], a totally different game. Actually, generally speaking on the web, you can find quite a bit of press about “Neuro Hunter” (it having been a English-based game; I’ve never played it myself), but very little on “Neuro,” which is a real shame. And about some of the demos on 3DSL, they are not always “demos” in the strict sense–since many of these games, again, were never released in the west anyway (and they clearly never will be considering the amount of time that has passed since they were released in their countires of origin), and there is no other way to obtain them. That’s what makes 3DSL such a great resource. Last, I’ll just say that keeping your expectations in check regarding “Inhabited Island” is probably a good idea–like so many of the eastern European games, you’ve got to keep your sights “realistic” (in other words, a little low) in order to enjoy them. After all, these are not triple-A western-made games, but you clearly understand that already. Cheers! (Oh, and I started playing “The Precursors” too a few months back and am slowly making my way through it. Completely enjoyable. As I understand it, this was originally slated for a western release [even for consoles, imagine that], but it never happened, too bad…)

Comment by wkduffy

You’re right. The one I have is “Neuro Hunter”. I have a long way to go learning these new titles.

Anyway, regarding “Inhabited Island”: After 5 hours of messing around with Starforce (yeah, I’m new at this too) and some kind of Alcohol mounting thing (which it turns out I didn’t need), and the serial number being rejected by Starforce (which I got around using a “repaired” exe file obtained elsewhere–which was all I’d have needed in the first place)…SUCCESS!!!

Did you do the English translation for this game? If so, I just want to say it works phenomenally! I daresay I couldn’t have played the game at all without it. Seriously! So thanks!!! I’m breezing along now at over 100 frames per second.

Oh, and one more thing I forgot to mention earlier: One of my current favorite imports and prized posessions (physical media DVD in a beautiful cardboard and plastic case) is my Russian version of “Cursed Mountain” for PC. Fortunately, the seller (eBay seller from Belarus)was good enough to point out the file within the game directory to switch the entire thing to English. It’s a wonderful port of a game originally made for the wii I think. The game got slaughtered by the MetaCritic reviews (PC version), but I totally loved it. It had superb atmosphere and voice acting and a great story. And the controls worked flawlessly on the PC. They even included the reverse Y-axis option. But as usual, you’re probably way ahead of me on that one.

Comment by Mark L

Yay, success! Yes, the “fixed exe” files for many of these games can be found on sites like GameBurnWorld, and others. Often all you have to do is Google “Title of Game” and “fixed exe” and something will come up. I, too have “Cursed Mountain” (got it from Gamersgate actually), and it is waiting on my shelf–very excited to play it, and especially now that you say it is good (it is an English version already, I believe). I did do the English translation on “Inhabited Island.” It was an interesting experience that took about a month, since I do not speak or read Russian at all! Glad you could use the files. Keep your eye open for “Collapse: Devastated World” (Ukrainian sci fi adaventure/shooter from 2008)–I just finished the translation last night and will have the administrator on 3DSL put up the links to files (and he will usually also include a demo iso for the game). It’s a third-person affair, but it is of exceptional quality (graphically far beyond “Inhabited” in my opinion), and an English translation of it doesn’t exist. My translation is not an exhaustive 100% on-screen translation for technical reasons, but it does allow you to play the game fairly well. Cheers!!

Comment by wkduffy

It takes a real appreciation of the art form to spend all that time with the translations. I will be on the lookout for that Collapse game.

Cursed Mountain: I think I either bought that before GamersGate got it, or before I knew GamersGate even existed. In any case, it took months on eBay before a reasonably-priced copy turned up.

I’m eager to hear what you think of it, since I haven’t heard anything good about the PC version yet.

I have your site bookmarked, and I look forward to reading your other reviews (I pretty much stopped after this one, since I got preoccupied with downloading it and getting it running). You know what grabbed my attention first? Your first screenshot. It didn’t look all glossy and pretty, but it evoked a mood that stopped me right there. Similar to how a certain painting at an art gallery will grab me. So yeah, I’m all about atmosphere. And yeah, I also love the STALKER games. 🙂

Comment by Mark L

You’ve translated ‘The Hunt’? *blinks* You are officially my hero!

Comment by Sam

LINKS FOR COLLAPSED WORLD TRANSLATION FILES IS DOWN..
COULD YOU POSSIBLY FIX IT??
CHEERS !! sorry caps!

Comment by ray

Hi Ray. Thanks for reading. I need to change the Collapse link here, but here are directions on where to find it: Go to the website “3D Shooter Legends” (http://welcome.to/3d-shooter-legends), and in the search box, type in “Collapse Devastated World.” When the game’s entry comes up, you’ll see a link to the English materials on 4Shared. Keep in mind the warnings above about the materials–the file is large, using them is a bit of a pain, and it does not translate everything, but defintely enough for you to follow the story and what is happening. This was supposed to have an English release, but news of that reality seems to come and go…so right now, this is the only game in town (that i know of) if you really want to play it and understand the narrative.

EDIT: Ray, I checked the 3DSL link, and it seems the folder is empty. I have alerted Scaryfun at 3DSL about this; he’ll probably get it up again very soon. He’s good about these things. So, just keep checking it.

Comment by wkduffy

For an aging gamer who’s grown tired of a lot of our “western “games ,this blog is excelent!

Comment by ray

Hello, do you know where I can still find this game? All the links are dead and i can’t find a physical copy on ebay?

Comment by Yhe1

Hi Yhe1. Funny you should ask. A moderator over at the encyclopedic games website 3D Shooter Legends (http://legendsworld.net/shooter/news) just asked me if I could send him my iso of the game, since some of the links are down for it on 3D Shooter Legends. How about this: I’m going to up the game to him so he can get it and post it, and then the link should be active within a few days on that site. If you don’t know the site, it is pretty self-explanatory–searching for the game in the search box will lead you to a description of the game and a download link. If this doesn’t work over the next few days (give the 3DSL guys a chance to post it), then leave me a message here and I can up the game so you can get it somehow.

Comment by wkduffy

Yhe1: I have now uploaded the Inhabited Island: Prisoner of Power iso to 4shared. The link should become available on 3D Shooter Legends as I mentioned before. But I will also put the direct link to the download here. The setup.exe opens a Russian install menu, which you can probably figure out on your own. I think no crack is needed to play (already cracked). Also on the disc is my English translation folder that includes my translation text files and instructions on using the files (overwriting game files). Otherwise, the game is in Russian only. The link is: http://www.4shared.com/file/KjG78e0ece/Island.html. Let me know if it all works out.

Comment by wkduffy

Download link at 3DShooterlegends, GONE!

Comment by Dan

Dan: Ach! (Honestly it’s a very iffy “game-like substance” anyway, as I call it, but I know how it is when you really want to see for yourself.) There is a thread on the 3DSL forums to report broken links–did you try that? I’ve found that ScaryFun who runs the entire site, as well as other admins, are all very responsive, especially to broken link requests. Usually they have backups of all the files. If I need to re-upload it, then usually they’d tell me (if it needs to come from me). Well, let me know.

Comment by wkduffy

DAN: If you’re monitoring this, check the 3DSL links again…I messaged the admins to re-up it and at some point in the near future they will become available again.

Comment by wkduffy

Gah! Just can’t seem to get this to run on Windows 7. I’ve tried compatibility modes, running as admin, all the usual stuff to no avail. I’m usually the one helping others but this has me stumped atm after about 30mins of trying. Will try again later but in the meantime if anyone seeing this has any ideas that worked please by all means let us know. And btw, great blog wkduffy! Thanks 😉

Comment by InFiLtRaToR

Fingers crossed, watch this space for help from someone? I played it on an XP system a few years back now. Honestly, you are not missing much, but I know how it is when you really want to play something for yourself. This is also one of the reasons why for years I maintained a dual-boot system with Win 7 and XP. Used 7 for everything else, but booted up ye old XP for crappy games when necessary. With Win 10, I let it all go. Kinda sad to see even the bad old games die slow deaths as tech makes them obsolete. But it’s just part of the nature of them, I guess. That’s also why projects like Night Dive Studios (updating and polishing older games like System Shock) are often worth supporting…but no dev is ever, ever gonna bother with something like Inhabited Island (and you really can’t blame them)!

Comment by wkduffy




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