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Bandits - Faction power, balance and lore analysis. (Unbiased)

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Charcharo
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On forum: 06/23/2009
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Bandits - Faction power, balance and lore analysis. (Unbiased)

Hello dear fans!

This is my analysis of the Bandit faction throughout all 3 games. I will focus on lore and equipment as well as balance. The idea here is to see how well GSC have managed to realize this faction and how well it compares to other factions in the universe. If this is liked I will do more for other factions in the future. Also excuse me for sometimes using unconfirmed conclusions, some of these things can be argued. I just apply my knowledge of STALKER’s universe and Occam’s Razor to my conclusions.

To check my previous work:

https://www.reddit.com/r/stalker/comments/8zyhyo/freedom_faction_power_balance_and_lore_analysis/

https://www.reddit.com/r/stalker/comments/92qhsm/duty_faction_power_balance_and_lore_analysis/

Lore:

Bandits are a group of mostly ex-criminals who came in the Zone either to escape their government, trade with weapons or just make money. Bandits are ruthless and generally hostile to anyone not in their gang. Though depicted in Clear Sky as a united, highly territorial faction, the Bandit population in Shadow of Chernobyl and Call of Pripyat consists mainly of roving groups.

They are one of the most poorly-equipped factions of the Zone, usually relying on low-grade weaponry and light armors.

The faction has long been in fierce conflict with Loners, Duty, and the Military.

History

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8GV2KrH8V4

Under Yoga in Clear Sky the Bandits were a somewhat centralized faction that engaged in enslavement, robberies, a war with the loners and Duty (limited) and even kidnappings. They operate somewhat like a weird crime syndicate and not quite like mobsters or general bandits. Yoga seems to have been a bad leader for his faction though, unable to really seize strategic advantages for his faction.

In SoC under Borov the Bandits are much more populous and occupy more areas. They also are more daring, trying to occupy areas which are under Loner, Duty, or Military control. They do not try to move closer to the center of the Zone though.

In CoP Bandits operate under leaders and have different modus operandi. In Zaton they serve Sultan and try to create a sort of crime empire. Their tactics are with more finesse than before. In Jupiter one group of Bandits acts like they did in SoC, one group engages in loan sharking and one group kidnaps people for extortion money.



Locations under control

Clear Sky

In Clear Sky the Bandit HQ is in the Garbage which is a territory that has direct access to Army Warehouse, The Cordon, Dark Valley, Agroprom and Red Forest. It is the most important location in Clear Sky from a strategic point of view and is the heart of the Zone's faction wars. It is very hard to defend though and is effectively besieged on all sides. They have a harder time reaching the Swamps and Yantar, but those locations are not central. Whoever controls the Garbage can project power all over the Zone. Compared to all other factions, I would argue their position is really tough to hold. The Loners have more forces in many key locations such as in Yantar, Agroprom, Army Warehouse, and Cordon. Bandits hold one of the most important but also hardest to hold down areas of the entire game. They are besieged on all sides by hostiles and mutants. Strategically powerful but very hard to hold position.

Overall Bandits have a location that would have worked for a very powerful and well equipped faction such as Duty or Mercenaries or Military. They simply can't hold it from all their opponents. They lack the numbers or equipment to hold this area once Duty and Freedom enter into the fray. I would classify it as a key location but for the wrong faction.

At full power Bandits can have squads in the Cordon, bullying the loners. Unfortunately they do not have other presences that are not part of side quests. Their squads in Agroprom Underground are hostile to the player, as are their squads in Agroprom. They can't do much even if they did not get killed as Duty soldiers or Loners will take care of them. They never go towards the Army Warehouse and the most I have ever seen them take in Red Forest is a single squad in the south-east side. Not nearly as advanced as Loners or Duty or Freedom.

It is important to note that an elite detachment of Bandits managed to get to Limansk and even has an exoskeleton (Loner colours) soldier with a PKM. That squad of Bandits is for sure not to be trifled with, but it is an exception rather than the rule and is entirely scripted.



Shadow of Chernobyl

In SoC Bandits have a base in the Dark Valley, a pretty big one even! They have a massive presence in the Dark Valley and frequently fight loners in the Cordon, Agroprom, and Garbage. They also sometimes engage military personnel in those areas. Their presence in the North is only at the Wild Territory.

End game, the Bandits have almost no advancements. Their base is stormed not only by the player but also Speznaz and whilst the Bandits will eventually take it back, it will take awhile. They do get better weapons and spawn in greater numbers, but the Loners, Duty soldiers, Mercenaries, and Military make bigger jumps in their equipment. That is the real issue. Yes the player will encounter lots of Bandits but they are easy to slaughter and other respawning NPCs will make short work of them too.



Call of Pripyat

In CoP the Bandits have contested control over most of Zaton. They have battles with Loners in the area and seem to have a fairly even spread. They also have squads in Jupiter though less in number. Unfortunately, they have no deployments in Pripyat which is a shame as it would have livened it up.

At full power Bandits deploy more and more powerful squads in Zaton, but that is all they seem to do. They slowly lose their numbers in Jupiter once their quests are completed.



Goals:

Main goal – Make money ayyy. By any memes necessary. Exact goals vary by group.

Secondary goals – Surviving the Zone.

Relations:

I split relations in 5 categories unlike how the STALKER games operate with just 3. 5 are much better to assess the situation and IMHO were GSC to work on STALKER 2 proper they can improve this area of lore, world design, balance, politics, and relations easily.

Total War: Monolith, Military, Duty (SoC), Loners (CS), Zombies, Mutants

Hostile: Loners (SoC, CoP), Duty (CS, CoP), Clear Sky

Neutral: Ecologists (CoP, I would argue in lore too), Mercenaries (CoP, general lore?), Freedom

Friendly: Renegades? Mercenaries (SoC)?

Allies: ?

There is a lot to unpack here. Really, bandits are in a situation where who they fight or do not fight depends on agreements. Yes, the military of Ukraine (or Belarus) would not tolerate them, neither would Duty and Freedom likely has certain moral limits under which they would be forced to fight the Bandits too. Monolith is also clearly hostile, but the Mercenaries, Ecologists, Renegades are a mixed bag. Whether they are hostile to the Bandits can be changed per situation, group leaders, and context.

What do other factions think of the Bandits?

For the meme version, check Robert Quinlan’s videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/RobertQuinlan/videos

Freedom does tolerate them for sure, but that is honestly as far as they go I'd wager. As far as Freedom is concerned, Bandits are like the loners and a free part of the Zone. As long as they dont commit crimes against humanity or interfere with Freedom, they do not get the bullet.

Duty sees them as vermin to be slaughtered, criminal fodder. Nothing more. They even use captured bandits in their arena fights. We do know Duty can spare certain low end bandits and I suspect they wont outright torture or maim the fodder if they surrender, would rather extract them to the outside world so the authorities deal with them. But the ones they do not like, the leaders and monsters... well yeah. Bandits are a step above Monolith, but nothing more in Duty's eyes.

​Monolith just see heretics to be slaughtered or converted.

​Loners generally despise Bandits. In Clear Sky we see Loners band together to free the Diggers and stop the Bandits in the Garbage, and in SoC and CoP they still attempt skirmishes against the faction. With that being said, I believe that there is some level of respect between the two factions at certain moments. Imagine being a bandit soldier, caught by not as trigger happy Loners somewhere in the wild. Depending on your reputation or who you serve, you may survive the encounter. The other way round also may happen, though the Bandits will likely take your money or some of your items. I am also fairly certain bandits have contacts with the Loners for trade and information. So it is not an outright battlefield situation, just a hostile one. Besides, as we can see from Tuna or Vampire, the difference between a Loner and a Bandit is sometimes almost nonexistent.

Renegades likely do not like the Bandits and even fear some retaliation from Bandits against their ex-Bandit members, but at least they do not shoot on sight. So I suspect that the closest thing they got to a friend or true neutral is the Bandits, and even then we know that retaliation from the criminal underworld can happen at any time.

Clear Sky are for sure not fans of the faction, but I suspect they would not outright go to war against them like Duty or Loners do.

Military are obvious. Bandits to them are even worse than Loners and they will shoot on sight. HOWEVER, we do know certain Bandit leaders have contacts among the Military, which means that at least the Bandits are rarely a strategic objective.

Mercenaries are neutral towards the Bandits. In SoC they are even paid by the Bandits to assist in the Wild Territory. Mercs treat them as any other business customer though. Bandits can be targets or partners in crime.

Ecologists would treat them with disdain but wont outright start shooting... most of the time.

Equipment and recruiting:

Bandits are an odd bunch. Some of their members are ex-loners and a few may very well be ex-mercenaries or ex-military. I suspect a small amount are also from other factions too. With that being said there is good reason to believe that some Bandits came from outside the Zone as an extension of the arm of certain criminal organizations. We know they seem to have some contacts with the Mercs and Military and while it is not exactly official lore I would not be surprised to know some of the groups and some of the Bandit gangs have connections to the outside world and maybe represent interests other than their own. We know the recruiting standard of just one of the Bandit groups, in Clear Sky, and it seems to be based on being known and respected by the faction's members and its leader. As long as you did not slaughter their members, they will probably accept you.

Seeing how Bandits have mostly low end guns like pistols and SMGs and some lower end shotguns, we can concluse that their supplies are mostly scavenged for the majority of their members. High end Bandits have access to respectable AK class rifles and the best of the bunch seem to have ZM LR 300s or even 9x39 AS Val's. Perhaps connections to the Mercenaries, the Military and outside crime syndicates does pay off nicely?

They should be full of people from all over the world as they, a lot like the owners, represent the downtrodden and easy to influence. Some would have dues to pay, others were already part of the wrong crowd. Some may be mercenaries paid to work in the Zone for a larger crime organization. The storytelling possibilities are technically near endless here, just as with the Loners. It is a shame GSC did not do more.

Strategy and Tactics:

STALKER is a video game universe and one of the ways GSC decided to distinguish the factions was to give them slightly different spins on equipment, tactics and strategy. In the case of Bandits, they value cheaper weapons with high rate of fire and good handling and prefer armor that protects from firearms and is cheap but cool looking, intimidating, light. This does not mean they wont use other weapons and armor, but this is where most of their chips are.

The strategy they have is good for starting players and can be a good challenge for series veterans. It is not a viable high end tactic most of the timeone for the player character.

Rankings and Balance:

!Do note that I won’t weigh Bandits JUST against Loners here. I will also compare them against other factions, even neutral or friendly ones and mutants. Just because you lose vs an equal tier Loner does not make you weak if you literally win all other scenarios of the Zone!

SOC

Tyro Bandit

Bandit Jacket (sometimes with gas mask), Makarov, Sawn Off TOZ 66

Low level bandits who do their best to survive in the Zone. They have low level equipment and are close in performance to Loner rookies. They get bullied easily by experienced Stalkers and military and have nearly no chance against Duty members, Speznaz or Monolith (they never meet Monolith BTW).All of these members are very likely to be the dispossessed who fled from the rest of the world and got involved with the wrong crowd... or were low level wackos in criminal organizations from the start. Some were ex loners themselves.

Skilled bandit

Bandit Jacket , Sawed-Off shotgun, Viper-5 Submachine gun, AKM-74/2U assault rifle

A tier up they have better weapons and can bully rookie loners thanks to their superior firepower. Unfortunately, when they meet Sunrise suit Stalkers with similar or better weaponry or Duty soldiers... things are not rosy for the Skilled bandit. They are slightly superior canon fodder, can't really compete with other factions though.

These guys and the experts are seasoned loners or ex-military or mercs (with a good record only) who jumped ship as well as faction members who climbed the ladder to be this good.

Master Bandit

Bandit Jacket (gas mask) or brown / black Trenchcoat L85, AKS-74U assault rifle, AKS-74 assault rifle

The addition of the AK class of weaponry and the L85 helps them a lot but ... the upgrade to armor is tiny. The trenchcoat is very poor in protection. These dudes have the skills to fight other veterans but will get slaughtered easily. Loners on this tier use the still superior Sunrise armor or the SEVA suit. Mutants in deeper parts of the Zone are very tough and can close the distance and quickly kill these bandits. Duty? Freedom? Pft. Speznaz cleans house.

These dudes either climbed the criminal ladder or were professionals even before coming to the Zone. Some are likely ex-military too.

Pro Bandit

Brown or Black Trenchcoat, IL 86 assault rifle, AKM-74/2U assault rifle, AKM-74/2 assault rifle, TRs 301 assault rifle

What I said before goes here as well. They are completely outclassed due to weak armor and good but not THAT good weaponry. They are the weakest experts and veterans in SoC.

Overall balance rating: None. Bandits were envisioned as a weak early to mid game faction to slaughter which is a real shame. I dislike how GSC balanced them and its pretty bad of a situation for the pobre banditos.



Clear Sky

With Clear Sky, 5.45 weapons received massive upgrades to their mid and end game viability. Whilst it is not a perfect system and further balancing would be great, AKs, Abakans and AKSUs are competitive now. MP5 got some love too. Also do know that I have added an Experienced 2 tier – this represents Experienced Stalkers with better equipment and is in the spawn menu for all factions. It exists in SoC and CoP too but I am more used to Clear Sky’s rankings. In-game they are experienced soldiers too, just better armed. The Russian community calls these guys professionals usually.

Rookies

Bandit Jacket, Makarov, RGD-5 grenades, Sawn off TOZ 66

About equal to rookie loners really. The grenades are an advantage but otherwise they are nothing special. Under Duty and Freedom rookies, under military and Monolith or mercs too. Only Renegades are clearly worse.

Experienced

Trenchcoat, TOZ-34, MP5, Makarov, RGD 5

​The Tenchcoat is only slightly better than the jacket, offering around 8 points of protection from weapons with light dampening. Bandits on this tier have OK weapons vs Loners but inferior armor and do badly against all other factions. At least they are better than in SoC though!

​Experienced 2 (Professional)

Trenchcoat, AKS-74, TOZ-66 sawed off, MP5, RGD 5, Makarov, Browning Hi-Power

A repeat of the last really, though the AKS-74 is of great help to them. Still under all faction's fighters on this tier.

Veteran

Bandit Mercenary armor, Mossberg 88, AKS-74, Browning Hi-Power, Beretta, RGD 5

A good jump in armor performance from the previous tier as the Bandit merc suit has around 20 armor giving them an advantage over most lower level Stalkers. It is a very good thing GSC gave them access to this armor! Unfortunately, these dudes can not last against Freedom or Duty Veterans. Their weaponry while decent is not that great for this tier either. Veterans at this level have Abakans, SVUs, upgraded AKs, ZM LRs and others. This is where Bandits become simply outmatched against most opponents despite an OK jump and Loners of this tier can put up a very good fight too.

Expert

Bandit Mercenary armor, AS Val, AP ammo, Desert Eagle, F1 grenades

The armor is the same as before and that means they can't go toe to toe with Exoskeleton or Bulat forces at all. With that being said, the AS Val is an awesome weapon and truly Expert worthy, so they are not complete trash. Still, they are the weakest Experts in the game.


Overall balance rating: Better than in SoC but still not very good. Bandits get bodied by Loner Veterans and Experts. Duty Veterans and Experts as well as Freedom Elite units also make short work of them. Bandit's finest class can deal some damage, but not enough for the faction to not lose. They also have low numbers and are not all that aggressive with their war.Also due to CS bugs/weird design choices, Bandits are assholes who take ALL the player's money at their checkpoints. For that reason alone, I suspect most players would just start obliterating their faction. GSC really do not seem to favor the poor Bandits.



CoP

In CoP the weapon balance is a tad worse than in Clear Sky for most guns except the Abakan which is now a clear high end weapon for sure (as it should be).

Rookies

Bandit Jacket with AKSU, Sawn off, Makarov or Fort

Decent rookies really. Nothing special in the grand scheme of things but they are about equal to loners though they lack the TOZ 34s.

Experienced

Bandit Jacket, Leather Trenchcoat, AKS-74U, Makarov or Fort, AK 74, RG5 grenade, normal ammo

Inferior armor to Sunrise suit Stalkers and all Duty and Freedom units. OK weaponry. They still have a chance here. They lack shotguns though.

Experienced 2 (Professional)

Bandit Merc Suit , AKS 74, SPAS 12, RG 5 grenades, Browning Hi Power, Colt 1911, MP5 (with AP), normal ammo.

Surprisingly good tier for Bandits as their armor is a bit over Sunrise suit and their weapons are decent. They can fight Loners well and while outmatched, are not pure canon fodder to Freedom or Duty.

Veteran

Bandit Trenchcoat or Bandit merc suit with AKS 74, SPAS 12, ZM LR 300, Beretta, Colt 1911, F1 Grenades, AP ammo

For some reason Bandits lose some armor here and get better guns. Loners with their SEVAs or Heavy Armors and the Duty and Freedom Elite tier units have equal or superior weapons and much better armor.

Expert

Bandit Trenchcoat with with Armsel Protecta, Abakan, SIG 550, Desert Eagle, F1 grenades, AP ammo.

Ouch. They use the weak trench-coat and good weaponry. Same verse as before, other factions have equal firepower and MUCH better armor at this tier.


Overall balance rating: Worse than Clear Sky. Better than SoC. Also for some reason Bandits can't help lead the player around? They also are weak against Mutants? GSC made Sultan's quests cool and all but from a practical standpoint, helping Loners is better as Loner veterans and masters can kill most mutants and lead the player around.

Scientific analysis:

Bandits do not really partake in scientific analysis. While I am sure many of its members see the value in science and engineering, and appreciate it, they are not in the Zone to expand human knowledge. At least all the known groups of bandits we have seen so far do not have it as a main objective or even a secondary or tertiary objective. They love artifacts, guns, armor, doohickeys but only as tools to "use" and consume.They do employ excellent engineers though. Limpid in Clear Sky is one of the best technicians in the Zone for example. Borov did keep the key to X-18 on his person, but I do suspect it was not because he wanted to exploit the labs secrets for humanity... but something else. So they are not Luddites or stupid, it just is not a strategic objective.

Suggestions:

STALKER 2 (and mods) should hopefully have a lot more weapons. I will however ignore that and use only canon equipment to the games. Bandits need superior armor and ASAP. I would suggest a redistribution of their weaponry and armor as well as adding a Bandit version of the Berrill Speznaz armor. Repainted, maybe with some slight differences, it would give Bandit Experts and Veterans something decent in the combat role. This way they will still be inferior to Duty or Master Loners and Freedom but they wont be THIS damned weak. Also a rare Bandit exoskeleton, very rare even, would give players and other factions a shaking surprise from time to time. They should also use more weapons in general as they, like loners, mostly scavenge or buy their stuff from traders.

Lore-wise I would put Bandits at about equal numbers to Mercenaries and lower than Loners, Duty, and Freedom (but not by much). I would also make them not quite as prone to direct violence and use more extortions, lying, assassinations, loan sharking and so on against their victims. They are powerful but not the biggest fish in the pond and not completely unreasonable.

Finally if SoC, CS, and CoP ever get a remaster or something, Bandits must be made less assholish to the player in order to make them more viable for first time or new players. I get that they should take cash from the player in CS's checkpoints, it is not a bad idea... but must it be all the money the player has? That is just too much. Also not offering their guide services to the player in CoP is silly too. A friendly to the Bandit faction player should absolutely get his boys to escort him, for free even. He would be that cool to them. It just makes no gameplay sense to me, you know... and makes even tangential rewards to having the Bandits win be non-existent.

See here how I would balance them with mostly vanilla equipment here:

https://www.reddit.com/r/stalker/comments/99m1cr/better_and_more_balanced_bandit_equipment/

Weapons and armor suggestions from the real world and mods?

Thompson, PP Bizon, Shipka SMG, M249, M60, VKKS Vychlop, M16, AK-12, AEK, Barrett 50.,I will need more suggestions here. Berril armor and Exoskeleton for sure.

Charcharo, does all this matter?

Internal consistency within a universe is important and STALKER is actually legit one of the best examples in gaming. Sure on closer inspection we see many problems but players in general seem to like the factions of the game both in terms of lore and gameplay. Their ideologies and design are generally consistent and it is apparent that real thought went into their looks and balance. Compared to other factions in gaming, which have to meet each other in combat with the player, the environment, other factions, and monsters… Bandits are pretty bad. Unlike the other factions they need work. These little gameplay details do matter for immersion, roleplaying, and storytelling. So yes, this is of some importance. How much is up for debate, but that it does should be near self-evident. We would not be having our memes and wars here were it not for GSC’s work on these factions and the fact that there is no clear moral, ideological, gameplay-wise or canon superior or inferior is not only realistic but fun.
 
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