Artifacts are items that have been changed by the conditions in the Zone.
The small piece of metal traveled through the air and landed on the ground with a silent thud. Immediately the area was filled with a bright, blue light, as small lighting bolts shot up into the air. A figure calmly watched the light show, and took a small device from his belt. After pressing some buttons the device started to beep loudly. A grin formed on the mans face – an Artifact was near. The person took some more iron bits from a small bag on his belt as he took a few steps back. He prepared quietly as failure would result a painful death. A few seconds passed, and the Stalker threw another piece of metal, while starting to run. Swoosh – the lighting went off as the man sailed through the air, right over the glowing bolt. After landing the man let out a small laugh and took out the beeping device. He started to slowly turn around, all the while listening for louder beeps. At one moment he hit jackpot – the device became louder. Every step forward and the device went louder and louder, faster and faster, up to the moment when it turned into a nonstopping sound. At the moment the man calmly extended his arm and grabbed for something. At first there was nothing, but then a large, rock like thing appeared, that seemed to glow from the inside. Our Stalker turned around, made the jump over the Anomaly again and began his way back to the Bar, all the while thinking about the uses of the money he'll get from the Barkeep.
Artifacts are formed from anomalies, exposed to certain objects or conditions: The combination of an ordinary object(s) and an anomaly, the degeneration and death of an anomaly or if the anomaly is exposed to certain conditions. An example is the Crystal where it is a combination of metallic substances and the Burner anomaly. Emissions are known to be the catalyst in the actual creation of an artifact, although scientists in the zone are still unable to explain how this happens.
Most artifacts have strange and useful characteristics. For example, when kept close to the body, some artifacts create a protective field that increases its user's resilience to damage. Others may increase the user's stamina or protect against fire, etc.
Most Artifacts generate radiation, their radiation appears to be powerful as it could penetrate the radiation protection from any armor, and artifacts that absorb and destroy radiation (like the Crystal or Bubble, which vary from game to game though) are needed to be worn in tandem to safely wear these radiation generating artifacts for extended periods, unless one is willing to waste loads of Vodka and Anti-rad. The radiation though appears to only irradiate when placed very close to the body, placing them inside their back-packs or being near them does not seem to irradiate the carrier. (Perhaps emitting alpha radiation, but it would be unable to penetrate the skin and cause damage.) Most artifacts also might have some side-effects (e.g. Moonlight will increase one's endurance at the cost of one's resistance to electric anomalies). However there are a handful of artifacts with no negative effects which are both rare and expensive (dummy artifacts in Shadow of Chernobyl). In the later two games, radiation is the only downside, meaning anti-rad drugs, radation-absorbing artifacts, or even vodkas are sufficient to outweigh this shortcoming.
Artifacts are very valuable and Stalkers commonly sell them to traders, who in turn sell them to high profile buyers ranging from the military, scientists, large business companies down to collectors, who would pay a hefty price to obtain one of these artifacts from the Zone.
Scientists, notably professor Sakharov greatly value artifacts as they are great research materials and claim that they could be the key to answer the world's problems and the key to several technological advancements.
In all three S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games, the player can either use the artifacts by attaching them to armor or as trade goods. In Shadow of Chernobyl, a fair number of quests revolve around finding different kinds of artifacts.
Differences between games Edit
In Shadow of Chernobyl, artifacts are relatively plentiful and can be found lying on the ground or in stashes. However, in Clear Sky, artifacts are very rare and almost exclusively found in the middle of anomaly clusters. A special detector is required to track and spot artifacts. This would imply how that before the second great emission, the artifacts were few and far between due to the majority of them already being found from the first emission. After the second great emission that wiped out most of the Stalkers in the zone and started the events of Shadow of Chernobyl, a slew of new artifacts were created across the zone. In Call of Pripyat, artifacts are still uncommon, but are much more commonly found than they were in Clear Sky; also most likely due to the time that has elapsed since the last great emission that created the majority of the artifacts, Stalkers have already found most of the artifacts.
Certain artifacts also had their characteristics changed between the games, such as Moonlight which went from being stamina-improving to instead providing extra protection against psionic effects; or Gravi, instead of lessening rupture damage it increases overall weight carried. It's possible that the changes between the two games is a result of a type of "(de)evolution" in the artifacts or change in the composition in the artifacts after a period of time, or the anomalies themselves changed over time and they now create different results. Some artifacts have gone extinct entirely – or simply collected to the point no more appear in the Zone, such as the Slime, Mica or Crystal Thorn.
- Rarely, during Call of Pripyat, artifacts can be found outside of anomaly clusters simply rolling around, seemingly propelling themselves.