Topol (Тополь) is the head of the Ecologist field research team in Call of Pripyat. While still a relative novice to the Zone, he's far more hardened and experienced compared to the Professors who direct him and his squad in their research.
Topol's team consists of 3 other Ecologist-turned-Stalkers. While associated with the Ecologist faction, their relation to you hinges on your standing with the other Loners - depending on how you perform in Zaton they may already be friendly when you find the mobile lab. Initially they are poorly armed and poorly armored, and missions involve saving or escorting them, but over time they become veteran stalkers in their own right. Each one is named for a different tree type.
If the team is destroyed completely, another team of Ecologist stalkers appears at the mobile lab, but will not give you the rewards you would receive for guiding Topol and his men all the way. Alternately, if the hostage crisis has been resolved, Mitay and his companions can be hired to take over for Topol, but again will not give the same rewards.
Topol is first found outside the mobile lab, along with the Mercenary team defending the lab. His team is gathered around the camp fire, and hopefully all alive. They initially serve no purpose until the player has a helmet with sufficient psi-protection to take the first Ecologist quest. They cover the player as he moves in through an underground tunnel to find a psi-emitting artifact.
While everything goes smoothly at first - the player should be able to kill the Zombies in the tunnel before they can even fire on the Ecologists - at the end a Controller appears, presumably attracted by the artifact. The player has a few options in this scenario:
- Let the Controller take control of Topol and his men, gun them all down, and proceed to take down the Controller.
- Sprint past Topol, and move to cover away from the entire group to take down the Controller without slaying Topol's team.
- Charge the Controller and unload.
- use the gauss gun or an RPG on the controller
If Topol's team dies in this mission, your reward shrinks by 1000 RU for every slain stalker, from a maximum of 6000. It also makes it more difficult to earn the Researcher achievement by lowering your reputation if you had to kill any of them yourself. Your reward for the second Ecologist mission also shrinks drastically.
After returning from the first mission, you're able to take a pair of escort quests where you guide the team and protect them while they scan a pair of anomaly fields. This quest is the most important of the Ecologist quests due to the handsome rewards you earn. To get the best results, the entirety of Topol's team must have survived the first mission, or at the very least, Topol himself. The time required for each field grows depending on how many stalkers survive, and how well you repel threats - if they have to interrupt their scanning to assist you or a comrade, the timer pauses.
The quest is broken into two fields, the Fen Anomaly (aka Plavni) and the Ash Heap Anomaly. At both, your job is to watch the ecologists' backs while they do their work. Both are fairly simple defenses, and it's highly recommended you bring an assault rifle and a shotgun.
The Ash Heap Anomaly is the easier of the two, taking place just north of Kopachi Village. Zombies come from only two directions, making it rather easy to anticipate their approach, and with an upgraded assault rifle you can easily cover Topol's back. Topol and/or the others may start to go after the Zombies if they get close enough, even if they are out of sight, so pick them off at a distance. The quest is noticeable as it may be your first opportunity to grab a RP-74 from one of the zombies coming out of the house, however, it requires you either let the squad be interrupted a couple times, or wade into the house he'll spawn in. Either one runs the risk of zombies overrunning the ecologists and killing one or two of them.
The Fen Anomaly is more difficult due to one of the few glitches in the game - a Bandit or Zombie squads, or even a Controller, Pseudogiants and Chimeras spawn right where the Ecologists stand. Be prepared to blast a magically appearing Zombie or Bandit at any second, however it's quite easy to avoid this glitch - before talking to Topol just check Fen Anomaly. If there are any mutants or zombies, kill them. Then you have to run to ecologist bunker and take a quest so game will not spawn new enemies before your arriving.
Instead of Zombies, however, your main enemy will be wild Boars and Fleshes. The team will not move until one of them has been struck, so make sure to gun the boars down as soon as possible. They attack in sets of three. The Fleshes are easier than the Boars with that the Fleshes will get close and run away, then get close and run away. Don't completely ignore them though, they may still attack the Ecologists. The Boars just go straight on and charge for them.
After both fields have been examined, you can speak with Topol to return to the mobile lab. Head inside to claim your reward, and leave the mobile lab area for awhile (going to deploy more anomaly scanners should be enough).
When you return, Topol and his team will have upgraded their equipment, and they will be called Iskra Scientific Research and Investigation Team. Topol will be armed with an Exoskeleton and GP-37, Snake and Spirit have acquired SEVA suits and Mace uses a Radiation suit and an SGi 5k. Now known as Special Field Research Team Iskra (called Glint in some translations), their equipment and combat skill are on an Expert level. Speaking with Topol will give you a very large reward of medical supplies, including the extremely rare Anabiotics along with up to 7 Scientific Medkits. After this, Topol's team is mostly for show, but at the midpoint in the game, an evil player can kill them off for a good collection of gear, and the mass of medical items they give for protecting them is a huge bonus to any player. Once Iskra is formed, he can be asked about travelling to Pripyat, but declines stating the Ecologists now pay him too well and the Zone Pass is too valuable to risk it - curiously Garik has a Zone Pass as well, despite leaving the Ecologists behind.
As well, it is possible to earn the Researcher and Friend of Stalkers achievements by completing the Escort quest, giving you the maximum discount from Novikov and all medical merchants in the Zone (excluding Owl).
- Topol's callsign is Poplar in some translations.
- His weapon of choice after assisting him completely seems to change. He may equip either the SGi 5k or a GP-37.
- Amusingly when Topol and his team join the Ecologist faction, if you already have all stalkers as friendly due to various actions in side missions, due to them joining the faction they will go from being friendly to being neutral depending on the factions view of you, this is something of an amusing oversight considering your hand in their success.