In Pathologic 2, a new version of the original Pathologic, itself a nightmarish adventure game from another era. You play a doctor who can barely save himself, let alone the miserable lives of those he encounters. Failure is your constant companion. With some games, you work hard at success and promote the rewards taste bigger this way. Here you will be reduced to a beggar begging for the least scrap, and even then, Pathologic 2 will probably deny it to you. This is our Pathologic 2 Review.
Pathologic 2 Review: About
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Macintosh
- Developer: Ice-Pick Lodge
- Publisher: TinyBuild Games
- Genres: Adventure game, Survival horror, Role-playing video game
- Release Date: May 23, 2019
Pathologic 2 Review: Gameplay
Pathologic 2 makes you feel disoriented from the start. The prologue flashes from one short, cryptic scene to another, pausing only to make you think about what you’ve just been through: a man waking from a chest in a train, a fistfight between stone monuments, a giant bull, you who kill three men – actually happened or if it was a dream sequence or even some kind of hallucination. Once you’ve got the game right, two things become clear.
First, you’ve arrived in the city at the call of your respected surgeon, your father, to find him dead and you a suspect. Two, no one can give you a definite answer to anything. This can give the impression that Pathologic 2 is a murder mystery. And in a way it is. Your father’s death is the driving force behind your exploration of your hometown. But as you wander the streets in search of answers from essential figures and old acquaintances, you reveal more mysteries to investigate.
For the most part, Pathologic 2 is content to provide few answers to such questions, preferring instead to deal with metaphors, obscure Steppe mythology, and sudden leaps of dream logic. Talking to a prominent NPC can very often feel like two people not chasing each other until the dialogue options are exhausted, and the plot inexorably taps forward. The writing is usually right here, based on a series of vibrant images, so this is an intentional stylistic choice to upset players through confusion and embezzlement rather than the result of a flawed translation from the developer’s native language. Russian.
This sort of dispersed, dizzying sense of events that just don’t quite come into the picture is illustrated by what passes for the game’s mission log. As you collect clues, they are added to your Thoughts screen and represented by a floating collection of nodes, each an idea or hunch that can connect to others or drift alone. Some of them do correspond to specific locations on the city map, which helps give a rare moment of explicit instruction to “Go here,” but usually it’s just reminders of leads that you need to try somehow to follow up if you have the time.
The passage of time is a constant pressure reaching his heavy, nagging hands in every aspect of your travels. It is there in the day/night cycle that the streets become dangerous when the sun goes down, and the plague death toll resounds when the clock strikes midnight. And it’s also in the urgency felt by leads that expire when their deadlines pass unattended, making you lose situations that only occur at certain hours.
It’s hard enough to find the time to save yourself. Not because you have been charged with murder, and it will be challenging to clear your name, but because Pathologic 2 is a heart and kidney survival simulation unusually obsessed with the physical body. You have an overall health bar supported by secondary hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and infection gauges, and it’s at the expense of the game that you spend most of your time worrying about survival rather than thinking about the more metaphysical matters of the story.
This survival mechanics may have made you stressed about the severe conditions you are in – and on a deeper thematic level got you thinking about the collection of blood, nerves, and bones you include – but the performance is missing here. You are in a desperate situation; there is a plague that everyone fears, there is a real shortage of supplies, so yes it makes sense that you would be forced to look for leftovers and barter with other townspeople for some repairs on your clothes.
The idea is good. In practice, Pathologic 2 lets you browse every trash, hit every NPC for a trade, and break into every home you pass in hopes of finding a way to support a dozen meals you need to consume every day, just to stay in life. Even worse, this tedious busywork is a considerable distraction from the reasons why you do it. I love all of these strange people and their terrifying, mysterious ways. I want to understand their strange, gloomy life in this beautiful, dark city.
But the trials you have to go through to reach that understanding are too painful. It hurts. In the end, I just wanted to walk around town, chasing a plot thread without having to break into a house first to find some peanuts in a drawer that I could swap with a hedgehog for a fish I could eat not to succumb to hunger before I reached my destination.
Pathologic 2 Review: Conclusion
Pathologic 2 is the product of perverse design philosophy. It is alternately intriguing and unpleasant; it draws you in with its creepy, dreamlike setting and cast of unnaturally eccentric characters, but then pushes you away with its nagging, everyday demands. In the end, I quit my job to get caught in the failure.