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Pathologic 2

  • 28-10-2020 3:06pm
    Registered Users Posts: 858 ✭✭✭

    I just completed 'Pathologic 2', not sure how the fates aligned that I play a game like this during a Halloween lockdown during a IRL pandemic but it happened. Not anticipating much (or any) replies to this but it's the best immersive sim I've played since Deus Ex and wanted to share.

    This is an outstanding game, but one I can hardly recommend to anyone. You've got to be a glutton for punishment. Premise: you're a surgeon in a plague ridden town trying to solve the mystery of your father's murder. It starts off relatively fair and straightforward (well sort of, at one point in day 1 the entire town is baying for your blood) but slowly and surely ramps up the demand on your time and health. When the outbreak occurs it turns into an intense survival sim where you're pushed into making some genuinely difficult decisions. Now I am not a fan of survival mechanics and managing meters but in this case it's completely in service to the narrative. It's a game about managing risk and making life and death choices that affect the town and the player character. Sometimes you just have to learn to let people die if the risk is too large.

    I guess it is sort of like what if they combined Shenmue with Resident Evil, or something like that.

    The trick is to understand that not a single item in the game is useless. If it doesn't serve an immediate purpose it probably holds value in the hobo economy, or it can be used for crafting. Also learning to think of your reputation in the town as a currency which gives you leeway to do bad things is an essential strategy to navigate parts of the game where you make a mistake and find yourself underresourced. As I did on one day where I didn't complete my daily tasks in the hospital and had no stipend for that day. I went to a part of town where I had good reputation and just walked right in and looted a house. Now they don't like me there, but the important thing is that I survived another day.

    It might be a technical mess (everything animates at 30 fps even if the game is running at 60, which gives stuff a claymation quality. Combat is horrible and every death on my second playthrough was cause of it). But I was really impressed by how for the entire 11 days it just ratchets the tension. It constantly forces you into difficult bargaining positions between your responsibilities to the townsfolk in an epidemic and your responsibilities to yourself. Time, health and obviously serums/immunity boosters are the plates you have to keep spinning as you run around the town trying to decide who is in more need of your help and if you can even afford the personal cost of running across a plague ridden district to give somebody an antibiotic which might not even get them through the night.

    Speaking of which the whole infection system is based off RNG, it's like this wheel of fortune thing where the better their immune system is or the more medicated they are against the infection the less likely they will perish/catch the disease. On my playthrough I got one kid down to a 25% chance of dying overnight, he was one of the first to be infected. But he died anyway. This was after doing an all nighter trying to save as many as I could, where I was eating down coffee grounds to keep myself awake and robbing people's houses for bits of stale bread so I wouldn't starve to death. I could have possibly put myself in a better position WRT resources and health meters if I had left that kid alone but that's how it be.

    This is not a game for OCD completionists, you can save everyone but the game is designed so that you probably won't unless you're really good/lucky. Out of the 30 or so people I was tasked to protect close to half of them died despite best efforts. One other part that got me is where I was in a plague ridden part of the town and could hear a baby crying. They tell you earlier on during the initial outbreak that if you save and bring back any lost babies you will be well rewarded. But what they don't tell you is that these 'plague houses' are full of lepers who will grab you and often enough the risk and cost of getting infected and dying is not at all worth what the town containment effort will give you for saving a baby.

    It's really like no game I've ever played, would probably have been on my GOTY list last year if I played it then. I really hope they get to do the 'bachelor' campaign but apparently this game was a financial disaster and it's unlikely they will finish the rest of it. I guess that's the cost of an auteur not making any concessions towards accessibility. Really interesting contrast between this and Death Stranding where that game felt like some weird out there art **** but it still had those forced shooting sections, this game meanwhile is completely dedicated to its vision of psychological discomfort and misery.

    Unfortunately I can't make well heads or tails of what the story is trying to say. I've never read russian literature beyond a couple pages of Crime and Punishment so I don't know if this game is trying to bombard me with stuff that would make way more sense if I was into that. The whole game and town is an elaborate metaphor for something, maybe encroachment of human progress on nature or something. Or industrialisation. I don't know, the localisation is such that you can tell that some of its ideas don't really map well from Russian into English.

    That's my long-winded thoughts on this game, I'm guessing public appetite for games like this are low in most times but especially now but I was really floored by how good it was in spite of its terrible technical problems (my 2060 can't run it well no matter what settings I pick)


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 29,081 CMod ✭✭✭✭johnny_ultimate

    I’ve only played a few hours of it, but love its oppressive, relentless atmosphere. It’s the game I point to as a counter to how a game can really commit to its themes and tone without falling into the commercial video game traps. That hurt it if not killed it financially, but as an exercise in unapologetic, uncompromising design it shows what can happen when you don’t make it a third-person shooter or traditional open world video game as well. It is a fully realised vision, the types of which are exceedingly rare in gaming.

    That said, it’s such a gloriously abrasive piece of design I think I need to find a very particular mood to play it in :pac: I tend to bounce off games with survival mechanics pretty hard, although this one has such a clear sense of purpose and direction that it’s more compelling to me than more open-ended ones.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,206 ✭✭✭Potatoeman

    MandaloreGaming does a good review. I was tempted by it but not sure about the pace of movement.

  • Registered Users Posts: 858 ✭✭✭one armed dwarf

    I will say about the survival mechanics that they are so onerous it's hard to concentrate on what the game's story is, which is a real problem cause it's very dense in metaphor. But it's hard to see how the game realises what it's going for without that stuff in it

    I had such a hard time of it the first time I tried to play that I died in my room from the infection while waiting for a antibiotic made out of human livers to brew. Had to resort to murder to get it but I just didn't have enough time

    I imagine the real intention here is you play all three campaigns and develop a full understanding of everything from them, but it's not likely that will ever be possible unless you play the original game (which this is a remake of, not a sequel. The sequel acknowledges the original directly in a sort of 4th wall breaking metaphorical way only)