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Pathologic 2 review

We try and save a town from a deadly plague.

Pathologic 2
Credit: Ice-Pick Lodge / tinyBuild

I love horror games, more specifically survival horror games. I had never played the original Pathologic title, hell I’d never heard of it. Looking at the positive reviews on Steam, it seemed I was missing out on something. I’m left to wonder, is Pathologic 2 worth the shot or is it a bitter pill?

You play as Artemy Burakh, a surgeon who receives a letter from his father to travel to a plague ridden city. Upon arrival you see a city on the brink of collapse and citizens fallen to madness. You are ambushed by several people and accused of murder. Seeking assistance from friends, you aim to clear your name and cure the plague before the army strikes.

Watch the Pathologic 2 launch trailer below:

I really liked the intro to this game, it drops you into a bizarre world filled with people who speak in riddles. Plague doctors and other creepily dressed people are everywhere and a militia is killing people at will. It throws you head-first into the world and as a beginner, it was a little too much. I was excited to follow this crazy story but as the game progresses it opens up into more of an open world. With a story like this, told through strange dialogues and nonsensical plots, an open world makes things very difficult to follow. It’s certainly interesting and as it progresses and brings in more playable characters, you want to keep going. Sadly, the open world design brought me out of the experience.

Gameplay-wise, this is firmly in the survival genre. Played in the first person perspective, you have several meters ticking down, like hunger and thirst. These can be replenished easily enough and affect your stamina quite harshly. The fairly small open world is split into several districts and in each you have a presence. It starts off as either “hated” or “nobody cares about you” and actions you take will effect your standing. Gaining trust is done through speaking to characters and completing their quests. There is a LOT of dialogue here and it retains a wonderfully classic feel, it has as much speech as a game like The Longest Journey, in an environment as oppressive as I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. Quests themselves are variations on fetch quests but all work towards you becoming a trusted citizen. I was reminded of the excellent Vampyr, it too had a lot of dialogue and revolved around you gaining trust but doesn’t do it half as well.

Pathologic 2

Credit: Ice-Pick Lodge / tinyBuild

Here, each NPC feels like a copy of each-other rather than someone to form a bond with. Like Vampyr, you mostly play as a doctor and that brings in another system, curing the plague. It’s as simple as swapping organs from sick patients with clean ones but finding these organs is the trick. Combat is a standard first person melee system and it works fine, there’s nothing impressive here and combat is something you’ll generally be avoiding. I really enjoyed the looting system, each cabinet, bin, chest or corpse you open has its menu obscured and you click on and open it much like an advent calender. It makes every container feel like a lottery. However, much like the story, I found that the open world hampers the overall experience. There’s a lot of cool ideas here but the constant backtracking and identical buildings and characters get stale really quickly. The best feature is the countdown. You have 12 days to cure this epidemic and given the fact that you have to sleep every so often, pressure is constantly put on the player.

I liked the aesthetic of the game. Clearly it has a low budget but Ice-Pick Lodge have done some nice things here. The map design is suitably dank and suffocating and the fog and lighting help to mask shortcomings. Character models aren’t too bad and interacting with a character opens up the dialogue system. This brings an extreme close up of the character and always looks really eerie. This works perfectly because it captures that early to mid 2000’s style of PC games wonderfully. There were a few lighting bugs and screen tearing issues but this was based off pre-release code, so it’s nothing a patch or 2 can’t fix. I really liked the voice-work, the amateur sounds made the world feel more uncomfortable and again, captured that classic game feel. The soundtrack is simple and despite cutting off too soon when travelling quickly, gets the job done.

View some Pathologic 2 screenshots in our gallery:

While there is a lot to like here, or at least potentially like, it feels as though a big opportunity has been missed. If the environment was scaled back and the story told in a linear fashion, it could have been much stronger. I don’t fault the story for being hard to read too much, as it’s meant to be but I wish it was a little clearer. With a smaller world, more focus could have been put on the surgery and combat aspects because, to be honest, I don’t think the game benefits from being a survival game. Still, if you’re looking for something off the cuff, Pathologic 2 is worth the experience.

Pathologic 2 was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.

Publisher: tinyBuild Developer: Ice-Pick Lodge Release Date: 23rd May, 2019 Reviewed On: PC/Steam

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