Review

Pathologic 2 Review - The Big Sick

  • First Released May 23, 2019
    released
  • PC
  • XONE

You died.

Twenty-three people died last night. I couldn't do anything about it. Even if I had known how to save them I doubt I'd have been able to succeed. In Pathologic 2--a reimagining of the original Pathologic, itself a nightmarish adventure game from another era--you play a doctor who can barely save himself, let alone the wretched lives of those he encounters. Failure is your constant companion. Some games make you work hard for success, promoting that the rewards taste greater this way. Here, you're reduced to a beggar, pleading for the merest scrap, and even then Pathologic 2 will likely deny it to you.

Right from the outset, Pathologic 2 leaves you feeling disoriented. The prologue flits from one short, cryptic scene to the next, pausing only to let you ponder whether what you just experienced--a man waking from a coffin on a train, a fistfight among stone monuments, a giant bull, you murdering three men--actually happened or if it was a dream sequence or even some kind of hallucination. Once you've reached the game proper, two things become clear. One, you have arrived in town at the summons of your father, a respected surgeon, only to find him dead and you a suspect. Two, no one can give you a straight answer about anything.

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This may give the impression that Pathologic 2 is something of a murder mystery. And in a sense, it is. Your father's death is the driving narrative force behind your exploration of your childhood home town. However, as you wander the streets seeking answers from important figures and old acquaintances, you reveal more mysteries to investigate. Why is the supply train late? Why are crows suddenly circling the old cathedral? What is this game the gangs of street children are inviting you to play? What's up with the impossibly-designed structure looming over the western horizon? And most notably, what's behind the apocalyptic plague now sweeping the town?

For the most part, Pathologic 2 is content to provide little in the way of answers to such questions, preferring instead to deal in metaphors, obscure Steppe mythology and sudden leaps of dream logic. Talking to a major NPC can very often feel like two people slinging nonsequiturs at each other until dialogue options are exhausted and the plot ticks inexorably forward. The writing here is mostly good, drawing on a range of rich imagery, so this is a deliberate stylistic choice to unsettle players through confusion and obfuscation rather than the result of inadequate translation from the developer's native Russian.

This sort of scattered, dizzying feeling of events that just won't quite come into focus is illustrated by what passes for the game's quest log. As you accumulate clues, they are added to your Thoughts screen and are represented by a floating collection of nodes, each one an idea or hunch that may connect to others or may be drifting all alone. Some of them do correspond to specific locations on the town map, helpfully proffering a rare moment of explicit instruction to "Go here," but typically they're little more than reminders of leads you should try to follow up somehow, if you have the time.

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The passage of time is a constant pressure that reaches its heavy, nagging hands into every aspect of your travels. It's there in the day/night cycle that sees the streets become dangerous when the sun goes down and the plague's death toll ringing out when the clock strikes midnight. And it's also in the urgency felt by leads that expire if their deadlines pass unattended, causing you to lose out on experiencing situations that only occur at certain hours. You can't be everywhere and you can't save everyone, as the loading screens are at pains to frequently remind.

It's hard enough finding the time to save yourself. Not because you've been accused of murder and it's going to be difficult to clear your name, but because Pathologic 2 is a survival simulation at heart, and one that is unusually obsessed with the physical body. You have an overall health bar that is supported by secondary hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and infection meters, and it is to the game's detriment that you spend most of your time fretting about survival instead of contemplating the more metaphysical matters of the story.

These survival mechanics might have made you feel stressed about the dire circumstances you're in--and on a deeper thematic level got you thinking about the collection of blood, nerves and bones you comprise--but the execution here is lacking. You're in a desperate situation, there's a plague that has everyone scared, there's a genuine shortage of supplies, so yes, it makes sense that you'd be forced to scavenge for scraps of food and barter with other townsfolk for some repairs to your clothes. The idea is sound. In practice, Pathologic 2 has you rummaging through every trash can, hitting up every NPC for a trade, and breaking into every home you pass in the hopes of finding a way to support the dozen or so meals you need to consume each day just to stay alive.

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Worse, this tedious busywork is a huge distraction from the reasons why you're doing any of it. I love all these strange people, and their haunting, inscrutable ways. I want to understand their strange, bleak lives in this strange, bleak town. But the trials you're forced to endure to reach that understanding are too painful. It hurts. Ultimately I just wanted to walk across town to chase up a plot thread without having to first break into a house to find some peanuts in a drawer that I could trade with an urchin for a fish that I could eat so as not to collapse from hunger before I reached my destination.

Pathologic 2 is the product of a perverse design philosophy. It's alternately intriguing and off-putting; it draws you in with its eerie, dreamlike setting and cast of unnaturally eccentric characters, but then it pushes you away with its nagging, mundane demands. In the end, I was resigned to let failure take me.

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The Good
The writing is excellent at conveying the otherworldly nature of your interactions with other characters
The central mysteries of the town are fascinating and urge you to progress
The themes of the story are enhanced by its survival elements...
The Bad
...but those survival elements are tedious, frustrating, and drag down the entire experience
5
Mediocre
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

David Wildgoose loves a good cult classic, but this really is way too much cult than can possibly be healthy. He played 20 hours with a Steam key supplied by the publisher.
26 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Godlikan

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Gave it 10 just to buffer score up a bit... problem is, small number of gamers nowadays have deeper understanding beyond mechanics of this game, therefore the low score. If this game was out in late 90s, early 20s it would be a different story. Game is a gem, survival mechanics expect you not to be prodigy hero superstar but ordinary scared person as you are in this life.

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Sound_Demon

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Hey guys, I recommend watching Mandalore Gaming's review for a better structured opinion and not just "it's too much!". Find him on youtube.

2 • 
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TruSake

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Sucks, at first glance thought this game was more of a mystery solving, but I'm not into the whole survival genre.

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jj2112

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Edited By jj2112

The devs have already said they'll add a difficulty slider in an upcoming update. That said, this game is supposed to make you suffer like the first one did, although I doubt I would subject myself to that experience again.

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VampireLord123

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To be honest i did not like it, I try to understand it but I think is a little complicated to follow. Besides, for some reason it ran poorly in my computer so I refunded the game.

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lorddaggeroff

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Edited By lorddaggeroff

Should be a requirement to make at least one game or learn 5 percent of programming to be a game journalist or the reviews just overrated.

2 • 
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TruSake

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Edited By TruSake

@lorddaggeroff: What game have you made or learned 5 percent of programming from to come to this conclusion?

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lorddaggeroff

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Edited By lorddaggeroff

@TruSake: Explain to me what a array of matrix are, and their purpose.

You will be 0.5 percent on your way to making something?

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JustTheTip

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@lorddaggeroff: This is the dumbest comment I’ve read in a while. Zero logic in it.

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lorddaggeroff

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@justthetip: This is the dumbest comment I’ve read in a while. Zero logic tippy.

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Reuwsaat

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@lorddaggeroff: So if you walk into a restaurant and the chef serves you feces, you're not allowed to dislike it because you're not a chef yourself?

5 • 
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KahnArtizt

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@lorddaggeroff: So what you’re sayin is that unless you are a dev, your opinion is useless? 99% of the people who will play this have no comprehension of game dev, thus that requirement is nonsensical.

5 • 
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lorddaggeroff

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@KahnArtizt: because your a gamer not a game journalist.

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PaulS

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Edited By PaulS

@lorddaggeroff: I dunno man the vast majority of games journalists I assume play games. Perhaps even more games than I play. These days with work I only got time for like two games in total (despite a library in the 200s). I assume the problem with games journalism is there are just too many games to report on (even in one genre) and frankly I don't think its possible for any of us to do a good job reporting on all of them. Hence we get a lot of reviews that seem like they were written by people who simply haven't spent as much time with a particular game. We also see stuff like the infamous doom footage published by polygon where they clearly had a person with no aptitude for shooters capture gameplay footage.

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lorddaggeroff

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Edited By lorddaggeroff

@pauls: It's not about the reporting it's the underlying definition on what a game entails.

If you compare the two careers to a journalist and a developer you would see the two clear lines of a politician and journalist.

Where a politician and a journalist go hand in hand feeding each other, only a very few put the true line in politics for the rest of us, encapsulating what they shouldn't be doing but doing it non the less because representing only one segment of society in politics allows for rampant disorder and abuse of the system.

Yet there are more journalists in favour to support a politician because what are the chances of a politician actually resigning very unlikely they will most likely fall towards the outer faternity that they feel empowered to continue their existing career( rather learn like the rest of us that such good things don't deserve two out comes while one suffers the consequences, like what goes into a election, as we care little of it because isn't apart of our life, rather more food for journalists) and that is why it's important for game journalists to understand the workings of game development (If you disagree then I guess the education system should be scrapped too for teaching unnecessary maths that most believe would not be used in life resulting in poor school statistics.) Everything has a reason for understanding but if being subjective and rushing home to earn your income is one way to play a game someone made with out clear representation (while retaining the title game journalist) on what went into a game with lil to no formal programming then that's terrible.

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Neurogia

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@lorddaggeroff: LOL

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4_passing_sites

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"a way to support the dozen or so meals you need to consume each day just to stay alive."

lol, this mechanic detail alone just screams excessively onerous. No-one needs a dozen meals in even a week to function let alone survive.

2 • 
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MARSDUDE

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@4_passing_sites: 7 days in a week. I'm a slim guy and I couldn't survive off 12 meals a week. Some days you'd only have a single meal. **** that.

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4_passing_sites

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@marsdude: On average, the human body doesn't experience starvation until about 3-4 days without any food. And there are examples of people surviving for weeks without food for reasons ranging from religious to political protest. Obviously there are a million variables to this including your metabolic rate, physical activity, age, how much you've eaten prior, etc. but my original point is that you absolutely DO NOT need 12 meals in a day to survive and you realistically don't need that many in a week. Would it suck? Of course it would...but it can be done.

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Sound_Demon

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Edited By Sound_Demon

Remember the cup head guy? I guess this is the runner up.

2 • 
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NSA_Protocol44

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Edited By NSA_Protocol44

You hate this game so much you deducted 5 points for a lousy problem most don't even care or are not so bothered by.

GIT GUD Wildgoose.

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator  Online

@nsa_protocol44: Not only are you speaking for everybody, you're assuming most of us wouldn't care about tedious survival elements dragging the whole experience down?

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NSA_Protocol44

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@Mogan: Was meant more towards the Steam Community. should have made that clear in my OG comment.

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off3nc3

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Interesting this game got only positive reviews on steam and it's rated a 9/10 while our GS guys and gals gave it a 5/10. lmao

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Raziel5483

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@off3nc3: The entire article was praising it and then but the survival aspect was disappointing so we'll knock off for points lol. I'm pretty sure that it's there for pacing and enforce you to explore and speak with every NPC on the way to each major story arc but to knock the game down that far just because you didn't like an aspect of the game is pretty confusing.

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KahnArtizt

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Edited By KahnArtizt

@Raziel5483: it’s like the entire foundation of the game tho. Imagine if a shooter’s shooting mechanics were shit.

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Pathologic 2

First Released May 23, 2019
released
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

Pathologic 2

5
Mediocre

Average Rating

8 Rating(s)

6.2

Developed by:

Published by: