10/19 – Pathologic

Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.

Oftentimes, different games become popular in different countries. One game franchise that may be huge in one region is completely unheard of in another. While North America, the UK and Japan tend to have a lot of overlap, one country that until only just recently has stood very far apart is Russia. Today’s game was big over in Russia when it first released and is only just starting to trickle over to the west. Today’s game is Pathologic, developed by Ice-Pick Lodge and originally released on PC in 2004.

Pathologic follows three main characters: Bachelor, Haruspex, and Devotress. When you start the game, you choose one of the three to play as and the other two become supporting characters in your investigation. A town has become overrun with illness and has been put under quarantine. Nobody is allowed in or out of town. Supplies are running low and paranoia is running very high. You must survive 12 days in this town and hopefully discover the source of this sickness and perhaps a cure.

Gameplay has players doing two major things: investigating and surviving. Players receive quests from NPCs which may result in practical things such as money or supplies, or it may simply help keep the NPC alive for another day. Each day, your quests are wiped clean so you have to pick and choose what missions to take on. Is it worth helping that old woman with no money to offer when you’re running low on supplies? The game also features a constantly fluctuating economy due to the chaotic state of the town that must be managed. Regardless of your actions, the world evolves and changes around you over the 12 days. If you stay alive but help nobody, you may find yourself in a town with no more people.

Pathologic is a brutal, dismal look at what a game can be. Survival is hard and unforgiving, often involving trial and error as you learn from your mistakes over several playthroughs. Even if you manage to win, each character can only learn so much about the overall story so if you want the full picture, you’ll have to play through the game multiple times. Reception for the game was mixed in Europe, the only other region to receive the original game, but it was highly praised in Russia at the time. Since then, the game was remastered as Pathologic Classic HD and has been released worldwide. Pathologic can pretty safely be labeled a cult classic with many claiming it isn’t necessarily fun, in a traditional sense, but learning and overcoming challenges is satisfying. Rock, Paper, Shotgun even wrote an editorial about the game calling it “The Single Best and Most Important Game You’ve Never Played.” For those interested in trying Pathologic Classic HD, the game is available on PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One and Playstation 4.

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