Pathologic is Pathologic 2 now I guess (also y'all should play some Pathologic)


#1

As the title suggests, Ice Pick Lodge changed the name of their Pathologic remake to be Pathologic 2 instead - the rationale being that as they’ve already released an actual remake of the original Pathologic (aka Pathologic Classic HD, aka my actual favorite game that I’ve never beaten (and probably never will), aka the source of maybe one of the best written features I’ve had the pleasure of reading)), and they dropped a delightful five minutes and change of gameplay while also delaying the game into 2018.

I have a lot of very complicated feelings about Pathologic, seeing as how it was one of the first games I’d ever played that seemed entirely disinterested in making you feel like you had any control of the situation and was downright delighted to grind you into the dirt (and indeed, that seemed to be the point of the affair). It also was an early example of the sort of survival game which is now fuckin’ everywhere, but placed atop a narrative which was (particularly in its original version) a giant riddle full of characters who spoke in riddles and also were perfectly willing to lie to you in order to get what they wanted (which was, occasionally, not what you wanted at all).

Anyway, there’s been a free… demo(?) of the artist formally known as Pathologic out called The Marble Nest which you can grab on Steam and, if that is a thing you can do, I really recommend it heartily. It does not spoil the former game (or what the game will end up being), and functions as more of a… tone piece which will give you an idea of how Ice Pick Lodge wants Pathologic 2 to turn out.

So, with that out of the way: who’s played this? What did you think? Anyone here but me back the Kickstarter? Why was there a cow in that room, anyway?

I swear to god my friends will murder me if I try talking to them more about this game so I am coming to you guys instead.


#2

I’m extremely curious about the new Pathologic, I’ve sadly never played either version, but it looks extremely my shit. A lot like the mood that Silent Hill 2 evokes.


I’m going to try the Marble Nest asap :slight_smile:


#4

It’s like Silent Hill if you removed the obvious supernatural stuff from Silent Hill and replaced it with far less obvious supernatural stuff. And also actors. And a plague. And a bunch of liars, thieves, and possible murderers who are possibly good people.

I like it a lot more than Silent Hill - your enemy is… less over the top. He might actually be a tiny stick man - or, perhaps, it’s just the government.


#5

I’m sure it is different :slight_smile: The mood just reminded me of the empty and very long apartment sequence in SH2.
Mechanically is there much puzzle solving, or is it object/key finding on top of status bar management?


#6

Whoa, thanks for the info. I had been checking on the remake periodically but hasn’t seen that they are thinking of it as a full sequel now. Played the first 6 or 7 days of the HD remaster a few years ago on my failing laptop and was drawn in by the obtuseness of the world and it’s mechanics but was unfortunately stopped by the motion sickness that I was left with, probably due to technical issues.

Probably the most lasting impression I have of the game is the sense that failure was always an option on the table, and not in a “time to restart” sense. Failure seemed like it could just as easily be the end state of the game as success, which really brings into sharp contrast what a forgone conclusion winning is in most games.

Tangentially related, but I played Pathologic at about the same time as I played Consortium which is another game I highly recommend. In Consortium, which is ostensibly a murder mystery, it is entirely possible to finish a run without ever figuring the crime out. But the really brilliant part is that that failure, and your inevitable replay are built into the meta-narrative of the game which keeps each run from seeming like either a “win” or a “lose”. Both Pathologic and Consortium stand out in my mind as games whose worlds exist for their own purposes and not for you, the player, albeit with drastically different tones and methods. And if you haven’t heard of Consortium there is a really ambitious sequel on the way which sounds like it’s attempting to be the holy grail of immersive sims.


@BriBri Pathologic is mostly based around fetch quests in a city that is reeling from a infectious disease. There are tons of NPCs milling about, trying to accomplish their own ends. Each day (there is a day and night cycle which grinds on mercilessly) presents you with a new phase of civil unrest in which you need to accomplish some task or tasks given to you by a bunch of shifty, untrustworthy people who may or may not be lying to you. On top of that you need to eat and stave off infection with limited resources while monetary inflation runs rampant. Rock Paper Shotgun has a bunch of pieces on it, but their best example of what the game asks of you is that you will very likely sell off all your weapons at some point just to buy some bread. It’s dire, fascinating, and I have never finished it.


#8

Like Sohcahtoa said, it’s a matter of trying to get to the bottom of where the plague came from and how you can possibly cure it. The trick is that not all the town’s inhabitants are interested in helping out of the goodness of their own hearts (or helping at all). Ultimately you are trying to fight a losing battle, where you will not save everyone - you might only succeed in saving yourself (and that is hardly a guarantee). I like it because losing the game still feels like you’ve gotten a full narrative - i.e. I’ve regularly died only a few days in but it felt… right, somehow.

The main problem with OG Pathologic is that your movement speed is punishingly slow, and combat is downright rubbish (I spend a lot of time running for my life instead of fighting). Plus getting in a fight means getting hurt, which means finding bandages or painkillers to stay upright, eating coffee beans to stay awake and digging through dumpsters for empty bottles to fill with water.

Throughout the whole thing there’s this downright oppressive soundtrack that grinds you down into dirt and makes you feel exhausted as hell. At one point I was walking down a street at night and saw a woman fleeing from a mugger. I initially ran after the mugger, but then decided it would waste a bullet to save her. The decision haunted me (not in the game, I mean out of the game) for the rest of the day.


#9

Having played The Marble Nest do you feel like the game side of the game has improved? Also can you comment on how much horsepower is likely to be required to enjoy the game? I’m still going along with the same broken down 2011 era laptop so I’m not sure this will be something I get to play for a while, but I also don’t see a gaming PC in my future either.


#10

My PC is two years old and it runs it fine, but I built it as a gaming PC. If I had to guess I would say something from 2011 might have trouble running it, but maybe if you ran it at lowest settings? The demo isn’t optimized at all (it was an alpha build, after all) so that makes it even less likely. It is coming to Xbox and PS4 though, so if you have any of those about you’re in luck.

Compared to the original: The way quests are tracked is now a “mind map” of sorts instead of a journal, which works really well. Inventory management and scavenging is much improved (especially inventory - you have several different places to put things and it’s some good good inventory tetris which I like, at least). Movement speed is also significantly faster, and you can run (eventually that will come at the cost of increased fatigue but in this build it’s not there). The visuals are obviously better too.

I did a complete playthrough of the demo (there are multiple endings to it, I think this is one of the better ones, although I don’t find the source of the plague) that you can take a look at if you want to judge for yourself - it features my commentary over it, which at one point consists of me swearing at how good the game is.

Part 1:

Part 2:

I dunno if those help or not, but if you jump around you’ll see how the new conversation system and combat systems work (although I think they’ve said the combat system is far from final).


#11

Thanks, I’ll check those videos out later! I’ll find some way to play this eventually.


#12

As far as I’m concerned, how good this game turns out depends for the most part on how it handles time and resource management. The dark secret about Ice-Pick Lodge’s games is that they all center around time and resource management. Something is always running out. This adds to tense, anxious atmosphere in their games, but Ice Pick Lodge doesn’t need to worry about atmosphere. Their games convey mood and atmosphere better than nearly every other game everyone else develops. I’ve never seen anyone deny that. But too often they spend so much effort on atmosphere and tone that they forget to make intuitive systems or send any clear instructions to players as to how their systems work. Yes, they eschew the hand-holding that dulls so many modern games. But it’s not hand-holding to tell players what the rules of their games are. It’s not challenging for a game to refuse to show you how to play it at the most basic level, it’s just unfair. Yes, I know that unfairness runs through all their games as a narrative theme, and I have tremendous sympathy for games that deliberately as antagonize the player in a sort of avant-garde move. But there has got to be a better way. I refuse to believe that the tedium, monotony, and rage-quit inducing frustration that Ice Pick Lodge’s games inspire is somehow necessary for them to achieve their brilliant narratival flourishes and groundbreaking style.

Time and resource management are the two biggest problems with all Ice Pick Lodge games. In general, these two mechanics are some of the easiest to do poorly and some of the hardest to do well. Worse, they always make these detailed worlds that seem to invite exploration. But I can’t explore if there’s a time limit. The already boring resource management is worsened by the fact that it itself somehow also imposes a time limit on the player. There’s always some meter ticking down that I need to constantly refill by using some item. When an item does nothing more than refill some meter, and using said items takes up a considerable portion of the game, I don’t feel like I’m playing a game any more. I feel like I’m adding wood to a campfire, struggling to keep it aflame. This is especially awful in the Void, in which depleting your supply of Nerva too early will simply render the game unwinnable, and cause you to lose dozens of minutes of progress. Dead ends aren’t challenging, they’re just irritating. It’s hard for me to think of any games that do time or resource management well, so I would rather Ice Pick Lodge de-emphasize those mechanics and instead focus on the things they’re good at, e.g. branching narrative and exploration, while improving the things that arguably would make their games better, e.g. the traversal and stealth mechanics.

I say all this as a huge fan of Ice Pick Lodge games and an even bigger proponent of the style of game they develop. I want to see more people do games with the same avant-garde, meta-fictional and philosophical yearnings as their games, but I want even more for some one to develop a game that expresses these ideas through playable, polished mechanics that punish players but refrain from torturing them. If my computer can run the demo, I’ll give my opinion on it when I get a chance to play it.


#13

I do agree the Void is terribly obtuse (I’ve not played it in ages but I ended up having to restart it after about six hours of play last time I did on account of not growing the right types of Nerva), but I always thought Pathologic’s obtuse nature was more the fault of a shoddy translation than anything else. The HD re-release is far more straightforward in terms of explaining its mechanics.

I like knowing there’s stuff I’m missing in Ice Pick Lodge games, if only because knowing there’s other stuff to see makes me far more likely to go back and play again (case in point, I’ve gone through the Marble Nest three times to pick up on little bits and pieces of detail I missed). The game’s original point was to make you decide what you considered important, so the ticking timer fits in well. The new version - or at least the Marble Nest - doesn’t have much of a tutorial, but the way quests are given and tracked, and the way the map is updated, feels a little better than in the original (although again I think the HD re-release made the map a bit more useful) - and most importantly the ability to move a bit more quickly goes a long way in making it possible to explore a bit more without keeping too much of an eye on the clock. Once the next alpha drops we’ll get a better idea, but my impressions so far lead me to believe this is a marked improvement on Ice Pick Lodge’s past work.


#14

In Ice Pick Lodge’s credit, the English version of the Void is harder than original Russian version. Ice Pick :Lodge have publicly admitted that they had gone overboard with its difficulty, and even updated it to included cheat codes that function as different difficulty settings. I must salute that.

You’re right that Pathologic HD does a decent job of explaining its mechanics. The problem in Pathologic HD is more that its mechanics are unusually stiff and strict. The game too often expects you to do really specific things for obscure reasons. I remember one time I was doing a quest where I was looking for some item in a kid’s house, and the kids living there told me it got stolen, but the game wouldn’t register than the quest had progress until I picked up this one item buried in the brown and grey polygon’s in a non-descript table in the house. That’s just the extreme opposite of open-ended.

I get that the theme of sacrifice necessitates multiple play-throughs of Pathologic, and I find that dope. But arguably the paths that the game should cut off should be handled by the game’s choice and consequence system, not its time limit. The way I see it, the game should’ve handled sacrifice like this: the player chooses to help NPC X rather then NPC Y, so the player can take quest Q and cannot take quest R. The game needs no time limit to do that.

My problem with the time limit is, the game gives the player a lot of quests that consist in going from point A to B, so the time limit sort of rushes me to complete all these quests, leaving little time for exploration. Also, these quests often consist in talking to NPCs and I just found the game’s branching dialogue system confusing. Yes, the improved translation now allow me to understand what the NPCs are saying, but as I recall, too often choosing multiple dialogue options causes a NPC to utter the same response, to the point where the dialogue almost starts looping, as I go through choose different utterances for my character to say, but the NPC just repeats herself. All in all though, I like Pathologic enough that I can forgive these flaws, even though they deter me from playing the game.

I admit, I haven’t played Pathologic much, but what I have played of it shows me that it’s Ice Pick Lodge’s best game. The big problem with Pathologic, I think, is that so much of it consists in traversal, and its traversal just sucks. You literally just walk at a slow trudging pace from one house to the next, hoping you don’t run into an invisible wall. But you seem to think they’ve improved this in the sequel. I’ll be happy if you’re right.


#15

Yeah you’re essentially forced to choose one or two quests per day unless you feel like having a couple of adherents (or Bound) die on you, which is never pleasant. Trudging from one end of the town to the other gets pretty damn old after a while, I’ll grant you that - hopefully things will be more like the experience in Marble Nests, where the dialog is a bit snappier and (even more fortunately) features a bit more variety. Most importantly, it eliminates choices the further in you go, so you don’t find yourself in a situation where you’re rehashing old choices that don’t actually trigger (there was one choice in particular where you have the opportunity to agree to help one of the town leaders, and if you turn him down, the option to say yes is still there - except selecting that option just causes him to say “okay great” but the game itself still acts like you said no, which is something of a… problem).

But yeah from what I’ve been able to play of the sequel I think they’re making adjustments (and I know I keep coming back to your movement speed, but it really does feel like night and day). If you’ve got a PC I really can’t recommend checking out the Marble Nest enough; it gives a good impression of what they’re aiming for.