“Every line you utter will have consequences. If you spoil your reputation at one place, you will have to reap what you have sown in another.”
- The Tragedian, Pathologic Classic HD, 2015
Many critically-acclaimed video game titles, such as The Witcher and the Mass Effect series, pride themselves in being games where players’ choices and actions, no matter how big or small, have a lasting impact on the storyline and are felt many hours after they have initially been made.
With choice-driven games becoming ever so popular in the recent years, this article will reflect on an older and lesser known game of the genre known as Pathologic.
Pathologic was released way back in 2005 by the Moscow-based studio, the Ice-Pick Lodge. Originally published by Buka Entertainment for the Russian and CIS market, Pathologic was first named Utopia and only available in Russian language which quickly led to its alienation from English-speaking gamers. When G2 Games published an English version of Pathologic in Europe a year later, many were turned away from it due to horrible translation which made the already complicated narrative even more confusing. Brighter times for Pathologic came almost a decade later, when its graphics and English translation were improved and the game got re-released in 2015 under the name Pathologic Classic HD. Ever since then, the game has gained a significant cult following, even getting its own Wiki Page and a Very Positive rating on Steam.
Pathologic can be considered a psychological horror RPG. It is set in an unnamed Russian town just after the conclusion of the First World War. The town itself is straight out of the Twilight Zone; it is in a middle of the Russian steppe, it is riddled with an unknown plague, it's home to gravity defying constructions and its main industry is a giant abattoir where hundreds of bulls are slaughtered each day.
The Abattoir The Stairway to Heaven
The players get to pick in between three playable character, the Bachelor (who is a doctor), the Haruspex (who is a part surgeon, part butcher but also moonlights as a fortuneteller who sees the future by reading entrails of slaughtered animals) or the Changeling (who is the only female character and is considered both a miracle worker and a thief). Depending on the selected character the game starts differently, with Bachelor arriving on a carriage, Haruspex coming on a train, and Changeling appearing out of thin air in a freshly dug grave. The character selection also affects player’s starting equipment, stats and bonuses, as well as interactions with other NPCs. Reasons behind each character’s arrival into town also differ, there by changing which side quests, events and unique dialogs will be available. Player’s actions during each in-game day affect his/her reputation with the town folks as well, similarly to the Fallout’s Karma system. Based on how good or bad player’s reputation is, town folks will either be more helpful and hand out clues and vital quest information or will spike up food, clothing and medicine prices, as well as lie to the player to confuse him/her. A nice touch to the reputation system are also the sound cues which indicate whether a good or a bad decision was made.
The Tragedian giving player a pep talk
While all three characters have unique quests, abilities and encounters, the only shared thing between them is the main quest which is to battle the plague and save ten special people over the course of the game’s time, which is 12 days. If a player fails his/her main quest for the day, one of the special persons dies and automatically alters how the following days are played out there by changing the narrative as well.
The Executor is also rather friendly despite the plague doctor mask
Considering how even minor decisions can branch out and alter the entire storyline, Pathologic is definitely a game where player’s choices and time management matters. Along with interesting dialog, old school inventory drag and drop system, superb music and immersive gameplay, Pathologic is a game with high replayability value.
As such, it is a must try for any gamer who is not afraid to make tough choices in order to survive and brave enough to suffer the consequences hours later.
Pathologic Classic HD is available on Steam for 12.99 USD.