Developer: Ice-Pick Lodge
Publisher: Gambitious Entertainment
Release Date: October 29, 2015
Ah, the Russians. Their view on apocalypse is undoubtedly a huge factor when portraying the end times in any form of media. Pathologic, a game originally released in 2005, is a view of the apocalypse that came right from the horse’s mouth, a Russian studio known as Ice-Pick Lodge. Raved by Rock, Paper, Shotgun as “the single best and most important game that you’ve never played,” Pathologic gained a strong cult following immediately after it’s original release. Now, 10 years later, Ice-Pick Studios has made Pathologic more accessible to the international market with updated graphics, new voice acting, and bug fixes that used to plague the game about the plague.
To clear up any confusion, Pathologic Classic HD is not the remake of the game promised by Ice-Pick Lodge. Rather, it is a face lift to the 2005 classic, with the remake slotted for a release in the Fall of 2016.
The story of Pathologic is the single most important element to the game. You have the choice of three different characters, all put onto the same map, experiencing the same story, but with slightly different views. Each of the three protagonists (if they could fit in such a basic mold) is an outsider sent into a town to investigate a lethal plague that is consuming citizens on an almost hourly basis. You have 12 total days in this poor excuse of a town on the brink of destruction, to solve, or at least uncover what may be happening. It’s sort of a twisted Majora’s Mask.
That’s really the only goal of the game, and it’s actually an endearing one. The story will be no different for you or me, but how it comes to fruition is where Pathologic sees its variety. Events around the town will happen, whether you’re there to experience them or not, ultimately leading to a unanimous conclusion, with an experience all of your own.
Pathologic is bleak. Being in the horror genre, it frightens by a slow decay. Nothing happens quickly, and there are no shortcuts. The true horror comes from the realization that everything around you is slowly and painfully dying.
Confronted, you will have to make hard decisions, questioning your own morality as a player. Killing and robbing innocent bystander and even children, or allowing yourself to perish. These choices really bring the atmosphere of Pathologic into focus, where morality is nonexistent and the high road has crumpled to the ground.
Despite the psychological torment that is to come with such a title, Pathologic is still a game with flaws. This remaster seems a bit out of place considering the remake that should be releasing in less than a year.
The graphical update Pathologic has seen is helpful to the 10 year old title, but not up to the standard the game is striving to achieve. The textures are plain, dull, and pixelated, making things like depth of field seem out of place. This all leads to feeling that the game is half finished, with even the opening cutscene ripped straight from the original game.
Voice acting has been completely redone, again feeling half-finished. Each of the actors seem to be involved in a different conversation, each with a strange, unfaltering pace. The actors almost seem to be speaking through disability, putting a quizzical tone on statements that are unfitting. Overall, the acting is almost laughable and pulled me away from the overall experience.
With that being said, most of the story unfold through dialogue that is read, not spoken. Thankfully the script has been re translated from the ground up, finally breaking down the barrier that kept non-Russian speaking countries away from the original release.
The majority of the game will be spent conversing with NPCs to uncover different aspects of the story, making this re-translation a necessary addition. The conversations are wildly deep, philosophical almost, speaking about life and death being a contribution of forces we cannot understand.
Outside of dialogue, time is spent exploring and surviving in this wretched town. When combat presents itself, it feels clunky, like it shouldn’t be present in a game like Pathologic. You can avoid this pitfall altogether, but those who want to slaughter the innocent will not find enjoyment in it during their play of Pathologic.
The game is the same as it had been 10 years ago, and fans of the original release should stop reading this review right now and go pick up the game. The atmosphere and presence of an unshakable plague is all too certain and makes for an experience that is unmatched by any other title. Pathologic truly stands alone.
However, it does require patience, and those who don’t have any will have a hard time finding the enjoyment inside Pathologic. The game is like a stick of incense, smoldering to an end that is already in sight. If you’re looking for more action than that, maybe you should pass on Pathologic.
— THE BOTTOM LINE —
Pathologic Classic HD serves only a subtle purpose — making the game more accessible. If you’ve never played Pathologic then you probably should wait until the full remake to truly experience the game. With that being said, the novelty of a face lift is perfectly justified at $12.99 for fans on the original game.