Xbox version tested
Review code provided
Pathologic was a popular title in 2005, after a Kickstarter campaign it’s sequel/remake was born to the joy of a waiting fan base. Developed by Ice-Pick Lodge and published by tinyBuild, this plague survival is now available on PC, PS4 and Xbox, but is this cult classic a welcome cure or a blight to be avoided? Let’s take a look.
The story begins with you stepping into the shoes of the main character, a young surgeon named Artemy Burakh, after receiving a letter from your father who informs you that difficult times are approaching and concerned for your father’s wellbeing, you rush back home. Along the way, you meet a strange man chilling out in a coffin on the train, after several hallucinations and strange experiences you eventually arrive home. As if the journey hadn’t been strange enough you are immediately attacked by three thugs and then told the townsfolk who believe that you have murdered an important person, now you must prove your innocence while taking the mantle as the town’s healer.
Pathologic 2 is played in the first-person perspective and will feature lots of walking around and talking to the townsfolk in a very dialogue-heavy story. Thankfully the writing is top-notch and Pathologic has a very deep and twisting story that will keep you guessing, sometimes a little too much as I found myself loosing the flow of things at certain times. This was likely due to the lack of hand-holding on offer and many elements from Pathologic will not always be immediately clear which is fine for the target audience which in this case, will be a very specific group, but will not appeal to the wider audiences out there.
On top of investigating the strange goings-on, you will, of course, be putting your surgeon skills to good use. The town is split into several districts and your actions in each one will affect how people react to you. It’s not always easy being a hero in a town full of assholes that would just as soon beat you down and rob you blind as allow you to fix them up and operate on them. Times are hard, food is scarce and uncertainty looms over everybody, every choice you make can and will have consequences, maybe not right away but no good deed goes unpunished.
Naturally, with a harsh town full of ruffians and a plague looming, it is important to look after yourself. Stamina, hunger and thirst will all play a part in how well you cope with the demands of each task. Supplies can be traded for with black market scoundrels or you can rummage through rubbish bins and peoples houses. Finding empty bottles will enable you to fill them and take a refreshing beverage with you either to use or barter with. All your actions will have an effect on your health gauges so it’s important to keep an eye on them as you run back and forth completing tasks for the villagers or getting into fights with the peaky blinders.
Unfortunately, all these tasks and elements don’t really live up to the strong story elements on hand and although the survival aspect makes perfect sense it just felt tacked on to me. Three difficulty options are available with medium, hard and intended (the way the game was meant to be played) I opted for intended to get the full experience and although there was a challenge I never got to the point where I felt desperate or really struggled to manage my condition. With the fights being about as exciting as watching Scott Steiner in an iron man match and the quests being very fetchy, I soon began to see the core gameplay as a bit of a lifeless grind and just looked forward to the dialogue sections which were the true bread and butter of the experience. This was also due to how poorly Pathologic 2 runs on the Xbox.
After a fairly long loading section to start the game, I was disappointed to see that things were not going to improve any time soon. Frame rate stutter plagued the experience more often than not, even just turning around would sometimes cause a stutter, transitioning from one district to another and even just opening a door would produce load times of up to a couple of minutes, considering how much Pathologic expects you to roam around this became a big issue and really spoilt the experience.
Texture pop was another huge issue, characters clothing would slowly load detail in as I approached them and with the core presentation no looking especially vibrant or detailed during roaming sections I just felt like this was a sloppy port. During conversations with locals, however, the faces and outfits are very detailed with again, helped bring the dialogue sections to life in al the right ways but felt like a lights-on lights-off experience transitioning from conversations to free roam.
There is a lot going on in Pathologic 2, for me personally I just felt that the performance issues and disjointedness took too much away from what was otherwise a solid story full of intrigue and skullduggery. For a select few, Pathologic 2 will tick a lot of boxes and there is no doubt it is a title that would be best experienced on PC, for this reviewer though, it was just too much of a messy experience that I certainly appreciated but just didn’t enjoy.
TBG Score: 6.5/10
Genre: Survival, Adventure
Developer: Ice-Pick Lodge
Format: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
Download link: Microsoft Store