Whose blood is this?




Pathologic: One Year In

Originally Posted: [2022-04-15].

It's been a year exactly since the day I first started playing Pathologic: Classic HD. Like a lot of other people, I discovered it through the Pathologic is Genius (And Here's Why) YouTube video by Harris "HBomberguy" Brewis. I bought the game about ten minutes into the video (I'd say it was the atmosphere that hooked me so quickly, but if you know me, you'll know what made me pull the trigger) and started playing it that same day, but honestly, I wish I hadn't watched the rest of the video before I played the game myself.

At this point, I think I've spent around 300 hours in the early 2000s Town, either in Classic HD or the original versions of the game. I am drawn to the quiet mysteries of Pathologic; to the intricacies of its characters and their relationships, the lies they tell each other, the goals they'd die for... There's a remarkable depth to the game world, and while now I almost I wish I hadn't watched a two hour video that spoils a good deal of its secrets before I played it... I have found myself able to play through the three storylines time and time again and find plenty of new little details, or bigger things I might've missed entirely. There is not too much lost by having some of it spoiled. As I learned trying to put together my own walkthrough, it's nearly impossible to spoil everything.

Thankfully, there are no spoilers in that video for Pathologic "2" (I've put quotes around that here because it's somewhat misleading. Pathologic 2 is not a sequel, and neither is it actually called Pathologic 2). As such, I've deliberately gone into that game mostly blind. I will admit though: It does not dig its hooks into me the same way, and I haven't finished it. I don't particularly want to... yet.

The deepest intrigue in Pathologic (as in, Pathologic 1) comes from the three playable stories and the ability to experience the game from different perspectives. As of writing this, though, there is only one storyline available to play through in "2" (as well as a short "demo" of sorts for one of the other playable characters, which is now available as DLC). Due to circumstances I don't think I have to explain, it is completely unknown when Moscow-based Ice-Pick Lodge game studio will be able to publish the remaining "chapters".

I like quite a few things about Pathologic 2. I think the visuals are excellent. I miss letters quite a lot, though. I also have personal gripes with the difficulty slider, but having only played on the "intended" difficulty (and trying for a no-deaths run as my first true playthrough, ouch), I understand the need for it. I have seen "2" described as a "reimagining" over "remake" or "sequel", and I'd say that's about the best way to describe it.

As a disclaimer: I have made it through only four out of twelve days in Pathologic 2. I don't think it would be fair to come anywhere close to attempting to "review" the game. I don't have any true understanding of it. At the same time, though, as I mentioned: the game itself is not finished, and a true understanding of it is somewhat impossible to achieve from one route alone if the original game is anything to go off of. Or, at least personally, I'd like to wait for the other two, which will (God willing) be released and playable in the future.

A bit of a tangent - I have a pet theory that the Bachelor route will be released standalone and contribute further to the moderately confusing English naming convention. The original game is "Pestilence. Utopia". Pathologic 2 is actually just called "Pestilence". Maybe there will be a "3" actually called "Utopia", and eventually a 4 that might reprise the original game title. That's total speculation, though.

I played the original routes over a few months with breaks in-between. Since completing Classic HD (and becoming part of the 2.3% with Classic HD in their Steam library who have the Day 11 achievement for the unlockable player character) I have revisited the game a few times. If you've read or even skimmed my walkthrough, you'll know that I have spent a bit of time playing the much-maligned 2006 English translation.

I'm pretty fond of it, honestly. I've been studying the Russian language somewhat independently for the past year or so (yes, the game got me learning it - but I first tried years ago when I was like fifteen. I got bored in French class and really only made it to learning the Cyrillic alphabet), and I've described the 2006 translation as "Russian training wheels for English speakers". There are some little nuances about punctuation (commas specifically) and sentence structure that may seem strange, but work out to line up pretty directly with the original Russian text.

In the video mentioned at the top of this post, it is mentioned that some players defend the older translation. I have become one of those. I don't think it's for everybody, but it's certainly not as bad as it is sometimes said to be. I think it's worth spending some time with if you have a deep interest in the game or, really, an interest in learning Russian! It bridges the gap in a pretty interesting way. It's a rather direct translation and not really "localized". I made a point to make that distinction in comparing Classic HD and the 2006 release in my walkthrough.

As of now, that walkthrough only covers the Haruspicus (later Haruspex) route, which is also the only route available in Pathologic 2 for now. This choice on my part wasn't an accident. You can't really use my walkthrough to complete Pathologic 2's Haruspex route (like I said - "reimagining" - the storylines are different, but rooted in a lot of the same ideas), but if you've only played 2 and don't have much interest in playing the original (or even if you don't know anything about either game), I like to think it's a pretty decent way to familiarize yourself with the first published iteration of the Haruspex story.

For the rest of the chapters of that walkthrough, I'm going to keep playing the 2006 release. I have heard that the "final" playable route is somewhat scrambled, so I'll just be doing my best there. As a whole, Klara the Impostress/Devotress/Changeling (I like "Devotress", personally), has a pretty woefully unfinished route, even in Classic HD. It is playable and tells a lovely story, but there are plenty of places where you can tell it was rushed. It was was neglected due to circumstance. I believe the line is that they ran out of time for her route.

Perhaps there's a bit of hypocrisy in playing Classic one and a half times but not completing Pathologic 2 despite the games having about the same problem I've cited. I don't have many complaints to justify not finishing Pathologic 2 yet, really. I like being able to revisit the world I'm so familiar with and to see it made new again, but I can't help but feel like I am trying to read a book with two thirds of its pages torn out. As it stands, I'm waiting to be able to view it from all angles (and what's more, take in the game as a single whole [x_x] and a fully realized vision on the part of the dev team). Obviously, I don't mind if people play Pathologic 2 before the other routes are released. It's a fine game, and seemingly more appealing than Classic to many.

From what I've played, I do think the current playable route can stand on its own fairly well. The same certainly cannot be said about the original Devotress route, and you can't really say it about the other original routes either when you consider how I figure you're "meant" to approach the game. Playing as the Devotress is a neat little "victory lap" in Classic - it gives you chances to play something like a scavenger hunt that relies on your memory of the Town from previous playthroughs, it allows you a bit of special insight into certain characters and their secrets, and it gives you the absolute delight of seeing the circumstances that set the Bachelor and Haruspex up as true rivals... I don't even know where to start with the two of them, dear God. Stay tuned for that post if I ever feel like giving myself high doses of brain poisoning on that particular deep dive. Just... Trust me, the game's about love.

I feel like I should talk briefly about the creative energy I've spent on making fanart and even (sighs) 30,000 odd words of fanfiction over the past year. I disconnected myself from most social media spaces pretty deliberately around 2019 and, as such, didn't really engage with "fandom" or share much of my art for a while, but I had a lot of fun posting my silly Pathologic cartoons on Reddit during the period where the game was the only thing I could think about or draw pictures of. I've gone through and collected around 70 (!) of my drawings that I might end up uploading here, but I have no idea how to make an HTML image gallery that's easy on the eyes and accessible. I'll figure it out. With the fanfiction: the game world is just too goddamned juicy. I can't just ignore the fun to be had there. I have to play around in that sandbox. I have a work-in-progress post-canon story called Sequelae that will likely never see the light of day, but God, it's some of my best work. I kinda hate that, but I'm not really ashamed of it... If you want a draft, e-mail me and we'll talk.

So that's this entry, I guess. A pretty quick and horribly disorganized rundown of my general Pathologic takes. I do want to play Pathologic 2, but I really want to see the story and its characters through all three lenses without forming too many hard conclusions from one route alone... I will likely have to wait a very long time. It's alright. Pathologic Classic will keep me occupied. Don't take this post as any kind of reason not to play Pathologic 2, but maybe take it into consideration if you're going to. As I said, I haven't beaten the game, so I suppose my takes here don't have too much weight behind them.

Maybe I'll change my tone if I decide to play through its Haruspex route, but I don't know if anything can change my mind regarding the "book with more than half its pages missing" bit. Yes, the general experience of playing Pathologic is to feel this way, but not being able to find any of those missing pages indefinitely just makes me feel like I ought to wait for the whole book. It's like how I prefer to watch a finished series rather than waiting for seasons of a new one. Also, ~66% of the pages missing is a lot harder to stomach for my completionist lore-nerd soul than Classic/2006's ~10% missing. I have... a lot more to say about the first game, but I wanted to address where I'm at with P2 before I get too into the weeds about my thoughts on Classic HD/2006 in this part of the site. Both games are good. I'm extremely fond of the first.