I’m not as adventurous with my games as I would like to be. My backlog is full of indie darlings that are must-plays (or so I’ve been told by everyone and their mother) and most of the time when I sit down to play something I’m replaying Borderlands 2 for the millionth time. I tend to like straightforward story-driven games and if it offers difficulty options, I usually go for easy. I’m also a huge weenie when it comes to anything horror-related! I don’t quite know what possessed me to pick Pathologic 2 out of my Steam library one random night about a month ago as it seems completely antithetical to the type of games I like to play. And yet…
Pathologic 2 is a remake/sequel/reboot of Pathologic, the 2005 survival horror classic from the Russian studio Ice-Pick Lodge. It follows Artemy Burakh, a surgeon returning to his hometown deep in the Russian steppe, and his attempts to save the town from a rapidly spreading plague known as the Sand Pest. Again, not entirely sure why I decided to play a game about a deadly plague given the… well, everything about the last few years, but that’s neither here nor there.
Pathologic 2 is brutal. The tone is dark and oppressive, the town seems determined to block any attempts at helping them, and the survival mechanics and economy are anything but forgiving. Just when you feel like you’re starting to get the hang of things, the game throws you another curve ball. Pathologic 2 isn’t fun. I was in a constant state of anxiety and ended every play session feeling drained and exhausted. Nevertheless, I adore this game. Never have I felt quite so connected to the character I was playing as and the story Ice Pick Lodge crafted had me glued to my computer, dying to see what would happen next. The tough survival mechanics coupled with seemingly everyone in the game trying to get in your way at every turn makes for an oddly compelling gameplay loop.
This game reminds me of Elden Ring. Not in regards to the actual gameplay, but in the way that it completely transcended my tastes simply by being so good. I had an incredible time with Pathologic 2 and if you feel like playing the video game equivalent of getting your teeth kicked in, I cannot recommend it enough.