By Ford_Dent 0 Comments
I’ve been putting this off, because I knew deep in my heart what was going to happen the moment I booted up Pathologic again. In my last update, I’d been infected, failed to save a house full of people (and gotten one poor bastard assassinated), I was low on food, low on health, and exhausted. The only thing I’d managed to successfully take care of as the morning dawned was convince the leaders of the town that I was competent and there was in fact a plague happening and not something brought on by the fucking Baba Yaga or something.
In short, I’d accomplished precisely dick, and to make matters worse I realized with a sinking feeling that I was out of bullets for my revolver, not that I’d had very many to begin with. To make matters worse, I had no clear idea of what I was supposed to do now—my quest log was clear, so I had no real idea of how to proceed. I knew stuff should have been happening, and there had to be more quests for me to take, but I didn’t know where they were.
Confused, and already hallucinating from the force of the infection I’d picked up (the screen goes all swimmy and it is legitimately disorienting as all hell), I decided I would trek across the village and look in on the leader of the town. I figured that if anyone was going to give me something to do, it would be the guy in charge.
I dutifully filled up my water bottles (this is a Pathologic pro-tip. You can carry a shitload of water bottles, and some townsfolk will give you shit for them so you don’t have to spend money) and struck out on my journey, stopping to sift through any dumpsters or garbage cans as I went (a good way to find discarded razor blades and the like, which are super valuable to the children of the town; the only things more valuable are nuts, because there’s a fairly complex nut-based economy the children have going on. It’s almost as many currencies as Destiny).
As I walked, I talked to a few townspeople, accidentally giving 500…rubles(?)—I don’t know what the currency actually is in Pathologic, so let’s go with rubles, because this is Russian, after all—to an infected townsperson begging for his family; I consoled myself by thinking that my generosity would if nothing else help my reputation and make people more likely to lend me aid. I found a child and gave him some peanuts in return for a few pills which would boos my immune system at the expense of my health—meaning the infection would slow down, but I’d be weaker than I already was.
Then I got near the house of the military leader, and was confronted by a weird-ass checkpoint. As I stood there pondering my situation (and taking a screenshot), a rat darted out and bit me to death.
I reloaded and pulled my pistol on the rat. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten that I was out of bullets (but I bet you didn’t) and was chewed to death again. The third time, I actually managed to avoid the rat entirely and talk to the soldier at the checkpoint, who informed me the area into which I was planning to enter was, in fact, plague-ridden. I went through, and the rate of infection sped up, quickly incapacitating me.
The fourth time, I said fuck it and skirted the infected area and managed to find the back entrance to the house. I begged for access to the body of a victim of the plague so I could perform a proper investigation of the infection and, you know, work on a cure. The leader said that I could, but also said he didn’t really have authority to authorize that and I should head to the person in charge of the graveyard, whose name I neglected to write down (the journal also didn’t see fit to take note).
I left with a vague idea of who I was heading to see, and keeled over almost immediately. I decided to stumble into a store selling medicine, pawned my pistol, and bought something that might have been morphine. I took it all the medicine I could, which sent my exhaustion to dangerous levels.
I decided I would go see Julie, who seemed to have a good head on her shoulders, and see what she thought I should do next. Unfortunately, she’d taken up with the Devotress and offered me no advice beyond “hey I really think the Devotress knows what’s going on.”
So the Devotress and I spoke, and as I’d been playing as a man of Science the whole time I came away thinking she was either a fucking loon at best or a charlatan at worst—she kept talking about the plague as judge, which would eradicate the guilty and leave behind a new civilization or something like that. I did not trust her at all, but it seems that I’ve lost control of my allies to her—the mayor’s wife similarly had pledged her support to the Devotress, so I was short on allies.
It was at that point I discovered the separate notebook, which contained an urgent message from one of the town elders begging me to come see him first thing that morning. It was the middle of the afternoon, but figuring better late than never I headed over.
My hunger had by this point gotten dangerously high as well, so I went to the woman I’d bought supplies for the day before and got some food. Eating raises exhaustion, however, so I needed to sleep and get some of that stat down.
Problem was, every time I tried to sleep I died, so I decided I would head out into the world and find some coffee or something. I took two steps outside the door and collapsed from exhaustion.
I loaded a slightly earlier save, got some more powerful medicine, and took it, figuring that would raise my health and allow me to sleep. I fell over dead immediately, because it raised my exhaustion too high. I’d fucked up too spectacularly to continue.
This is something I was afraid of having happen to me, of course—Pathologic famously will allow you to put yourself in a completely unwinnable scenario and force you to start over. Such was my situation. I’d foolishly wasted my food and supplies, wandered unprotected into plague houses, and become too weak and infected to get out alive. I don't know how I feel about a game that allows me to render the rest of it unplayable--certainly there's a great freedom to be had, but at the same time you almost wish there was something you could do to recover from the hand you've dealt yourself. Then again, the game is very much about helplessness in the face of an overwhelming calamity, so the prospect of a no-win scenario coming about is not entirely surprising. There are very few games these days that would allow such a scenario to take place (the most recent I can think of off the top of my head would be The Void, another Ice Pick Lodge joint from 2008), but then again I would suspect there are very few players who would put up with it. Which reminds me, of course, that I should really dive back into The Void and see what can be seen in there. Much like Pathologic, I will probably have to start a new game.
I’d always intended to try to make this an ongoing series that would end with me actually defeating the game, which is still the goal—but next time, we’ll be starting all over again from square one. Hopefully, with what I know now, I’ll be able to stay alive a little longer—at least past the third day.
Rocks fall, everyone dies.
A few notes from the author: First, hi! It's good to be getting back into the swing of things; hopefully this will become a weekly thing again. I've made some actual plans for the next few weeks' worth of articles, so that should keep things humming along nicely. Pathologic is a game that wears me the fuck out when I play it, so the next part of this will probably take some time. Maybe I'll put off writing about it until I've cleared day 3 in my new playthrough, but things will probably be so different that some discussion of the first two days will be warranted.
If you're interested in playing Pathologic, I'll remind you it can be found on GoG.com for like $10. You could also just wait for the remake, which is still accepting donations/preorders/whatever you want to call them. I just upped my donation so I can get my hands on the board game version they're working on because I am Ice Pick Lodge's bitch. From the looks of it, the remake is shaping up nicely, and I think they are shooting for a release sometime next year? I know donations are shutting down soon so they can lock in all the content they are going to make, at any rate. I just hope the systems are as unforgiving (but if they want to make the interface a little less confusing, they can feel free).
See you next week, probably!