I dreamed a dream.
By JAY TEE
Navigating the environment, and combat, both feel quite stilted, but there can be no denying the creepy atmosphere.
Music is used sparingly throughout, which actually really works. The lack of voiceover dialogue is a shame.
There’s a fair bit for you to manage, and thankfully the UI is uncluttered. Load screens have a tendency to break up the flow of the story.
There’s some appreciated flourishes, and the lighting design is great, but it’s also not pushing technical boundaries.
THE LAST WORD
Pathologic 2 is an unsettling, deliberately paced game made with a lot of love.
THE FINAL SCORE
We use a simple “out of 5” rating criteria for all reviews.
3 out of 5 is GOOD.
Something with this rating is absolutely worth checking out, but it’s flawed with a couple of mis-
*Reviewed on PC, with a copy provided by tinyBuild*
The TRANSPORTER BUFFER badge is for a game that requires you to carefully manage your inventory and supplies.
The GRUMPY SPONGES badge is for a game where certain characters aren’t pleased to see you.
The UNRAVEL MY LOVE badge is for a game that is clearly a passion project for the developers.
The MEDIUM RARE badge is for a game that could have done with a few more months in the oven.
The BLEEDING EYES badge is for a game where bump mapping doesn’t happen as often as you might think…
The PHOLIAGE PHYSICS badge is for a game with excellent foliage physics.
The SIMPSONS ROAD RAGE badge is for a game that's better than Simpsons Road Rage.
IS IT FUN?
*Yes, but you have to be in the right frame of mind.*
The game features an extremely well designed tutorial, slowly introducing mechanics like looting, inventory management, the map, combat etc… by organically presenting them as part of the narrative. Pathologic 2 also makes no attempt to disguise the fact that you begin the story at a point other than the beginning. You’re thrown into the mix without much context, beyond what was revealed over the course of the previous game. This approach demands a lot of the player, as you’re immediately forced to embrace the world and situation without much information to go on. I feel in two minds about this; the lack of hand holding is appreciated, especially in some of the tripper moments, but it also feels quite disjointed. You’re sent to different locations, and introduced to heavy chunks of text exposition, without having a chance to really settle in. If you can roll with it, there’s fun to be had.
Pathologic 2 is an intriguing mash up of Bioshock, Resident Evil, and Call of Cthulhu. The first person character interactions are straight out of Rapture (except without voiceover dialogue), with shades of the ‘don’t trust your eyes’ uneasiness of Capcom’s latest effort. Rounding out the obvious comparisons is Focus Home Interactive’s most recent Lovecraftian title. There’s a definite psychological horror focus here, over bare knuckle combat. However, first person fighting appears sporadically throughout, with brief bouts of fisticuffs and shooting. The story throws you right in at the deep end; you’ll frequently question whether the sequence you’re playing is real or all taking place in your subconscious. This unsettling approach is definitely by design. You never quite know what’s around the next corner, which provides a good sense of momentum and makes you want to unravel the mysteries of the narrative.
*Yes, and they’re not in your face, all the time.*
The first time you’re exploring an area only for things to begin subtly changing, either as a result of an interaction, or because you’ve spun the camera in a different direction before turning back, is genuinely quite unsettling. Moments like this are often presented with little fanfare. A spotlight illuminating your mainline path, or the replacement of naturalistic characters with something more sinister; these moments work because they’re not presented as a seismic set piece demanding your attention. Pathologic 2 doesn’t try to constantly throw things at you, in the hopes that something will stick. This more laid back approach goes hand in hand with the pace of the game. It takes the time to let you soak in the atmosphere and notice the impressive attention to detail. Graphically speaking, it’s not a powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination, but it has clearly been made with a lot of love.
All the nope. These things are creepy.
*Yes, but it wouldn’t take much to fix.*
My biggest gripe with the game is the load screens, that seem to pop up briefly whenever you enter / exit a space. It really rips you out of the experience, and given how quickly the loading cycle is completed, it seems like some additional optimisation could fix this with ease. It’s hardly game breaking, but it happens frequently enough to be noticeable. Considering the lack of long form cutscenes, or complex character animation, it does seem like an unusual oversight that could have made things feel a lot smoother. The excessive use of text based dialogue, especially without a great deal of narrative context, did get quite grating after a while. It’s such a shame that the characters aren’t fully voiced; you can tell a lot of care has been placed into fleshing out the lore of this world, but without proper voice acting the story suffers as a result.
*There’s room to build here, especially given the originals popularity.*
As a complete re imagining of the original, Pathologic 2 is part sequel, part remake. The core premise was retained, but it definitely feels like a product of current gen indie PC development. Given the elements that have been nailed (atmosphere, character design, attention to detail), I’d be interested in seeing the team at tinyBuild pursue an episodic model going forward. Shorter, more tightly produced chunks of story, that expand on the lore and build interest in the IP. It’s a model that could suit an indie studio on a smaller budget. There’s definitely a sense that Pathologic 2’s ambition stretched their production capabilities. Some character animations are definitely quite rudimentary, and there’s not a great deal of environmental variation. An episodic model could be a way to address this, allowing them to experiment with different locations and push the levels of polish further.
THE BASICS -
MAX PLAYERS -
DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT -
You’ll constantly question whether you’re experiencing a dream or reality.