Review – Pathologic 2 (Xbox One)
I never played the first Pathologic game, a cult classic that people loved despite some really big issues. I’ll also be honest, I didn’t really like the look of Pathologic 2; something just didn’t feel right about it. So I was pleasantly surprised when I started playing and was immersed into its world and gameplay. However, some major technical issues bring this experience way down.
It kicks off in a really weird, interesting, and surreal way that drew me in almost immediately. Things start off rather simple; you play as a surgeon who has been looking for the cure to a plague when you quickly realise he had only twelve days and failed. A mysterious figure appears and you are thrust back in time to the very start on a train inbound to the city. What ensues is one of the weirdest and disjointed tutorial sequences I have ever experienced, but that only enhances it.
It introduces its premise in a interesting way that nicely ties into the gameplay and narrative set here. It’s a great way to introduce these mechanics without holding your hand through them and oh boy, this game does not hold your hand.
Pathologic 2 is a difficult game to really pin down what it is. At its core it appears to be a regular survival game, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The moment to moment gameplay has you exploring a city, talking to its inhabitants, and helping them out. You have to manage your reputation in each of the districts, meaning if they don’t like you, you can’t trade or they may even start attacking you on sight. This is punctuated really early in the game where a nasty rumour starts to spread between the districts. Occasionally you will get into combat, which often revolves around blocking and attacking. It feels awkward and unsatisfying. Especially when you are dealing with multiple enemies.
One of the most talked about aspects is the difficulty behind Pathologic 2 and that it is designed to be a stressful experience. It’s great to see a game pride itself on being a challenge. Yes, you can lower the difficulty and tweak dozens of little modifiers to your hearts content, but the game keeps telling you “this isn’t the intended experience”. Normally I do agree that survival meters can be a bit annoying and that option is there, but Pathologic 2 ties the survival directly into a story in a meaningful way. As the infection spreads, clean water becomes much more valuable and keeping healthy becomes more difficult. It makes sense that it’s such a challenge.
Ultimately, it’s all about planning your moves. Things start simple enough in Day One where you are just getting used to what’s happening, but soon you will have really difficult choices to make. Do you harvest organs to sell on the black market? Do you break into apartments for supplies, but risk being caught? Or do you try your hardest to be the good guy and do no wrong? Every day things get harder and you won’t have enough time to do everything.
Pathologic 2 isn’t the best looking game. Whilst some aspects look stunning, others look a bit messy. This leads to really uneven visuals I just couldn’t really get behind. There’s a good sense of uneasiness behind the dialogue screens. Then there’s a ton of texture pop-ins and it gets rather distracting.
However, where things really start to fall apart is on the technical side of things. It suffers from a number of bugs, stuttering, and long loading times for no apparent reason. The occasional stuttering I can ignore, but the loading gets so bad that simple things such as opening doors or even pulling up your inventory can bring in long load times. It’s a shame as well because just as you start immersing yourself in the world, a thirty second loading time will bog down the experience. Right now, this is the ultimate game killer for me and I would highly suggest waiting for a patch on this one or go straight for the PC version, which is much better.
Pathologic 2 is a survival trading game that has a lot of depth. However, it’s actual core gameplay and technical issues can bring this game down significantly. If you want to play this one, wait for a few patches or get the PC version.
A dull looking world with a terrible framerate.
A really deep and unique survival game that doesn’t hold your hand.
Unremarkable sound design.
Fun Factor: 2.0
Long loading times are one thing, but almost every action requires loading and this grinds the game to a halt. Wouldn’t recommend on console for the time being.
Final Verdict: 4.0
Pathologic 2 is available now on PC and Xbox One.
Reviewed on Xbox One.
A copy of Pathologic 2 was provided by the publisher.