Cast your minds back ten years to a slightly different time of gaming. World Of Warcraft was finding comfort on the number one spot for PC releases. Call Of Duty only had two titles in its franchise. The Xbox 360 was about to be dropped heavily onto the market. And a little known RPG horror title called Pathologic was taking the Russian gaming community by storm.
For those who never got the chance to catch it the first time round, Ice-Pick Lodge – along with General Arcade (known for the redux version of Shadow Warrior as well as Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition) – have brought the critically-acclaimed survival game into the modern world with the Pathologic Classic HD remake.
Now, if you haven’t played or even heard of it, that’s not entirely too surprising. Outside of Russia where the game was initially released, English-speaking countries never really caught onto the creep factor of the original Pathologic.
However, it did garner somewhat of a cult following over the years and a successful Kickstarter campaign paved the way for the newly-released remake. And I use the term “cult” purposefully, as the game centres around a rather strange – and somewhat ominous – encounter with a rural settlement, shrouded in secrets and unwelcoming of outsiders.
For those who didn’t play the original (myself included), you begin as one of three doctors sent to investigate a plague in a strange town, where you are left to untangle the clues. It’s a place filled with a dash of the occult, a sprinkle of the macabre, a dab of the mysterious and a tsunami of weird goddamn townsfolk. And, as if the atmosphere wasn’t tense enough, you only have twelve days to solve the puzzle (insert dramatic music).
As with any good role-playing game, Pathologic Classic HD has much to explore; a rather expansive town with your standard shops all run by the same bald man for some reason(one simply cannot rule out the possibility of mass inbreeding in this forsaken place).
I began my play-through as Bachelor, a rational human being who becomes snarled in a murder mystery after his colleague, Simon, is found dead in his study. What follows is not so much an enigma as it is a fucking bizarre series of events. As the cryptic and eerie townsfolk begin to hint that Simon was safely locked away in a magic room through which no other being can penetrate, it soon becomes less of a whodunnit and more of a what-the-hell-dunnit.
But how does the remake hold up? Visually it’s not too bad. For a game that was released only ten years ago (the same year the likes of F.E.A.R. was launched), the visuals are not amazing even for the time. Graphically, it leans more towards the style and architecture of the early Thief games, which is a much older series.
That’s not to say it’s bad, though. For an indie game, the graphics are definitely decent. But as with any HD remake, one must step into it with slight trepidation. After all, the massively popular Grim Fandango Remaster – although well-received – was still criticized for having glitchy visuals.
Without having played the original Pathologic, I can’t say for definite how the two stack up side-by-side, but I did notice some errors in the game, such as a slight jerky motion either caused by the graphics themselves or the mouse controls. It took some getting used to, but it did take some degree of perseverance.
In terms of sound, they did a good job in creating a spooky ambiance with a subtle hint of despair and even misery thrown into the mix to keep players feeling dread and even hunted in some parts.
It’s difficult to come up with a satisfactory overhaul of a remake of a game one hasn’t played. Suffice it to say, Pathologic Classic HD is a pretty decent horror experience. There’s plenty of story gong on so long as you don’t mind a fair bit of reading (remember, this is before all text had a voice-over). It’s just unfortunate that there isn’t a run button, making trekking back and forth a somewhat tedious endeavour.
It does feel a little dated and the combat is literally hit and miss, but as far as cult video games go, you can definitely see why it was praised during its first release. It’s got a good mix of atmosphere, a story with enough intrigue to keep you guessing and an element of horror that isn’t too scary, but can still give you the chills even to this day.
This review is based on the PC version of the game, which was provided to us.
Pathologic Classic HD is a solid example of something that can have a small rebirth in a saturated market for anyone who may have missed it the first time round.