Punishing plague horror Pathologic 2 is heading to PS4 this week
Pox of delights.
Developer Ice-Pick Lodge's masterful plague survival horror Pathologic 2 will, following its launch on Xbox One and PC last year, finally be making its way to PS4 this Friday, 6th March.
Pathologic 2 is a haunting, unforgettable experience for all sorts of reasons (and certainly not for everyone), but the first important thing to note is that you needn't worry about the "2" in the title. No knowledge of its predecessor is required, and it's more of a much-enhanced remake, expanding on the original's themes, than a sequel in any traditional sense.
Like its predecessor, Pathologic 2 charts the sudden decline of a small town on the edge of the Russian Steppe. As the game begins, you, as surgeon Artemy Burakh, return to this strange corner of the world, having received an urgent missive from your father - and things rapidly start to go wrong, as a mysterious plague rains death and chaos on your childhood home.
What follows is something like a cross between an immersive sim and a survival game, unfolding across 12, increasingly desperate days. Within each 24-hour cycle, there are relationships to rebuild, and new narrative threads to tease out by ensuring you're in the right place at the right time - all of which needs to be done alongside the relentless hunt for food and supplies so you're suitably prepared to survive the imminent onslaught of misery.
Immediately, you've more options than hours in the day, meaning hard choices and difficult sacrifices must be made from the off, especially given that most plot strands and potentially promising leads are snipped off forever at the end of each day.
And things only get worse as time goes on; supplies dwindle to naught, you're constantly at death's door, and your friends become sick, with no means to save them all. It's emotionally draining, utterly dispiriting, and cruel - but also breathtakingly audacious, with the sheer weight of responsibility the game engenders creating a world in which you can't help but care.
It's an almost suffocatingly atmospheric experience, and one that's difficult to shake once it's got its claws in you; nearing a year on from playing Pathologic 2, I still find my mind drifting back to its hazy, plague-ridden streets, and its wonderfully realised cast of crooks, vagabonds, and urchins - although I'm not sure if that's through fond remembrance or trauma.
Should you be intrigued but hesitant, it's worth noting that Ice-Pick Lodge added a whole range of difficulty sliders last year, giving players the chance to explore Pathologic 2's hypnotic world without needing to endure the full dispiriting force of its gruelling original design. And if that appeals, PS4 owners can board the train and begin their journey home on 6th March.