Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pathologic: Day One, by the end of which the Bachelor will have to begin his fight with a truly undefeatable foe

Look at me, all burdened-for-the-universe like.

So by the time I get to town, Simon Kain is dead. The town doctor, the unnaturally-old Isidor Burakh, is likewise missing, and I’m charged to investigate the murder. I spend most of the day scurrying around the town trying to find out what happened from any of the town’s three squabbling families—the self-righteous Kains in the West, the Saburov family in the Northeast, and the corrupt Olgimskiy house in the center. Being self-righteous myself, I play the Kains’ errand-boy most of the time.

Most of the evidence points to Isidor’s son, Artemiy, so I spend most of my time following his trail, occasionally getting sidetracked by nonsense stories about cannibalesses from the steppes and mind-numbing fetch quests. The investigation serves mostly to acquaint me with the three heads of proletariat and their numerous lackeys.

My primary enemy today is boredom. The chief puzzle: finding the best way through the city streets to accomplish each goal on time. This is not the Pathologic I’ve been told I would find. Or perhaps it is. The chief faults are here—slow combat, a maddening walking speed, boxy motion, and yes—the translation here is definitely more Russian than English.

All the same, the ambient music sets quite a tone, and the graphical limitations work in service of the game’s aesthetic rather than against it. Also present is the meta-narrative: I’m greeted by the executor and tragedian when I leave the gate, and they’ve put on a play in the theatre about me and my friends. The dialogue, though poorly translated, yields widely different results depending on what I say,

Some of the tasks seem pointless—during my search for the murderer, I stumble upon one waifish wench whose living room floor has a dead man who shambled in, took three gasping breaths, and inconveniently expired. After a bit of thought, I figure I’ll help the poor girl and hire the undertakers at the graveyard to dispose of the body, no questions asked. These undertakers, in turn, demand a high sum, which I am reluctant to pay, but do. Afterwards I’m sent onward, still clueless, fingering the ring of wench’s grandmother in my pocket.

After hours of long trekking, it finally becomes obvious that Simon Kain and Isidor Burakh’s murderer is not the dreaded she-cannibal, but the Sand Plague. Flush with my revelation, I warn Burakh’s old pupil Rubin before he exhumes the body and hurry back to George Kain to find him predictably skeptical. Moreover, he won’t allow me to examine the body myself, so I have to leave it to Rubin, who looks like anything but a legitimate doctor.

My reputation is at the max—everyone respects me, everyone loves me. In fact, I am regularly awarded a small stipend in the form of currency or little heirlooms. It’s too easy. Though it’s my understanding that the town around me will soon be transformed into a miasmic hell, I can’t help but wish that someone would try to shoot me, or that some plague-ridden housewife would run at me screaming. My wish is granted, of course, around midnight, when all the knife-wielding murderers come out to stalk the town. My first introduction with one of these ruffians comes as a surprise—I round the corner and there he is, grinning. I backpedal, all the while seeing him raise his arms to fling a small razor, which connects with grim accuracy, killing me instantly. Is this the true face of Pathologic?

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