Pathologic Postponed Until Autumn 2017

Ice-Pick Lodge have announced that the new take on Pathologic [official site], the diseased delight that put them on the map back in 2005, won’t be released until autumn 2017. Having spent some time playing a standalone demo at Gamescom, where I also managed to pick the Lodge’s brains away from the chaos of the showfloor, I can appreciate why the game is taking so long to complete. The foundations of the original might be noticeable, if you scratch around in the dirt for long enough, but it has been completely rebuilt. And indeed rewritten, reorganised, reinterpreted, and reimagined.

So, yes, the delay is saddening. But what I’ve played of the game is absolutely splendid.

The demo that I enjoyed at Gamescom will be available, in slightly spiffier form, to Kickstarter alpha backers in the next couple of months. They’re in for a treat. This new take on Pathologic feels like (and indeed is) a new creative team tackling a familiar idea, under the guidance of the original creator. It’s not just prettier and a little bit tidier, it’s creepier, slier and wittier. Within fifteen minutes of being reintroduced to The Bachelor, one of three playable characters, I’d laughed out loud at his indignant pomposity, which is such a beautifully absurd response to a dying world.

One of my favourite things about Pathologic is that everyone in the game has their own specific interpretation of the plague, its origins and its purpose (for plagues can indeed have purposes). Logic collides with superstition, but folk remedies and parlour games can seem more rational than medicine and other scientific solutions. The Bachelor’s appeals to reason are increasingly nonsensical in a world that has amputated its reason and limps on regardless. That’s horrifying, sure, but in the hands of a writer who understands the attraction of the absurd, it’s also a great source of humour.

There’s much more from Ice-Pick on the delay here, but below you can read the details on the eventual demo release:

“First of all, we have a first playable… thing that will in a couple of months go to the backers of the QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS tier and higher (basically, the alpha backers). This is not an alpha though, but rather a short spin-off story that we used to showcase the mood and setting of Pathologic at Gamescom. It doesn’t feature every in-game mechanic and offers the content that won’t be present in the final game. But first we’ll need this couple of months to polish it so that it would run better and wouldn’t require developers’ hints to play properly.”

And here are the pertinent paragraphs regarding the reasons for the delay:

“The original plans for the release date were set with the basic scope of the game in mind. It seems a bit immodest to admit, but we did include our first stretch goal, the Town Expanded, into that; but not the rest of them. The game has grown in scope now, so developing it properly requires additional time.

“Also, the vision for this version of Pathologic has shifted during the development. What started as a humble rejuvenation of a classic beloved by the studio turned into a full-fledged reimagining rather quickly, but it took us time to realize what that truly entails. The corners that we were planning to cut turned into diamond quickly. However faithful to the original vision, this Pathologic is a new game in many aspects, from the engine to the concept art.

“Creating an open-world game in Unity is trying. We are solving the riddles the game’s code throws at us valiantly, but then again, there’s no point in releasing a pretty, but stuttering thing, right? And teaching it proper enunciation turned to require a bit more man-hours than we were hoping.

“Look. Pathologic is the thing for most people in the studio. It is the game that gave Ice-Pick Lodge its identity; it’s like both a beloved parent and a firstborn to us.

“Our miscalculation was embarrassing, and we are fully prepared to accept the thoroughly-deserved stones you may be willing to throw in our general direction, but we want to do it right. If nothing else, the game itself deserves it.”

I’ll be writing up more thorough thoughts about what I’ve seen of the remake soon.

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Ben King says:

    This bums me, but on the flipside I still need to play their recently re-translated original work…

    • klops says:

      I’m planning to stay away from Pathologic HD and concentrate on the real new Pathologic once it is ready. Unless people with more knowledge would recommend otherwise. For a person who’s never touched Pathologic before?

      • Unclepauly says:

        Easy question. Play pathologic HD. The new one is not a remake, it’s a re-imagining. More like a Pathologic 2 or maybe 1.75 (that’s how I’m interpreting it). The HD version will give you a real sense for how this world works so you can dive right into the new one and not be completely confus

        • klops says:

          Hmm, 1.75 still sounds a bit too samey but I have to consider, thanks!

      • Premium User Badge

        basilisk says:

        Well, probably the only people with more knowledge at this point are Ice-Pick Lodge, and I’m not sure what answer they’d give you.

        But I would recommend giving the original (HDified) a try. The worst thing that can happen is that you play a brilliant game twice, which is not a terrible outcome.
        (Also, Pathologic is sort of three games in one, because each of the three protagonists has a quite different story, so you could play one of them in the old Pathologic and another in the new Pathologic and the third one in whichever you liked better.)

        • klops says:

          Thanks as well! I’ve been wanting to keep my knowledge of the game limited and since I read the praise articles about it a long time ago, I didn’t even remember/know that dividing the game to three different protagonists.

          It’s 2-0 to playing the HD now. Perhaps, perhaps I will try the HD version eventually then.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    I mentioned it in the comments section here before (and the translator for the game even replied to me!) but my favourite bit of the Bachelor’s dialogue (and display of his ridiculous pompousness) in the original game is a small exchange you can have with random guardsmen where the guard says to whistle if he gets in trouble and the Bachelor gets a little defensive because he’s not able to whistle.

    • Josh W says:

      Yeah, that’s pretty great, reminds me of the trick you see in a few twine games when they want to reveal something about your character, and they allow another character to get the truth out of you according to your own failure to hide it. It’s really satisfying when it works.

  3. Zanchito says:

    Got the whole newsletter and it’s an exemplary work of communication with fans (as most of the previous ones are). Ice Pick Lodge have my full trust in this, I can wait.

  4. c-Row says:

    “Do you think that you are a Pathologic postponer?”

  5. Shazbut says:

    Ice Pick Lodge have a funny way of talking which I’m not sure I like. It’s a bit defensive and faux poetic.

    That said, I have mad respect for the studio, and this game, if they pull it off, could be one of the best ever

    • suibhne says:

      I’m curious what leads you to interpret it as defensive. One of the key reasons for my own optimism about the remake (and the studio in general) is the consistent skill and authorial voice throughout everything they write (in English, no less).

    • Don Reba says:

      It might be a translation artifact. The original message is written in Russian.

      • alphyna says:

        As a matter of fact, more often than not updates are written in English first.

  6. Bremze says:

    I’ve honestly got my money’s worth just from the excellent backer emails, so another year of those is more than enough to cover for the delay!

  7. Unsheep says:

    So it’s a second remaster more or less, same stage but with different cast ?

    I really enjoyed the original one, certainly one of the most unique gaming experiences around. I haven’t played the 2015 remaster though since it’s basically the same as the original. This new one might be worth a purchase though, if it appears on GOG.

    • Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      Not really. The 2015 HD version was simply a polished re-release; think of it as a Blu-ray edition of a cult movie, with new subtitles and slightly fewer scratches in the picture, but it’s still the same thing.

      This is a, well, probably a reimagining? Same basic concept, but a quite different approach. It’s a full remake made by the same director, but he’s older and more experienced now and not afraid to make some radical changes.

  8. Paul says:

    I am so damn glad they are remaking this. Pathologic has interested me for more than a decade now, but I never got around to it..but then I was happy to back the kickstarter and am really looking forward to finished game.

  9. Premium User Badge

    caff says:

    Being late doesn’t worry me. I think Pathologic belongs in that very special subsection of games like Kentucky Route Zero where it exists when it’s ready, like a fine wine or cheese.