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Pathologic 2 erupts in an infestation of difficulty options

Die it your way

It's no secret that poetic plague survival sim Pathologic 2 is hard. Developers Ice-Pick Lodge even say that the experience is "intended to be almost unbearable". Unfortunately, 'almost' is a very fine line for many, and was just too much for some, including Brendy, who bounced off the game's starvation systems, despite noting he enjoyed appreciating its writing in his Pathologic review. While I've had a better time (mostly due to accepting death), today's big update should make some people happy, as the game is now practically wriggling with difficulty options. Below, the developers and my own musings on the game's challenges.

Ice-Pick Lodge don't do things by halves, and may have undersold the 'difficulty slider' a little. Initially, the difficulty menu only has one of them, set to 'intended difficulty'. Disable this, and you're presented with fifteen variables to monkey around with, plus several presets. While you can never disable starvation and thirst, you can reduce their progress by half. Or you could add an extra 50-100% to every gauge, although you'd have to be mad to even try. Today's update also includes a round of optimisation tweaks, bug-fixes, and the lovely line "taught crows to conceal their low-poly nature by not landing close to the player". Corvids are wise indeed.

Cover image for YouTube video

Personally, I'm sticking with normal difficulty for a while longer, and not because there's an achievement for completing it that way. It's because death is as meaningful as you want it to be in Pathologic 2, as is failure. There's an enormous amount of dialogue to be found only when you're failing, and while fourth wall-breaking playwright Mark Immortell may harangue you for repeated deaths, that's okay. As lead translator Kevin Snow points out on Twitter, Mark is rubbish and you can (and should) tell him to go screw himself. He isn't the voice of the disapproving developers. He's just Mark. You should probably die a couple more times, just to spite him.

Of course, what we're playing now is still just one third of Pathologic 2. Due to budget and time constraints, Ice-Pick Lodge picked one of the three playable characters - the Haruspex - to release first. The other two are still planned, and even confirm in recent developer blogs that some Kickstarter backer rewards will remain a secret until The Bachelor's story is released. I'm not aware of any official word on whether the remaining characters will be free updates or paid DLC, but I'm guessing that whatever they choose, Kickstarter backers won't be paying extra for them. Either way, there's plenty more weirdness and pain to come.

You can see the full patch notes here, including the educated crows. Pathologic 2 is available on Steam and Humble for £27.79/€29.99/$34.99. It's published by TinyBuild.

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Dominic Tarason