I think I did my first run of this game about two years ago. I remember getting through Day One and cautiously thinking to myself, ‘well, I guess that wasn’t so bad.’ From what I’d heard the Haruspex is the most difficult of the three characters to tackle. Yet I’d made it through the first twenty-four hours without getting too badly shanked. I had some money, I had food, my reputation was on its way to being restored… that was a good sign, right?
Ahhhahaha how wrong I was. If I were to sum up Pathologic in three words, they would be ‘IT GETS WORSE.’
Since then, I’ve played through all three character storylines. Currently I’m going through the Haruspex scenario for a second time. I love this game. My neurotic tendency to level grind and packrat ever item I come across has finally paid off big time. As the Haruspex, I don’t start off healthy or well-equipped or living in a half-naked woman’s house, but dammit, at least I can put aside the Burakh pride and rummage through garbage bins for empty bottles and needles and discarded razors.
Because kids love that shit in Pathologic, and they will trade you the drugs (!) and ammunition (!!) you need to stay alive if you fork it over. If I were to offer some advice to players who are just starting out, it would be this: start scrounging on Day One, and don’t stop until the credits roll. I laughed at around Day Six or so when I caught myself using a lockpick to bust into a random house just to find children to trade with. I had this great mental image of bloodstained Artemiy Burakh stomping inside and yelling, ‘I’m not going to rob you - I’m just here to get antibiotics and shotgun ammo from your ten year old daughter.’
Oh, another bit of advice: buy food on Day One. Even if it leaves you penniless at the end of the day, for the love of god get yourself a reasonable stash of food. Prices are not going to get any cheaper than they are right now. Bread and dried meat are the best. Hell, want some free chow? Go nick it off the statue of the Mistress up in Horns. How about a free shotgun? Who doesn’t want a free shotgun. Some bandits are lurking at the train station, seeking to ambush Burakh a second time. I remember feeling pretty uneasy with the thought of cutting out their organs the first time I played through. But Pathologic will offer you no mercy over the next twelve days, and chances are you will do a lot worse just to stay alive.
I am rambling! This game is great. Would I recommend it to anyone? Aeeeggghhh no, despite how much I’d love to. It is a very difficult, very frustrating game, and many will tell you it’s not fun at all to play. A lot of people give up after the first few hours. Others make it through the Bachelor’s scenario and quit without playing either of the other two characters, citing exhaustion. Which is kind of a shame, because speaking for myself I found the Haruspex’s storyline the most fascinating, not to mention the best translated. I love the lore of this game, and he wades right into it.
In the end, despite the difficulty level, I guess all I can say is that Pathologic is a powerful, draining experience, intensely atmospheric and beautifully written, and I will solidly recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind hours of desperate scrounging and knifing rats in the face. The story is amazing. It’s well worth it.