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Resident RPG nerd and SoulsBorne fanatic. Can be spotted by their floofy hair.

In 2005, as the survival horror genre as we knew it was overwhelmed by the first waves of zombie slaughtering action games, a strange Russian title snuck out the back door and fled into the cold night of the world of . That game was , one of the most ingenious, oppressive and truly frightening games ever made.

'Pathologic': The Most Frightening Game You've Probably Never Played

Chaos reigns over the city in 'Pathologic'  [Credit: Ice-Pick Lodge]
Chaos reigns over the city in 'Pathologic' [Credit: Ice-Pick Lodge]

Pathologic was a truly original approach to survival . There were no zombies, just for a start. It took you to the lonely steppes of the Russian frontier, where a mysterious plague is claiming the lives of the population. Here, the only monsters were the desperate people trapped inside.

Taking control of one of three healers: A big city doctor, a tribal shaman and a young girl with the mysterious ability to heal with a touch, you're tasked with finding a cure to the mysterious disease. But priorities quickly shift as the government puts the town under quarantine, cutting off supplies, escape and medicine.

There are no right and wrong choices in Pathologic, just a series of desperate ones. [Credit: Ice-Pick Lodge]
There are no right and wrong choices in Pathologic, just a series of desperate ones. [Credit: Ice-Pick Lodge]

This is where the true horror of Pathologic lies. Time moves constantly in the game, and supplies become increasingly expensive, rare and difficult to obtain as the town's population becomes more desperate. As a healer, you have to decide which of the desperate townspeople to help, and how far you're willing to compromise your morals to discover a cure. Will you hoard medicine to keep yourself healthy while the townspeople die? Will you trade your only means of self defense for a few doses of antibiotics? Will you kill an innocent, but infected man to dissect for answers?

Each day, the condition of the town descends further into hell. Looters and arsonists roam the streets, the infected beg for your help. Soldiers appear, boarding up houses with the infected inside and burning anyone and anything in the quarantined areas. Pathologic may be the first true survival horror game in a way, because it's the first game in which survival becomes the horror.

Waiting In The Dark

Death can be bargained with, hidden from, or staved off, but never defeated. [Credit: Ice-Pick Lodge]
Death can be bargained with, hidden from, or staved off, but never defeated. [Credit: Ice-Pick Lodge]

Despite being released in 2005 in Russia, the game languished in obscurity in the rest of the world for years. There was no official translation, and the already obscure and poetic Russian used in Pathologic proved almost impossible to translate for fans. The few fan translations that came out contained bizarre, indecipherable dialog, more riddles than speech. It was almost impossible to play without a guide. The first official English language release of the original game came ten years later, in 2015. But the graphics, which were already behind the times in 2005 haven't aged well at all.

Luckily, Ice Pick Lodge had found some success and a devoted fan following in the meantime. Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, Pathologic is getting the remake it deserves, and backers have already gotten their hands on a standalone two hour scenario that appears to deliver on all the promise of the original game with many improvements.

There won't be any morality bars in Pathologic, nor will there be mission indicators, quests or helpful logs to point you where you need to go. Weapons are as likely to be swapped for food in a moment of desperation than used in a fight. The world of the standalone scenario is filled with characters who have their own goals and decisions with no clear answer. This won't be a game for everyone, but it will be a game that everyone should at least check out.


Which survival horror title are you most excited for in 2017?

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