Pathologic and it’s reimaging, Pathologic 2, are famous in niche gaming circles for bending the rules and conventions of gaming to cause undue amounts of stress within the player, putting them in next to hopeless scenarios and seeing how they’ll react and survive the plague sweeping over the town. For example, forcing players to consider whether they’ll return money trusted to them or keep it to buy food and lose reputation. Both actions will put you in danger and force careful consideration of your actions. Which can you reasonably handle? Fair warning: This article is full of spoilers for Pathologic 2
The Haruspex’s journey to save the town’s population and continue his father’s legacy quickly becomes the player’s own, as they survive day to day in this town desperately talking to the major characters and trying to find a way to survive together. Any old vices have faded in the face of the plague. All are equal and it creates a feeling of comradery with the player. You want to help them survive because they’re people just like you, and if you don’t help them no one will. The Bachelor has already abandoned the idea of saving the town, content with making a vaccine to save other towns.
Other than taking on your father’s legacy as the town doctor, the kin’s menkhu, your father left something else behind: the list. A list of eight children, the town’s future. Your father wants you to protect all the children of the town. Seven of them are identifiable, but the eighth’s identity is a mystery. Figuring out who the eighth is can be saved for later though, for now the other children are what matter.
Protecting these children is just as hard, if not harder than any other resident of the town. Infection and death in Pathologic 2 is very random, every night death will roll the dice on who lives, who dies, and who catches the plague. Keeping someone alive, let alone seven people alive, is a fruitless effort. If you give every single person at risk immunity boosters every day you’ll be wasting most of the time allotted to you to continue the story and find a cure, and even if you do spend all that time there’s no guarantee that death won’t just infect them anyway. Their immunity may be boosted, but no one is truly immune.
You don’t need to save all of the children; as far as I can tell the only one you need to save to beat the game is the eighth. The fates of the other seven children only weigh on your conscience. It’s a challenge that only really works if the player cares about morals in video games even if there’s little consequence for not taking them into account. For me personally, I get very attached to fictional children and try to act motherly to them anytime a game lets me. So the Haruspex and his journey to save his town as well as the children is one that I very easily get sucked into personally.
And the game returns this attachment with misery. The seven children: Notkin, Capella, Murky, Sticky, Khan, Grace, and Taya. This is the list your father left behind for you, try to save them all.
Immediately even checking the safety of all the children is impossible. Taya is in the termintary, locked up with most of the Kin. The Vlads refuse to let anyone in or out, young Vlad claiming that so long as the doors are never opened it will be completely safe from the plague and once things have calmed down they can put everyone back to work. Negotiation with the Vlads is impossible, you just need to take their word and hope the termintary is as safe as he claims.
Things are looking equally grim for Notkin, a member of his gang who has been infected with the plague. Whether you alleviate this child’s pain or do nothing, Notkin himself will become infected, only two days into the outbreak. You can treat him and hope to ease his pain, but with being infected this early on his death is inevitable. All you can do is hope.
However, there is a way to save someone infected before you find a cure. Shmowders. The children of the town once crushed random pills and medicine together while playing and ended up making a miracle cure. There are very few shmowders, finding even a single one in a playthrough is hard. I was incredibly lucky and found three during my playthrough. Three chances to cure someone permanently. I used a shmowder and saved Notkin. Outside the building Death mocked me for this, saying that it was only a matter of time before all eight children would die, that it would claim even the eighth within ten days.
Thankfully Grace, Capella, Sticky, and Khan are significantly easier to keep safe. Other than Khan needing to be convinced not to go into the Polyhedron and potentially spread the disease, protecting them isn’t any harder than any other citizen of the town. Sticky in particular lives with you in your makeshift lab, having watched your father work on medicine in the past he soon becomes like an apprentice to you, offering to steal tools in an attempt to help you.
Then there’s the hardest child to save, an orphan named Murky. You rarely see Murky for the first few days and when you do she’ll be anything but nice to you. Being an orphan child on the spectrum who lives alone in a train car she isn’t the most social child. She’ll often talk about how she doesn’t like you or make suggestions that help no one. If you try to rush through conversations with her you’ll get nowhere with her, she’ll open up to you if you let her go at her own pace.
As you go through the game, Murky will talk about a mysterious friend she made during the plague, and eventually say she’ll introduce you to this friend in the fields at night. Murky will be sitting alone and her friend will appear to never arrive. On the other side of a rock the Changeling will talk to you about how this friend is dangerous to Murky and offer to let you meet this friend instead. This friend is the plague, if you say no or do nothing, Murky will die. If you say yes, you yourself will be infected. Infection is practically a death sentence, surviving through the game while infected is fighting against the clock.
To tip the scales even further against saving Murky, there’s the matter of trophies and platinuming the game. There is a trophy for seeing all dreams in the game, one dream is only viewable if you say no and let Murky die. I’m the kind of person who cares greatly about 100%ing games and platinuming them. I’ve even written an article in the past about platinuming games, so this addition to the moral dilemma hurts me more than most.
Is all of this worth saving Murky? I said yes and allowed myself to become infected. Murky is no longer in the field after this decision, so you run all the way to her train car home to make sure she’s safe. Thankfully she is, and even more thankfully I had a shmowder on hand to save myself from the plague. After this, Murky is moved from the List segment of the character list to the Blood segment, which is reserved for people the Haruspex considers family. You were willing to risk everything for her, she is family now.
No other segment in this game is etched into my mind nearly as much as saving Murky and the struggle to do so, there are many moments like it in the game for other characters and many players will have similar thoughts about saving characters like Rubin or the Vlads and can tell similar stories about saving them. Pathologic 2’s cast can affect many different people in different ways, Murky just happens to be the character I most cared about saving
From here on the game continues normally and you can put the list out of mind for a while. However, it isn’t long until you finally gain access to the termintary, the place the Vlads said would be safe from infection because they locked it tight. However, like Poe’s red death, being locked away does nothing to stop the plague. The termintary has been full of many infected all along, an uncountable number of people have died here with their death’s being on the Vlads’ heads. Thankfully, Taya is safe. After fighting a large amount of Kin (a task that is near impossible without dying) you can bring her out and hopefully she’ll remain safe.
All seven identified members of the list are safe, however who the eighth is remains a mystery. That is, until you make your way to the heart of the town. I won’t spoil too much of what happens here since this article is about the children of the town, however the conversation here finally reveals who the eighth was: the town itself.
Upon finding out how to cure the plague and a way to mass produce this cure, death decides to cheat. Every single child from the list is infected, even Murky to my horror. Death plays an unfair game and wants to make you suffer with one final moral dilemma about these kids. While you found cures in the heart of town, you can’t use them all on the children, you need one to prove a cure can be made, and even if you could use all of these cures on the children there isn’t enough.
I prioritized giving cures to Notkin, Murky, Taya, and Sticky and just kept the other’s pain low with medicine. Hoping they can survive the last few days before the end.
And by the skin of my teeth I did it, I made it to the end without anyone on the list dying. I felt proud for doing so. Not only was the town’s future secured but those who had grown close to me like Murky were safe. This wasn’t an easy task, the game at every turn wants you to question if these kids are worth it. While I was headstrong and tried at every turn to save them, and was incredibly lucky along the way, I know many others won’t be. One person can only do so much and save so many. While I worded this article like I played perfectly by saving all the children the true story is this playthrough was anything but perfect. Many characters died in my playthrough, I may have saved those I cared about most, but I couldn’t save everyone.
Pathologic 2 is a masterpiece, this article only touches upon a small portion of the game that stuck in my mind the most. There is so much that needs to be experienced here to fully understand it and I urge those of you reading to do so, and if can, save Murky.