26 October, 2009

Pathologic - Linguistic

*Sort of Spoilers*

It is not said without reason that the English translation of Pathologic is - at best - patchy. It's not all bad, but it suffers greatly in parts from awkward and sometimes downright confusing phrasing, grammar, and vocabulary (as well as various inconsistencies). At worst, you can still glean the main points of interest, but I can't help wondering how much of the intricate details of the plot I am missing out on - and that's a shame. It can be said that the cryptic passages add to the surreality of the gaming experience - and this is indeed true - but I think there is a difference to be made between a dense and atmospheric script, and a simply poor translation. The voice acting is also less than spectacular, but that's less of a concern, as the majority of the game's exposition occurs in the form of text. At any rate, not infrequently does the translation, sometimes in accompaniment with the voice acting, result in moments of what must surely be unintentional humor. On the other hand, there is also much wisdom buried in this game, if you can get past its stilted presentation. We shall explore just a little bit of that here in the following posts.

An example of awkward (and fairly humorous) vocabulary occurs when you meet a girl on the street, and proposition her for a trade, addressing her with the following: "We'd better trade, brisk young lady. Are you interested?" When you encounter a drunkard he makes a statement that aptly demonstrates the cryptic nature of the game's text:

"The nature rages, that's why we have to suffer."

Now, taken out of context, this sounds like the sort of nonsensical gibberish you might expect to hear from a drunkard. My initial impression is that it sounds like maybe he's complaining about the weather, or making a pessimistic observation about his fate - or mankind's in general. But then, knowing a little of the superstition behind the epidemic, particularly regarding the Inquisitor's comments about man (specifically, the Kains and their architects) vainly trying to create a miracle, and Nature sending the disease as an act of retribution against such an outrage, this drunkard's ramblings suddenly become uncharacteristically coherent, and eerily insightful...

Everytime you engage one of the important townspersons in conversation, they speak (vocally) a line of dialogue (just one) that is generally unconnected to whatever it is you have come to talk about (and is chosen randomly). It is sort of a greeting. It confused me greatly at first, as I didn't understand why what the character spoke didn't match up with the text, but gradually I learned that they were separate. These 'quips', or greetings, serve, in a sense, to fix the character's personality, and add some dimension to it. Each character has their own set of greetings, with a few standards (like "yes" or "what?", and some others) that you can hear from many characters. There are a certain number of greetings you will hear from a given character throughout the game, and then there might be one or two specific to the day you are currently on, and that usually have something to do with the important events of that day. For example, on the day that the Cathedral is broken into, one of the character's greetings may mention the 'Spreader'. In this way, you can actually learn a little bit more about what's going on in the town, about how certain characters feel about certain issues, and even about certain other characters.

So let us investigate the main characters of the town and, via some of their greetings, we can hopefully share a little humor as well as a little wisdom. I basically 'polled' the entire cast of the game, so in order to prevent this post from becoming overlong, I intend to split it into three sections, which will follow shortly. So stay tuned.


  1. Astute observations regarding the drunks. Aglaja's placement in the cathedral became alot clearer after that dialogue.
    Of course the shoddy translation isn't all bad, it gives us such gems as
    'It might even happen that your soul is released for penance by means of dry peas'
    Which Dankovsky says to Lara, day 8, IIRC.

    Retrospectively, the early conversations I had in the Bachelor scenario were all strongly foreshadowing the conclusion. Was it Maria who has the spoken line 'It's come up from the ground, we have been burying the bones incorrectly all these years', or something of that sort? Or a similar conversation with, I think Rubin, about children getting bloodied hands after playing in a sandpit.
    Sand, sandpits, children, theatrics, blood, bulls...the game has a strong symbolism and intertextuality, I enjoy the rather comprehensive treatment you've given it.

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