09 November, 2009

Pathologic - "A Staggering Reveal"

*Super Spoilers*

So, I've played through the game on the Bachelor and Haruspicus scenarios, and I'm halfway through the game on the Devotress scenario. I'm not completely done, but I cheated and read that review I mentioned when I started this journey. I cheated partly because I had begun to get the impression that even among those who have played this game, very few have endured the Devotress' scenario (which is also part of the reason I started gravitating towards a more direct transcription of events in my latest entries), so I rightly concluded that the threat of spoilage was, by this point, minuscule.

The review in question does a great job of stirring up an appropriate atmosphere of appreciation for the unique points the game has to offer. But I'm not trying to write a review of a review here - I want to talk about what the review refers to as "a staggering reveal", and is set up as the climax of the three part review. I enjoyed reading the author's reaction to said reveal - I had similar reactions to other revelations in the game - but my own reaction to that specific reveal was less profound. However, further explanation of the implications of the reveal has in fact increased my appreciation for it.

Enough of this ambiguity. In the game, you have a map of the town. In the Bachelor and Haruspicus scenarios, you can pay to get the infected zones marked out on the map daily - the Devotress gets this service free and instantly, on account of her ability to simply 'know' where the disease goes. On the reverse side of the map is a sketch of elements important to whichever healers' scenario you are playing. The Bachelor gets some scientific imagery, the Haruspicus is treated to symbols of his practice in surgery, and the Devotress' sketch features various hooks which she wields metaphorically. After the Inquisitor arrives on Day 7, this reverse-side sketch is replaced with a drawing of the town in profile, to which details get added daily, as the truth is slowly uncovered (and the final picture is different in each of the scenarios).

Meanwhile, at around the same time, yet another modification to your map is made, which you'll notice if you zoom all the way out on the map of the town. The image is replaced with an anatomical drawing of a bull, which keen observers may have spotted hanging on the wall in Young Vlad's hut.

You can view an overlay of the two images here, from this playthrough diary.

The implications of overlaying this image on top of the layout of the town did not escape me, however they did not entirely jump out at me, either. It was another one of those things that flew subtly under the radar - not ignored, but not screaming for recognition (in my experience, at least), either. Again, I wonder how much the translation is to blame; and to be fair, I do feel like I'm taking a cheap jab by blaming it on the translation - however, the ambiguity as well as the inconsistency in some of the place names served to obscure the comparison, or at least the importance of the comparison, between the layout of the town and the bull's anatomy.

For example, the Kains' manor, sometimes referred to as 'The Horns', is more often referred to as 'The Gorns', for some reason. And the Olgimskiy and Saburov residences - 'Clot' and 'Stem', respectively - while suggestive of something, are more ambiguous than anything. And Julia's residence, located on the riverbank at the northern border of town, along the river that runs east to west and undoubtedly corresponds to the town's spine (yet is called the Gorkhon), is named 'Seine'. An unfortunate typo? Or a deliberate conspiracy to mislead? I'm not quite sure, myself.

On the other hand, when the healers speak of the Theater as if they were inside a heart during the game's prologue, its position on the town map as it corresponds to the bull diagram reinforces that interpretation. And so too do the directions given to you by the people on the street on the first day (before you know the town well enough to understand what places they're talking about, and by which time you've forgotten their names) make more sense, when they speak of the two north-south flowing rivers as the Throat and the Vein, and give the names of the districts in "The Knots" - the middle section of town - as Kidney, Hearts, Rib, Spine, Muzzle, Saddle, and Womb...

And just because I like playing with maps, I decided to label as many of the districts as I could, based on clues picked up here and there (and then verified by a detailed map I found in a walkthrough - which, other than viewing the map in the appendix, I haven't read). It is somewhat a shame that the in-game map isn't labeled slightly more diligently than it is. I used the presence of infection zones to determine where the natural boundaries of the various districts are.

As a reminder, the Kains rule Stone yard, the Olgimskiys rule Knots, and the Saburovs rule Land (sometimes referred to as Earth). The Project of Bulls refers to the meat industry that is run by the Olgimskiys, and which constitutes the Station, Warehouses, Factories, and the Apiary/Abattoir. I discovered the reasoning behind the dichotomy of the Olgimskiys' connection to the meat industry and their sour relations with the Order. The family runs the business, shipping meat throughout the country, making money off of the Order's ancient heritage of meat preparation. So basically, I figure it's pretty much the old boss/workers conflict.

Also, while going back to grab some information from previous days in previous scenarios, I uncovered some forgotten information regarding Isidor's last moments. He didn't just visit Simon on the night he died. He allegedly visited the Saburovs and the Olgimskiys also - he was consulting with each of the three town heads. But those two didn't come up sick. Then again, the infection is supposedly said to not be airborne (if you ignore the infection clouds), and communication with the infected in the early stages of the disease is supposedly low risk. I dunno, maybe I'm digging too deep. I ought to be careful - who knows what might spring up from the ground...

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