Apr 30, 2014
Pathogen is a puzzle board game â€“ and I mean it in the strictest sense. It’s similar to Japanese Go, both in form, and in a facade of simplicity that hides a mind-crippling difficulty inside, like a Trojan horse full of challenges and frustration. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that I’m bad at it, but I don’t get to say this about many mobile board games. There’s no story in Pathogen, because stories are for children, while we’re here to kick ass and capture territory – and we’re almost out of ass.
In Pathogen, the player can compete against AI or other players, locally, or online. The goal is to capture more territory than the enemy, before you both run our of land. Similarly to Go, the main mechanics are an ability to place your pieces on any part of the field, capturing it, and an ability to capture enemy’s resources with careful planning, although the process is different. The player has several kinds of pieces he can place, with more advanced pieces requiring several turns to recharge. When the player puts a piece on the board near existing ones of the same kind, they form a connection. Then, if the player puts a more advanced piece on, or near any of them, they all get advanced to the next level and start belonging to the player â€“ even if they originally belonged to the enemy. The connections never break, meaning that at the end of the game, large portions of the game field get to change hands every turn, as players race to advance them to the last stage that turns all connected pieces into a wall, solidifying them. After this, they can’t change hands, and the area completely goes under one of the player’s control.
There’s an insane level of possible customization, including different AI strengths, special “infection” mode, free choice of multiplayer options, but they’re all icing on the cake that is insane depth of Pathogen. Not only do you need to plan where to place the next piece, but also what kind it should be, and if it puts you at risk of the whole chain being completely captured – or if this can actually be of an advantage. AI is damn good, so don’t expect that single player campaign will be a cakewalk, either. I can already hear muffled scoffing from the masters of Go, as they go through the levels like a katana sword through a leaf of sakura, but I do think that Pathogen is one of the most challenging board games I’ve ever played on the mobiles.