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Pathologic studio's new game is an 'emotional' adventure about life in post-Soviet Russia

In July 2020, Pathologic developer Ice-Pick Lodge revealed a new project called Know By Heart, although as reveals go it was pretty minimal: Just the title, a single piece of art, and a bare-bones description of a game about a reunion of childhood friends in Russia that's "ruined by something beyond their control."

Last week, however, the studio dropped a new gameplay trailer, and a Steam page with a more detailed breakdown of what's in store. Know By Heart will focus on Misha, stuck in a dead-end job in a small Russian town where Soviet history still reverberates. When his school-days crush returns to town, he sees a chance to escape, but as they and other childhood friends reconnect, memories of the past threaten to break the new bonds forming between them.

The Steam listing says Know By Heart will serve up roughly five hours of "sentimental adventure" in a post-Soviet town at the turn of the century. Players will explore Misha's thoughts and memories through "evocative mini-games," which will unfold into a story featuring "non-linear elements and several endings."

It sounds fairly conventional as coming-of-age indie adventures go, and that makes me wonder if there's more at play here than meets the eye. Ice-Pick Lodge is generally known for, as we put it in 2010, "challenging, artsy games" like Pathologic, The Void, and Knock-Knock, and this looks suspiciously conventional by comparison. That could be by design. Despite pre-release hype built on the cult status of the original, Pathologic 2 did not sell well, which forced the studio to cut staff and change up its plans for the game's remaining two chapters. At least in terms of the marketing, a nice, normal game might be exactly what the Ice-Pick team is after.

Know By Heart is currently slated to come out in spring 2021.