You can’t leave the Steppe. They say there are things beyond it—like the Capital or the Skerries—but that’s just because they don’t know better. There’s a reason why the only way to get to the Town is by a single railroad line. The Steppe has its own rules, and it doesn’t open itself up easily.
You can’t leave the Steppe, but you can delve deeper into it now that it gets expanded. It brings us immense pleasure to announce that we’ve reached the second stretch goal—not only because we can now provide you with additional places to explore and things to do, which is actually a very lovely thing in and of itself, but because reaching this stretch goal adds a new conceptual level to Pathologic. We can show you something very important now.
The Steppe is not a biome.
The Steppe is not a set of locations or local myths.
The Steppe is not a steppe.
It’s a time machine—and a time machine is something that the ideological balance of the game has been sorely lacking.
From Head to Croup
Steppe is an element—just like water, fire, air, and so on. This element has been mastered by a people of herdsmen. They’ve built a society upon it that was both primitive and conceptually robust.
Or have they? When drawing the first draft map of the new Steppe locations, we’ve come to a stunning realisation. There used to be another town near the Gorkhon river; if one was to symbolically represent the Town that the events of the game unfold in as a bull with its horns corresponding to the Polyhedron and its croup being the Abbatior, than that older, previous town used to be the bull repositioned. The Abbatoir used to be the head, you see, with the expansive body spreading into the Steppe.
You can probably see how this idea rhymes with the stretch goal you’ve helped us reach.
There’s more to it, of course. Did you know that the Abbatoir—a behemoth slaughterhouse lying in the Eastern part of the Town—used to be a heathen temple? It’s hinted at in the original game, but never elaborated upon. The challenge of the industrial age that’s conquered the old town making the bull crawl closer towards Gorkhon has turned a house of prayer and rite into a utilitarian construction. The head has become an udder to milk.
Well, it is a natural process. The past is being continually conquered by the present which turns the things of value into remnants and relics. And if that makes you feel sad, do keep in mind that the present is only here to die out under the heel of the future.
Another epiphany we’ve had while drafting the expanded Steppe map was that most of its landmarks are actually roads rather than individual points of interest. It’s like the Steppe was a vector image rather than a raster one, which is all too fitting.
If you’ve played the original Pathologic, you may remember the concept of “the lines”; while the idea of the lines governing many natural and social laws was extremely important to Haruspex’s story, it also went underexplored in the end. But now that the skeleton of the old Steppe town is showing through the sands of time, we think we understand it better.
It is natural for our eyes to see objects as images and shapes. Any shape has a silhouette, an outline—but that’s not what we’re looking at under normal circumstances. It would be a bit weird of us to say that a table is actually a table-shaped outline filled with “table matter”. For crying out loud, it’s just a table.
We perceive time differently though. A boring history textbook often turns into a list of dates—here’s when this bill was passed, here’s when that war happened… It’s not the most engaging way of thinking about time, but it’s also natural. History is most easily understood as a succession of breaking points. An outline of an epoch filled this “and that’s what it looked like back then” matter.
Well, it seems like the Steppe tradition encourages its bearers to perceive space in the same fashion as we normally perceive time. To see circles filled with “circle matter” rather than disks. The thing itself is unimportant; the lines that separate things are—as are beginnings and ends. It’s not about places—it’s about roads that connect them and break them into parts.
This way of thinking shines even through the more modern Town of the game itself. Districts are seemingly no less important for its inhabitants than specific buildings and places. Even the Plague itself seems to abide by the rules of the lines.
It used to matter even more—and that’s exactly why the draft map of the extended Steppe is first and foremost about roads. It’s a bull way of thinking. The Steppe used to be a bull world—a vector world of lines rather than shapes. GIant deity-like bulls were later replaced by people just like adults are being replaced by children in the game.
But parents never abandon their children to their own devices—it’s a very important point that was, once again, underexplored in the original Pathologic. It’s natural for us to leave legacies—distilled essences of what we were—for those to come. By compressing ourselves into something easily digestible we hope to help them in their endeavours.
So did the adults of the Town by granting their children the Polyhedron; and so did the bulls by granting their people the Abbatoir. These twin structures are embodiments of miracle-making.
Parents never abandon their children to their own devices, but children also never abandon their parents’ legacies, twisting them. The Abbatoir has been granted to the people as a temple, but turned into a slaughterhouse later. The Polyhedron, serving as the children’s fortress now, also used to have a different purpose.
And who told you that the past is bound to accept its repurposing and simply go down?
That’s why The Steppe Expanded is so important to us. It’s a set of new questlines and locations, true. It also allows us to fix the storytelling balance by showing the matters that Haruspex will have to deal with rather retelling them second-hand (in all honesty, the original Pathologic was a bit biased towards the Utopists). But most importantly, it allows us to truly show this continuity—the idea that every age leaves a legacy for its children hoping for a miracle, that every generation of children is bound to repurpose it and that it leads to inevitable conflicts.
Thank you for letting us explore it further. Thank you for making it to the second stretch goal.
The Steppe Extended is not a place. It’s a time.
Guess we're talking like real steppe people now, huh.
It makes sense, too. After all, you can’t leave it.