It took more than one attempt to get into Pathologic 2 after spending so much time with Elden Ring, but after a month of testing out different CBD and made-from-hemp products marketed towards gamers, it may be my favorite horror game since Silent Hill 2. These experiences may not immediately appear related, but a bizarre and somewhat random series of events that started with a post-review New Game Plus playthrough of Elden Ring have left them irrevocably linked in my memory. Here’s what happened.
A few months ago Screen Rant was contacted by a PR company promoting a product roundup of “CBD for gamers” and it sounded intriguing. CBD stores have been popping up all across the United States – especially here in Georgia, where actual recreational marijuana is still illegal – and, like many others, I have been dubious about their claims. I responded to the email and said I would like to try out any samples they were willing to send, and, a few weeks later, ended up with the following CBD and hemp-related items: Extract Labs’ CBD Chocolate Bars, Dragon Hemp REACH Capsules, House of Wise Stress Drops, and Extract Labs’ Full Spectrum CBD Muscle Cream.
This was a little after the public launch of Elden Ring and most of my non-work gaming time was dedicated to refinishing the game in NG+. I had missed a lot of NPC side quests in my rush to finish as much of Elden Ring as possible in time for the game’s review embargo (something stress-reducing CBD would have been ideal for, ironically) and this second playthrough was all about clearing out everything that had been skipped or skimmed over, as well as getting my revenge in boss fights – looking at you, dual Crucible Knights. I had just reached the Mountaintop of the Giants for the second time when the Extract Labs’ CBD Chocolate Bars ($13 per bag) arrived. It was time to find out if CBD actually works.
The Effects of CBD On Elden Ring’s New Game Plus Mode
At no point while testing nearly all of these CBD products I was sent – be they chocolates or creams or oils – did it ever feel like a tangible change was happening in my mind or with my mood, at least not one that could not have been explained away by a placebo effect or the secondary benefits of the delivery system. I felt good after eating the CBD Chocolate Bars from Extract Labs, but it was good dark chocolate and that always makes me feel pretty nice anyway. After using Extract Labs’ Full Spectrum CBD Muscle Cream ($90 per 2.95oz can) there was a relaxed, soothing feeling, but I had also just had a massage with said cream. Massages always feel nice and leave you feeling more at peace.
What doesn’t leave a person with a feeling of peace, however, is the difficulty spike in Elden Ring once a player reaches the Mountaintop of the Giants. It was annoying on the game’s first playthrough and it was still annoying in New Game Plus, but after a while – and after eating a few pieces of chocolate – I realized that I wasn’t getting as frustrated as I had the first time. Some enemies still seemed overly powerful and dying occurred more often than was necessary, but it seemed to me that I was getting less irritated this time around. Even repeatedly grinding for runes on that ledge near the Lord of Blood (no shame in wanting to get that Int up for Comet Azure) didn’t feel as repetitive. Was I zoning out, was I in a groove, or was the CBD actually helping?
Part of this could have been the fact that I was playing Elden Ring in NG+ in the first place. NG+ runs in FromSoftware games have always felt a bit like a victory lap, and it could just be the invested time finally revealing itself as skill… or, theoretically, it could have been that the Dragon Hemp REACH Capsules ($45 per bottle) I had been taking for a week by that point had started to kick in. According to the label it assists with “Clarity & Focus” – was that why I felt like I was suddenly a bit more in tune with the game? I took a break from Elden Ring for a bit to try out a few other titles I knew I was pretty good at (Halo: Infinite and Mortal Kombat 11, mostly) but results remained inconclusive.
I needed another test subject. Elden Ring, Halo, MK11, these were all games I was already too attached to, too invested in. I needed a fresh experience to see how well “CBD for gamers” would carry me through something I didn’t already know I enjoyed. Fortunately I had a perfect cavy with Pathologic 2, a game which Screen Rant’s Phillip Tinner called “A non-stop fever dream that feels ripped from the mind of David Lynch” in his review. I was somewhat familiar with the world of Pathologic, mostly because like many others I too read Quintin Smith’s iconic Butchering Pathologic series on RockPaperShotgun a decade ago and played the game for myself to see what all the fuss was about, but it wasn’t until I watched Hbomberguy’s YouTube video Pathologic is Genius, And Here’s Why that I gave any thought to giving the sequel a try. Now was clearly the time.
Pathologic 2 & Forcing Yourself To Be Stressed Out
Pathologic 2 is not a fun game to play, but it is an easy one to recommend. The article and video linked above both go into great detail about why the original Pathologic is so fondly remembered by many of those who played it, at least those who could survive Day 2 without starving, but I can now say from experience Pathologic 2 is better both visually and mechanically, and no one needs to play the original to get something of value out of it. It is one of the best examples of video games as an art form that I’ve played in years, and anyone who is remotely interested in open world titles, immersive sims, the concept of right and wrong, or even why people play games in the first place should check it out. It is, however, an oppressive adventure, and one which doesn’t offer anything resembling the power fantasy most players have come to expect from open world games.
Hunger, Exhaustion, Respect, Thirst, and Immunity levels must all be monitored constantly while playing Pathologic 2. It’s a lot to keep track of, especially while trying to complete quests for NPCs without getting killed or, even worse, infected with the plague, and death can come at sudden and inopportune times simply because you decided it would be better to trade a lockpick for a single bullet rather than a piece of toast. It’s a stressful experience whether you’ve been holding one mL of House of Wise Stress Drops ($65 per bottle) under your tongue for 60 seconds or not, and a lengthy one. The drops do seem to help, though.
Out of all the CBD products tested, the House of Wise Stress Tincture seemed to have the most noticeable effect. After waiting a few days for the previous tests to leave my system (and then yet a few more when COVID decided it was our family’s turn), I started playing Pathologic 2 with no CBD assistance whatsoever, and it was rough. The original Pathologic still sits among my list of unfinished classics and I was determined not to let the sequel best me, but after the fourth Death By Hunger on Day 2 I knew I had to restart the game to set myself up properly. I explored as much as I could on that doomed save file with Mark Immortel (read: the ‘director’ of the play of the game you are playing) offering his snide advice at every turn, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
I tried to restart from the beginning of the game but bounced off about ten minutes into Pathologic 2’s intro on two different occasions. I wasn’t able to get back into it at first, and there’s likely a lot of reasons for this. I was playing it wrong. Pathologic 2 didn’t explain itself to me. The introduction is far too long. I wasn’t paying enough attention to my actions because I was treating it like a video game. I was choosing dialog haphazardly. I wasn’t judging whether or not the people I talked to in the game world actually had my best interests at heart. I wasn’t focusing on being Artemy. I was stressing out about the wrong meters. I wasn’t in the zone.
This isn’t a story about how the House of Wise Stress Tincture suddenly put me in that zone – things don’t usually work that way. I did take the first dose around the time I restarted my Pathologic 2 save file yet again, and replaying through the tutorial felt just as tedious then as it did before, but I was also able to power through it. Was it because of the CBD drops? Maybe. Was it because it’s a really good game and something inside me finally realized that, or at least wanted to push through to see if everyone else who said that were actually right? Also possible.
According to my Twitter account it’s been just under a month since I really fell in love with Pathologic 2. It now sits solidly in my Top 10 Games of All Time list and I can comfortably say it is my favorite existential horror experience since Silent Hill 2. I don’t think that’s because of “CBD for gamers” but I do think the House of Wise Stress Drops helped me get through that miserable third run of the game’s intro. Was that because I really wanted to power through, and I really wanted to believe at least one of these sample products had some sort of tangible effect? Again, it’s possible. Brains are fickle, untrustworthy, and, in Pathologic 2, easily removable.
Does CBD Work (For Gamers Or Anyone)?
I gave my mother half a bag of Extract Labs’ CBD Chocolate Bars to get her thoughts and opinions on the product, and she reported that it was quite good chocolate but didn’t seem to do much for her stress or relaxation levels. I still use my remaining House of Wise Stress Drops on an infrequent basis, and while I fully understand that the best results may only happen if taken at normal recurring intervals, even when that was the case it was hard to identify a noticeable difference. Over a series of weeks I ingested:
- 0.7 oz of House of Wise Stress Drops
- 2.1 oz of Extract Labs’ CBD Chocolate Bars
- 30 Dragon Hemp REACH Capsules
And utilized Extract Labs’ Full Spectrum CBD Muscle Cream multiple times. Even after all this consumption and testing, it is hard to determine whether or not the CBD had much of a tangible effect, which is somewhat damning in and of itself. Sometimes I felt good, sometimes I felt bad, sometimes I felt relaxed, sometimes I didn’t. Such is life, and CBD didn’t seem to do much to affect the general flow of what would have normally happened anyway. At one point I twisted my ankle while jumping out of a tree and Extract Labs’ Muscle Cream did soothe the soreness, but not any better than I could remember generic store-brands working, and I didn’t want to repeat the process to compare it with a fresh, non-CBD alternative.
And yet I can’t discount it completely. Farming for runes in Elden Ring felt easier and less boring. I was able to power through the tedium of repeating Pathologic 2’s intro yet again after bouncing off of it multiple times. In that way it very much did help me both enjoy one of my favorite games of 2022 (so far) more, and it helped me to realize how much I truly did enjoy another. That’s not all; I also had two really good massages and lots of pieces of really good chocolate. Maybe none of that had to do with the CBD aspect, but after testing the products in multiple situations over a long period of time, I honestly can’t say for certain.
I’ve beaten Elden Ring two-and-a-half times now (set the Erdtree on Fire on NG++ and haven’t returned since) and I’m on my second run of Pathologic 2. For me it’s Day Four again, but I’m also now forcing my friend to play the game on our own personal YouTube channel Filthy & Free Publishing and we are just at the beginning of Day Two. I don’t know how many times I will continue to play and replay either Pathologic 2 or Elden Ring, but I do know that trying out these CBD products got me through sections of both I may not have made it through without them. Whether that is because of their effects or not is unclear, but I had them and I tried them and that action had its own hand in me playing, beating, and loving these games.
Both Pathologic 2 and Elden Ring are fantastic, iconic video games in very different ways. You don’t need CBD to enjoy them. But after weeks upon weeks of testing, I can’t say for certain CBD doesn’t help either. And there are definitely other anecdotes – some even from people I know – which will describe far better and more noticeable experiences than mine, and those should not be discounted. Every substance, much like every game, affects each person differently, and you’d have to try it out for yourself to know for certain.
Extract Labs’ CBD Chocolate Bars, Dragon Hemp REACH Capsules, House of Wise Stress Drops, and Extract Labs’ Full Spectrum CBD Muscle Cream were provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review. More products can be found via Extract Labs‘ official website.
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