Plague Inc: A Viral Sensation

Ever felt like sitting down in front of your iPhone and eradicating human life using a rapidly evolving pathogen that can instigate global anarchy? It’s a need you don’t necessarily have until you sit down with this strangely addictive app.

Plague Inc. is a real-time strategic simulation of a disease progressively infecting and killing every sentient being on the planet. Sounds just like anybody’s cup of tea, I know. There’s something about having total control over a somewhat terrifyingly realistic situation where your actions can decide whether billions will live or die. If any of this is relatable, either consult your local psychiatrist, or read on.

Getting Started

The premise of Plague Inc. is simple: You introduce a pathogen in your country of choice and then evolve it in many different ways to ensure not a single person on Earth is free of infection. Basically, you bring about armageddon.

For beginners, there’s a useful How to Play screen on the main menu which I found incredibly useful.

Help Screen

Help Screen

Before you begin the weighty task of taking out the world, you first have a few menu screens to combat. If this is your first time playing the game, you only have one option, but the game allows you to play as many different kinds of pathogen that affect the way you strategise and operate during gameplay.

Disease selection

Disease selection

It’s worth mentioning too that you can choose between Casual, Normal and Brutal difficulty of play. After trying them all, I’d advise you to play your first game on casual; steer clear of the brutal difficulty unless you have a long plane journey to get through.

After you choose to become a bacteria, you are presented with a disturbingly realistic world map with icons representing which country has certain modes of transport. You get guided through gameplay with helpful little tips as you progress.

One of the game's tips

One of the game’s tips

The game also includes real world updates that appear infrequently and usually present obstacles for your pathogen to tackle. These can range from floods, migration of animals or shutting down airports and shipyards.

Selective Evolution

The game’s currency is DNA points; these are used to evolve different aspects of your virus. These points are accumulated in a few ways: Sporadic DNA and infection bubbles pop up as your menace develops — just tap them to gain DNA points. Progression throughout the game, i.e. infecting more people and countries, is the main cause of amassing DNA points, however.

Bubbles appear on newly infected countries

Bubbles appear on newly infected countries

A tap on the menu button labeled Disease will give you an overview of your infection. There are three heading on this menu: Transmission, Symptoms and Abilities. Transmission is literally that; it governs the ways your disease can pass from point A to the humans. Symptoms, again, quite self explanatory, dictates what side effects your pathogen can incite. Abilities is all about the kind of resistance your disease has to external factors such as moisture and drugs. Careful development of all of these will lead you to victory.

Upgrading transmission

Upgrading transmission

Humanity is gradually developing a cure for your virus, so you many need to be more destructive and/or infectious at certain points in the game.

Extinction Tactics

I’m going to take a moment to look at the core strategy of the game. You can play it in many different ways: you might decide to make your disease really infectious but totally non-lethal, so no one has a clue whats going on, or you may want to build tension by making a killer, super resistant disease that slowly but surely wipes out all of humanity. The main thing really is to not be overzealous about certain factors, as a concentrated approach on how pernicious your pathogen is may lead to a swift defeat by the world’s scientists.

Defeat

Defeat

On occasion, your plague will evolve abilities on its own without you spending points, meaning your strategy of laying low could be made redundant in the long term. In this game you really have to find a balance between your acumen and your future plans. Do you slaughter all of humanity when they research the cure, or do you incessantly pour DNA points into slowing their research efforts? It’s this kind of thinking that will keep you glued to your seat while playing Plague.

Design

First of all, Plague only really has two screens graphically that are commendable. The World map is intrinsically detailed to a point which adds to the realism of the game. Your disease will create little red trails to show its direction of travel through boats and planes, which also complement the deteriorating countries that gradually redden over time.

Red trails

Red trails

Of course, a minimalist approach is present throughout the game, as you spend most of the game either evolving your pathogen or watching the world gradually turn into a blood-red mass of killer germs. That came out a bit more gruesome than intended.

The disease menu looks relatively modernistic, but the tree method of evolving your disease didn’t really strike a chord with me upon first glance. I got used to it and can appreciate the functionality, but it’s a bit confusing when you first start off. It doesn’t score that bad aesthetically, though.

I like the world updates, but I don’t think they appear frequently enough to present a real obstacle for the user. They don’t really have much effect on the overall gameplay, which is quite disappointing. Another small gripe I have is that the cure bubbles are pretty much negligible — they don’t really slow the cure down at all, and in a time of crisis for your disease, they’re a far cry from a lifesaver.

Conclusion

There are many kill the world through disease type of games, but this is definitely the most polished. It looks great, plays great and keeps you there as well. If you want to induce the total destruction of humanity, this is the way to do it.


Summary

Infectious gameplay, smooth design and realistic elements make this the apocalypse game to get.

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