In early 2013, Plague Inc. topped charts in the App Store and brought a fresh, addicting game to our attention. Three years after the release of its hit mobile app, Ndemic Creations has truly delivered once again. With a whopping 25 million downloads trailing behind him, independent developer and Ndemic founder James Vaughan decided to make a considerable push to utilize PC and Xbox One platforms. The expansion into these two gaming powerhouses would lead to the birth of Plague Inc Evolved, our focus for this review.
The premise of Plague Inc: Evolved is simple. Develop a deadly plague in order to obliterate humanity before we are able to develop a cure. Becoming a mad scientist is pretty awesome, and causing global chaos is even more entertaining. Seems like a dream come true, right? The challenge here is understanding how each type of plague behaves and how the simulated world responds to your actions. Wealth, location, politics, population density, temperature, and even terrain all play a part in how your plague reacts to its environment. The sheer number of factors that play into your success or failure can be overwhelming at first, so the game’s tutorial is highly recommended for both new and returning players.
In regards to customization, a simple ladder system is used, where you unlock new pathogens by winning with the most recently unlocked. Initially, only one means of attack is available — bacteria. As you progress, pathogens become more dynamic and actually bring new controls and interfaces into the game. I won’t spoil anything, but there are several creative strategies to end the world using the more advanced diseases.
There are also perks available to unlock in the same manner which further add depth and customization. I didn’t really notice the perks helping me out too much, but you can mix and match up to five for maximum effect. Since all of this customization rides on whether or not you will win, I noticed a handy setting that can bail you out if you’re struggling. It’s called “pity mode,” and it allows you to unlock all this great stuff by winning on the easiest difficulty, rather than the default requirement which is “normal difficulty.” Although normal isn’t particularly hard, pity mode is a friendly support.
Throughout each scenario, you receive tokens for infecting countries and meeting milestones. The currency is used to buy genetic code for your disease in the following three categories: transmissions, symptoms, and abilities. Transmissions help spread your disease early in the game, and symptoms kill your hosts mid to late game. Abilities are perks that help your pathogen thrive in certain environments and slow progress toward a cure. Naming your virus is also very entertaining. I always name mine “Ellen DeGeneres” so that the game will report, “Ellen DeGeneres has successfully eliminated all life on Earth.”
Infecting the world is easy. First, you must select a single country in which to begin your run. Personally, I like to start in countries that are landlocked and poor. This way, you can infect people quickly, without having to purchase too many transmissions. Once your patient zero is instilled, the next step is to manage how to spread your disease. Certain nations have air and sea ports which allow for long distance contamination. Take advantage of these points in order to reach some of the more isolated countries such as Greenland, Iceland, Canada, Japan, and Indonesia. The specific transmissions you buy depend greatly on your location and plan, so it’s all really up to you.
I prefer to infect every last human before moving to symptom development so that my virus will remain undetected. You’ll want to stay under the radar for as long as possible, since a cure will begin to develop once your disease is discovered. Without symptoms you are absolutely invisible. Sometimes symptoms will develop automatically, but you can actually refund them for points if you choose to stay quiet. When the time is right, unleash havoc by buying symptoms in any order you choose. Like I mentioned earlier, this game is so great because everything is really up to the user and each scenario is different every time. Each pathogen requires a somewhat different strategy, but from my experience it’s best to reveal yourself only after infecting in all situations.
A fast forward button keeps levels short and sweet. With triple speed enabled, each stage can be completed in under twenty minutes. All aspects of the game’s interface are pleasing to the eye and provide many pieces of detailed information. I especially enjoy looking through all the graphs and stats documenting my plague’s spread. Also, your plague is represented by small red blotches on the world map, so having the whole globe dyed red gives a nice feeling of accomplishment. For some weird reason, knowing you’ve completely destroyed humanity is always satisfying. Maybe it’s because we can never do that in real life. Or can we?…
Multiplayer versus and co-op modes are welcome additions to the newest installment in the Plague Inc. series. Versus pits two players against each other in a race to see who can kill everyone first. Both players’ diseases can coexist, but there are several new abilities available for sabotaging each other. Unfortunately, I was unable to play co-op mode since matchmaking was unable to find any players. I waited over fifteen minutes with no luck. Custom scenarios add even more content to the mix and keep a proven formula from going stale. Lastly, there’s no paid DLC forced down your throat, but there is a nice Planet of the Apes themed virus available which is pretty fun. It is a bit weird seeing blatant promotional content for a 2014 film, though.
Overall, Plague Inc: Evolved is a complex quest for world domination. It drops you right in the driver’s seat, and that’s what makes everything so fun. You even learn a little about how a disease actually spreads in real life. I’m sure kids around the world use the excuse on their parents that this game is educational; I know I do. And if there’s one thing I learned from Plague Inc: Evolved, it’s that Greenland is definitely safe from any apocalypse. Pack your bags boys, we’re moving to the tundra.
A PC code for Plague Inc: Evolved was provided by Ndemic Creations for the purpose of this review