Reviews

Plague Inc. Evolved – Steam Review

FruitsNDoggie reviews Plague Inc Evolved, a corona-virus simulator that's scarily way ahead of its time

First Impressions

It’s been a few years, but I remember trying out a version of Plague Inc: Evolved on a free gaming site. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my favorite game, yet seeing how many positive reviews it had on Steam made me curious enough about what changes may have been made. I probably should have gone with my first impression, as I’m just not that fond of it.

Gameplay

Looking at the entire world, you’ll take a harmless enough pathogen, infect some poor soul, and start a domino effect to destroy all of humanity with one disease. As it spreads, you’ll earn points that will upgrade various aspects of the microorganism. They can become more infectious, transmitting through blood, animal hosts, or airborne particles. This is an important area to focus on early, since you want it to become a true pandemic. Other important factors include resistance to temperature extremes or basic treatments and symptoms that increase the disease’s infectiousness, potency, and lethality.

When more people have and spread the disease, the faster it’ll continue to disperse and earn more points for further upgrades. Humanity will start researching ways to cure this plague though, and which upgrades you choose at what time have a significant outcome on how successful you’ll be. Only by fully eradicating the human population will you earn victory, meaning that a few thousand people surviving on one island counts as a loss.

Controls

There’s not much to do in Plague Inc: Evolved. You just click on a few icons occasionally, so it works just fine with the mouse. I tested a controller for the sake of feeling like I had something unique to try, and it functioned well enough.

Story

When playing the main game mode, you’re an unidentified entity using the power of science to spread a plague around the world. Your goal is total extinction, though its unclear what your motivation is. In the scenarios, the mechanics don’t change drastically, but its slightly more clear what the goal is. For instance, when spreading fake news or replaying the spread of the black plague. They’re somewhat akin to reading the story in the manual of older games though, as its pretty sparse on detail. Aside from a few global events that can occur, such as the Olympics or Brexit, there’s minimal plot or story in Plague Inc: Evolved. Plus, those amount to nothing more than a news headline.

Visuals

I would be foolish not to consider the wisdom of, “Be careful what you wish for,” but for a game about pandemics, you see almost nothing the entire time. Sure, I’d be disgusted if I saw diseased people and the vile symptoms exhibited as they become more ill and die. However, for a game looking at the grimness of wiping out all of humanity, you never see any actual effects from the havoc you’re wreaking. There’s no depictions of civilization falling, widespread panic, desperate attempts to develop a cure, or mild irritation as someone catches what they think is a mild cold. All you get are a handful of status screens and a map of the Earth. Not a lot of visuals for a VIDEO game.

Sound Design

Plague Inc: Evolved doesn’t really have much in the way of music. It’s kind of an ambling tune overlaid with relevant, creepy sound bits thrown in. A few examples include people coughing, sneezing, or children singing, “Ring around the rosie.” There’s also some sound effects for when you earn infection points or interrupt research on the cure. If you were going to play for a long time, I’d imagine you’d mute all of the background noise and replace it with your own tunes.

Pros

🌟 Particular news headlines might cause some nostalgia or elicit a mild chuckle. I enjoyed seeing Harambe’s death.
🌟 If you’re antisocial this could be a way to get your rocks off.

Cons

❌ If a single isolated nation shuts down its borders early enough, you won’t be able to infect them. They win by default. However, in theory, even if people within a nation were being infected, that wouldn’t mean it couldn’t be quarantined effectively. Plus, once somebody is infected, they never develop immunity to it. You just have to accept the game’s logic without thinking about it.
❌ Play the game once. Congratulations, aside from a handful of text and icons, you’ve seen all Plague Inc: Evolved has to offer. Oh wait, I forgot. There’s difficulty options. That really shakes up the experience.
❌ The thinly veiled political pandering is sad and hilariously lacks self-awareness. I hope you can handle the developers’ hot takes.

Tips

🔍 Lethality is the last thing you want to focus on. A deadly disease motivates people to fight back. Something highly infectious but harmless is ignored for longer. Real life events would suggest otherwise.
🔍 Don’t play the game on any speed other than maximum. You can pause it at anytime in order to purchase upgrades or look up information.
🔍 You can just follow a guide if you’re stuck. People have played this game to death, pun intended.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, I don’t understand what people are experiencing from Plague Inc: Evolved that makes them enjoy it so much. Some people describe it as more of a puzzle game over a simulator, but to me neither fits the game well. It’s an idle game. You switch the game speed to maximum, wait for numbers to increase, spend points to make those numbers increase faster, rinse and repeat. There’s so few meaningful variables that you have direct control over, and none of it causes anything interesting to happen.

I can choose which country to start in, and what routes of transmission to use, but there’s not real freedom to do anything novel. Making the disease lethal without any way to spread it won’t work. That just motivates everybody to contain and cure it before I’ve infected that many people. So what I wind up doing with each disease is the same thing, and that gets old fast. Choosing whether to infect people vie animals or insects only slightly changes how the screen looks. All that differs is how the numbers fluctuate and which random countries will or won’t get infected. Even switching from a fungus to a virus barely changes anything. This is hardly an engaging puzzle game, let alone a game at all.

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