By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor)
Infecting the world with a deadly disease trying to kill the whole population of the planet; how fun can it actually be? Well turns out it is extremely fun and what was once a simple mobile phone game has now been fully developed into a PC game. Plague Inc: Evolved lets you play around with only one objective in mind, to create something deadly and destroy the world’s population. After a few days at it I’ve found that’s quite an impossible task, thankfully though, or else it would scare me a little bit in real life.
Despite us humans doing some weird things, and creating a bunch of weird viruses, diseases and other deadly things, we have been doing alright for ourselves. The majority of the world has fresh water, and even the deadly viruses that turn up in this age are dealt with carefully, although sometimes a bit slowly. But since I am now given the power to create something myself, I will make sure that everyone in this world will fear me. But before I could let my inner apocalypse flow, every new player first has to start with basic plagues before working their way up. Have no fear, the simplest plague can be the most effective (which in retrospect is probably why they force you to start with it).
When you start spreading your love around the world, you first have to pick a country to start in. Now this is somewhat of a tricky thing to do because you want your disease to go unnoticed, but spread as fast as it possibly can so you can be as successful as possible. For those familiar with the early roots of the phone game, you’ll be in for an awesome surprise as Plague Inc’s visuals have improved dramatically for the PC launch. But even with a shiny new coat of paint, nothing has changed in regards to your old nemesis, Greenland and Madagascar, which are still waiting for you to foil your nefarious plans!
When choosing your starting location, a lot of tactics comes into play. What’s your overarching strategy? Are we advantageous in the cold or heat? What method of infection will we choose and does it match our starting region? Novices will likely try choosing Greenland or Madagascar in frustration only to realize that the rarity of infection goes both ways, leaving you with very slow starts and early detection from unplanned mutations! Though the strat of starting in low income out of the way locations does often give you a bit extra lead time to go unnoticed while you prepare your initial landgrabs. After a few miserable failures, I finally found some success starting in South Africa, but America was also a possible choice, since they are already poisoning themselves in their own water. Thus I went for a region with even worse living standards than Michigan.
The Plague: Evolved
Making a deadly plague isn’t simply done by clicking an appropriate part of the world before letting it ride, sipping a martini. Humans are quite resilient to infection these days, and it’s going to take a lot of DNA to become a threat. DNA points are the currency you spend to alter your disease. These points can be used to change how the disease is spread around the world, the symptoms and abilities of the disease. Planning your points into timely use is the key between a good and bad Plague Inc player, as certain evolution choices will figuratively shoot your disease in the foot on your chances of widespread catastrophe. Nothing gets you on the world health organization’s watch list faster than making people vomit! Instead it’s best to stay covert, focusing on infection means and resistances before unleashing your destructive side. Slowly but surely you will see the world get an itchy looking Smallpox style rash representing your infectious spread. It is also the color of love, and thus I decided that my plague would be able to spread through blood to blood contact. Knowing my disease would soon be discovered, I choose my first symptom of coughing to bolster my infectious nature without being too problematic to draw attention.
This is a luxury you won’t always get, as certain infectious evolutions have increased mutation chance side effects, that might leave you dealing with early symptoms that expose you fast. So was my South African case as the love bug started causing cysts, making it far more infectious but a hell of a lot more noticeable. The worldwide infection rate exploded, reaching every continent and even the isolated shores of Madagascar. A friendly notice let me know I had infected more people than HIV, as these little tidbits do to educate players on the nature of real world threats to our health. Within days the world was on high alert, as African countries pointlessly closed their borders to stem the infection Now was the time to focus on abilities, as I granted my infection cold resistance and drug resistance to make sure I could hit the rich northern countries hard before they had time to prepare. Given the immense amount of statistics and tracking tools in Plague Inc Evolved, you can always make informed decisions on how best to proceed next, with stats on every country available to show their weaknesses and strengths.
The end game quickens the pace considerably, as the world unites to cure your plague. With the cure drawing closer, I knew I had to strike and evolved my plague to be deadly. Spreading a harmless disease worldwide is easy; killing the world with it before they can react is a whole nother can of worms. Though the southern hemosphere was dropping in the 100s of millions, the north stood strong for the cure, and still places like Canada and Russia were mostly unaffected. I maxed out my cold resistance and hit them with one deadly swoop that left most of the world dead, yet the cure continued to progress. The two lone islands of the Atlantic stood united as the sanctuary of humanity, Greenland and Iceland. With the world’s population decimated and borders closed, my disease had no path to infecting either location. Despite a 100% mortality rate from my infection, a few sparse 13 million survivors lived through my apocalypse. Don’t underestimate the tactical challenge of winning Plague Inc, especially as you unlock harder infections to try!
The most striking difference between the original Plague Inc and Plague Inc Evolved is the co-op and competitive options that are both cross-platform and realtime. Players can go head-to-head to compete for world destruction, utilizing evolutions that actually hinder their rival in the process. Or you can join forces to create a dual super-plague that shares DNA and other benefits, but against AI that’s capable of stopping even your united forces. While you won’t always get matched up with English speaking allies, this mode is still a ton of fun for what it is. Beyond just the head to head gameplay though, Steam Workshop is online to let your creative juices infect the world! Players can design their own plagues, DNA techs, and scenarios and share them with friends to see how they can do. While these features seem minor, they push the replayability of Evolved far beyond its mobile origins.
By writing this, I’m surely now finally put on a list by the NSA, being a risk to world security. Well lucky for them I am not smart enough to ever be a threat, though it does bring up on interesting side agenda for the game. Through the educational tooltips and scenarios, Plague Inc seems to have raised global awareness for the threats of such diseases, as well as the transmission types that the general populace might be clueless about! The fantasy scenarios really let your imagination fly through so many scary situations, that players will likely be far more careful about spreading diseases in real life. Playing around with diseases and viruses can actually be really interesting, and the improved pop-ups and news stories keep you enthralled in the event as if it was really happening. With multiplayer now on the table, it’s definitely time to grab a friend and re-experience the joy of Plague Inc.