Plague Inc. Android Game Review: Could You Be The End Of The World?
Plague Inc., a strategy browser game that is now also available on iOS and Android, is hard to pin down. I feel much like the medical researchers in this game, frustrated in their inability to understand something they have been observing and dissecting for a while. I downloaded the Android version, which was free with ads on the bottom, to see what the fuss was about. After playing a full game I have very mixed feelings on it.
Ndemic Creations is the developer behind Plague Inc., a part simulation and part strategy game, where your main goal is to produce the ultimate disease and wipe out the entire planet. If you are thinking 'hey you're a disease, you could do this faster than Jill Valentine can say 'Zombie''--you should think again.
This game is based off of a multitude of variables. A nation's climate, wealth, popularity, location, and more all attribute to how your disease succeeds or fails. Your tactics in spreading the disease and the symptoms your disease causes all play a role in the fate of human kind.
From a purely technical and graphical point of view, this game is obviously well crafted and slightly impressive. I started the game off on normal difficulty; it includes easy and hard as well.
You first must name your micro would-be killer, and to lighten the mood I went with Zombie 2.0. Not real original or fancy, but the game does limit how many characters you can use in your name. Since the game is currently the ad free-to-play version, it has many micro-transactions for you to purchase including 'modifying the genetic code', and different diseases besides the original 'bacteria'. However, these things can also be unlocked simply by playing the game.
Zombie 2.0 started off in Central Europe, which is a wealthy cold geographical region. This was more a result of me accidentally hitting screen buttons then intentionally choosing it. However, I did want this side of the globe over the Americas, because I felt starting off with a larger area of land mass accessible even without air or sea travel might be best.
As my disease is first implanted I hear the chilly laugh of a child, and my heart gives a little freaked-out skip. Not because creepy children laughing scares me, but because I'm scared of what I'm about to do to her.
But it's just a game, right?
The start was rather slow to progress. There is a timer you can pause and fast forward up in the top right-hand corner. I didn't choose to fast forward since it was my first time playing, and I wanted to give a good assessment.
The game really helps you learn how to play as you go along. Your disease has the option of mutating per your choosing. You can use DNA to change the type of symptoms, the ways your disease can transmit, and its abilities.
Tips and Strategy
As time ticks along, you also keep an eye out for orange DNA bubbles and red virus infection bubbles (given out when the disease spreads to a new country), which give extra DNA points. These are essential in order to upgrade your disease using your DNA points, and spread across the globe to reach your ultimate goal.
You also need to keep track of current news which pops up at the top of the screen, as it helps to assess how countries are reacting to your disease and what you need to do to adapt against this. If you currently only have the disease-spreading through animals, and a country puts a hold on all livestock transportation, you will have to decide a new way to get your infection to spread. Likewise, if a news article popped up stating there had been especially dry winds lately, you'd want to use DNA points to spread your disease by air to take advantage of this.
Human beings will be trying to come up with a cure, which is tracked by percent to completion at the bottom right-hand side of your screen. If it gets to 100%, they will live and your disease will be no more.
The graphics are nice, though nothing to faint over. The main screen pretty much is just one image, with a lot of little boats and planes going all over the place like gnats on a window screen. Still, the graphics are well done and polished.
The game obviously touches on a lot of details, including the news reports. There are even some amusing ones such as 'Apple$oft creates iCure device'. I guess if a global disease epidemic ever breaks out over most of the planet, the best chance we have on anything saving our asses is our smart phones. They really weren't kidding when they said, 'There's an app for that.'
Moral Thin Line?
Somewhere between the Apple jokes and zombie obsession lies the unforgiving heart of an individual concerned about the consequences a game like this could mean. I am not a spokeswoman against violence--in fact a majority of the games I play are often pretty violent.
Yet, those things have one thing in common. I'm the hero. I'm the one saving whomever for whatever planet against what's-his-face bad guy through every means necessary.
Yet in Plague Inc. the role is much, much different. You are the cause of riots, illness, panic, grief, tears, and... death. You watch those blimps on the screen, the tiny red dots of infected, cover slowly until there is very little green Earth remaining. Headlines grace the top of the screen racing along with news of mass graves and countries bombing other countries in hopes to eradicate the problem.
All the while you can't help but think: this could all be real.
I have seen too many real headlines flashing on my TV screen. There have been too many natural disasters, some recently in my own backyard of New Jersey, to be accepting of this.
Ndemic Creations advocates that it helps promote awareness of infections and disease.
Even the US Center for Disease Control recently met with the game's creator James Vaughan to talk about how his game can be used to initiate understanding on how diseases spread and affect the world. It's a new and innovative tactic, and you can't help but admire the CDC for trying to evolve in a modern world.
Even still, I can't also help but wonder if Plague Inc. could have taken another route. Instead of being the cause of infection, couldn't the game have been created the other way around? You play trying to stop the infection, not start it.
In a world that already contains so much violence, disaster, and potential for both do we really need to advocate entertainment based off of causing these things? As the sound of a man's cough vibrates from my phone's speakers, I feel doubt in approving this game. Like the human scientists when facing a genetic mutation of my Zombie 2.0 disease, it's hard to find a clear picture of what this game is. On one side it is a well done popular strategy game; yet on the other side, it is too close to reality and genocide for comfort.
If you were to stop and think--really think--can you just say it's only a game?