Sunday, 23 March 2014

App Review No. 49 Plague Inc.

Strong Points:
Interesting premise
Great simulation
Lots of choices
News stories are funny
Behaves like the real world
Lots of pathogens
Different pathogens offer a variety of gameplay options
In game events change how the game plays out
Genetic traits help tailor the game to your style even more
Lots of symptom, transmission and ability choices
Game lengths are perfect for a bus journey

Weak Points:
All special missions have to be bought with real money (the app already costs money to buy)
The jump from casual to normal difficulty is very high
Pressing the cure bottles doesn't appear to do much
The cure doesn't go down very much (only about 5%) when a genetic reshuffle is used meaning it's very hard to get out of tight scrapes
One country or person can ruin your chances of winning
DNA points are very hard to get towards the end of a game

In-depth Review:

Release Dates:
World Wide: May 26th 2012

Tap to pick options

Have you ever wanted to be the villain? Perhaps you'd like to try your hand at destroying the world (safely and without consequence) just to see what it would feel like? Then look no further! Infect Patient Zero and watch the world be eradicated. Or the cure be developed first and all your hard work be ruined. Whichever comes first.

Plague Inc. is a hyper realistic simulation game (or so it tells me) that lets you create and evolve a disease in order to destroy humanity. Hence the evil villain paragraph at the top of the review. First of all, you get to choose what type of pathogen you will use. Or at least you would if you didn't have to unlock any pathogens past bacteria. Anyway, each pathogen has a certain way of developing and also has a specific ability to help and hinder you in your quest for eradication. Then you get to pick what difficulty that you will face the world at. The choices are casual (quick games), normal (longer games but still a massive jump from casual) and brutal (enough said). If you manage to beat the game in either normal or brutal mode, then you can unlock a new pathogen. Next up is the name for your plague (I chose Purge which makes humanity sound a bit slow when they call it a minor disease) and then you can modify your pathogen's genetic code.

There are five genetic trait groups including: DNA Genes, Travel Genes, Evolution Genes, Mutation Genes, Environment Genes and Wearable Jeans (this last one may or may not be included in the actual game). Each different group contains five genetic traits that can help you develop your own unique play style. Or at least it would if they were available straight away but, yet again, they're not. Instead, you unlock them through beating any difficulty setting which means even if you do a casual game you are increasing your chances of beating a normal game later on.

Then you get onto the game. First of all, you pick where you want to start your plague (I would suggest somewhere with a lot of ports and airport such as the UK or America or a place with a lot of land borders such as Africa). This causes a red bio hazard sign to pop up which, when touched, gives you a DNA point as well as showing you that you've infected a country. There are also orange DNA signs that pop up randomly which give you more DNA points when touched. DNA points are used to upgrade your transmission, symptoms and abilities of your pathogen and range from infecting insects to total organ failure to complete DNA reshuffle. How you upgrade your pathogen will determine its infectivity, severity and lethality as well as how quickly the humans discover it so you have to think carefully (hint: don't chuck all your DNA points at symptoms straight away as your plague can't be discovered without any symptoms and if you kill every human on earth before you infect everyone, you lose the game). Your pathogen can also mutate, developing symptoms without DNA points which you need to think about before you develop your strategy. Each symptom, ability and transmission is unlocked when you buy the one before it and they can also combine later on such as air travel and water travel combining to do both at the end of their chain of upgrades.

Once the humans have found your disease they'll start working on a cure and once it gets completed you have pretty much lost the game (you actually have to wait until all the infected are cured but I don't know of someone who has come back after the cure was finished). To help you halt the cure are a number of symptoms and diseases. On the symptoms side, you can use things such as insomnia to make people more irritable and less likely to work or use things like insanity which is significantly harder to cure or just kill them with total organ failure. On the abilities side, you have genetic hardening which slows down research speed as well as genetic reshuffle which removes some of the work on the cure (although if you're on about 90% and haven't infected everyone yet or have only just started developing your lethality it doesn't help very much due to it removing only about 5% from the cure). So, the best way to do it is to infect everyone without developing a symptom so that the humans don't start developing a cure until you're ready. There are also blue cure bubbles that appear on the screen like the bio hazard and DNA ones however, these don't give you DNA points and are, instead, meant to stop breakthroughs in the cure from happening. But, from what I've seen, this doesn't actually do very much but I would recommend pressing them anyway, just in case.

To show a semblance of a story as well as give you useful tips and statistics, there are the news reels and country info. The country info involves things like if the country is wealthy or poor, cold or hot and arid or humid as well what they have done in order to stop your plague (such as airports or exterminating rats). The news reels are funny at the beginning of the game (such as child reinvents the wheel, engineers baffled) but towards the end all they read is what the countries are doing to stop your plague and what countries have collapsed into anarchy. The news also reads useful tips such as scientists developed understanding of tumours or that Canada has national kissing day (which, especially if you have developed nausea, can transmit your disease more).

The main thing wrong with the game is the in-app purchases. While you can play the main game just fine but to play any of the special missions (Neurax Worm, Necroa Virus and real life missions as well as the three hacks-Immune Plague, Hidden Plague and Unlimited Plague) you have to pay more money on an already paid for app. While, I know that these are more like standalone games in their own right it would have been nice to be able to unlock them for being brilliant at the game rather than having to pay for them. However, you can unlock the cheats by winning a Brutal difficulty game on all disease types.

Overall, Plague Inc. is a great simulation that lets you pretend to be the villain for once as well as being a showing you what humanity would probably do if a plague were to arise (apparently not have any children as the amount of available humans doesn't increase in the time since you started the plague, which can be three years or longer). Now, I am feeling a little evil today, how about a nice parasite, anyone?  

Rating: 92%

Goodbye for now, Harry

Update: after countless plagues and eradications, the humans are finally revolting. Introducing the Mega-Brutal difficulty setting. Random medical checks, genetic drift and research tech improvements are abound in this mode, making Brutal look like Casual. But don't worry. Three new Cheat Modes have also been developed to make you more overpowered than ever before! They are: the Shuffle Strain, all evolutions are mixed up; the Turbo Strain, the starting country is 100% infected and the Lucky Dip Strain, start with five random evolutions. Added to the cheats is the ability to use them on any plague type (and even combine different cheat modes to make a super cheat)! Also, four knew scenarios have been added and range from a 30,000-year-old virus to a world filled with artificial organs. Finally, new events and achievements have been added as well as performance, balance and AI improvements and bug fixes

Update: get ready for the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes! So, you think you've handled zombies and parasites? Then how about developing a pandemic whilst simultaneously controlling communities of highly evolved intelligent apes? Develop ape to ape transmission, improve your apes' cognitive abilities and create ape colonies to protect them from humans. Then, when you're ready, let your apes loose on research labs, hide from military drones and prevent human scientists from conducting aggressive ape experiments on your precious primates. New genes, evolutions, graphics, music, government actions, events and achievements as well as gameplay mechanics all let you become the dominant species on the planet! Finally, the usual performance improvements and bug fixes

Update: Christmas is coming to town and it's brought the plague... that is, the plague of happiness and good will! You see, after the governments of the world banned holidays, laughter and celebration, the Neurax Worm teamed up with Santa in a quest to infect the world with joy! As well as this, there is a new Teleportation Scenario where highly advanced technology has created the opportunity to travel between countries through the use of portals. How will you adapt to this technology and will you 'be thinking with portals'? There is also a new progress screen so that you can see how well you are doing at Plague Inc. and brag about it to your friends! In addition, there is a major gameplay update to the core diseases, responding to player feedback, which focuses on the Parasite, Prion and Neurax Worm as well as upgraded human AI so as to make it more difficult for any would-be superheroes. Finally, there is an improved starting country selection (which includes a confirm button) as well as an updated world population and more Simian Flu achievements and the usual performance/balancing improvements

Update: fix for Russian translation bug, improved compatibility and other minor bug fixes

Update: are you ready to infect the world with the worst disease known to modern man - school induced boredom? Well now you can as the Plague School is here to help you... *shivers* learn. If you're new to the game or want to learn better strategies for some of the more exotic disease types, then enrol yourself in the Infectious Disease School to learn said strategies for infecting the world! And, if your more of the cheater type, there's always the Double Strain Cheat which allows you to infect two Patient Zeroes and, so, start your plague off in two separate countries at once! But the government have started to learn some things as well and have improved their AI response at higher difficulty levels. Furthermore, the news now has some more headlines (some even sent in by the players). But it's not all about boring smarts and school because we also have some enhanced Particle Graphics which leads to bubbles now exploding even more satisfyingly when popped! Finally, there are some performance improvements for all devices, minor game balancing, AI improvements and bug fixes as well as a little teaser for the next new disease type...

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