Plague Inc. – iOS/Android Review

Developed and published by UK studio, NDemic Creations in May 2012, Plague Inc. released on mobile and traditional platforms is a variation on the traditional strategy game where you are tasked as an evolving viral strain with the sole objective of the end of mankind. With the growing concern of the Coronavirus emanating from China in recent times, the developers have once more found themselves defending their artistic vision with the surge in consumer demand reflecting as noted in the article an ability and means for the user perhaps to maintain some element of control in the growing chaos and confusion of the world around them and the spread of this viral strain.

Indeed, the central premise of the game is simple, you are the virus itself, growing and responding to changing conditions with the objective to destroy all life as we know it. Through a series of mechanisms you evolve and adapt to varying conditions and attempts to curtail your progress by the international community, a simple interface and control but a fascinating and evolving title that continues to grow in popularity seemingly with each health emergency that occurs from the last ebola outbreak to the recent coronavirus strain.

It’s certainly possible that people are playing [Plague Inc.] as a way to work through anxiety or put things into perspective. This isn’t the case for everyone for some people it could just make anxiety worse. But it seems like there are others for whom games could be a good way to play through the anxiety

Michelle Carras Colder

The game is designed to depict the evolution and life cycle of your fictional virus from inception to final devastation, charting its spread and impact on real world territories and nations. As the user you are given direct control on its evolution and development, deciding on which symptoms for instance to develop and grow which can have an impact on the viral strains success. Do you inflict nausea, fatigue, ulcers or vomiting on the unsuspecting citizens at the epicentre of the outbreak. Equally, how you do you evolve the virus to be sustainable in different climates and conditions, how is your virus spread, by what and by whom.

There are many different elements and structures to the game that superficially given some answers or clarity to the progression and spread of a viral strain. Certainly, as we have seen in a real world context around us, the global community through air travel has seen a virus spread from inception in a local agriculture market to all corners of the Earth in short order though not perhaps with the lethality or consequence as depicted in Plaque Inc. It succeeds in its merits as a strategy game as you never feel you can just watch and observe its impact, you need to react to changing conditions and see its progress to fruition.

In terms of actual gameplay its relatively simplistic, intermittently as your plague grows you pop DNA icons which give you corresponding points to evolve your viral strain. Even on normal difficulty this isn’t a great challenge and the icons remain long enough to break allowing you enough points to evolve and shape the virus as you see fit. The world, in turn will attempt to cure the plague once it has gained prominence, as such an element of strategy is introduced requiring you to continually adapt and change the plaque to ensure its survival, at the cost of your own.

You can ‘game’ the outcome to some extent once you realise the basis of how the virus spreads, for instance making it adaptable to varying climates and giving as broad a spectrum of carriers as possible but even then developed countries can devastate your progress in short order. Placing the user into the mindset of the most destructive disease known to mankind is a macabre and masochistic premise to base your game around, but it works. And with every publicised outbreak gains prominence and popularity across the world for this basic foundation.

Plague Inc. has been out for eight years now and whenever there is an outbreak of disease we see an increase in players, as people seek to find out more about how diseases spread and to understand the complexities of viral outbreaks. However, please remember that Plague Inc. is a game, not a scientific model and that the current coronavirus outbreak is a very real situation which is impacting a huge number of people. We would always recommend that players get their information directly from local and global health authorities

NDemic Creations

The game uses both fictional and real world news headlines to remain topical and create a sense of connectivity to the events around you. The version I played on Android OS through the Playstore was the retail version, with a premium version available for the modest price in the UK of 79p though as expected there are a plethora of additional purchases and options to expand your experience. Thankfully, these transactions aren’t present during the gameplay experience to distract you, or presented in a way to ‘speed up’ your progress.

As you ‘win’ each viral strain, in turn this opens up new paths and types to develop and try, starting with a bacterial strain before progressing to a virus then a fungus. Each type of plague has its natural advantages and weaknesses. The fungus for instance is more difficult to spread through over long distances requiring you to develop its fortitude and endurance if its to become a viable worldwide infection. With the premium version you do have the option to make adaptations to the virus before you unleash your plague at the start of the game, however its a very intuitive and easy to learn game.

It’s an interesting and ‘enjoyable’ game to review, I’ll readily admit when this new outbreak begun to spread in earnest it was a title I went back to experience again. Once you have played through an infection or two, you can easily destroy the world within an hour, it’s not an investment on your time but seemingly does have some form of communal cathartic quality that provides clarity in some form to a worldwide demographic. It was designed to be a realistic and informative title, using basic scientific methodology but doesn’t present itself as a true model of what a viral outbreak would look like.

To their credit, the development team make an effort to direct and guide users towards relevant points of information and clarification where possible, you can imagine a less reputable designer may look to profit from these uncommon outbreaks, thankfully not in this instance. Not a taxing or demanding game in any sense of the word, but actually an enjoyable strategy title that requires you to consider the environment around you and how you shape and evolve a virus to impact on different cultures, climates and ecology. If I’m going to destroy the world, I suppose at the very least I want to feel I learned something in the process.

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4 thoughts on “Plague Inc. – iOS/Android Review

  1. As a healthcare professional, even I might find an enjoyment in playing this game! Just for the hell of it, but I would not allow it to replace the trustworthy resources I use. It also would not have anything to do with the coronavirus. Could be my anger management game once in a while.

    1. It’s not the only type of game that has attempted this but the one that has picked up most traction seemingly. Ultimately I guess it is fundamentally a strategy game at heart where the objective still is to ‘win’ just flips the premise of what a victory looks like.

    1. To their credit the team behind it haven’t attempted to profiteer from this outbreak and have tried to point towards actual source material such as the CDC websites. Interesting that people find catharsis though in these situations in this game.

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