You may remember Plague Inc. from a couple of years ago, when it popped up in form of a very infectious strategy game on people’s phones. Evolved lets you wreak havoc and buboes in greater definition and with more flair than ever before. It’s especially impressive when you consider that Ndemic Creations, the developer of the entire thing, is just one man.
The premise of Plague Inc: Evolved is as simple as ever: you’re a disease, and your goal is to infect and kill everyone on the entire planet. If you actually stop to think about it it’s incredibly bleak, but it’s executed with such skill and attention to detail that you don’t – you scheme, theorise, and try to predict global responses, whilst ignoring the news ticker that tells you Canada’s government has fallen. It makes a change from playing as the civilised government in question in a common strategy game.
Instead you pick one of several plague types to play as and a starting country for your patient zero, evolving towards a range of different abilities and symptoms. Each of these is geared towards different habitats and communities. When occurring in certain combinations they get you some creatively titled achievements - insanity and diarrhea together unlocked one called Brown Streets, for example – but they also affect the core stats: infectivity, severity and lethality.
It becomes a delicate balancing act. On one side, you: the very embodiment of illness itself. On the other, the ranged governments of the world, who have a necessarily vested interest in preventing the eradication of the human race. If you push one of your stats at the wrong time then victory will slip from your grasp. Ramping up lethality too soon will lead to early detection and closing of borders. Leave it too late and you could see yourself cured before your end goal of universal death. (see what we meant about it being bleak?).
This is also affected by your choice of plague, since they grow down different paths and with varying mutations. Even more than that, there are some specific world scenarios to play through that give you different challenges. How would the world cope with a pandemic if citizens knew how to teleport? Would xenophobia stop diseases from spreading?
Taken all together it’s a lot of variety, and Plague Inc: Evolved has added more graphs and statistics to pour over and assess post-game – indeed, one of the most fun parts now is watching a reply of your progress at triple speed, seeing the continents turn rash-red with infection. The new HD look map does look noticeably better, with ocean currents and 3D topography, and the plagues themselves are now rendered in really cool models of microbes that kind of make you feel itchy to look at. There’s also an x-ray map of the human body that shows exactly what kind of havoc you’re wreaking.
Aside from these refreshers the body of Plague Inc. Evolved is basically unchanged. It hasn’t evolved so much as had a bit of a face lift. For fans of the original it’s a chance to play a good game on a much bigger screen and get down to the real nitty gritty of total organ failure, but it won’t be a substantially new experience. For newcomers to the world of strategic pathogens: proceed with caution. The majority of content is locked off until you’ve completed the early stages, and this is not an easy game to master by any means – especially when Greenland closes their port earlier than you were anticipating.
You do, however, get to name your plague yourself, so the adolescent part of you can enjoy sentences like “Your Mum has infected thousands”.