Friday, March 13, 2015

Plague Inc: Evolved [Early Access Review]


Developer: Ndemic Creations
Release Date: February 20, 2014
Genre: Strategy

One Sentence Review:
Fun but with a difficulty curve created by a random number generator more than anything you do.


An interesting little game from someone who apparently took my darkest fantasies about starting plagues and destroying the world and made them into a game. Someone needs to watch out for ninja puppy assassin retaliation. But as interesting and close to home as it is, this game is not without its flaws.


Controls

The game controls entirely with a mouse, keyboard use is minimal at best. This makes sense as the game was originally a mobile game and this is a mobile port. Luckily for Ndemic, they're ashamed of its status as a mobile port. This is obvious because they do everything they can to cater to the glorious PC master race! Or maybe that's just my perception. There's almost no trace of the mobile sickness in this game so you can rest easy on that note.

If you've played FTL: Faster than Light, you probably have a good handle on this.

Genre Mechanics

When I walk into a strategy game I expect the game to barrage me with unexpected problems and issues which I must resolve with my wit and cunning. In this game I am barraged with random problems and issues that I can resolve by popping bubbles and hoping I pop them fast enough.

Well well, this game barely lasted one category before I found something to tear into it for. The random number generator in this game dictates your success and failure. All of the mutations, all of the events, and everything else that happens in this game is caused more by randomness than it was ever caused by you. As an experiment I played two runs as a virus. I played under the same conditions, I clicked no bubbles, and I performed no upgrades or mutations myself. First time I lost, second time I won. That basically sums up Plague Inc.

This game is sorely in need of some sort of mini-game system for players that actually care. I mean keep the random number generator as a sort of "classic" system but give the players who are trying to win something to make it skill-based.

AI

The AI in this game is completely dictated by the random number generator.

Graphic Design

The graphics are minimal, bordering on simplistic, but I like them. They convey the message without being invasive or annoying. I don't hate this. I don't need something zooming in on each person I've killed with my deadly flu virus or whatever. I don't need high-polygon 3d models to display a few lines of text. I'm perfectly happy with what they put in this game. Though a few more interesting news headlines wouldn't hurt.

Summary

This game is a mobile port turned into a PC game. As far as that genre goes, Plague Inc. stands above all others. However, when everything is decided by random numbers to the point that I can both win and lose without being at the computer at all can this really be classified as a game? Can this really be classified as a game worthy of a $15 purchase price?

The answer to that is no. The game's randomness let's it down, it makes the experience feel vapid and unfulfilling. I subscribe to the Yahtzee theory that gaming is essentially a quest to complete a sequence of goals for a string of petty victories. Plague Inc. never felt like a victory, even a petty one. It just felt hollow and boring. That's why my final verdict on this game is $5.00 USD. It's true that a lot of work went into it and I can appreciate that, but when you remove something from the game design formula you're supposed to put something else in to replace it!