Friday, May 17, 2013

Narrative Game Review: Plague Inc.


I name the plagues: Tammy, Mika, Hank. This one is called “Fred.” Little thought goes into them, unlike the choice between whether they will spread by bacteria, virus, fungi, nano-bot. I choose bacteria. Infect a single person in a country that shares its borders with many others: China, Russia, Pakistan. I choose China.

I always start with drug resistance. As it slowly spreads, I can afford make it difficult ot defeat. I harden it, making it viable in all climates versus spending resources tailoring it to hot or cold climes. I keep the symptoms non-existent at first and focus on strength and infectibility. After I create a second strain, I tailor it to spread by water and air, forgoing livestock, insect, bird, blood. Land and sea. That's all you need to create a plague.

As the plague jumps borders, infecting hundreds, thousands, millions, medical officials begin to notice the pattern. People are coming in for routine check-ups and their bodies are riddled with my disease. It's new, novel, but so far, not dangerous. The patients go on their way and the doctors forget. They might alert a research facility to check into it, but the projected cure date is half a century away.

The plague jumps borders and infection rates double, triple, quadruple. Instead of dozens being infected everyday, we're into the millions. The plague mutates, developing rash-like symptoms without my approval. I stop it before it draws attention to itself.

After my plague has reached land in every country, I start symptomizing it. Even though the plague has been split into multiple strains, been engineered to not reproduce in laboratory conditions, and is drug resistant, I don't take chances. I begin with mundane symptoms: insomnia, anemia. It gives patients a zombie-like appearance, eliciting panic and slowing down cure research. I evolve the plague more and insomnia becomes paranoia becomes seizures becomes insanity; anemia becomes haemophilia becomes internal hemorrhaging becomes hemorrhagic shock. People are beginning to die.

As the death toll rises past the Black Death, Spanish Flu, even Smallpox, countries begin to pour resources into cure research. I watch as the projected cure date drops from fifty years to ten to four to within the year.

I need the plague to spread faster, kill quicker. Most of the world's airports and borders are closed. Spending precious points, I evolve cough to sneeze, nausea to vomiting. Tailoring the plague to be spread by birds nearly doubles its infection rate. It's infected 95% of the world, but Madagascar and Greenland hold out. Why couldn't it just be a single clime? As I watch the cure progress past 25% – even as the governments of Korea, Germany, and Canada fall to my plague – I need to decide how to get my plague to both countries. I won't get any more resources to spend unless I cannibalize features already present in my plague. Do I maximize it for hot or cold? I can only choose one.

But then I think: airports and borders are closed, but seaports are still open. I use my last resources to upgrade my plague's ability to be transmitted by water.

Success. Within a month, both Greenland and Madagascar are infected. Infection rate is slowing, but only because there are so few people remaining to infect. Death tolls are accelerating, however. Iceland, the lead cure researcher, falls to anarchy and rolls the cure date back three years. Now it's only a matter of time before the world is sterilized.

Or is it? I check the stats on my plague and, if my calculations are correct, the plague carriers will die off before they can spread it to the darkest corners of Greenland. I need to think fast.

Devolving my plague's lethality, I steal resources from insomnia, paranoia, seizures, and insanity; from anemia, haemophilia, internal hemorrhaging, and hemorrhagic fever. Pooling these resources, I gamble on adding the ability for the plague to transmit by livestock, increasing the likelihood it will reach the most rural areas of Greenland. The death toll slows, but continues as dehydration and poor sanitary conditions add bodies to the corpse fires.

It's a race to the finish line with the infection spreading at about the same rate as people die. I don't even pay attention to cure research. Last time I checked, the cure would be ready by 2079. It's become a non-starter as anarchy takes hold.

The last person in Greenland succumbs to Fred, and the world crumbles.

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Game: Plague Inc.
Type: Strategy
Platform: Kindle Fire (First Gen)
Available Platforms: iOS, Android, Amazon
Verdict: Recommended

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